Breastfeeding in public harassment and how you can make a difference

This guest post comes from Austin inviting us all to take a look at how we can go deeper to help bring systemic change when it comes to breastfeeding in public harassment.  Beyond social media campaigns, nurse-ins, and expressing outrage through traditional media, we can each utilize our individual influence in powerful yet simple ways resulting in collective improvements that impact the whole community.  Without a multifaceted approach of intentional influence, our efforts to normalize breastfeeding face not only our own fatigue, but over-saturation of the accessible avenues.  We risk burning out before reaching our goals.  This isn’t about using a cover or not, the issue isn’t modesty or moms being prepared, the issue here is basic human rights and there are most definitely politics involved.  ~Jessica Martin-Weber
by Krisdee Donmoyer

As a breastfeeding advocate active in social media, I am hyper-aware of how frequently nursing in public incidents occur.  Some are big news – Target, a Georgia church, Hollister, Las Vegas – but there are many more that aren’t picked up by major news outlets.   Recently, a Keep Austin Nursing in Public follower posted to my Facebook page about an incident that occurred in my own city at, of all places, a Victoria’s Secret store in which a mother, Ashley Clawson, was denied use of an unneeded fitting room to breastfeed by an employee who told her to take her baby to an alley where “no one usually goes.”

Would you eat here?

Would you eat here?

I reached out to Ashley to offer support and resources, and advised an initial approach of diplomacy and education.  Social media moves faster than bureaucracy, though, and after being told it would be days before she’d hear back from Victoria’s Secret corporate, Ashley agreed to a news interview.  A reporter’s call got a faster reaction from the company than Ashley’s did.  In their response to the reporter they said all the right things: they apologized, they have a policy welcoming breastfeeding mothers, and they’re ensuring all employees are aware of it.

So – awesome!  They did what we want, right?  I mean, I’m pretty sure what all moms want in this situation is that it doesn’t happen to other moms.  So, boom!  We’re done, right?

Well, not exactly.  Ashley won’t be the last mother to face discrimination for breastfeeding in a place of public accommodation.  This is a systemic issue that impacts breastfeeding rates.  It needs a systemic solution.   In Texas where Ashley and I live, there is a law that asserts our right to breastfeed in any public place in which we are authorized to be, but the law does not specifically prevent others from interfering with that right.  So, we are not protected.  What the Victoria’s Secret employee did was wrong.  She violated a civil right and endangered a nursing relationship.  But she did not break the law, because the law does not say she can’t violate our right.

This is true in more states than not.  We tried to improve our NIP law in Texas in the last regular legislative session.  We got a bill pretty far, but we didn’t get it all the way.  Work has already begun to support the bill when it is filed again in 2015.  It will educate businesses that the law exists, prohibit anyone from interfering with a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, and give her recourse if her right is violated.

Whether you live in Texas or another state, you can contact your legislators and tell them what happened here.  Look up your state’s nursing in public law.  If there is no enforcement provision, tell them why it matters to you that they support one.  Tell them that you want to be able to go buy groceries and feed your baby if (s)he is hungry while you’re out, without being harassed?

If our lawmakers hear from enough of us they will realize that their constituents expect them to be a force in creating community support for breastfeeding.  And that’s what it takes: their own constituents - the people who will or will not vote for them when they run again – that’s who makes all the difference.

You can make a difference.

Those online comments we write will only be read for a few more hours.  A nurse-in, while sometimes empowering, is over in a matter of minutes (and leaves a negative impression with some).

Look up your state law and your legislators.  Write an email, or call – or better yet, go visit their office.

Make your voice heard in a way that can make a lasting change.

You can find your state’s law here.  And you can look up your state legislators here and your US Senators and Members of Congress here.

Krisdee Donmoyer Keep Austin Nursing In PublicKrisdee Donmoyer is a feminist stay-at-home mom of three sons and an outspoken breastfeeding advocate. She’s the outreach coordinator for Central Texas Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, and the recent recipient of the 2013 Breastfeeding Hero Award from HMHB, due to her work lobbying for mother- and baby-friendly breastfeeding policies in two central Texas school districts and in the Texas Legislature. You can read more about her work on her blog, Keep Austin Nursing in Public, and like her on Facebook, where she spends more time than cats spend sleeping.

