Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why we MUST see mothers breastfeeding in public

Breastfeeding may be the oldest and the most traditional way to nurture a child, yet breastfeeding in public continues to be hotly debated around the world.

This week is National Breastfeeding Awareness Week in UK, leading to even more voices joining the discussion.

UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, made his position very clear on a recent visit to Newark.

He told the media that he thinks women “should be able to breastfeed in public. It is obviously vitally important that moms are allowed to give their little ones what they need so I very much support that.”

“There is nothing wrong with breastfeeding in public. It is absolutely essential that we encourage women to breastfeed.”

Cameron is not the only public figure who provide leadership on breastfeeding promotion. Earlier this year during a special baptism, Pope Francis told the babies’ mothers, “if they are hungry, mothers, feed them. Because they are the most important people here.”

And the law is on their side. Today, women’s right to nurse in public is protected by law in many countries. In UK, for example, the Equality Act 2010 gave women the right to breastfeed in public. Here in America, mothers can legally breastfeed in public in every state.

But it doesn’t stop well-known companies shaming young mothers for breastfeeding in public. Similar stories are being reported everywhere around the world. 

These all happened this week. The reports related to nursing in public pop up in the news so often that they are not news anymore. The question is, why the debate revolving breastfeeding in public is still going on? 

Huffington Post contributor Tony Posnanski said well in his recent article, You Can Breastfeed in My Restaurant Anytime, “Do you think I would ask a mom to go to her car or somewhere away from her family because a man or woman is offended by a breast and nipple? A nipple and breast designed for feeding a child, not for pornography or the satisfaction of admiring them?” 

Well said. The problem is, while a breast is actually designed to feed a child, many consider it as a sexual object. This is the concept that leads to endless debate on breastfeeding in public. 

If you ask me, I'd say that mothers not only need breastfeed in public, but SHOULD breastfeed in public for two reasons.

One, mothers need to have their normal life keep going while breastfeeding. No mother could breastfeed for one year (which is really just the minimum recommendation) if she could not continue with her life while doing so. If mothers have to stay home, unable to dine out, go shopping, or play with the older children in the park, it would simply be impossible to breastfeed for a year. 

Two, our children need to see breastfeeding in public. When young girls and boys grow up surrounded by sexualized images of breasts but never, or only rarely, see the normal, natural act of breastfeeding a baby, how can they have healthy ideas about breasts? 

Breastfeeding will not be seen to be normal until we see more women breastfeed in public. Mothers, please join me to breastfeed in public. When more mothers breastfeed in public, we will help to provide new mothers a path away from embarrassment.

At Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.

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