Heard the one about the woman who dared to feed her baby in a cafe? Unless you've been in a coma recently, you're probably aware of women being told to cover up or leave the building, just for breastfeeding where other people might be present. Breastfeeding is a completely normal physiological process. Since when did it become so controversial or audacious?
Here are 10 reasons why it's more than acceptable to breastfeed in public, and why everyone else should just drink up.
1. We don't ask any other section of society to adapt their eating habits in order to accommodate other people's sensitivities or hang-ups. When was the last time you heard of a meat eater being asked to eat in the toilet, so as not to offend any vegetarians in the joint? Or McDonald's being told to install blackout blinds so as not to upset any anorexics? Thought so.
2. It's milk, not wee. Breastfeeding in public is often likened to going to the toilet in public, yet the last time I checked I didn't pee from my boobs. Nobody wants to drink their cappuccino next to the sanitary bin. Same goes for babycino.
3. Not breastfeeding in public means staying indoors until such time as your child learns to drink out of something plastic. This could be anything from a few weeks to a few months, and even then they may still demand a home-made top up whenever it suits them. That's a lot of daytime TV. Women are entitled to continue with their lives, just as babies are entitled to be fed.
4. You can't see anything anyway. Unless you've had some disastrous cosmetic surgery, your baby's head is likely to be considerably larger than your areola. As babies need to put their face in front of your boob in order to feed, nobody else gets a view.
5. It's quieter. Not responding to your baby's need to be fed by whatever means they are accustomed to, means they will scream the place down with hunger, until you give in. This is likely to be far less discreet than giving them a cuddle under your jumper.
6. Breasts are everywhere. You only have to turn on the TV, open a magazine, or look at a billboard, to see women flaunting their assets. I've seen more exposed flesh on people wandering around Tesco, than I have on a nursing mother. Yet the only time breasts cause offence is when they are used for their intended purpose. It's bizarre how a scantily clad woman walking down a catwalk gets applauded, but a fully clothed mother nursing her child can be an object of disgust.
7. It's not sex. Yes, breasts can be sexual in certain adult-only contexts, but this is not their primary purpose. Society has such a warped view of the female body, that many people seem to have missed the point of boobs entirely. Quite frankly, sex is the last thing on my mind when I'm getting my child to latch on - and in most other situations too. Anyone who thinks there is anything remotely erotic or inappropriate about breastfeeding should seek help immediately to address their deviant thought patterns.
8. It's not illegal. Urinating and defecating in public is against the law. So is indecent exposure. Breastfeeding is none of these things and is therefore not illegal. What is illegal is telling to someone to stop breastfeeding. The Equality Act says that it is sex discrimination to treat a woman unfavourably because she is breastfeeding. This means you are protected in public places such as parks, sports and leisure facilities, on public transport and in public buildings.
9. Solidarity. Breastfeeding wherever you happen to be supports other women by helping to normalise what is after all a completely normal activity. It's sad enough that breastfeeding in public is an issue at all. It would be even worse if women who want to breastfeed gave up because of warped social attitudes. The more women who breastfeed about town, in the park, or in posh hotels, the more other women will feel confident about doing the same.
10. It's no big deal. It's really time certain elements of society got over themselves and realised that breastfeeding is not about them and their twisted views, but about babies whose lives depend on being nourished. Babies need to be fed whenever they're hungry (in some cases every couple of hours) and mums have a right to answer that need however they choose. If that happens to be using their own bodies then it's hardly headline news. Bottle-feeding mums don't get slated for whipping out a pot of formula in a coffee shop. It's time breastfeeding mums were treated with the same lack of interest.
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