As a society, we should normalize public breastfeeding behavior. Let’s work together to improve on this issue, so mothers are no longer afraid.
Years ago, before I was a nurse or lactation consultant, I was walking through a shopping mall when I came across a group of women sitting in a play area. One was holding her infant close to her chest. I asked her, "Excuse me, are you nursing your baby?" She looked up at me, wide-eyed, took a deep breath and hesitated before replying, "Yes." I thanked her for breastfeeding her baby in public. She began to cry. She thought I had asked to be rude to her about breastfeeding her child in public with no cover. I was horrified that she had initially taken my expression of support as a negative confrontation. So from that point forward, I was determined to support public breastfeeding.
In 1995, Utah passed a law that that made it legal for women to breastfeed in public—covered or not. (The text of the law can be found here: http://le.utah.gov/~code/TITLE76/htm/76_10_122905.htm
I have come across many mothers throughout the years who were afraid to breastfeed in public. They cite having a baby who refuses to be covered up, public opinion, and concerns about being confronted as reasons they were afraid to breastfeed in public.
If we, as a society, want this negative perception of breastfeeding to change, we should start with education. Aside from the stigma that is attached to it, it’s important to remember that the human breast, like any other mammary gland of any mammal, is how we feed, nurture and protect our young.
As a society, we should normalize public breastfeeding behavior. Without mothers nursing in public in this generation, we will miss a great opportunity to teach our young sons and daughters the importance of breastfeeding, and all the benefits it can provide to both mother and child.
Breastfeeding mothers are protected in their right to breastfeed wherever they may rightfully be. That doesn't mean they are forced to breastfeed under a cover or crammed into a corner facing the wall, or that they go somewhere private to feed their baby.
Let’s work together to improve on this issue, so mothers are no longer afraid of being mocked, judged, or asked to leave, simply because they are breastfeeding in public—which is, after all, perfectly legal and great for their baby’s health.