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Friday, February 3, 2012

So, where exactly *can* you breastfeed?

In 2010, right after National Breastfeeding Week, CBS ran the following slide show on their site: "9 places "they" say you should not breastfeed." Like this blogger asked, Who exactly is "they?" Even though almost all US states have laws on the books that protect the rights of the nursing mother, many just don't seem to get it.

Some that made the list include:

Photo: CBS News.
1) In front of men.
For me, this was probably one of the most annoying, because I often hear more supportive comments from men than from fellow women. While some guys make idiotic comments about it like NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne made a few months ago, it's completely unfair to make them all look like drooling idiots with a one-track mind.

2) In public. That could mean just about anything to some people. And strangely enough, the photo they used to illustrate this point was "edited" to not show the nursing mother's breast, but yet left intact when the same photo was used for the accompanying survey. Did someone forget that it was supposed to be offensive?

TV personality Barbara Walters
expressed her discomfort
after witnessing a mother on a flight
nursing her baby without a cover.
She reportedly made her hairdresser
sit between them. So apparently
the skies aren't so friendly after all. 
3) On a plane.
Actually, many people would probably say children shouldn't be on flights at all, because who wants to be stuck in a confined space with children? And if you're nursing them, that's even worse. (Never mind that CBS mentions that one benefit to nursing while flying is that it can ease pressure in baby's ears, which makes for less fussing and crying. But it's still wrong, apparently.)

4) In front of kids. This one made me really sad, because otherwise if you don't allow children to see the most natural way to feed a baby, they're going to think - much like many adults - that bottle-feeding is the only way to do it and won't know any better. The Sesame Street clips show us that kids are naturally curious and can have the process explained - and showed - to them in a perfectly age-appropriate, respectful manner.

I bet many people who think it shouldn't be done around kids have no problems with - much less notice - the amount of skin children are regularly exposed to every day: on TV programs and in commercials, while passing by shop windows at the mall, and in public from many others whom they come into contact with. Without explaining to children the parallels and ironies of this, they probably no doubt grow up very confused by the whole thing.

5) In a restaurant. People have to eat, and a baby's no exception, really. Their rationale for why, though, is f*king ridiculous, if you'll pardon my french.
"Advocates say serve it up, but some doctors worry that if a mom has an infectious illness like HIV, her breast milk can spread the infection to others. So, moms should be careful to keep breast milk off surfaces."
The idiocy here is amazing, and I think just another psychological roadblock that many people can't wrap their heads around: that infants need to eat, too, even if it's not from the table. HIV? Really? What, is she going around and squirting milk into people's faces or something?

6) On the job. I'm sure this one will piss you off as much as it did me, because it's hard enough to get support while nursing and working full time. I honestly do not know how moms can work full time and pump, because I considered pumping a nightmare and dreaded it. It's just another serious booby trap - and while you're at it, try not to notice how many smoke breaks that guy in the cubicle next to you takes (the ones that no one says a word about, by the way).

7) At a friend's house. Okay, eff that! If you have a friend who is upset by the sight of you nursing while a guest in her home, then find new friends. Because she clearly isn't one.

8) In a public bathroom. This one was the most ironic - while on their "blacklist" of places not to nurse, it's probably the one where people tell you - or politely suggest - to go to most. This is another psychological one, I think: because just like in a firing squad, no one really wants to be considered the bad guy who made a woman feel shamed enough that she headed to a bathroom to feed her child. And they also don't want to think about how dirty those bathrooms are. So by not thinking about it, it makes it okay, I guess. Kind of like, 'If I ignore it, it will go away.'

Meanwhile, CBS News' response is "Better for mom to catch hell for nursing in public than for junior to get a cold." Catch hell? From whom? And they still make mom sound like she's doing something wrong: acknowledging that someone will disapprove, or that she's a bad mom for exposing her kid to all those germs.

Some think the only real place to do it is your own home. (And hell, even then some moms have taken crap from relatives or friends visiting in their own home about covering up or going into another room.) The car? Nope, someone can still see you, unless you either put a giant blanket over both of you or have heavily tinted windows. And if they see you getting out of your car with a baby, they'll probably still think, "Oh my God, eww! She was feeding her baby in there! Why can't you just use a bottle already?!" 

