Are We Going Backwards Or What?
In 1977, Sesame Street, a children’s show that is still popular today, featured a segment in which guest star Buffy Sainte-Marie nursed her son and had a conversation about it with one of the show’s characters. According to her, breastfeeding is a way many mothers—not all, but many—feed their babies. She explained the process in a way that was geared for the understanding of children. When she was done, the character Big Bird responded, “That’s nice.”
You can watch the video here:
Only Children Get Breastfeeding?
You might still see something like that on a children’s show today. The content seems appropriate for children—possibly because they are young enough that they witness their own mothers nursing siblings or are, perhaps, still breastfeeding themselves. It is not something that most deem proper for adults. Widespread now is the debate whether it is or should be acceptable to breastfeed in public. The main issue seems that many people are uncomfortable by the practice. They think nursing mothers should take to a bathroom stall or other designated area or “cover up” in the very least.
There are plenty of videos available on the internet, if you are curious, about the way the public reacts when presented with a “breastfeeding” mother. People who would normally stay quiet and respectful to complete strangers, those who would avoid becoming involved in almost every other situation, become aggressively vocal when they see a mother nursing her child in public.
It is as if they consider it their duty as a decent human being to tell her that her behavior is indecent and uncouth. “Disgusting” is a word you hear a lot. And yet I have a hard time coming across any well-formed argument against public nursing.
Stinking Attitudes And Bathroom Stalls
While the only argument against breastfeeding baby in public is that it makes some people uncomfortable, there are a lot better reasons for it—mainly, that it is a natural process used by many in the nurturing of human life. Rather than expecting women to take up coveted bathroom stalls, hunched over on dirty toilet seats on tip-toes to balance their hungry infant, it seems more decent of us as people to support mothers enough to allow them the decency to care for their children in public. There are plenty of ways to breastfeed in a subtle way, not that it should be hidden but simply to make the mothers themselves feel more comfortable, such as wearing nursing tank tops. There are many choices for small or large breasts if you want to try them out, or alternatively you could use a muslin to cover your baby up and give yourself some privacy.
Our attitude toward mothers in general is often lacking. We expect women back at work as quickly as possible after they have given birth. We judge them for having their nails done instead of spending every penny on something for the baby. We recoil in horror from the wailing baby in the grocery store and mutter under our breaths about the incompetence of the poor, frazzled woman trying to get her shopping done. As far as we know, it is the first time she has left her house in weeks. Life spent raising a new life is extremely difficult, but rather than adopting an “it takes a village” mentality, we expect parents to go it completely alone lest we be even remotely inconvenienced by their children.
The “breastfeeding issue” also shines an unflattering light on the way we value women only as far as their sex appeal goes. As a social experiment, three actors teamed up to gauge the way people would respond to a woman in a very low-cut shirt, flaunting her body, and then to a breastfeeding mother. Then they sat the two women next to one another and confronted those who spoke up with their own hypocrisy. You can watch the video here:
Even when questioned why the model was acceptable and the mother was not, no one had a terribly enlightened response. Generally it was something along the lines of, “well she’s hot and that’s just gross.” I find that answer to be gross. I am disgusted by the fact that there are those who cannot be mature enough to get over their discomfort to support a mother. Why is it difficult for them to allow her to safely feed her child wherever it is convenient for her to do so?
So while some mothers may choose to use a cover, retreat to the bathroom or make use of any special areas that are cropping up for breastfeeding in some places, the choice is her business and none of ours. If she wants to collapse to a park bench and nurse there, so be it. If she feels more comfortable in private, that is fine, too. The point is that women should not feel corralled to certain areas as if they are being quarantined. What they are doing is something completely harmless and natural and, if fact, the way many of us were fed ourselves.
What is your take on this? Do you think mothers ought to go hide when breastfeeding? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, we love have conversations on issues affecting us all as a community, society, country and world. As well, do signup and join this community. You will get KB Life, a monthly newsletter as well as Weekday Wisdom© which is emailed to you along with updates of our posts.