 

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Gisele, breastfeeding images, and real moms

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Ah, the bru-ha-ha.  A celebrity shared a picture of herself breastfeeding her child.  She’s a hero!  She’s so natural!  She’s supporting women!  She’s a REAL mom!  She’s a show-off!  She’s a bitch!  She’s pampered!  She doesn’t look like us REAL moms!  She makes breastfeeding look unattainable!  She’s making women that don’t breastfeed feel bad!  She’s pressuring women to breastfeed!  She’s a sanctimommy!  BRU.freakingHA.HAAAAAAAAAA.

Everybody has an opinion on it from commenters on Facebook and twitter to talk show hosts and bloggers.  They all must say something about it.  Apparently, me too.

Would this picture have been such a big deal if Gisele was holding a sandwich in one hand and feeding herself claiming multitasking as her team worked on her?  Or if she had an iPad set up and was FaceTiming with her child as a nanny gave them a bottle?  Or if Gisele was spooning baby food into her toddler’s mouth?  I highly doubt it.  Because while the uproar appears to be about a great many things such as whether or not it’s multitasking, or that normal moms don’t have a beauty team, the flashpoint is clearly that breastfeeding is involved.

Oddly enough, the focus has not really been on that she was pictured feeding her 12 month old daughter, the age of her little girl has hardly come up at all.  And the team working on Gisele didn’t seem to notice or care at all.  Maybe we are making progress?

I’m not one to get starstruck nor do I care what celebrities are doing.  It’s not a big deal to me personally the fashion, decorating, or lifestyle choices someone famous makes, I’m going to do what I do because it feels right for me and fits my values and tastes.  Decisions like breastfeeding and how they birth hardly seem like a big deal, they’re humans doing what humans do.  I don’t want to herald every star that puts her baby to her breast to feed them, that just seems a little… extreme.

But I am committed to normalizing breastfeeding so I do see the value in celebrities sharing that they are breastfeeding because I recognize that people look up to them.  Just as stars can normalize a fashion trend, inspire people to get their colon checked, or connect with nonprofit charity work, so can others be inspired to view breastfeeding as normal or at least ok because someone with notoriety has done it.  And who am I to say how someone should be inspired?  They see Kim Kardashian, Gisele Bündchen, Pink, Angelina Jolie, Miranda Kerr or some other celebrity breastfeeding and think “hey, maybe it’s not so bad and I could do that” that’s a good thing so why not?

Just as I understand how a celebrity sharing images of breastfeeding their children or talking about breastfeeding publicly helps normalize it, so do, I believe, the efforts of us incredibly normal, average, non-celebrities.  When we share our pictures and talk about the realities of breastfeeding, we’re helping create a culture that will eventually stop considering it newsworthy when a celebrity does the very normal, average, human behavior of feeding their baby.  A woman using her body as it is biologically intended to feed her baby won’t cause gasps of shock any more, perhaps it will be as normal as the marketing we accept every day that uses the female form to sell stuff.  Eventually, all the trolls and naysayers won’t have any buttons to push on the matter.

Gisele has said some things in the past that have made me cringe and I have a funny feeling she’ll say something cringe worthy again.  But this moment of sharing a picture of herself feeding her baby while she was working isn’t one of them.  The majority of mothers don’t have a team available to them to do their hair, make-up, and nails.  The majority of mothers also don’t have to look impossibly impeccable as part of their career even after flying 15 hours and getting only 3 hours of sleep, they don’t have the pressure of adhering to an artificial standard of beauty for their livelihood.  The majority of us moms are short on sleep and long on too much to do but we all have our own version of what that looks like.  My multitasking doesn’t look exactly like yours and nothing like Ms. Bündchen’s.  My multitasking also doesn’t look like that of a women in extreme poverty in a third world country or a mother struggling to feed her kids in the slums of New York.  Doesn’t make any of it less real.  Dismissing someone’s version because we can’t relate or maybe we’re even jealous or because we judge them isn’t helping anyone.  Such immature responses could actually be damaging.  Declaring “REAL moms…” or “REAL women…” don’t experience life as or look like someone else objectifies that person.

