Thursday, August 9, 2012

Breastfeeding and Public Perception

A recent study was quoted in an ABC News report from 2007 saying, "57 percent of Americans said women should not have the right to breast-feed in public. Seventy-two percent said it was inappropriate to show a woman nursing on television." In this same news report, one woman found it "disgusting and immoral to breast feed in public." On a 2006 forum, a man posted the following comment:

"When a weak liberal minded society who doesn't have a tongue to speak out against this indecent, inappropriate, cheap, lowclass behavior, such as public breastfeeding, how long will it be till society 200 years down the road starts condoning Urinating-Defacating in public...its a slippery slope....Public breastfeeding is rude, its disrespectful, its shameful and a sexual act of perversion among the women who chooses to expose her sexual private parts in front of everyone to see."

Yet in 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirmed "its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby's life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby." They further state that

"This recommendation is supported by the health outcomes of exclusively breastfed infants and infants who never or only partially     breastfed. Breastfeeding provides a protective effect against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and allergies including asthma, eczema and atopic dermatitis. The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is reduced by over a third in breastfed babies, and there is a 15 percent to 30 percent reduction in adolescent and adult obesity in breastfed vs. non-breastfed infants. As such, choosing to breastfeed should be considered an investment in the short- and long-term health of the infant, rather than a lifestyle choice."

So the AAP sees breastfeeding as an investment to the baby's health rather than a lifestyle choice. But with such busy lives, how is a mother supposed to juggle the responsibilities of running a home, which includes going out in public, and breastfeeding exclusively when public perception still views breastfeeding in public with such negativity? Oh yes, there are wraps, but people still know and people still gawk at you.

As a breastfeeding mother, I have never had the nerve to feed in public, unless I'm surrounded by breastfeeding mommas and we're in an enclosed area free from the eyes of gawkers. If you ask me, it's ridiculous that we have to hide ourselves to feed our children. Whipping out my breast and offering it to my baby is not the same thing as whipping it out for everyone to see. It's not sexual. It doesn't feel sexual. It's a natural way of feeding my child and making sure I'm providing him with the very best start I can. It's not shameful. Yet to do so in public feels that way.

On two occasions since having Dylan, I have had to go to the mall. The bathroom there has a sitting room, so I've had to go in there to feed Dylan. It's okay, but it's not private and people stare at you as they walk by, trying to figure out what your doing and amazed by the fact that you are doing it! On any of our other outings, I pull into the far reaches of the parking lot to feed him in the car. I'm okay with all this, but it is a little annoying. For instance, we recently went to a fiddle contest with the boys. It was over 100 degrees outside. Dylan got hungry, and we had to leave because the facility had no private area other than the bathroom to feed my child. The BATHROOM!

I'm okay with not feeding in public because that's just who I am. But if it were okay and acceptable, I may do it as well. You can't see anything other than skin. The baby has the nipple in its mouth. But even if I'm okay with not doing it, I think its ludicrous that our society holds women so responsible for the care of our children yet hinders them if they choose to give their babies the best start. It's almost like we're being punished for choosing to give our children what we know is the best thing for them. I can only hope that in time, the public will realize that breastfeeding is not a sexual indiscretion to be frowned upon but rather an accepted means by which to provide nutrients to our little ones.

1 comment:

  1. This post made me smile since I know myself - soon as I saw someone starring at me I'm the person that says 'yes, that's correct I'm feeding my child did you want dibs next?"

    Awkward conversations are my favorite :o)