When I was a child, I remember being embarrassed when my Australian sister-in-law whipped out her boob to breastfeed my nephew. I had never seen anything like it before.
She must have noticed because she asked me to come with her while she pumped breast milk out of one boob and breastfed with the other. She explained to me that there was no reason to feel uncomfortable because this was how a woman’s body worked.
“It’s ok, you can look,” she said. Adding something about how I had them too as my body had developed prematurely.
I didn’t know why I was so embarrassed…I just knew that I was. But, I realize now that I felt this way because American society told me it was how I was supposed to feel. A prime example of this is the recent Twitter battle between a mother needing to breastfeed her child without a cover-up on Delta Airlines. Lindsay Jaynes contacted the airline via Twitter to ensure she wouldn’t have problems since her 6-week-old son would only scream and cry when a cover was used. She was told that she couldn’t breastfeed without a cover and would need to bottle feed instead. After much hype over the airline’s response, the statement was retracted.
This controversy has shown that America has created a culture that reinforces breastfeeding as being taboo.
In other places around the world, breastfeeding is far less taboo and is greatly supported by society. For example, I never saw an African woman breastfeeding with a cover starting from Kenya down to South Africa. This may seem surprising because many areas are very conservative. Wearing pants without a kanga (African cloth) means that a woman wants to have sex…it’s booty call. Yet, I saw more boobs in Africa than I had seen in my lifetime. Breastfeeding wasn’t sexual or indecent. It was necessary for health and nourishment for the child. This may because poverty prevents these women from access to breast pumps and formula, but it creates a culture that the mother provides for the baby, not the bottle.
In Israel, dozens of mothers protested verbal abuse about public breastfeeding by having their babies take to the nipple in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square in November. As a result, a bill was initiated which allowed breastfeeding mothers to sue anyone who made derogatory comments or expelled them from public areas for disturbance. The purpose of the bill was to protect women so they could care for their children in “public without fear of harassment or harassment.”
Israelis do not see bottle feeding as a sufficient replacement for breastfeeding. In fact, it’s socially unacceptable to do so simply because it doesn’t provide the nurturing a child needs. Additionally, bottle feeding promotes the use of formula, which is significantly less healthy for the baby.
The United Arab Emirates just passed a law making it mandatory for a mother to breastfeed until her child is 2-years-old. It was an amendment to the country’s child protection law, stating it was a child’s right as breastfeeding was “beneficial for health and built a strong bond between mother and child.”
Now, Japan is a little different. Mothers are expected to be more discrete about public breastfeeding, however, changing and feeding rooms can be found in most public places.
Breastfeeding is a natural bodily function. It’s how we survive as children. Those who are against it in public may not understand that a baby needs to eat every few hours and formula doesn’t have all of the nutrients needed for proper child development. In fact, a study was done that showed breast milk’s influence on brain development. Breastfeeding is linked to higher intelligence. Additionally, breastfeeding is a way for a mother to connect with and nurture her child. Physical contact impacts stress reactivity, impulse control and empathy. Breastfeeding creates positive touch, which can decrease the chances of the child developing social or cognitive disorders.
Now, there are obviously women who can’t or choose to not breastfeed for one reason or another. That’s their choice. However, that doesn’t mean women shouldn’t be able to choose to feed their child in the most human of ways. It’s only natural, and being “uncomfortable” isn’t an excuse to thwart a mother’s natural right to give the proper developmental care to her child.