People, particularly women and especially moms need to stop that right now.

What’s “real” has many different expressions.

Gisele breastfeeding with beauty squad

This is a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

This is also a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

This is also a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

This too is a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work (image from Snugabell).

 

Another real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

Another real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

These are also real women breastfeeding, not multitasking but still real.

These are also real moms breastfeeding, not multitasking but still real.

Mama and baby with bottle

This is a real mom feeding her baby too. (photo credit: David Castillo Dominici)

Is this the world we want for our children?  A society that trivializes the reality of someone else simply because they can’t relate?  A society that dismisses the good of an act because they are personally offended that it doesn’t look a certain way?  A society that attempts to marginalize someone that can have influence simply because they are jealous?  A society that can only support those whose reality is just like their own?

I hope not.

What all these women need is pretty simple: support.  Even if you’re different than me, even if your reality looks different from mine, even if your choices are ones I can’t understand, even if we can’t relate: I SUPPORT YOU.  Natural birthing or highly medicalized birthing, breastfeeding or formula feeding, safely cosleeping or safely separate sleeping, working outside the home or stay at home parent, no processed foods or all processed foods, and everything in between as long as you’re not intentionally abusing or neglecting your child and have the access you need to make fully informed decisions according to your personal circumstances and available resources: I SUPPORT YOU.  Because anything else only serves to divide, keeps marginalizing women, and drag us all down.

I’m going to go out on a limb and state the obvious here: celebrities are normal, real people.  Normal, real people that can help change things.

Gisele Bündchen has a life I can’t even imagine, bet she can’t imagine mine either.  I multitasked writing this post while cuddling a sick 5yo and breastfeeding an active 19 month old.  In my pajamas.  The same way I answered emails, talked with my site host, interacted on Facebook, texted with my children, and worked.  Sometimes I multitask breastfeeding my toddler while speaking to a couple hundred people about sex.  A typical day for me, normal and real, different from Gisele’s day which for her was no less normal and real.   Though I can’t relate to her life, I appreciate her and all the other women in the world celebrity or not, that are sharing the very real aspect of caring for their children through breastfeeding.  As they continue to do so, maybe when my own daughters are breastfeeding their children, there will be more important and interesting matters discussed by society and the media than how a woman is feeding her baby.

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How to explain breastfeeding to children of all ages

Every once in a while, pretty much every time breastfeeding in public comes up on The Leaky Boob Facebook page or in a group setting, someone expresses in frustration why they feel women should cover or go somewhere private to breastfeed asking “what do I say to my child as to what she is doing?”  Inevitably I think they are joking for some reason and for a moment I’ll be amused.  But then I realize they are completely serious and they find this to be a very valid reason as to why women should not breastfeed in public.  So I, very seriously and with compassion for their situation, offer suggestions, believing that knowing how to talk to children about nutrition, life, and normal infant feeding is important and I don’t want to leave them hanging.  How DO you talk about it?

If you’re very busy, and you probably are, I’ll go ahead and save you time and you can get on with your day:

Tell them she is feeding her baby.

This explanation is the most straightforward and appropriate response no matter what the age of the person asking.  It has the added bonus of being neither awkward or an untruth.  From 12 months to 120 years old, anyone can understand that a breastfeeding woman is feeding her baby.  It is simple, it is clear, it is true.

Eplaining breastfeeding to a child

Now, it is possible that some may find this confusing and want to argue that it is somehow gross, indecent, or too intimate to be done in public.  This argument is made possible by beer commercials, the media’s portrayal of women’s bodies, and our own overblown ideas fixating on only the sexual nature of the female breasts.  However, those that would raise such objections are not likely to be children but rather adults that have bought into the messages of society that the female body, in particular the female breasts, exist solely for the sexual gratification of men.  Children do not naturally have such bias so it is doubtful that, if your child is asking what a woman is doing while breastfeeding, they are equating the act with sex.  The anxiety you feel about their question is coming from your own inner insecurities and not that of the child.  Have no fear though, it is a simple fix: take a deep breath, own your issues, and answer honestly.  Hopefully by doing so you can avoid handing down the same issues you have internalized in objectifying women.

