Breastfeeding in Public?
I was prompted by a recent FB post in which someone on my friend’s list posted a photo of a beautiful image of Mary breastfeeding baby Jesus. Someone else commented that, while he was definitely supportive of breastfeeding, women really need to cover up anytime they do it in public, because breastfeeding should be a private thing. Of course, I couldn’t hold back so I politely let him know my thoughts, which also prompted this post.
Several years ago, I felt similarly about the issue of women covering up while breastfeeding but I am convinced it was my lack of knowledge in the subject. Years later and two babies later, I have a whole different point of view. I have always been 100% supportive of breastfeeding and successfully breastfed my daughter to 15 months. My son (who is currently 15 months) is still going strong and still nurses five to six times a day.
When people make negative comments about women breastfeeding in public, there are two things I always want to point out to them:
1. A newborn baby typically eats every two to three hours, and sometimes the feedings are even closer together than that. Not to mention that feedings could take 45 minutes (or more). Does this mean a mother should have to run off to her hot car to nurse her baby, feed her baby in a disgusting public restroom, or stay at home just because her baby might have to eat? It is isolating enough to be a mother, and expecting a new mom to do those sorts of things in order to simply feed her baby is absolutely ridiculous in my opinion.
2. Nursing while covering yourself is not always possible. Simply insisting that a mother cover up when nursing sounds like a simple solution but I think that most of the people who make this suggestion are people who have never tried to nurse a baby under a cover. When a baby is first learning to nurse, adding a cover to that process only makes it even more difficult than it already is. And believe it or not, some babies don’t like to eat with a cover over their faces. Weird, I know, but I can’t say I blame them! I typically prefer to cover up in many public situation (it doesn’t bother me when other women nurse without covering up, but I feel more comfortable doing so in many public situations), but it doesn’t always work because my son likes to rip the cover right off. I can’t say I blame him. Then, what am I supposed to do? Cart him off to the nasty bathroom?
Of course, these two points are in addition to all of the research and recommendations out there regarding breastfeeding. I breastfed both of our children exclusively until they were at least six months old (as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics) and then while we slowly added solid foods to their diets between six and twelve months. After twelve months the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends continuing to breastfeed for as long as both mother and baby choose. The World Health Organization actually recommends breastfeeding for two years or longer, and I’ve seen some current research about the benefits of toddler nursing that actually make me feel really good about still nursing Felix. Several years ago, I would have said it was weird or strange but now, after educating myself on the topic, I know that I am giving my son yet another benefit by continuing to allow him to nurse as long as he chooses to do so.
And to all those people out there who claim that breastfeeding in public is indecent and/or say that no one wants to see that, here’s a thought – no one’s asking you to look! We aren’t trying to show anything off (believe me, I don’t feel like there’s much to show off about after having two children!) and we aren’t trying to get out of public indecency laws so we can do whatever we want. In fact, most moms are pretty discreet when nursing their little ones in public. What it all really comes down to is that we’re really just trying to feed our babies in the way that we believe is best for them.