After a little encouragement (including liquid encouragement) I decided to write this blog post. I am expecting to get negative backlash from it and I'm ok with that. But I really just want to put my perspective/point of view out there about a topic I have seen a bit in the news lately. One article relating to a sports figure and another to a store I'm sure we all shop at.
Breastfeeding in Public.
Let me give my point of view and please read the whole thing before going off on me. This is just my perspective and how I feel. I'm not trying to stand on a soapbox and tell people what to do or what their rights are. I just want to share my opinion after seeing several articles in the past couple of days.
Let me start by saying that I'm not a mom yet, but hope to be one day and I plan on breastfeeding, willing that everything goes well. Some people can't (I have several friends who can't/couldn't and not due to their lack of wanting or trying to) and I understand that. I was formula fed and I believe I did turn out ok. I would like to breastfeed because I know that is the best thing for the child, they get the best nutrition, it's a wonderful bonding experience, and does lots of other beneficial things for both mom and baby.
And babies will be hungry when they are hungry. And they usually need to be fed right away. I know this because I am the last of my friends to be pregnant or have a baby. When you're the last of your kind, you learn a lot about these things, whether you want to or not. Babies have to be fed and they need the best nutrition, this is not the question at stake.
Breastfeeding in public is a hot topic. That's why I was nervous about posting my perspective. It is a law in many states that women have the right to breastfeed in public and it is exempt from indecent exposure. I agree with this. I've seen many women who breastfeed in public. As someone who does not breastfeed yet, or have children, I have to be honest, it can be a bit surprising. And can be a bit jarring if it's done in a very indiscreet way. Let me give you an example.
I was at a museum a couple of years ago. It was a cultural museum rather than art with many exhibits so you had to walk around things. Not that that matters exactly. Well, as I was turning the corner to look at a different part of an exhibit, there was a bench, and a lady was breastfeeding on it. She had a button up blouse and had every button undone, with her front clipping bra undone, shirt pulled around, and her entire breast in plain view. Not discreet at all. In the middle of the museum, entirely exposed, in front of an exhibit. It shocked me and took me a second to compose myself, mostly because I was just not expecting to turn the corner & see so much.
Maybe it was the best way for her to do it, but for me, as someone who has never done it myself, it just makes me uncomfortable. Not because I disapprove of it, that's 100% not true, but it's just not something I am familiar with. I feel as though I've walked in on something very personal that I should not be privy to. Also, the way she had the child positioned I could see most of her areola. And yes, seeing that much of a complete stranger, 2 feet from me, made me uncomfortable.
I've also been out to dinner with friends who had a 6 week old (they were PCSing from Hawaii and we picked them up at the airport). While at dinner, their baby needed to eat. Mom pulled out a small blanket, positioned it over one shoulder started feeding, while we were eating, and we all forgot that she was feeding. It wasn't a big deal. No one gave her odd looks, no one commented, no one said anything. She was involved in our conversation, drank her water, laughed with us, made jokes, and talked about their trip. But she didn't make a big deal of feeding. Baby ate, we ate. All was good.
Maybe it was because her & her husband are friends of my husband's (I met her for the first time that day) that made it didn't bother me. Maybe it's because she didn't make it known to the whole restaurant what she was about to do. Maybe it was because she did it in a manner that she knew what was going on, and taking care of her baby and was relaxed. But it didn't phase me one bit. We had a lovely dinner with them, technically, all three of them.
I plan on breastfeeding, like I said, and I may change my mind once the baby is here (BTW I'm not preggers yet) but that's something I don't plan on sharing with a lot of people when they are visiting my home. I don't feel like I would be comfortable doing it in front my of my mother-in-law, or even my own mother. I would happily go up to the nursery to do it so baby & I are both comfortable. Even if friends who have breastfed who have no problem with seeing me do it, it just wouldn't make me comfortable. Maybe with one of the "private diners" but not with my robe open for the whole world to see. But that's me. That's me personally. I don't expect everyone else to be like that. I know plenty of women who BF in front of their whole family. And that's fine. But that's them, not me.
As someone who isn't accustomed, yes, it is a bit surprising, and can be uncomfortable to see in public. In the Kasey Kahne situation, his comments were a bit harsh, but some of the responses he got, were even more harsh. Calling him a redneck, bottle-fed, inbreed is going to the same level. I don't believe he is anti-breastfeeding, but seeing a woman walk down the center of an aisle while grocery shopping with her shirt open, yes, it's probably not what you expect to see when you're going to pick up a brownie mix. In the Target situation, she was entitled to feed in the clothing section. I don't believe the employees handled it correctly, but if it's their policy to ask a nursing mother if they'd like to use a fitting room, I don't necessarily think they're being "anti-breastfeeding". They weren't asking her to sit in a dirty restroom. Now THAT is completely inappropriate and unsanitary.
Just as some nursing mothers would expect people to respect them to not stare, gawk, roll their eyes, or make comments, I think that on the other hand, they should respect that it may make some others uncomfortable and it may garner a few stares, and not because they're anti-breastfeeding, but because it's something that not everyone is used to seeing. There are plenty of ways to be discreet. I've known people who purposefully draw attention to themselves while they're feeding, which I don't understand. That's like taking a 4 year old out, standing up in the restaurant, and saying "HEY, GUESS WHAT!? I'M NOW USING A SPOON TO FEED MY KID HIS SOUP." I'm not saying throw a receiving blanket over the kids head, because I know a lot of people are very opposed to that, but whipping a whole boob out and having the entire thing exposed will draw some attention. Even from other breastfeeding mothers.
I respect women who choose to breastfeed exclusively, it's time consuming and tiring. I also respect women who breastfeed in public, discreetly. You don't make a big deal about it, most people won't even notice. Maybe I'm a prude, but I'd probably go to my car to do it (again, could change my mind when I have children). I don't think people are opposed to seeing it if they stare for a moment, it's just not what they're used to seeing when they're picking up clementines. It's natural to hold a look a little longer at something uncommon. And guys are staring, well, they're probably just staring at boob anyway.