Need more help in handling this situation?  As a mom of 6 children and a teacher of many more, I’ve had lots of practice.  Check out these 6 simple ways of answering the question “what’s that lady doing?” when your child sees a breastfeeding woman:

18 months – 2.5 years old: “You see the mommy feeding her baby?  Isn’t that sweet?  Let’s leave them alone so that baby can finish their snack, would you like a snack too?”

Or, for the toddler that breastfeeds as well…

“Yes, that baby gets to eat just like you.  Would you like to have some mommy milk now too?”

2.5 years old – 4 years old:  “Oh, that mommy’s just feeding her baby.  All mammal mommies have breasts to feed their babies and even the daddies have nipples but really only mommies have nipples that work for feeding babies.  Where are your nipples?”

Or, for the preschooler that breastfeeds as well…

“Yes, that baby gets to eat just like you.  Would you like to have some mommy milk now too?”

To help them understand how normal this is and that all mammal mommies feed their babies this way, watch one or all of these sweet clips from Sesame Street:

Mom and baby mammals

Buffy nurses Cody

Maria Breastfeeds

You’re My Baby music video

4 years old – 8 years old:  “She’s feeding her baby.  That’s what breasts are for, feeding babies.  That’s where the term ‘mammal’ comes from, all creatures that feed their babies with their teat or breast are called mammals.  What animals can you think of that feed their young this way?”

Or, for the child that breastfeeds as well, all that plus: “Would you like to have some mommy milk now too?”

8 years old – 11 years old: “Thanks for pointing out the mom feeding her baby, I love seeing moms feeding their babies, don’t you?  Can you think of other ways babies are sometimes fed?  Do you know what kind of creatures feed their babies this way?  What other animals feed their young with their mammary glands?  Do you know how I fed you as a baby?  You were breast/bottle fed and I’m so grateful for the time I had getting to feed you, it was so special.”

11 years old – 13 years old: “It is so nice to see a mom feeding her baby.  What do you think of seeing this?  It isn’t always easy for moms to breastfeed in public, our society hasn’t always been very supportive of moms.  It is the normal way for babies to eat though, we should smile at her to encourage her as she takes care of her baby.”

13 years old – 18 years old: “She’s feeding her baby, isn’t that cool?  Does it bother you?  I wonder why a mom feeding her baby would make you uncomfortable?  Did you know that the primary function of the female breast is to feed babies?  Breastfeeding is the normal way for human babies, actually, all baby mammals, to eat.  You and I don’t have to hide when we’re eating, why should that baby have to hide?  And did you know that bottles are designed inspired by the breast?  I’m really glad we got to see this mom feeding her baby, I hope it helps us remember that this is normal and good.  Too often the only capacity in which we see the female breast is with an over emphasis on the sexual nature that ends up objectifying women.  Let’s smile at her to show our support and in thanks for the reminder that women aren’t sex objects.”

For an adult that acts like a child when they see a woman breastfeeding, refer to the explanation for the younger two categories, that should be simple enough for them to understand.

If you would, however, rather not inform children about breastfeeding and would prefer to hand down issues, simply act like breastfeeding is shameful.  With a reaction like that you can continue to be a part of a society that pressures women to breastfed yet sends confusing messages that doing so is somehow shameful and perverted.  Such a reaction will go a long way in helping absolutely nobody.

Because it really is as simple as breastfeeding is a mother feeding her baby.

 

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Why I breastfed my baby on TV

 

 

guest post by Jennifer Borget, news reporter for Austin, YNN and blogger at The Baby Making Machine.

 

babymaking mama austin newscast breastfeeding

It’s amazing how something as natural and innate as breastfeeding can be so misunderstood.

I didn’t see breastfeeding growing up. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began to learn the benefits. I believe there’s a serious gap in awareness and knowledge about breastfeeding, and so many mothers—Especially in the minority community–don’t know what they’re missing.

I work as a news reporter and have a chance to help make an impact. In an effort to bring awareness to breastfeeding, and continue this important discussion, I sat down with two other mothers and conducted an interview with our babies latched-on, on-air.  (See the original segment here.)

It was bold, and something that required quite a bit of discussion and approval from people way above my pay grade, but in the end, it aired, and I was happy with the result.

