Let's Make Breastfeeding In Public Boring

5:37 AM

The breastfeeding in public controversy comes down to the fact that as a society we still view breasts and nipples as primarily sexual. Let's stop that.

wendy wisner lactation consultant

The Breastfeeding In Public Debate ... Again

Many moms work incredibly hard to learn how to breastfeed and to thread breastfeeding into their everyday lives. They feed during dinner while passing the butter, pouring the milk, and doling out manners reminders. Story times, shopping trips and, for the truly talented, car rides are all answers to where are places women breastfeed. In the throes of learning how to breastfeed and where, many moms also face breastfeeding nay-sayers. At VProud we believe that women should make the breastfeeding versus bottle decision based on their own stories and what works for them. What we don't believe in is women being harassed for their choices. On VProud there's an amazing breastfeeding video in which Ana Garcia poses an interesting challenge: let's make breastfeeding boring. Mom, writer, and lactation consultant  Wendy Wisner reflects on Ana's video with one point to make: it's not about breast versus bottle or how sexy and distracting a nipple might be. It's about normalizing breastfeeding, and therefore choice. Take a look at what Wendy has to say about the breastfeeding in public controversy and see if you end up agreeing that this topic just needs to go away—for all the right reasons.

—The VProud Team

breastfeeding in public debate

Let’s Make Breastfeeding in Public So Normal

 It’s Boring

By Wendy Wisner for VProud

We need to get to the point where the concept of breastfeeding in public is boring—so commonplace that it doesn’t even need to be discussed.

The fact is, though, that it's 2015, and even though almost all 50 states have laws protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, women are regularly harassed for doing so. They are told to cover up, to go nurse in a more discreet location—or are simply given disapproving stares. 

We have definitely come a very long way, and many mothers do not have this problem. But as a lactation consultant who has helped hundreds of mothers, and who follows breastfeeding in the news, I will tell you that this situation is much more common than you might think.

Women are harassed daily for breastfeeding in public. This is unacceptable in itself, and it has a broader impact beyond those particular mothers who are harassed. It creates an environment where new mothers know that breastfeeding in public carries the risk of harassment, and although it shouldn’t stop them from doing so, it often does.

I have helped many breastfeeding mothers who would rather pump and bottle-feed when they are out. While of course there is nothing wrong with doing that, it adds an extra chore and makes breastfeeding more tedious and tiresome than it should be, besides the fact that some mothers have trouble pumping and some babies don’t easily take bottles. Women who don’t nurse outside their homes are more likely to wean early, even if that wasn’t their plan.

Most of all, it all points to a problem with have in our culture, and one that Ana Garcia points to in her video: breasts are still viewed primarily as sexual objects, and breastfeeding is seen as a baring of private parts—something taboo, and in need of covering up.

How can we get past this point? How can we get to the place where breastfeeding isn’t even given a second glance? How can we get to a point where breastfeeding moms can nurse in public without fear or discomfort—where breastfeeding is as commonplace as bottle-feeding in public, pushing a baby in a stroller, cradling a child in your arms? Where breastfeeding is normal, not a reason to take notice or avert one’s eyes?

I don’t have all the answers. But I know that part of it is that we need to become desensitized to breastfeeding—for it to stop being sensationalized in our collective psyche. And one of the best ways for that to happen is for breastfeeding to be everywhere, out in public, out in the real world.

So, while I don’t judge women who choose not to breastfeed in public—in fact, I really empathize with the uneasiness—I encourage all women to at least try. Use a cover if you feel more comfortable, but don’t be confined to that. The fact is that you will see more of your breast while nursing than anyone else does. The more mothers who breastfeed in public, the more normal it will become, and the less likely people will be to notice it at all.

Each of us can support breastfeeding moms in our own ways, whether it is with information, hot meals, a shoulder to cry on—or a little smile to the mom nursing on a park bench. And we need to celebrate all the mothers who breastfeed in public.

It is an absolutely normal, everyday act so but we should acknowledge that, as things are in our society, it's also an act of courage to do so. We also need to celebrate all the writers and bloggers who write about breastfeeding, and all the mothers who share their photos and stories, both privately and online—you are brave and valiant as well.

Each gesture of sharing and support makes a difference; it all adds up. We can all work together to make breastfeeding so normal it’s boring.

wendy wisner vproud
About the author: Wendy Wisner is a mom, writer, and lactation consultant (IBCLC). She is the author of two books of poems, and her essays have appeared in The Washington Post; Brain, Child Magazine; xoJane; Role Reboot; Club Mid; Scary Mommy; and elsewhere. She spends way too much time online so connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and her website. Join Wendy's honest conversations on VProud.

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