Many use the rationale that "it's a private act, it needs to be done at home." I guess that means that for as long as I nurse my child, I'm going to be tethered to my doorstep? Really?

They're invisible chains, but they're chains,
I think what this segment is really trying to say is "Breastfeeding is best, but we don't like it." According to this survey, there is no perfect place to nurse your child, apparently. 

More reading:
Survey: Should women breastfeed anywhere? (note: the original tagline for this survey said "Should moms be allowed to breastfeed anywhere?)


K said...

You make sure my baby isn't going to get hungry in 'those' places then 'they' can tell me not to breastfeed. and do NOT tell me I should just give a bottle, my babies don't take bottles until well past the age that they don't *need* to nurse either.
I've nursed everywhere and will continue to do so and no I usually don't use a cover. I don't bare my entire chest and glare at people daring them to challenge me, I just feed my baby. I will retreat to another room for *my* comfort if it is possible but it is not always possible. I've nursed in fine restaurants, Civil Air Patrol meetings (which is essentially a meeting of para military teenaged boys, movie theaters, concerts, funerals, weddings etc....) It has never been an issue. The only time I have been challenged was at Sea World where I chose to nurse on a bench...right outside their 'nursing room'. The 'nursing room' was wet and smelly and filled with women and toddlers changing clothes. I preferred sitting on a nice airy bench. An employee tried to get me to use the nursing room, politely but fairly directly. I was equally polite and direct and declined with a smile. That was it.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I will say this - sometimes I did welcome a nice break from the chaos by having a little room to sit in. Often because, with commotion and loud noises, my babe was too distracted to really nurse as it was so we got more accomplished LOL when we were in a quiet spot. The children's museum that we used to visit has a lovely nursing room - nice comfy rocking chair, dimmed lights, a door that locks (I think) - very comfortable and homey. Except for the two pre-teen girls who barged in on me one time... Do you ever wonder what goes through the minds of kids that age, who have probably NEVER seen a nursing mother? They probably have NO idea what you're doing, or that it's even possible. *sigh*

K said...

Unless their mothers nursed younger siblings. It is amazing how completely desensitized young people are to nursing if they have been around it their whole lives. My teenage son can't get over the bru-ha-ha over nursing in public. For him it is just the way babies are fed. Baby is hungry, mother feeds baby, end of story. Dozens of babies have been nursed in his presence, even while he has been conversing with the mother and he never even notices. During one media dust up he wondered aloud if the baby was still nursing, he couldn't recall...I laughed. Just that morning he and I had had a long conversation....his baby brother was nursing the entire time. This is pretty typical of his circle of friends (mostly crunchy, homeschool families) nursing is the norm and a total non-issue.

I am due to have a baby in about 10 weeks. I babysit a little boy. I'm going to have to inform his mother to prep him for the fact I breastfeed. I have no idea if he has ever been exposed and I've learned the hard way not to assume all kids know what I am doing. I remember one little girl about 5 asking me why the baby was eating me. She had no idea milk came out of breasts.

li'l Muppet-lhead said...

Just had to comment on 2 of the points...
5- that made me laugh, mothers w/ HIV are STRONGLY recommended NOT to breastfeed period b/c of the risk of infection to their child. most states (if not all now) require all expectant mothers to be HIV tested, even if they didn't get prenatal care, they get a blood sample drawn up in the hosp before/while/after labor and get tested, so that is laughable...
6- some states like MN have laws requiring businesses of 50+ employees to have a designated private non-bathroom space for mothers to pump (or if they are lucky enough to have someone tote up the kiddo to work) breastfeed on site. Pumping and working takes work, but it's worth it if you want to continue breastfeeding as long as you want to.

The Deranged Housewife said...

Yes, there is that - would an HIV positive mother want to risk even more possibility of infection if she breastfed? But I do believe now there are ways to decrease risks not only during birth but during breastfeeding as well.

559mama said...

OMG that is freakin crazy, I will nurse anywhere..I get the most annoying comments from family members, sadly....and when their children are staring at me I know the mothers are secretly wanting me to say "baby is sleeping under the blankie"...I think a lot of women get all weird and think mothers who bfeed are trying to 'show off' their jugs, or just jealous of the fact their husbands could be thinking different?! lol