I got into a friendly debate at work the other day about breastfeeding in public. I was chatting with one of my co-workers and expressed my dislike for women who openly breastfeed in the middle of the aisles in Wegmans, or other extremely public areas. My definition of open breastfeeding, by the way, is using no blanket to cover yourself, but simply pulling the shirt down, exposing the breast and latching the baby on. I was surprised at how adamantly he was upset with my views, calling me a ninny for the natural way of life. It was an extremely entertaining debate to be had. 🙂
It got me thinking, though, and now I’m curious to see what all of you think about what is appropriate breastfeeding behavior and what is beyond. Keep in mind that this is regarding breastfeeding behaviors in mainland United States. We are grading upon American culture.
I’ll start with my opinion. I am all about breastfeeding babies. I have no problem being at someone else’s house and having the mom strip waist up to breastfeed her baby. Granted, I feel more respected and a bit more comfortable with some warning like, “Do you mind?” Or, “I’m about to take my shirt off and breastfeed.” Otherwise, I get caught off gaurd and feel a bit awkward, but still, in no way offended. I would have no problem if someone openly breastfed at my house. Again, with the same forewarnings, especially since they are the guest. 🙂
Then there is the middle area where it gets really gray so I’m not going to get into it.
But my line is in extremely public places where people, especially men (I hear quite a few complaints from the men about it), are not prepared to encounter a breast flying out of a shirt, such as grocery stores. Think about it. Someone is cruising down the pasta aisle thinking about all the delicious creations they’re going to cook at home and all of a sudden, a woman whips her breast out and starts breastfeeding just a couple feet ahead of them. Whether or not the unprepared potential viewers are comfortable with breastfeeding or not, it creates a hugely awkward situation in which it is hard to know how to interact. “Do I advert my eyes and not look? Or is that going to make them think that I’m offended? Do I look to show my acceptance? How do I get out of this situation as quickly as possible… except that I need that can of tomatoes they are standing right next to… ummmm… I’ll come back later.” In these public situations, is it really asking a lot to have the mom simply cover herself with a blanket or use one of the many benches located around Wegmans (I would put the benches in the gray area, personally). They even have those peek-a-book breast feeding blankets to make the mom’s life easier. Please note that while it does make me feel uncomfortable to be startled, I am not offended by it, but I can’t feel that the action is justified when I can easily see that more people are made uncomfortable by that situation than those who are okay with it. And that’s here in Ithaca, hippy and natural living land.
While I wish we did live in a society where all moms could openly breast feed without anyone blinking an eye, we don’t. Why not? America has completely sexified the breast. It is engrained into our American minds from our infancy that breasts=sex. It reminds me of a Friend’s episode I saw a couple weeks ago. Rachael had just had her baby and was figuring out how to breastfeed while Joey was in the room. Just watch how uncomfortable Joey becomes and how hard he tries not to think of her breast as anything but a breastfeeding breast, and I think you’ll be able to see the point I am trying to make. Until a breast is just a breast, I don’t agree with open breastfeeding in public.
What are your thoughts?