Breastfeeding in public. How a beautiful and natural experience can turn into an unpleasant one.

Breastfeeding in public. How a beautiful and natural experience can turn into an unpleasant one.

Some new wave moms have successfully managed to make something natural, pure and beautiful into a battle between good and evil. One that seems impossible to win for the benefit of everyone.

There is no doubt, breastfeeding is the best thing you can do for your newborn baby. It’s healthy for both moms and babies, it builds your baby’s immune system and… well, the list of benefits goes on and on.

According to WebMD Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies. Plus, babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea.

As mothers we’ve all – or most of us have – breastfed our children. Sometimes in the most uncomfortable and bizarre of situations. In the car while in a traffic jam, at the park, zoo, mall, doctor’s office and even restaurants.

But what most of us have done, that so many new-wave moms aren’t, is respecting our “audience”.

As a mom of 5, all adults now and with babies of their own, I made sure I was been discrete when breastfeeding my young children in public paying extra attention at not flashing my boobs at anyone. Mostly because the last thing I wanted to do was make everyone around me lose their appetite or make them uncomfortable in any way, even if the law protected me. In the end, everyone has the right to enjoy a peaceful meal at their favorite bistro as much as the next person, breastfeeding baby or not.

Breastfeeding creates an unbreakable bond between mom and baby. It’s beautiful and so sweet when done properly even in public, but when it’s done in an improper way it can be rude, vulgar, inconsiderate and in some extreme cases can even quickly become a revolting and repulsive experience for the rest of us, as we found out at our favorite restaurant during a family meal.

In the US where childish irrational behavior among adults seems to be a trend especially in younger generations, a middle ground approach of taking into account the feelings of the receiving party isn’t much considered these days. It seems the rights of some, apparently trump the rights of others, and everyone’s expectation, even against common courtesy, is to yell “deal with it”.

 

THE LAW. (1)

Most public breastfeeding statutes grant a mother the right to breastfeed in any location — public or private — in which she is “authorized to be”. But some states include certain limitations on that protection. For example, a few states require nursing mothers to be discreet and cover up; others, like Illinois, limit the right in certain settings such as “places of worship”. Knowing the law in your state, helps you avoid unnecessary and uncomfortable confrontations.

President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on March 30, 2010. Among many provisions, Section 4207 of the law amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 (29 U.S. Code 207) to require an employer to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express milk. The employer is not required to compensate an employee receiving reasonable break time for any work time spent for such purpose. The employer must also provide a place, other than a bathroom, for the employee to express breast milk. If these requirements impose undue hardship, an employer that employs fewer than 50 employees is not subject to these requirements. The federal requirements shall not preempt a state law that provides greater protections to employees.

  • Forty-nine states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.)
  • Twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. (Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.)
  • Twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace. (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.)
  • Seventeen states and Puerto Rico exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty or allow jury service to be postponed. (California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia.)
  • Six states and Puerto Rico have implemented or encouraged the development of a breastfeeding awareness education campaign. (California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi and Vermont.)

 

WHERE SHOULD YOU AND SHOULDN’T YOU BREASTFEED YOUR INFANT.

Always consider, above everything else the safety of your nursing baby and yours.

Yes, we all know, the bathroom is not the right place to nourish your baby, no argument there, neither is sitting on the floor at the mall with its billions of germs and dirt being kicked up by every person walking by into your boobs and your baby’s mouth, which seems to be the “preferred” place to be for this new wave of hippie moms.

Bathrooms, especially public bathrooms in high traffic areas, are the most disgusting and unsanitary places to breastfeed your child which no mother should even consider an option when out and about. But there are proper ways to breastfeed in public and in the open without making anyone uncomfortable or making people puke, especially if you’re one of the many women suffering from sour smelly breasts (2). It’s called discretion, respect and consideration for others, and nowhere it says modern times and your right to breastfeed should exempt you from these basic first world country societal rules.

