BREASTFEEDING IN PUBLIC


I breastfeed in public without fear, this is because I am well aware of my rights and my child’s when it comes to breastfeeding in public.  But more than the knowledge of the legal status of breastfeeding in public in our country, it is for the reason that my child’s needs matter to me first that I am not afraid to breastfeed anywhere. My son is 3 years of age as of writing, and I still breastfeed him anytime and anywhere.

I have received quite a number of comments from other people about nursing my child in open view of others, some are more supportive, and others have a more uncomfortable tone. Luckily, I have not received a comment too harsh about me nursing my child in public.

I do hear and see a lot of arguments about normalizing breastfeeding in public. The fact that there are people who find breastfeeding in public as disgusting makes me want to advocate about it more. 
I breastfeed confidently in public to also empower women who are not yet mothers. I want them to learn about breastfeeding when they see me and hope that they will see the importance of practicing it when they become mothers.

Social and Legal Status of Breastfeeding in Public

The social acceptance of breastfeeding in public varies from culture to culture; also, the practice of breastfeeding in open view of the general public has varying legal status in different countries.

Here in the Philippines, breastfeeding in public is not frowned upon any longer, however, there are others who are still not well aware of the legal rights of the mother to breastfeed her child anywhere.
The MilkCode or Executive Order 51, signed by former president Corazon Aquino in 1986, and the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 are the laws that protect and promote breastfeeding in the Philippines.

Mothers are allowed to breastfeed in public, and employers are required to allow lactating employees breaks to breastfeed or express breast milk. The laws include education on the importance of breastfeeding, allocation of lactation areas for lactating mothers, as well as the health benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and the infant.

In the United States, breastfeeding in public is legal in all 50 states. Moreover, other countries have also become more open about breastfeeding in public. 

World Health Organization, recommend breastfeeding for two years and even beyond. Despite this, people in some parts of the world, still feel uncomfortable seeing mothers who are breastfeeding in public.

Although there are laws protecting the right to publicly breastfeed, this has not prevented others to ask nursing mothers to leave public places like restaurants, parks, etc. Some mothers still receive nasty glances, or may even receive rude comments for publicly nursing their children.

Breastfeeding in Public Debate

You can just type it on the web and would find articles, videos, even memes about breastfeeding in public. In addition, women activists, especially mothers, speak strongly about normalizing breastfeeding in public.

It is debated whether women should be allowed to breastfeed in public. The very fact that there is a debate about this speaks so much about how important it is to normalize breastfeeding in public.

For most mothers, we would argue that breastfeeding is natural and as it is, then there is supposed to be no more questioning whether we should be allowed to do it or not. However, there are still people saying that nursing mothers should be more considerate about it. Furthermore, some would argue that breastfeeding has to be done in the privacy of our homes.

Pro and Against Arguments on Breastfeeding in Public

It is our personal experience and way of thinking that speaks for us on whichever side we are in this debate. Society tells mothers that breastfeeding is beneficial for mothers and their young children. I find it hypocritical that it is the same society that is not supportive of mothers breastfeeding in public.

Let us try to understand the opposing views about breastfeeding in public.

Pro Breastfeeding in Public

  • The biological function of breastfeeding
Infants need it and mothers should be allowed to nurse her child anytime and anywhere. It is a natural thing to feed a child who is hungry. There is so much benefit in breastfeeding a child that is why I choose to do it anytime and anywhere as my child needs it.

People need to move away from seeing a woman’s breasts as a sexual object.  It would not be uncomfortable for both the mother and others around if we do not sexualize breasts as body parts.  

The main purpose of a woman’s breast is to nourish her infant child. I do not see any reason why people would be disgusted by that.

  • Convenience
A mom has everything she needs to breastfeed her baby. Mothers do not need to bring other tools to feed their children. We all want to eat at once when we are hungry just as a young child needs to be fed when he or she is hungry too.

Arguments against breastfeeding in public

  • Breastfeeding in public is vulgar
As I have mentioned earlier, it is for the reason that breasts are sexualized that people think it is vulgar to see them when a mother nurses in public.  Some would argue that the view of a woman’s breast attracts attention from males and even females, as well as children, hence, unnecessary comments are inevitable.

Some will even compare breastfeeding with excretion and sexual activities.  They would say that breastfeeding is natural, just as sex, urinating, and defecating, but they are not done openly in public. But the last time I checked breast milk is NOT human waste, it is liquid gold for FEEDING A CHILD! It abhors me that breastfeeding is seen in the same category as human waste—urine and feces are excreted from the body because our bodies do not need them anymore.

Some say that breastfeeding is just the same logic as letting a man’s penis dangle while walking, I am sorry to invalidate that argument because who would actually do that just because? MOTHERS DO NOT BREASTFEED IN PUBLIC FOR ANY REASON BUT TO FEED THE HUNGRY BABIES.

  • Breastfeeding in public is unsanitary
Others may argue that feeding a child in public lacks sanitary safety. But it is really not an issue as long as you do not send us to the toilet to nurse our babies.  Come on, would you eat your food in the toilet? I bet not!

Mommies, please do not feed your babies inside a toilet! That is what’s unsanitary. 

Breastfeeding in Public with Confidence

I always say this to my mommy friends, especially to the new moms, IT IS OK TO BREASTFEED YOUR CHILD IN PUBLIC.  If you feel the need to cover-up, then do so by all means.  Just make sure that your child is comfortable too.  Initially, I tried putting a nursing cover when I was nursing my son so as not to attract weird glances from people but my baby did not want it.

I realized that I was doing what I was doing because I needed to feed my child, so what is the point of covering up if my child will not be comfortable as he feeds.  You would not want a blanket over your head during a meal. In the end, I chose my child’s comfort over other people’s.  If it made them uncomfortable, then they should have covered their faces instead.

I do not really like nursing covers because it is like sending the message that we are covering because we think it is obscene.  However, it really depends on the nursing mom what she finds comfortable or not.  If not covering up will stop her from feeding her hungry child, then breastfeeding would not have served its purpose at all.

A final word on breastfeeding in public

I still believe that we can all compromise. Know your rights and keep your cool. Breastfeeding in public is very much ok, however, It would be good to plan ahead so you would know how to respond to the not-so-open-minded. You can just smile at them if they are giving you the nasty looks. But if all else fails, and if you have to argue with bullies, later on,  I suggest to just let it go; leave and find a spot where you can calmly and peacefully feed your child.  There is no point arguing with people who refuse to understand.





mummychelle

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