Why Women Shouldn’t Be Ashamed of Breastfeeding in Public

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Breastfeeding is one of the best decisions a woman can make for her child. There are several contributions breastfeeding can make to the development of a healthy child. According to the Office of Women’s Health, breastfeeding can reduce the risk of certain illnesses in children, and can even boost their immune system. The taste of breast milk due to a mother’s diet can also help the child transition to solid foods easier.

From left: Photo courtesy of Ikkuma.com; Photo courtesy BabyZone.com.

Furthermore, there are tremendous benefits for a mother that breastfeeds. The practice can reduce the risk of certain cancers, it helps her body recover from pregnancy, and even helps her lose weight. But the bond created during breastfeeding is something no one else could understand. Breastfeeding is something only a mother can do; she is fostering the health of a person whom she created. It is a special moment only a mother and child can share. So how is it that, as beautiful as breastfeeding is, women are constantly being shamed for breastfeeding in public?

If the female breast did not become overly sexualized, perhaps this would not be a discussion. However, as breasts are portrayed in a hyper-sexual light in modern popular culture, it’s difficult to separate from that notion as it’s been so engrained in our psyche. They are sexual organs, but their main purpose is for the sustenance of life – to nourish our next generation.

It’s baffling how society has managed to become desensitized to the exposure of breasts on television and in movies, to the point where it’s perfectly acceptable and normal. But when there is a slight exposure of a breast when a woman simply wants to feed her hungry child, there is a negative reaction. When a breast is being shown in the media, on TV or in a movie, to elicit a sexual reaction, it either succeeds or is barely even registered by others. It’s an interesting truth that defies logic.

As it always does, celebrity interference has opened the door for a more positive discussion, as several celebrity mothers have proudly defended a woman’s right to breastfeed in public. Olivia Wilde was absolutely stunning in her recent Glamour photo shoot while sitting in a gown, breast exposed, feeding her newborn child. What was an “organic” moment caught in a photo turned into quite the controversy, as parts of society tends to have something to say when a woman is brave enough to be open about breastfeeding despite the negative social stigma.

From left: Model Miranda Kerr courtesy of Trendiza.com; Actress Olivia Wilde courtesy of CBC; Model Gisele Bundchen courtesy YouTube.

A woman should not be ashamed of breastfeeding because it is one of the most natural and beautiful gifts she can give her child. She is giving her child nutrients that will make them strong and help develop a mature immune system. It is not fair that a woman cannot freely give her child this gift without receiving dirty looks, judgment, or inappropriate comments. Another person’s ignorance or overtly sexual mindset should not hinder a woman’s choice and freedom to feed her child wherever she is.

 The aversion to women breastfeeding in public seems to be quite the North American phenomenon; while there are some countries or cultures who avoid it due to religious motivations, many countries allow women to breastfeed freely without shaming them. Some of these tolerant countries include Kenya, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, China, and Switzerland, to name a few. In Scotland, it has actually been illegal to ask a woman to stop breastfeeding since 2005.

Lauren Pinstripe Full Support Wire-Free Nursing Bra by Royce Lingerie via Now That’s Lingerie.

That being said, if a woman would like to conceal herself in public, there are ways she can do that. There are slings and specially designed shirts that allow women to be more discreet if they are in the situation where they need to breastfeed their child. One can also find nursing bras made to make breastfeeding easier and more convenient. The principle of the matter is that a woman should not have to conceal herself unless that would make her more comfortable.

How can we start to support women who breastfeed so that they no longer feel ashamed to breastfeed in public? How can we raise awareness and help affect public opinion about public breastfeeding? Share with us in the comments below.

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