Breastfeeding is one of the most natural and wonderful things a mother can do for her child. Lately, it has become a huge topic of conversation and debate. The rights of the breastfeeding mother and baby vs the rights of everyone else. Ah yes, "rights", we throw that word around a lot in this country. I have a "right" to this, you have a "right" to that, we have a "rights", you have no "right". But what are we really saying here?
The dictionary defines rights in this context as "a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way". So let's look at this piece by piece shall we?
Morally, a mother has the right and the responsibility to feed her child. Now whether she chooses to bottle or breast feed her child is a personal choice based on many factors that can only be made by that woman and should NEVER be dictated by someone else. Morally, a breast was evolved for feeding a child. That's it. It's society, and men in particular, that have sexualized the female breast and made it a taboo part of the female anatomy. You enjoy seeing scantily clad lingerie ads, and women in skimpy bikinis on the beach, but if a woman exposes the same amount of flesh while using her breast for what it was intended suddenly you become uncomfortable and offended. For some reason this puzzles me. Also, American society in particular is one of the most sexually repressed and hypocritical societies out there. We are such prudes yet we are one of the largest consumers of pornographic materials. And we have issues with a woman's breast tissue as she feeds her baby?
Ok now legally, 29 states (plus the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands) have laws that exempt breastfeeding mothers from public indecency laws. 46 states (plus the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands) have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. I know, I know the rest of you are jumping up and down screaming what about your rights not to see it! Well you fine people have the right to look away. Really, it's that simple. I have seen when a mother is getting ready to breastfeed, there are tell tale signs, and you too can watch for them. If you see them then simply look the other way. If a mother has a fussy baby and starts to shift her clothing, look away. If a mother starts to hold the baby close to her breast and lifting her shirt or unbuttoning her blouse, look away. It's that easy. If you have kids with you who are curious don't make a big deal out of it. Simply say something like the baby is hungry and that's how they eat and change the conversation. Kids are easily distracted like that. Because legally, in most states and places, the mother's legal right trumps your moral one.
So now you want to whine about why can't the mom just throw a blanket over the baby so they are all covered up and you can feel better about the whole thing? I tell you what, just for fun how about we play a little game. I am going to give you a glass of warm milk and then I am going to cover you with a warm blanket and put you up against a heating pad and leave you there for about fifteen minutes while you slowly sip your warm milk and see how comfortable you are. Because if you think about it that's what you are doing to that baby. Sure, some can tolerate it, but not all can. You have to remember there is body heat generated between the mother and the baby and then you trap that heat by a blanket, and then you add in the body temperature breast milk. Right there you have a recipe for a baby who won't eat at best, and an upset tummy at worst.
So let's leave the mom's alone. Let them do their job of raising strong, healthy babies. They have enough on their plates without strangers giving them a hard time for doing what comes naturally.