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Go on Mamas: Flash those Mammary Glands and be Proud!

I was horrified to watch this video: Breastfeeding Mother Shamed out of Family Court. So horrified that I Googled the phenomenon and discovered that it was not, as I hoped, a typically exaggerated notion publicised for attention. Nope. It was a real thing that happens all the time.

Mothers shamed for breastfeeding their babies in public.

Yes, you read that right.

Another mother shamed for breastfeeding

And more stories about Moms shamed for breastfeeding

 

In a world where Miley Cyrus can Twerk away with a blow-up doll in a tiny thong; where a couple can copulate next to an ATM on CCTV; where music videos have PG ratings – breastfeeding is taboo.

I don’t need to go into the science of it, it is generally accepted that breast milk is beast for babies and even if you can only manage to feed your babies for a week, for a day, it is better than nothing.

I was a fortunate dairy cow who managed to supply enough to my calves that I could donate to the HIV/AIDS milk bank at our local hospital. I heard there, for the first time, that thirty millilitres was all it took for the HIV positive babies to develop a strong immune system of their own. I mean, come on! That’s miraculous right there. Breast milk is good, wholesome stuff.

What concerns me is that it is often mothers or women who shame other mothers and women who breastfeed. Men seem to find it more ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ than their female counterparts and why would they not? Without generalising too broadly, women are the ones who find fault with their own bodies – men are often happy to take the female anatomy whichever way it comes. I guess there’s also the fact that men can't breastfeed and so find it acceptable when women do it, wherever it may be.

When a woman says that there needs to be ‘decency’ or ‘decorum’ when it comes to nursing, I understand that. Having only just weaned my sixteen-month old babe, I really appreciate the general desire for those two things. Yet, you can't tell a baby when to eat and when to wait, certainly not a tiny one. And if we go into the semantics of it, how can one define decency or decorum when it comes to ‘natural’ and ‘normal’? Does Twerking fall into this bracket? And by decency does she mean that you need to cover all flesh, part of the flesh, all but the nipple? Decorum: does she mean that we need to say please and thank you, announce the fact that we’re about to nurse, say Grace before baby latches? My definition of these two ideas was that I never nursed in public without a cover. Simple. From the onset I got my baby used to the idea that she would be beneath a modesty shawl and that worked well. Even in an age of convenient feeding bras and tops (Click here to see Peek-a-moo feeding tops) designed to reveal as little as possible while nursing, I chose to use a shawl. That might make some of you say, “And damn right that you did!”     

Funny how we would, or I certainly would, scold a dog for humping another dog or a person’s leg in my presence. Yet if I see a dog with a litter of puppies all nursing, I think it’s cute.

When we see a little baby in a mother’s arms, many of us are moved to mushy emotions and feelings of broodiness or longing; so why then does it freak us out when the mother whips a titty out to sustain said child? If we all lived in countries with strict rules on modesty and appearance, where all women had to wear Burqas and cover from top to toe, perhaps a reaction against breastfeeding could be understood.

What is shameful about it? Have we never seen a breast before? Do we forget that the main purpose of the breast on a female is to feed her offspring? Is it the fact that a bit of her stretch-marked, stretched-out tummy might be exposed when she lifts her top? Is it the fact that someone, albeit a child, is eating while you may be having a serious conversation with the child’s mother? What exactly is it about this that bothers so many people?

And those who complain, have they considered the alternative? Should the mom and babe go and sit in the loo? Should they sit in the car? Should she allow the babe to scream itself to sleep out of hunger while she waits for the appropriate time or place? Which would you, as a diner in a restaurant, prefer: a screaming baby or a breastfeeding mother nursing her child? There's a very interesting campaign in Texas at the moment, trying to abolish discrimination laws against nursing mothers. See the campaign posters here: "When Nature Calls"

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Here’s a rub: if a momma whipped out a bottle to feed her child, you wouldn’t blink twice. A bottle, which I am not condemning in the slightest, is not the ‘natural’ way for a baby to be fed; a bottle is often the mother’s last resort as she returns to work or finds her milk supply low. I'm not saying we should shame bottle feeders. I'm saying we shouldn’t shame a mother for feeding her child – no matter what vestibule the milk comes in. Good job on her! She’s doing the best she can. Trust me. Motherhood comes with enough challenges and the very fact that a nipple in the baby’s mouth might be what is stopping it from screaming blue murder while you wait in line at the bank might not be what you consider ‘decent’ but I certainly think it’s better than the alternative.

Perhaps we need to be reminded that so many women would love the privilege of breastfeeding their own children but can't. So many people would love the privilege of having children and can't. So many children are starving from the moment they are born and long for a mother’s breast or a bottle from their first cry. And we, Joe Soap and Connie Commonplace, feel we have a right to tell mothers who can and do what is natural and best for baby where and when they should do it.

 



Dare I say it? It is the opposition to and not the naked breast that is offensive.

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