To celebrate day 2 of World Breastfeeding Week, today we have a guest post from the amazing team of certified lactation counselors (CLCs) at The Fourth Trimester Lactation Counseling and Breastfeeding Advocacy. Enjoy!
Nursing In Public: Just do it!
We have all seen news stories about this: A restaurant or a store will ask a breastfeeding mother to go sit in the bathroom to feed her baby (GROSS) or ask her leave the establishment altogether. And within days, a flock of nursing mothers will appear with online protests, nurse-ins, and calls to the media. Is this simply to show the business owner/manager/employee that he or she is being an ignorant jerk? Well, partly. But there’s more to it than that. These women have come to make a statement to other women.
For decades now, because of the media portrayal of pop culture icons and misogyny towards women in advertising, breasts have become highly sexualized. This has made way for the public perception that the purpose of them is to merely stimulate, excite, or to sell a product. THIS idea has become the norm. The image of Kim Kardashian’s bosom spilling out of her low-cut top, plastered on a giant billboard in the middle of Time Square isn’t given a second thought, yet often women who are simply meeting the basic needs of their children are asked to hide in a corner shrouded under a blanket in shame. And what’s most ironic is that the act of breastfeeding reveals far less bare skin than the average denim jeans commercial. I’m not saying that breasts shouldn’t make women feel beautiful, sexy, and celebrated. What I am saying is that, in addition to being decorative, women’s breasts serve an actual purpose. And that purpose is the reason why they exist in the first place…to feed babies! But at some point in time, that message became lost.
So when a woman is asked to go hide away with her baby in the bathroom, or she stays home to feed her child, it is relevant to ALL women, because babies have the right to eat without shame. In our culture there is a clear double standard with regards to breasts. And breastfeeding your baby without shame is a way you can do your part to send the right message to society about women and their bodies!
A woman’s right to feed her baby wherever, however, and by whatever means she deems necessary is protected by state laws (to varying degrees). Many state laws leave much room for improvement, but many others (like Florida’s) are comprehensive. The real issue is that most people don’t know about these laws. Most average non-lactivist people assume that since breasts are considered sexy and we typically keep the nipples covered that legally it must be considered “indecent exposure" to breastfeed in public spaces. Actually, asking a woman to “cover up" while nursing is (in the state of Florida) a violation of her civil rights!
We all know about the amazing health benefits of breastmilk and that (in our culture) most moms who intend to nurse their babies exclusively throw in the towel in the first few weeks. And generally, we all want what is best for babies- even when we don’t have kids of our own. But most people just don’t know what they can do to help improve breastfeeding rates. Business owners, restaurant patrons, teenage employees, husbands, and grandmothers are ready to be educated about the right to breastfeed in public! This is why the Fourth Trimester team is working on an advocacy campaign for the Tampa Bay Area called Breastfeeding Welcome Here. Breastfeeding Welcome Here highlights local businesses and organizations that welcome proudly nursing mothers in their establishments and that have chosen to educate their employees about a woman’s right to nurse in public. By applauding their efforts to support nursing mothers, we hope to create a ripple effect that will spread encouragement and reduce shame.
About the Authors:
Gladis Rubio, CLC, has passionately been teaching prenatal breastfeeding classes and giving postpartum lactation support and counseling for the past two years. Helping clients to overcome obstacles and meet their goals is one of the greatest professional accomplishments a person could ever ask for. She is resolutely a believer in evidence based practice, which simply means having research and real facts be the foundation for my interaction with clients. This is truly what makes the difference between getting breastfeeding advice from a well meaning family member, friend, or neighbor and seeing a professional.