Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Mother's Take on Breastfeeding in Public

{Disclaimer from the blogger: I am in no way pushing breastfeeding over formula feeding. While I am an advocate of breastfeeding, I fully believe in and support every Mother’s choice in feeding her baby.}

I’m not usually one to get on my soapbox or really publicly have an opinion on “controversial” issues. I HAVE opinions, often pretty strong ones, but I save them for close girlfriends or my husband or my Mother (not always my Mother since our opinions often differ).

But, the  topic of breastfeeding in public and acceptable ways to do it has been coming up more and more lately and I absolutely have an opinion on it, particularly arguments against breastfeeding in public that center around other children's reactions to it.

Here’s the thing, children are offended by what we – as adults, as their parents, as a society – tell them to be offended by. And therein lies the problem.

Americans have this deep-seeded need to sexualize everything. I get that there is a sexual side to breasts. Fine, I’ll give you (men) that. But, it has gotten to the point where so many have forgotten that this particular part of a woman’s anatomy was put there to feed our babies – just like every other mammal on the planet. When the family dog or cat has puppies or kittens and the new mama is feeding her babies in the middle of the living room floor, do we cover our children’s eyes or make them leave the room? No, we use it as a teaching experience to help our children understand nature.

Why is it different for humans? When I breastfeed my son, I am giving him the nutrients he needs to grow and be healthy, just like Fido or Fifi. And I should be able to do that where ever and whenever he needs me to do that without hiding away or making him sit under a cover. Or be judged or laughed at or glared at or looked at like I am doing something disgusting or distasteful. Why can we as a society not use a human mother breastfeeding her child as the same learning experience we give the family pet?

Here is where I should admit that I, in fact, do not breastfeed much in public. I also use my cover when I do so because it is MY personal preference. (Although, I have not done so in a few months, so I’m not entirely sure I would still use a cover right now in this Texas heat and with a baby in the stage of distraction.) So, I am not some breastfeeding crusader. I’m just a mom with an almost nine-month-old baby who feels like being asked to cover up or hide away if my child does need to eat when we are in mixed company is more of a violation of my and his rights than that of random strangers.

I simply wish the people could stop and think logically about what a breastfeeding Mother is doing and what they are asking of her – and her baby – when they make these request. Breastfeeding is a positive thing, one of the best things a Mother can do for her baby. I hate to see it being treated so negatively.

Ashley Bearden is a full-time working Mommy to nine-month-old son Will after two and a half years of trying to get pregnant. 

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