Providing breast milk to my babies—What I consider to be the best nourishment for my children, hasn’t been a walk in the park.

First, I had to do my own research on the benefits and process. My mother tried to breastfeed me, but said it didn’t work out. I remember helping with my younger sisters formula bottles as I grew up.

All I knew was formula, and we were fine. I didn’t think it would be a big deal if breastfeeding “just didn’t work” for me either.

I took many of my questions to Twitter, and often found myself getting annoyed by self-proclaimed “lactavists” who told me to throw away my emergency can of formula, and seemed to have an answer for every excuse I had for why breastfeeding may not work for me.

At the time I felt like these tweeple were acting like “know it alls” who perceived formula as poison. To this day I’m still a little intimidated by overzealous lactavists, but then again, I wonder if I’ve become one myself.

I started with a goal to breastfeed through maternity leave. I pumped almost every day, multiple times a day. I stored more than 200 ounces of frozen milk to use as an emergency stash after I went back to work. I pumped every day at work, but some days I came up short, and the stash came in handy.

My husband was very supportive, making sure not to feed our daughter right before I left to come home. It was liquid gold we were rationing.

Three months went by, and I set a new goal to breastfeed until my daughter hit six months. That’s a lot of formula money saved—One of my big motivations at the time. Then I set another goal to continue nursing until her first birthday. By the time my daughter turned one, we had survived our own personal hiccups, and made it further breastfeeding than I had ever imagined. I continued to nurse my daughter until she was about 17 months. By then I had learned an immense amount of information about breastfeeding, and found myself on the giving end of breastfeeding support.

The Baby Making Machine

Jennifer and her children on set at her job.

Now, my daughter is three and I have a three-month-old nursing baby boy. I’m excited to talk about breastfeeding with anyone who will listen. I hope I don’t come across pushy. I’m really just excited to share a secret, the secret benefits, convenience, and enjoyment breastfeeding brings, that I didn’t know about when I was about to have my baby. Though they’re not really secrets, I just didn’t know about it at first.  This excitement is what drove me to do a news segment on breastfeeding, and with it being World Breastfeeding Week, there was no better time.

Here in Austin and in other locations around the world, nursing mothers are coming together for latch-on events, and nursing in unison. These events are made to start conversations about breastfeeding and nursing in public. One idea is the more we see women breastfeeding, the more normal it becomes, and the more people can learn about the benefits of breastfeeding. If I had seen women around me breastfeeding while I grew up, maybe I wouldn’t have been so hostile towards women who tried to inform me about it. Maybe then breastfeeding would have never been a question, but an automatic decision.

If I had seen women around me breastfeeding as I grew up...

 

________________________

Have you found yourself becoming more of an advocate for breastfeeding?  How so?  Where you ever hostile towards those that tried to inform and encourage you to breastfeed?  If you’ve changed, what inspired that change?

________________________

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Changing for the breast? A 14 year old shares her views on breasts, breastfeeding, sex appeal, and society.

by Ophélia Martin-Weber
Photo credit Dorothea Lange, 1936 Library of Congress, American Memory

Photo credit Dorothea Lange, 1936 Library of Congress, American Memory

I wonder when people started treating boobs as objects used just for sex.  A long time ago did people respect moms and their breasts feeding hungry babies?  Even though they didn’t see women as equal did they know that breastfeeding was the healthiest, easiest, and natural source of nutrients to feed the baby and nothing to shun?  There was a time when women didn’t have the right to vote but could freely pull out their breast and feed their baby and today it seems like we have flipped those.  In some ways we have come so far in how women are treated and viewed in society but in other ways women, particularly mothers, are dismissed as their real value being only in their appeal to the opposite sex.  I wonder if we’ve lost something.  Then I wonder what that means for me and I’m only 14 years old.