Being considerate to others and learning some proper, comfortable and appropriate breastfeeding methods, safe for you, your baby and the rest of us, isn’t an outrageous thought meriting a twitter battle of shame. We shouldn’t have to stop eating, shopping or enjoying our day, because you need to feed your child in the most inappropriate of ways. At some point you have to realize what can be a tender, beautiful moment between mom and child can, if you’re not careful, become a grotesque unpleasant spectacle for the rest of us.

My right to breastfeed in public shouldn’t be taken as my arrogant right to stop everyone from eating.

A few years ago while getting ready to lunch at our favorite eatery with all my adult kids, their husbands and wives, and their babies, we encountered an extra-large woman getting ready to breastfeed her child as we were deciding what to order. Her decision to lay both her extra-large, sweaty, incredibly smelly breasts on top of the table while her child laying on the table breastfed in front of her, became what I’ve referred to as the most grotesque spectacle I’ve ever witnessed. The stench reached everyone in the restaurant within seconds, stopping many from continuing eating out of repulsion. While an embarrassed waitress approached the woman in what I consider the most appropriate way, my husband approached our waitress to cancel our order and we left. Scenes like this, regardless of your right to breastfeed your infant, should not ever take place, ever, but they do, and don’t you dare say anything otherwise you’re classified as a bigot, sexist and what not.

If you feel the need to throw your big, sweaty, smelly boobs on top of a table at a restaurant because you have the right to breastfeed whenever/wherever/however, or pop your shirt open all the way while at Disney, or push down or up your tank top to reveal both your boobs at a busy bus stop, you may want to consider perhaps what you like is to expose yourself and it has nothing to do with your right to breastfeed your baby at all. Regardless of the law, you certainly are showing a lack of complete consideration towards others, which is the issue that most people, breastfeeding mothers and me included, have.

 

BREASTFEEDING IN PUBLIC. SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER.

Your baby is hungry when he/she decides to be. No amount of preparation, logistics or planing will ever be enough to predict the when and where, however you can still be prepared for the how, and this one should be practiced at home especially if you’re a first time mom.

  • Cover up. This is a choice for you to make, law permitting of course. If you feel ok with covering up, go ahead, it actually prevents airborne pathogens from entering your baby’s mouth. If you don’t want to, go ahead too. There are many other ways to be discrete and considerate to bystanders while breastfeeding and covering up isn’t the only one.
  • Turn away. Regardless of the sexualization of breasts in western cultures, many for religious reasons do not want nor should be exposed to your breasts, no matter what you believe or think. Be considerate and turn away from the crowd out of respect to others.
  • Pick a place away from the crowd. If you search on the internet, most of the issues with breastfeeding in public arise on restaurants. Consideration comes in many forms especially at eateries. Find a table away from other customers, at the back of the restaurant or pick a booth as these are a bit private. Turn away or sit giving your back to the other tables as to minimize exposure while making feeding for all including your baby, a pleasant experience.
  • If your breast smells. Be considerate to others! Just because you’re used to your own body odors doesn’t mean everyone should too. If you know you have an unpleasant breast smell, refrain from breastfeeding in enclosed places, like restaurants or stores. If you do, don’t expect people from keeping quiet. Just like you wouldn’t like someone farting while you’re eating, the same goes for any other body odors. A bit of respect and consideration most of the time goes a long, long way.
  • Stay Classy. Staying classy while breastfeeding shouldn’t be an outrageous or offensive request. If other breastfeeding moms are pointing out their dislike, perhaps it’s time to consider you might be doing something wrong, instead of asking everyone to deal with it or grow up.

We live in a world with thousands of religious groups, educational levels and cultures to consider. As much as you have the right to nourish your child in public, and no one is denying you of that for the most part, the people around you have the right to their enjoyment as well. Be considerate and respectful with your audience, as not all can tolerate your complete disregard for good manners and be a bit discreet next time you choose to breastfeed in public, whether you prefer to cover up or not.

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