Public breastfeeding. It's a parenting topic that's as divisive as it gets. Some people who are hoping to normalize the practice don't bat an eyelash when seeing a woman nursing sans Hooter Hider in public. In fact, they may even offer a nod of solidarity. But others just can't get behind it. Perhaps it's an issue of how some people are raised, or perhaps it's an issue, as some say, of "manners."
In Breastmilk, a film by Dana Ben-Ari and the latest production by Ricki Lake, a couple with different views on public breastfeeding, Mitch and Kaiva, are interviewed. While Mitch feels that it's polite to cover one's breasts up while nursing in public, especially, say, at a restaurant ("it may disrupt someone's meal"), Kaiva feels very differently.
Mitch makes a good point: Breastfeeding isn't something he grew up with, which is precisely why he's "embarrassed" by it. (He also doesn't have boobs, which tends to often play a factor.) It isn't that he's against breastfeeding -- just the opposite, actually -- it's just that he can't "relax" around a woman who's breastfeeding. Because he's not used to it. And that's the thing. Most people aren't used to it. Which is exactly why nursing in public should be practiced more: To normalize it.
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I never nursed my daughter in public because I felt weird about it. I did in front of my friends, in-laws, cousin, etc., but never in public. It wasn't my style. So instead I arranged leaving my house around feedings, which was, as one may expect, fairly annoying. And the reason why? That's how I grew up. It isn't that my mother didn't breastfeed in public -- she didn't breastfeed at all. It was something I never saw, and I can't help but think that if it was something I was used seeing from childhood, I would have felt differently at the time.
I am never offended when I see a woman nursing in public. In fact, I don't even really bat an eyelash at this point. Chalk it up to having lived in Brooklyn, land of public breastfeeding, I guess. But I still don't know how comfortable I personally would feel whipping out a boob in the middle of a restaurant.
It would be nice if when our sons and daughters grew up, they didn't feel uncomfortable with the notion of public breastfeeding. But the only way that's going to happen is if they're exposed to it more often. Maybe even every day. It's one of the most natural things in this world, and it shouldn't be hidden. But it does take some courage to do it if it's not something you're used to. So maybe, if I ever have another kid, I'll have to whip out a boob while out at a restaurant. For the sake of my daughter.
Did you nurse in public? With or without a cover?
Image via Breastmilk