Saturday, July 14, 2007

Are You Kidding Me?

A recent Parenting Magazine article talks about some of the reasons why women don't breastfeed longer. One reason they give is because of the discomfort, even fear, women have about nursing in public. It's not just nervousness about being awkward at nursing and staying covered. They say women also fear being reprimanded or harassed about nursing an infant or child out in the open. And apparently that fear is well founded. I know we all see and hear the news stories about women thrown out of stores and restaurants and pools and parks and planes for nursing their babies. But I always thought those were anomalies - a few, misguided, misinformed individuals. But I guess, they are actually the majority. According to the article:

A national survey of public beliefs about breastfeeding published in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that 57 percent of those polled said that women should not have a right to breastfeed in public. And a whopping 72 percent said that it's inappropriate to show a woman breastfeeding on TV programs.

57%? Are you kidding me? The MAJORITY of people in this country think that it is inappropriate for a woman to FEED HER CHILD in public? What in the world is wrong with us? Something has gone horribly wrong in our society when we can watch music videos that look like strip shows, when every visit to the checkout counter at the supermarket gives me an eye-full of various celebrities in skimpy bathing suits on the covers of 10 different tabloids (which, sadly are usually pointing out who has cellulite and who has ribs sticking out) and yet 72% of people think it's wrong to see a woman breastfeeding on TV.

We are a crazed and idiotic nation if SO many people believe that there's something so wrong with breastfeeding that it needs to be hidden away.

People clearly need to be exposed, over and over, again and again to breasfeeding. It really needs to be normalized in this country or breastfeeding rates are never going to climb significantly. So how do we normalize breastfeeding? Well I think the simplest, easiest, most effective way to do it is...well, to do it. Only, when more and more women breastfeed openly and publicly will people get used to seeing it and begin to find it normal.

I mean think about it. If you plucked a woman (or a man for that matter) off the beach today and plopped him down, say 100 years ago, in 1907, people would freak at how little she was wearing. It would probably be headline news. So how did it get to be so acceptable to show so much skin at the beach (and everywhere else)? Because people started doing it. Gradually bathing suits have gotten smaller and smaller and more and more people started wearing them and now pretty much everyone is showing the majority of their skin on the beach - a whole lot more than a breastfeeding mother shows. And no one blinks an eye because we're used to it, it's normal.

So clearly, it's time to start making breastfeeding as normal as wearing a string bikini. As I'm sitting here, I'm struck by the fact that the only time women gather to do nurse-ins is when someone has been thrown out of a store or something for nursing or someone speaks out against breastfeeding - like the Barbara Walters incident. And for a while I've been struck by how vulnerable a lone nursing woman is. Ever notice how when a woman is bothered for nursing she's always by herself? You never hear that she was sitting with her husband and they were both asked to leave. So what would people do if faced with groups of nursing women and their babies?

What if there were "Boob Squads" all across the country, where groups of women would go out in public together and nurse their babies? In places where it was possible, they could be armed with cards that had the state law that protects their right to nurse in public printed on them. And they could nurse their babies with whatever level of discretion or exposure they felt comfortable with.

I wonder, if groups of women nursing became as common a sight as groups of scantily clad teenagers, would breastfeeding start to be seen as normal? I'm willing to try to find out. I'm going to try to start BOOBS (Babies Out Over BreastS) Squads to get women out, nursing in public with the support they need.

Wow, maybe I should get up early more often. This feels like a really good idea. I'm going to try it. And I challenge anyone reading this to form a BOOBS Squad in your area and let me know about it by emailing me at . Let's start a movement to change that 57% to .57%.

1 comment:

Ros said...

I think you're absolutely right, normalize the behavior and folks will be less freaked out about it. Or at least less comfortable complaining about it. I can't do any public nursing, not being lactating myself, but I can commit to going up to any moms I see nursing in public and giving them positive feedback.