Breastfeeding in public: Yes or no?

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 Breastfeeding in public. The debate

391px-Breastfeeding_WPA_posterIn December 2014, it was reported in the British news that a media storm has broken out because a woman was breastfeeding her baby in a restaurant.

The woman was told by a member of staff to cover her baby and her breast with a large napkin.

Even members of parliament became involved in the row, one suggesting that women should retire to a discreet corner should they wish to breastfeed their baby.

Not only this, but the prime minister became involved. He disagreed saying that breastfeeding is completely natural and that mothers shouldn’t feel that they are being discriminated against.

A minor member of the royal family (Princess Michael of Kent) also had her say, remarking that she didn’t feed her own children as her nanny had told her that it was a disgusting practice.

Opinion remains divided and the debate continues.

What does the law have to say about this? In Britain, it is illegal to discriminate. Women are within their rights to feed their babies in public and this includes privately-owned places which are open to the subject, such as restaurants.

In the United States, every state has its own laws but basically, breastfeeding is supported.

But what about the general public? This is where opinion divides again. There are some people who feel that (despite the legal situation) breastfeeding should be conducted in private and that doing so in public is ‘indecent’.

As a member of the ‘hippie generation’, I feel that this is nonsense. For once, I agree with a prime minister. It is estimated that billions of dollars would be saved on healthcare if babies received the best start in life – in other words, if they are breastfed. Organisations say that it can be difficult for some mothers to breastfeed their babies and the last thing they need is discrimination. In fact, they need support and encouragement.

There is only one aspect of breastfeeding in public that I don’t like. That is when a hugely fat woman rolls up her jumper revealing her grubby bra and her rolls of belly fat. I don’t want to see that on the beach either. ¬†Or anywhere. I’d prefer women to be a little bit more organised and instead of pulling up their sweaters and revealing goodness knows what, work from the top – unbutton your blouse. And it’s a good idea to have an attractive shawl or scarf which will have the added benefit of keeping mother and baby warm (and, for the sake of those who find this natural function ‘disgusting’, keep them discreetly and attractively covered.)

I’m pleased though that there are so many members of the male sex who support breastfeeding in public. After all, just because men decided that breasts are objects of sexual desire, it doesn’t mean that babies have to go hungry.





Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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  1. A very interesting subject indeed!

  2. The early mothns My girls are now 21 mothns old, and I can barely remember the early mothns. But the bits I do remember are clear.I don’t remember their first feeds at all. I remember the first feed for my older two (singletons). I have pictures of the first feed for each of my twin daughters, and the first time I managed to tandem feed them, that same day but I don’t remember it at all. Given how foggy my memory is of the first few mothns, that’s a small sorrow, but an expected one. At least I have the pictures. I remember being astonished that a football hold not only worked for one, it worked for both. Neither of my older ones could stand football hold. Then astonished again when I could use hold after hold and they put up with the contortions. But hey, after all, they’d been squashed up against each other all along, I guess that would be normal for them. I remember in the first days, identifying them by their nursing style as much as anything else. Meriel was the shark’ she’d lunge at my breast, mouth wide, and chomp hard. I’d have to detach her a few times to get her latch right, because she was too fast for me. She’d get it right if I left her alone and let her figure it out, though. Trying to help too much made her frustrated. She could get there fine on her own, thanks! Rowan, however, wanted to be helped, held and supported, into position. Her latch was more gentle, but also a bit on the easygoing’ side lip in, lip out, whatever. Her muscle tone was low-ish, and she just couldn’t get there without help, but didn’t seem to mind the interference. I had to fix her lips over and over and over. Those general attributes still describe their personalities very well. I remember having to chart Rowan’s feeds carefully, because she developed jaundice, enough to have a bili-light tethering her to the nearest power outlet for a few days. She looked like a glow worm, greenish light glowing through her shirt. Tracking the feeds was challenging, with two eating on their own schedules. It was also very important, as I found I was forgetting who ate last, and which side. I became more anxious that I’d forget one for a few hours but reassured by having the log to check back on, since my memory was so hazy.I remember the visiting nurse looking around my bedroom, on the first followup checkup for the jaundice, and wondering what she thought of our big bed, the two snuggle nest’ beds lined up on one corner, the EZ2Nurse2 pillow still buckled around my waist. My newest babies were just a few days old, and I was awash in hormones, and more tired than I could have imagined and yet, less wiped out’ than I thought I’d be, likely running on hormones and adrenaline. In other words, likely to be sensitive to judgement. Fortunately, she was all for anything that helped me breastfeed longer. She laughed outright when she realized the end-table next to the bed was actually a dorm fridge. Fully stocked, so I didn’t even have to get out of bed to feed my breastfeeding-twins-starvation. I remember thinking the two of them were so tiny, and fragile, and floppy. My older two had been much bigger, even though the girls’ were quite normal sized (6 lbs 10 oz and 7 lbs 6 oz). I remember feeling an almost painful urgency for them to grow, needing them to get big from my milk (though I’m sure that feeling is the same no matter how you feed them!). I remember sitting in the recliner, nursing pillow in place, knit blankies propping little baby hineys to keep them from sliding anywhere at all, my step-mom handing me a sandwich over their heads, and me having to hold my elbows out to the sides to eat it without bonking the babies. Brushing crumbs off my front, and picking them off the sleeves of my little ones fallen asleep at the breast.I guess I remember enough. Enough to know that I succeeded in part because I had the equipment I needed, and that was because I had the support I needed, and that was in no small part because I asked.The support was as simple as my DH stocking the fridge, as broad as friends who would pitch in to buy me a minifridge, as deep as my family members committing to driving almost an hour each way just to be there when I asked, every week. Humbling, but then just asking for the help in the first place was humbling. The WIC billboards around here say loving support makes breastfeeding work’ don’t I know it! That, at least, I remember very clearly.

  3. I agree with you Jackie. Natural health should begin when the person is an infant, if it all possible. I say that, since we’re an adoptive family.

    • Cheryl, I just find it so surprising that so many people object. Especially because it’s the healthiest start in life.

    • I am not going to list my breastfeeding posts, as they may be dsgaourciing to women planning on breastfeeding their newborns. I will, however, state the advice I wish someone had given to me before the babies were born. Find a lactation consultant and establish a relationship with her prior to the delivery of your babes. Meet with her for a session soon after the babies are born, even if it seems like everything is going well. It will be the best money you ever spent, and that’s coming from a cheap woman. I found the hospital LCs to be fine for teaching some initial techniques, but really not informative enough for very successful nursing of two babies.You can do it, it is hard, you will get less sleep at first, not because formula fed babies sleep better, they don’t, but because you will be waking for every feeding to help establish milk supply THEN you will pump after the nursing session, while your partner is snoozing away next to you.I had the opposite problem from Jody and actually pumped too much and had overabundant supply.It IS worth it, you WILL forget how the sleep deprivation felt, it IS hard, you CAN do it. If some difficulties arise that don’t allow you to continue nursing one or both of your babies, remember you gave it YOUR best shot. I was and still am successfully nursing one of my two 21 month-olds. The other had serious reflux and some swallowing problems (which I now suspect is somehow linked to his reflux) that made breastfeeding unsuccesful for us. I have mourned and dealt with my guilt and if something like this comes up, you and your baby(babies) will be ok. I promise.

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