Embarrassed, a poem by Hollie McNish is going viral – I already posted it to my facebook (sorry facebook friends, you will be seeing it twice!) – and for good reason. She cleverly and powerfully expresses what many women feel when they try to breastfeed in public. I post this not only for those of you who enjoy breastfeeding or already support it, but also for those of you who may not understand why it is important that women be allowed to breastfeed in public. Comments, and even rude looks, affect women at a vulnerable time and make it more difficult for them to feed their baby in this wonderful, natural way (which also happens to be the method of feeding recommended by doctors, and free!).
I want to add that it is not reasonable or fair to expect a breastfeeding mother to never breastfeed in public – young infants eat around the clock and it is important to regularly feed them in order to establish and maintain a supply of milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, and the continuation of breastfeeding with food for one year or longer. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months, and with complementary food up to two years and beyond. Can you imagine staying home for 6 months, let alone 2 years?
Nor should mothers have to use a nursing cover to nurse. Some babies will not tolerate the nursing cover. We used it with difficulty in the beginning; at 6 months Tiny One will not let me use it at all. Really, you can’t see much – if anything at all – when the baby is latched on. If you don’t like it, just don’t look! I bet many people have been around moms nursing in public and have not even noticed. I have noticed it several times (because I have baby radar) when Mr. S has not.
In connection with this, “Mama Bice,” in her blog Birth Without Fear, wrote an interesting article, “Community Support and Breastfeeding Make a Difference.” In it she discusses how important community support is in being able to successfully breastfeed, and touches on how that support is lacking in American culture. She cites a 2011 Call to Action by the Surgeon General. In her article she also shares some women’s powerful stories of when they were encouraged and helped during their breastfeeding relationships. Those stories have inspired me to reach out the next time I see a woman breastfeeding in public. A simple smile or a few encouraging words can make a difference. I hope you will join me!
*Note: There are some women (myself actually included) who prefer to nurse in private or under nursing covers. That is ok! But it is not practical for everyone and women need the option. Even if I am not nursing in public, I will defend other women’s right to do so!