Here's what breaks my heart about ongoing debates about the ethics of breastfeeding in public: that there IS any debate. Shouldn't this subject be considered settled? Wasn't that the whole point of World Breastfeeding Week last week? To celebrate breastfeeding, and our will and ability to do it whenever, wherever? Was nothing learned from the Facebook/Bill Mayer debacles of last fall? A mother's right to breastfeed - and, more than this, her child's right to be nourished - trumps anybody else's right to not have their particular body-issue buttons pushed. That's totally obvious, right?
Apparently not. If you're a reader of the Table Manners column over at Chow.com, you will have seen that, despite that column's author's support, in a recent article, of breastfeeding in restaurants, a whooooole lot of restaurant-going commenters HATE the very idea of women breastfeeding in restaurants.
Stay home and feed your child in the privacy of your own home. Nobody wants to witness the intimacy of you bonding with your child in order to feed it. And nobody wants to have dinner in adult settings like restaurants when there are babies there. You decided to have a child, not everyone who went to dinner at the restaurant. And nobody thinks it is cute to see your hooter in your kids mouth. Stay home and cook for yourself and your family until the child can order for itself and have a glass of wine.
Whoa. Misogyny much?
Yummy Mummy writes in a response at her blog, "New York state law says you have to deal with my breast in my kids mouth, dude.
Thems the breaks. Please stop calling them "hooters". This isn't a bar." Quite right. As does the law in many states and most of the Canadian provinces. But apparently the rights of mothers and children to do best by their health are meaningless in the face of some people's horror of the breast - at least, that is, the breast that is not spilling out of a Hooters tank top. Apparently, extreme cleavage is okay for dining establishments, but a boob concealed by a baby's head is not. According to some commenters at Chow.com, this is because breastmilk smells, and babies make noises while eating, and it's just all gross. You know, like urinating in public.
Here's the thing: boobaphobes can debate and debate and debate about whether it's okay for women to nurse in restaurants or clothing stores or airplanes or libraries or ANYWHERE in public until they're blue in the face, and it still won't change the fact that breastfeeding is a wonderful, life-sustaining thing that can and should and must be done wherever and whenever necessary. (Note: this is not to suggest that mothers who bottle-feed are not wonderful. They are. And they also face criticism when feeding their children in public, which is another subject entirely, one that has to do with society's problem with public mothering.) What remains is this: in characterizing breastfeeding as some disgusting, stomach-turning, shameful thing, they are shaming mothers, and in shaming mothers, they are hurting mothers - and hurting mothers when they are at their most vulnerable, when they are most susceptible to damage. New mothers - regardless of whether it's the first or fifth time new - struggle mentally and physically to do this hard, hard job, and adding to their emotional burden with a big stinking pile of shame-turds is hateful in the extreme.
Every time that another person cringes at a breastfeeding mother, or makes a comment comparing it to urinating in public, it makes it that much harder for a mother to fully embrace breastfeeding, to really feel comfortable with it, to escape the shame that she feels about her ravaged body and her ravaged psyche and her struggle to just cope.
That anyone in the world thinks that that's okay is the real shame.
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