Public breastfeeding is a contentious issue. And it shouldn’t be. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk. No but really: Breastfeeding is normal and natural and it feeds children. It is the definition of “nurturung” — in the word’s most basic, biological form. But it seems far too many Americans still, for some reason unbeknownst to us, have a problem with it: A recent study by Aeroflow Healthcare found that one in four people believe it is “inappropriate” to nurse your baby in public. To be honest, we don’t know where to begin with our counterargument.
The study surveyed 1,048 adults living in the United States and asked for their feelings on public breastfeeding and/or pumping. And while the aforementioned figure is startling, that’s not all: 25 percent of respondents said they did not, or do not, believe moms should be allowed to breastfeed or pump in clear view of the public; 31 percent did not believe employers should be required to provide a lactation room away from the public; and a whopping 61 percent stated it was (and is) inappropriate to nurse and/or pump in a restaurant. WHAT?
That’s right: More than half of those surveyed believe that feeding a baby in a food establishment is not okay.
The study also found women to be more offended by the act than men. Researchers learned that women find breastfeeding “too personal” to be done in the public eye.
Of course, breastfeeding is indeed personal, and the decision to breastfeed — or not — will depend solely on that individual mother’s body and mind. Some parents want to breastfeed, and do for many months or even years. Others try to breastfeed but can’t. They encounter supply issues, latch issue and/or other obstacles, and some simply do not have the desire and instead choose to use formula from day one. There are plenty of reasons not to breastfeed, and they’re all legitimate. And no matter what your decision may be — to breastfeed or not to breastfeed — it’s a decision that only you are allowed to make, for yourself. You do not get to tell another parent what to do with their body. You do not get to shame them for feeding their child — whether it’s by breast, bottle, tube or spoon. Shaming them for feeding their child is disgraceful, deplorable and just plain wrong.
The good news is that, little by little, some things have been changing. Many cities and states encourage public breastfeeding, and several businesses go out of their way to make nursing mamas feel comfortable. Earlier this week, a Target store in Texas was praised for its progressive feeding policy — and last month, this here writer was thanked by a waitress for breastfeeding in a restaurant. But those supportive responses should be commonplace — and they’re not. This mentality needs to be the norm.
So let’s support one another for feeding our damn kids, any way — or place — we choose to do so.