Why I’m passionately pro breastfeeding yet don’t see myself as a Lactivist

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?

8 Replies to “Why I’m passionately pro breastfeeding yet don’t see myself as a Lactivist”

  1. Jenny

    Enjoyed reading your post. I have only ever seen one women breastfeeding in public before. Think it’s perfectly ok though to do this. But it’s something I never see.
    I have children of my own and would have liked to have breastfed them I did try but I was a bit of a worrier and I stopped because I wanted to know exactly how much milk the baby was getting, think I was worried that he wasn’t getting enough milk. I did think about pumping but was to overwhelmed and tired so I just bottle fed them.
    I would probably try pumping it if I had another one.
    Thanks for the information

    Reply
    • Lauren Kinghorn Post author

      Thanks so much for your comments Jenny. Many first time Moms are concerned they are not producing enough milk, especially if baby is not putting on weight fast enough. There are some tips in chapter 3 of my free ebook that may help you if you ever have another child.

      I understand your feeling of overwhelm completely, those first few weeks are tough. I never pumped either and was just so lucky that nursing came relatively easily to me and my son took to it like a duck to water as well.

      Reply
  2. Tanaquillo

    I agree with Rachel. I think it is very important that breastfeeding in public is normalised and I do think it would have am impact on breastfeeding rates. What you see affects your view on what is normal.

    I am from Australia and the law protects our right to breastfeed in public at any time and any place. That being said, I find it almost impossible to feed my 9 month old in public because he gets very distracted and I don’t enjoy flashing everyone when he decides to look around.

    Reply
    • Lauren Kinghorn Post author

      Thanks so much sharing both for your viewpoint and your personal experience, Tana. Ooh, I know that phase well… and that phase can go on for a while. A baby of 9 months, it’s such an exciting time!! Good luck with your party planning for the first birthday. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Tiffany

    This is a really interesting topic. I still am having a hard time grasping what the outcome of this lactivist movement will eventually be.

    Now that you mention it, I haven’t met a woman who stopped breastfeeding due to public scrutiny either. There has always been a personal justification involved in the decision.

    I appreciate how fair you were in this post.

    Reply
    • Lauren Kinghorn Post author

      Hi Tiffany, thanks so much for your comments. Glad to hear I’m not alone in my musings! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Rachel

    I actually do believe that normalizing public breastfeeding will encourage more women to nurse.

    Breastfeeding is a sacred act of motherhood, and what we should be educating the public is NOT to look at the women’s breast while they are breastfeeding instead of insisting that they do their breastfeeding somewhere else to protect their modesty.

    Although some points you said do make sense, that mothers stop breastfeeding not only from the shame but other reasons as well, but if breastfeeding is more encouraged and normalized instead of an act that should be done in private areas, I believe that most mothers who give up will pick it up again – for the sake of their children.

    Reply
    • Lauren Kinghorn Post author

      Hi Rachel, thanks for making such excellent points. I appreciate your point of view.

      I found that my son also prefers to feed in private, but maybe that’s just his personal preference – I can see how with another child my outlook may have been different.
      In our ideal world we would have quiet, private, comfortable spaces to nurse (away from the smell of dirty nappies) in the middle of busy shopping centres.

      Reply

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