When I was younger I didn’t know breasts had amazing powers to produce milk even though my mom breastfed my sisters and me.  All that I knew was that I had little boobies and I couldn’t wait for the day when my nipples would transform into breasts.  I don’t remember when the fact that mature breasts can give milk really stuck in my head but when it did I thought humans were related to cows.  Sure, humans and cows are both mammals but when I was a kid I thought maybe women actually were cows.  Today I know that’s not true and I also understand there is a lot of attention given to the sexiness of the female breast and that makes me uncomfortable.  Uncomfortable because now that I have breasts I find myself wanting smaller breasts in part because of dance but also because I know that bigger breasts are supposed draw attention from guys, are seen as more sexy, and could decide how I am treated by others.  Part of me feels that if I want to be liked I have to have big breasts.  I want guys to notice me but I don’t want guys to notice me (yes, I know this is a contradiction) and I really don’t want them to think I’m just here to have sex with.  I’m just not ready for that and don’t know if I ever will be.  To me, I’m so much more than my sex appeal.  So I’m careful about what I wear, I don’t want communicate that I want attention based on sex but that frustrates me too.  The clothes I like the best are more form fitting but if I wear yoga pants that fit my butt well will it be communicating that I want the wrong kind of attention?  Or in a leotard are my breasts speaking louder than my mind or my art?  I hope not.  I want to matter to others for more than just my body.  As a dancer, I work with my body a lot and I work hard to make it strong and healthy but not for attention.  That work is to help me tell stories, to use my body as an artist and an athlete.  Struggling with my body every day is part of my lot as a dancer and I have a love hate relationship with it and I’m ok with that.  What I don’t want is to question my natural biology simply because of how others say it should be.  Sometimes it feels as though society wants to punish those with female body parts yet tell us we’re equal without having to act like we really are.  I don’t get it, I understand that breasts are considered sex things but they don’t seem any more “sexy” than most of the other parts of my body such as my lips, my arms, my shoulders, my legs.  Men may find them sexy (is it that way in every culture or just ours?) but they aren’t sexy to me, they feed babies.

The author, Ophélia Martin-Weber

The author, Ophélia Martin-Weber

Looking back to what my childish mind was thinking and comparing it to some people’s opinions about moms openly breastfeeding in public, I wonder if they too see breastfeeding moms as cows?  Do breastfeeding mothers need to be fenced and herded together, separate from everyone else?  I know there are people that think about moms that way but not everyone does.  A lot of my adult friends have different opinions about breastfeeding but they don’t think poorly about my mom and they don’t ask her to cover when she’s feeding my little sister.  It doesn’t bother them that part of my mom’s breast is visible.  Pictures of beautiful and sexy women show off breasts at least as much as a mom’s breast is seen when she is breastfeeding.  In our culture, what is the most sexy part about women’s breasts?  The breast that is popping out of a too small shirt or the covered nipple?  Why?  If it’s the nipple, why is it such a big deal about breastfeeding in public if the baby is hiding the nipple?  Understandable because of the messages we get from certain parts of society, they might think it is sexual because a person’s mouth, even if it is a baby is on a woman’s breast but they need to get a grip and review their history lessons.   And also learn how breastfeeding works.

And why is it ok for men to show off their mammary glands but women can’t?  Why aren’t women “allowed” to expose their chest as much as men can?  Why is it considered indecent for me to be topless by my neighbor across the street can walk around just in his shorts and nobody has a problem with it?  How is that equal?  How is that not discrimination?  Stop telling me I can be equal to my male counterparts but then tell me I have to hide my body more as if there is something wrong with me.

I’m not sure I even want to have babies but if I do I will breastfeed them though I have to admit the idea of breastfeeding in public scares me because I know how people think of breasts, women, and moms.  That kind of attention isn’t what I want for myself.  I don’t know what I will do though because I know too much about breastfeeding to not breastfeed and I don’t think I’d want to just stay home all the time.  How sad is it that anyone would be afraid to feed their baby in public?  I’m a little disappointed in myself for feeling this way, I mean, my mom is The Leaky Boob, I feel like she’s the queen of breastfeeding.  But that’s where I am right now.  Fortunately, I have a long time to figure that out and I know I have a family that will support me along the way.

If all this obsession with female breasts didn’t actually happen, what would life be like?  If we could change the attitudes against breastfeeding would we actually change attitudes about women?  I hope we can learn from our mistakes.

 

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What do you think?  

Do you feel attitudes about breastfeeding are related in any way to our attitudes about women in general?  

