Breastfeeding in public.

Friday, 9 May 2014

One thing that crops up again and again is the topic breastfeeding in public.  The thing is, I'm not actually sure as to why certain people are so horrifyingly offended by it.

Breasts are biologically there for the function of making and administering the most biologically appropriate form of sustenance for human babies.  That's it.  They aren't a means for the body to excrete waste such as feces or urine, they have the reverse function, to provide nutrients.

It is not a baby's nor a woman's fault breasts have become sexualised and can be viewed as objects illiciting sexual arousal.  Some people get their kicks from feet, should we thus be offended by showing feet?  Shall we ban sandals in summer?  Hands and mouths have more participation in sexual activity than breasts, yet we're not offended by them.  Should we ban using your hands to eat in public because they may have partaken in a sexual act at some point?

It sounds like I'm being ridiculous and deliberately obtuse and perhaps I am, yet the points raised are as valid as being offended by breastfeeding.

Be offended by flagrant usage of profanity or inappropriate public displays of sexual activity, I can understand them but to be offended by breastfeeding?  That I can't understand.

Unless the mother is extremely nervous or new to breastfeeding it is very unlikely that you will see a nipple, which lets be frank is about the only part of a womans chest you don't see every day in this day and age.  If you catch a momentary glimpse of nipple I can guarantee two things 1) The mother will be infinitely more embarrassed than you 2) You're looking way too hard, don't you think that's creepy?

 If you don't like it why are you watching so avidly?  Stop staring.

It's fine to have woman walking around in revealing clothes.  Many parents see no problem in the scantily clad gyrating forms of so-called pop stars emulating sexual acts in their routine and exuding sexuality that that the media expose their children too.  Yet the sight of a woman breastfeeding her child is offensive.

Just think about that a moment.

Some people will go so far as to state it's 'disgusting'.  Breastfeeding has no noticeable smell or sound, takes up no extra space and leaves behind no mess.  What exactly is disgusting about it?I'm genuinely at a loss here.

I could understand if someone tried to breastfeed you or if they sat on your lap to do it, that could be disturbing for you.  I could understand if a woman was fully naked doing it.  I could understand if the streets were lined with breastfeeding woman all blocking your way whilst attempting to lure you into watching or squirting their milk in your face.

Only they're not.

It's just woman feeding their babies.

Here's the thing, you don't have to watch.

Why are you watching anyway?

Then there's the hypocrisy.  Bottle feeding is generally accepted anytime and anywhere.  Rightfully so too. Yet name me the two parts of a baby bottle?  You have the bottle and the teat.  Yes, that would be teat.  Teat as in a replica nipple.  Yet where is the outcry?  There's mothers everywhere and babies themselves flashing around these rubber nipples!  There'd be public stonings if someone wandered around flashing a dildo as in a replica penis.  So why the difference?  Because one is overtly sexual, the other is a biological replica of a breast and nipple fulfilling the function that the breast is designed for.

So why isn't a teat offensive?  Because it's representative of nourishment and sustenance.

Keep that in your mind.  If the replica looks like and functions like the real thing, surely it should follow that there is therefore nothing offensive about a breast and breastfeeding?

If you find a bottle acceptable yet get offended by a breast, that says far more about your mind and it's deviance than it ever will about the breast.

People often come out with the ridiculous comparison and counter argument over the 'But it's natural! a natural bodily function!' statement that urinating, sex and defecating are all natural bodily functions too yet they're not appropriate in public or whilst people are eating.  There is a fundamental difference here that is often neglected.  Breastfeeding is the production and delivering of nourishment yet urination and defecation are the bodies processes of excreting bodily waste.  The latter two are considered and treated as potentially dangerous 'waste products' in hospitals and can be seen as toxic if ingested.  Breastmilk is created to sustain and to be ingested and is treated as a food substance in a hospital setting.  Two entirely different functions.   Entirely different functions.

Would you eat in a toilet?  No?  Why not? 

Yet many would happily direct a mother to feed her infant there.

Would you eat with a blanket over your head?

Yet many insist a mother and baby 'cover up' when feeding.  How about you quit staring or put a blanket over your head?

So why has something with a wealth of benefits for Baby and Mother that is biologically appropriate become such a taboo?

It's not always been this way.

Look at these 25  historical images that normalize breastfeeding.
Look at these 20 iconic religious images of Mother Mary breastfeeding.
Look at these 10 examples of breastfeeding in art history.

Even the law recognises that breastfeeding in public is a right every mother and baby should have and thus legally protects them.  The Equality Act 2010 has made it illegal for anyone to ask a breastfeeding woman to leave a public place such as a cafe, shop or public transport.

In a time when breastfeeding rates are abysmal, surely we should be encouraging woman to do it rather than making them feel like they shouldn't and that it should be hidden away.  Regardless of how a woman chooses to feed her baby she should not face discrimination, prejudice and harassment because of it.  Ever.

Your offense at breastfeeding in public says far more about you than the woman who do it or the act itself.  Get over it.  Get over yourself.  Move along and get on with your day.

"If a woman breastfeeds in public, she isn't making a political statement.  She isn't attention seeking.  She isn't trying to make those who don't breastfeed feel bad or guilty.  She is merely feeding her hungry child.  Yes, it's that simple.   It genuinely isn't about you.  It's about her baby." - Taken from: Those Smug Breastfeeders


  1. Brilliant post, more people need to be saying this because more people need to read it.


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