There’s a lot of fuss being made at the moment in the media, and even in government level all around the world, about breastfeeding in public. I understand it’s an emotive issue – especially when Moms who are breastfeeding, are snubbed or criticized.
I understand, because I’m a nursing Mom myself. And I’m not nursing a newborn either – I’m nursing a 2.5 year old toddler. There’s no doubt about it, the longer you nurse, the more criticism you’re bound to receive.
I’ve noticed that almost anyone you meet thinks it’s perfectly natural, normal, beautiful and downright commendable to nurse a baby. Yet these self-same people get the heebie-jeebies when they think of you nursing a toddler.
Not that it’s any of their business. Ha! I came to realize really early on in motherhood, that virtually every aspect of parenting, from pregnancy to childbirth to nursing to discipline, appears to be everyone’s business! Everyone has an opinion about how you should raise your child. Even people who are not parents themselves. I should have known this before I became a parent because I had many opinions about parenting myself pre-motherhood, and have had to eat my words many a time since. A subject for another day.
Let’s get back to the subject at hand. Breastfeeding. In public. And how everyone’s going nuts about this issue. Laws are being re-written and enforced. People are staging mass events, like the Big Latch On where Lactavists get together all around the world and breastfeed in public to make a statement. While I commend these efforts and applaud all women, everywhere who promote breastfeeding any which way, this is not my way.
I openly promote demand feeding, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, and extended breastfeeding, yet I seldom breastfeed my son in public.
I will happily breastfeed in front of a group of women, but I am simply not comfortable exposing my breasts to the opposite sex. I also happen to know my husband is not comfortable with that idea either. So my primary reason for not feeding in public is modesty.
My secondary reason is that not entirely convinced that breastfeeding in public will turn around the dismal breastfeeding stats. See the WHO Stats here. I see it differently.
I have the same vision or end goal as these women, I want to see more women breastfeeding, and especially feeding on demand, and feeding long-term. However, I don’t have much faith that mass public breastfeeding or greater acceptance of public breastfeeding, or more laws to lift the ban on public breastfeeding, is the ticket.
This is simply because I don’t think that mothers stop breastfeeding because they were ashamed to do it in public.
I think they stop breastfeeding for very different reasons.
Sadly, millions of women start out breastfeeding with all the best intentions in the world yet do not continue beyond a few days, a few weeks or a few months. I would hazard a guess that Moms who breastfeed in public are well past the “danger stage” of giving up on breastfeeding too early to give it a fighting chance.
Moms stop nursing for practical reasons. Moms stop because…
- they couldn’t get the latch right, and the pain was too unbearable.
- they had a difficult birth and are feeling sore, disappointed and depressed.
- they are completely overwhelmed by how time consuming nursing is in the first few weeks.
- they have little or no support from friends or family, who also weren’t aware of how time consuming nursing would be.
- they are hungry, thirsty and exhausted.
- they have mastitis, or thrush, or some other infection.
- they were advised to schedule their feeds hours apart or top-up with with formula early on, resulting in diminished milk supply.
- they had to go back to work too soon and are struggling to pump.
- they didn’t lose the weight they were expecting to lose by nursing.
- someone told them their bodies and breasts would never look the same if they continued.
- they think formula feeding will be easier, they can take turns with their partner, and therefore they will get more sleep.
- they are trying to fall pregnant with their next child.
- they are pregnant with their next child.
Personally, I have never met anyone who stopped nursing because they were too embarrassed to nurse in public.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that anyone who’s told me a story about being shamed when breastfeeding in public, has actually become a stronger advocate for breastfeeding as a result. Oddly, public criticism serves to increase their resolve. Probably because these Mothers are already 100% committed to nursing by the time they dare to nurse in public.
What do you think? Do you believe that normalizing public breastfeeding will encourage more women to nurse?
I’d love to hear your story. Why did you stop nursing?