Normalize Breastfeeding in Public

By: Heather Keniston

The world is making great strides in many ways. One thing that hasn't made much progress is breastfeeding in public. This frustrates me. 

There are big movements about volunteering your time and giveback programs. There’s also easier ways to contribute to charities just by purchasing everyday products. More and more car companies are pushing for hybrid models and there’s also a big push to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

This is all well and great. We all want to do better and do more to help our world run a little more smoothly. What I can’t seem to get past is the mass pushback that still circulates within our news outlets about breastfeeding in public.

Not everyone is a mom and can sympathize over a crying baby. After all, it's our fault for bringing them out in public anyway, right? At least that's what it feels like the public opinion is. 

Breastfeeding moms are shamed and looked down on. I can’t help but ask why?

Recently, an Illinois mom was told by a pool management staff that she had to stop breastfeeding by the pool and move to the bathroom. She was taken aback by this because she had attempted to feed her little one as discretely as possible.

View the full article here:

In Illinois, breastfeeding in public is permissible. After the pool management team was briefed on the issue, they released an apology statement to the mom.

Even though the law deems it okay most everywhere, mothers are still made to feel like they are in the wrong. The United States has various laws concerning breastfeeding in public. In summation, 49 of the 50 states allow moms to breastfeed in public. There are state-specific laws that deal with exemption from "public indecency." 

But why was this Illinois mom breastfeeding in public an issue? There are roughly three stances to take on the issue, one being it’s wrong, one being it’s okay, and one being on the fence with the issue. Those people want moms to cover up and then all is right with the world. If you think it's wrong, don't engage. Just go about your business like normal and if you think breastfeeding in public is okay, support those moms. If you're a mom yourself, have conversations with moms that are breastfeeding in public and show that support with a simple "how old is your baby?" question. 

I believe the higher overarching issue lies within the fact that breastfeeding in public has become a sexualized part of motherhood. (It's like moms are trying to be sexy or something?). Over time, the definition of this side of motherhood has been sexually distorted and this makes people uncomfortable.

To some, breastfeeding in public is on the same level as having sex in public, urinating in public, or public indecency.

What about you? Are you a mom that has been personally victimized because of a decision to breastfeed in public? I'm sure things like anger, frustration, embarrassment, and loneliness were at the forefront of your thoughts and emotions. The woman from Illinois was asked to move to the bathroom to breastfeed her baby. Often moms are asked to cover themselves, relocate, or stop. 

The general public has somehow arrived at the fact that breastfeeding in public is offensive. They've developed an opinion that moms are "trying" to show off their boobs to the world. It's like the breast is only meant to turn someone on and beyond that, serves no purpose. Let's shift to the baby for a second... can you imagine being told you should go eat your food in the bathroom or eat underneath a cover? If the mass public would find that uncomfortable, why are we looking down on women when they choose to do the opposite? 

Public service announcement: Breastfeeding in public is not meant to be a turn on. 

Moms, don't relinquish your rights. Don't give in just because someone isn't comfortable with the boob. Don't stay home for fear that your baby may get hungry when you're out and need to be fed. When you give in to people shaming you, they win. 

For those who disagree, I know how easy it is to see someone doing something you disagree with. You ask yourself why they think or act the way they do. We’ve all been in those situations. But, it may be better to ask yourself why you are triggered by this. 

Aside from breastfeeding in public, next time you see a mom in public with her baby, stop and think of the way you view her. She might be comforting her little one after a fall in the park, or trying to get her groceries in the store missing the fact that the baby dropped their pacifier two isles ago. The mom just might be trying to feed her baby in a natural way because that’s what her body was made to do.

Think about the way you make other's feel before you react. 

Try rallying around moms. You don’t have to support the issue of breastfeeding in public and love it, but what if you showed up and looked at yourself first before looking down on someone. Motherhood is an individual job, different for everyone. A happy, healthy baby is the most important factor at the end of all the controversy and debating.

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