Thursday, August 30, 2007

Breastfeeding in Public

I did it. I didn't whip it out and show everyone the facilities, but I didn't hide under a blanket, either. I learned to arrange my clothes and the baby so that I hardly ever flashed anyone. My oldest is in his mid-20's so it was a little less common then than it is now.

OK, it was a lot less common and people occasionally made suggestions that the bathroom was the most appropriate place for that sort of activity, because -- it's a body function.

I didn't get nasty with anyone. I just did the same thing I did with other unwanted parenting advice. I ignored them. After all, I didn't see THEM taking their plate into the bathroom to perform that bodily function in private.

We have a serious problem in this country, folks. There are still people who can say with a straight face, "It's a body function and should be private." They think their sensibilities are more important than the health and safety of someone's child.

I simply do NOT understand their problem. I know it's a cultural issue. They were raised to believe that breasts are for sex and that suckling = sex. For babies it equals food. The best possible food for babies - who can't wait until nobody with breast issues is looking.

"Nurse-ins" can be used to demonstrate that it is possible to breastfeed in public without unnecessary exposure - or they can be used as an in-your-face political statement that doesn't do much to further the cause of breastfeeding.

The breastfeeding statistics in this country are abysmal. The good news is that we're getting more than 70% of moms to at least try breastfeeding. The bad news is that most of them don't keep it up. Partly that's lack of support at the outset. Much of it, though, is lack of support - and sometimes outright hostility - when they get home.


Kellie said...

Nice post. As a preemie mom x 2, my first "nursing" experiences with my 30 wkr and 25 wkr were both in full public view of everyone in the NICU. I was so overjoyed that my boys were not only alive, had functioning guts, were off TPN, and were able to attempt breastfeeding that I could have cared less who in the world saw my breasts. All I cared about was finally after months of pumping, getting the opportunity to bond with my baby the way nature intended. I wish people could cherish that gift instead of frown upon it and the people who give their children breastmilk.

Unfortunately my 25 wkr wasn't able to bf d/t severe aspiration and needing thickened breastmilk to over honey consistancy then finally bm through his GJ tube fortified to 31cal/oz. But as a nation we need to do something to increase the rate of successful breastfeeding. It is such a gift to us mothers and our children.

Anonymous said...

"I ignored them." Congratulation's! Keep up the good work! How are people threatened or offended by a nursing mother? Is it women giving you the advice of going to the smelly bacteria/germ/mothball/clorine bathroom?

Camilla said...

Nobody's ever so much as given me a dirty look for nursing my son in public. I hope that's progress and not just me being oblivious, or where I live.

TC said...

Great couple of posts. I BF my first for 8 months and my current toddler is still going strong at 23 months. She calls my nipples "apples", which cracks me up everytime. I'm with you, I just ignore the naysayers and go about my business, which is a little tricky when your 2 yo is doing gymnastics on your chest.

Breastfeeding should be made a public health issue. It decreases the chances of getting high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease or becoming obese, all national epidemics, especially among minorities. It helps IQ scores and decreases the risk of childhood asthma. For disadvantaged populations, I can think of no greater thing they can do for their own and their children's health.

What's really abysmal is that many doctors take a neutral stance for fear of offending women. My doctor made no bones about the fact that he thought it was bad to cosleep, bad to not vaccinate and bad when my daughter didn't wear a bike helmet and got hurt. But when it comes to bottle feeding, they stand back and say, "well, it's YOUR choice."

Judy said...

You're right. We need to do more to help breastfeeding moms and their babies. Education is a start. It would help if more employers were supportive.

My youngest is 12. He weaned himself over 10 years ago. Generally women were the only ones who would make comments. A recent conversation with people whose attitude shocked me sparked this post. They were people I'd thought would have known better.

I think things are generally better, but there is still a lot of ignorance.

We really do need to make it more of a public health issue. When people won't even stand up and tell moms that the risk of sudden infant death syndrome drops dramatically when they breastfeed, we've got a big problem. The only statistics I see offered are for decreases in breast cancer and faster weight loss (that one's not always true). I feel a series coming on.

My docs never took a neutral stance - not even 27 years ago when I was pregnant with my first child. OTOH, I chose them because they were different.

Camillamai said...

Funny and interesting comments on public breastfeeding 20 years ago.
Personally I PB (public breastfeed) my (now 20 months old) son all the time, and did so ever since he was born. I never meant to, but soon realized that it's as neccesary as breathing when you go out. And just as natural.
We've PB'ed just about anywhere: bus, train, airplane, supermarket, church, restaurants, beach, street ..
My "technique" is to not look at anybody while I breastfeed (can't get any dissaproving looks that way and "closed" to comments), and to act as secure of myself and my actions as I'm entitled to. And nobody has ever said anything.

Anonymous said...

I think passing on what we know is so very important to educate people about breastfeeding. It seems that done in a calm manner, a sister or friend can do more to educate someone about breastfeeding than a professional sometimes.

When I was pregnant with my son, we happened to choose a childbirth educator who was a La Leche League leader. I learned more about breastfeeding in the 12 weeks of class than I did reading books. When the time came I passed the information onto my sisters. All five of us have nursed to a year; 4 of us to two years and beyond. I'm very proud of the fact that I nursed 2 kids for 57 months.

I couldn't have done it without a very supportive husband, pediatrician, family, and friends. I love that my husband wasn't bothered by it; that my pediatrician told me that I should 'nurse as long as possible;' that my friends thought that is was so sweet to see my kids breastfeed even at 20 months and beyond.

I must admit that I tell my 4 yo daughter that babies drink mama's milk rather than use bottles. When she's asked how, I've used her doll to demonstrate. Now, she breastfeeds her dolls.