Those who were readers of my other blog, Say What?!, may have read this post already. However, my audience is changing and I feel strongly about this subject.
Breastfeeding in public is currently a hot-button topic in the Maritimes after a breastfeeding mother in Moncton was asked to be more discreet in the future. Before I get into the meat-and-potatos of this post, let me be clear: this is NOT a post about whether to breastfeed, whether breastfeeding is best, or any of that. If you do breastfeed, great. If you don't, also great. That topic is not open for discussion here. This post IS about the RIGHT to breastfeed in public for those who do breastfeed their babies.
You may have read the title of this post and thought to yourself, "What's to know? You feed your baby in public and that's fine, as long as you're not flashing your boobs all over the place". I hear that a lot from the population at large. People seem to want breastfeeding mothers to do it in washrooms or dark corners away from the public as much as possible. "Cover up" is the conventional school of thought.
I'm here to tell you, as a breastfeeding mother, I don't ever choose to reveal myself. I don't want to flash you my boob, and I really don't want to flash you my stretched out, marked up, flabby mommy-tummy. If you see me breastfeeding in public, it means there was no comfortable, private place provided for me to feed my baby when he got hungry. And no, I'm not going to stay holed up in my house on the off chance he may need to be fed in public. If you see me breastfeeding in public with my baby draped in a scarf or blanket, I'm doing it equally for my own comfort as for yours. I know zero new mothers who are eager to show off their goods to the world - even those who are very much breastfeeding advocates.
If you see me breastfeeding in public without being covered up, it's because things happened in this order - first, my baby got hungry and upset. I looked for a private place to feed but there was no sanitary option provided (bathrooms are gross, and cars are far too hot in the summer without needless idling for air conditioning). I then attempted to discreetly feed my baby, but he understandably objected to having his head covered to eat. It's dark and hot under that blanket. Trust that I do not want to be sitting out in plain site with the possibility of some stranger seeing my boob. However, even if I skipped the aforementioned steps and just went right to feeding my baby where-ever, that's my call and it's my protected right. I'm definitely not doing it to make you uncomfortable or to show myself off in any way, much less a sexual way.
Here's where you can make a difference. If you see a mother breastfeeding in public, just go on with your day. Don't stare or make rude comments. Certainly do not ask her to cover up or move to a private location - Breastfeeding in public is a protected human right. I understand it may make you uncomfortable - it probably would have made me somewhat uncomfortable pre-motherhood. It's how you handle that discomfort that makes or breaks the situation.