Yesterday it was reported that a group of ladies in Bendigo were holding a “mass breastfeeding protest” at a shopping center, after a woman was asked to leave by staff while she breastfed her child. You can read the ABC article here.
A similar incident occurred locally late last year; a feeding mother was asked to cover up or move by a cafe owner, inciting an onslaught of criticism, outrage and controversy across the border.
In both cases, a person or two had complained to staff, and they chose to address the matter directly with the mother. Which, quite frankly, is both weird and ridiculous.
Before we dive in here, can we all just calm our farms a little bit. We’re talking about boobs (or “breasts”, if you’re feeling formal today). Your mum has boobs, your grandma has boobs, the women who teach your kids have boobs, nuns have boobs, cows and other mammals have boobs of some variety. They are natural, they are normal, they are a vital necessity to the existence of life.
They’re just boobs.
So what’s the controversy? Many comments online are proclaiming that breastfeeding is “private”, as though it’s some sacred act that should only be witnessed by mother and child alone. Others state that it’s about “modesty” – in other words, cover up or move along.
First of all – no.
Secondly, people are bang on the money when they say breastfeeding is between mother and child. The natural act of breastfeeding is between that mother and that child. Not you.
And thirdly, it’s breastfeeding. For that child, that breast is for food. Again, not for you.
I’ve spoken to friends and family on the matter of public breastfeeding in the past, and some of them agree with the idea that all women must be “discreet”. But what does that mean? Generally, people suggest it means the mother would “cover up”, usually by placing a cloth of some variety over themselves or the baby. However, sometimes when people talk about women being discreet, it feels like they mean we shouldn’t know they’re breastfeeding at all.
I’m actually kind of disturbed and rather upset by peoples perceptions of mothers who feed in public. They are portrayed as attention-seeking, feral women who choose to “make a point” by thrusting their breasts in the face of those around them. I know anecdotal evidence isn’t much, but I have never, ever, not once in my whole life witnessed a woman whipping out her whole boob in public to feed a child. Perhaps if she removed her top or stripped butt-naked, you could complain about indecent exposure. Up until that point, probably not.
This isn’t just my idea, either. It’s actually a legal issue, classed as discrimination. According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association: in Australian federal law breastfeeding is a right not a privilege. There’s an article on that here. A women may feed wherever and whenever she deems necessary. It also does state that there is no law against asking a breastfeeding woman to leave if they’re not denying a service – though there is also no law requiring that woman to leave on request either.
I’m a breastfeeding mum. I feed for my baby, and I feed for myself. I feed in private and I feed in public. That is my choice, and you don’t get a say.
And if that somehow hurts your feelings, or makes you uncomfortable – then perhaps you need to ask why.
Feed away, ladies. You’re life-giving legends.