How did you think about breasts, breastfeeding, and your own body when you were a teen?

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Completely unrelated to this post, this video shares the author’s story of dance and her dance aspirations.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycG-NW1UGno

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IMG_0404 Ophélia Martin-Weber is 14 years old, the eldest of six girls.  Ophélia is in 8th grade, homeschooled, and is   passionate about dance.  A few years ago Ophélia wrote for The Leaky Boob, sharing her views as an 11 year old on breastfeeding and Jessica recently shared a proud mama moment about Ophélia.  You can see some of Ophélia’s dancing and hear her share her dance story and dreams in this video.
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Fear and Breastfeeding in Las Vegas

Breastfeeding is not porn, nudity, or obscene The Leaky Boob

Since starting The Leaky Boob 2.5 years ago I have said and photographed things I would never have imagined doing before.  I’ve said things such as “breastfeeding is not about sex, it’s about feeding a baby.”  Nothing like stating the obvious.  Most recently was texting my husband “do you know where that nudie card is I brought back from Vegas?  I need it.”  Yep, I brought a nudie card home from Vegas.

Say “Las Vegas” and most of us conjure up images of slot machines, black jack tables, show girls, stripers, booze, and buffets with obscene quantities of food.  Sex and money seem to flow freely.  Clothing requirements are little more than sequins, triangles, stars, and stilettos for women, the range is a little more diverse for men.

Say “mommy conference” and you probably picture babies in strollers or carriers, baby toys, tennis shoes, snack cups, and a chatty group of women.  Breastmilk and cheerios seem to flow freely.  Clothing requirements range from diapers and onesies or soft outfits in bright colors for the smaller ones in the crowd and something comfortable covered in spit up for the adults.

Say “mommy conference in Las Vegas” and you might get a little confused.

However, as much as it may seem like a collision of 2 very different worlds, the MommyCon conference in Las Vegas hosted at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino was anything but confused.  It was fun, vibrant, and sometimes a little comical (I doubt Vegas has ever seen so many babies in carriers going through their casinos).  The Flamingo Hotel did a great job securing extra cribs for the influx of young guests and the conference area hosted workshops like dancing with your baby and it didn’t even involve a pole.  While there was room for improvement, the host hotel handled the influx of moms and dads with babies and young children well and the juxtaposition wasn’t as weird as I anticipated.  I was thrilled to be there as a speaker and enjoyed my first ever trip to Las Vegas.  It seemed appropriate that I was in Vegas speaking about Sex, Lies, Parenting, and the Rest.  I had a great time with my fellow speakers and meeting the attendees of the event.

I have breastfed 6 children now, in all different settings, sometimes covered and sometimes not.  Over time, however, I stopped covering completely thanks to babies that fought the cover, me realizing that I don’t show much when I feed my baby, and eventually a belief that covering was actually hindering breastfeeding for some women either because they didn’t see others doing it or because they couldn’t navigate breastfeeding in public with a cover.  In all my breastfeeding in public experience, I have never, not once, been asked to cover or leave.  There have been times I thought I received disapproving looks or was shunned for feeding but I’ve never experienced any kind of real negativity about my feeding my baby.  Actually, I’ve experienced several positive and affirming exchanges as I fed my babies in public, more people expressing support than disapproval.  Today I’m experienced and confident when I feed my babies, well practiced and well informed about my baby’s right to eat.  Even now though, when I need to feed my baby in a public setting I will have a moment of anticipatory nervousness as though I expect something to happen.

Flamingo hotel

Feeding Sugarbaby at the Tropical Breezes cafe at the Flamingo in Las Vegas

Except in Vegas at a mommy conference that highlighted breastfeeding and where I was speaking because I created “The Leaky Boob.”  It didn’t even occur to me that someone could have a problem with me breastfeeding there, of all places.

Following my first talk in the morning of Friday, January 4, 2013, I met up with my friend, Sue, who was helping take care of my 8 month old daughter, who I call Sugarbaby, while I spoke.  We decided to have lunch in the Flamingo’s Tropical Breeze Cafe so I could feed my baby and myself before speaking at another session after the break.  Wearing a simple button up shirt and a Rumina Nursingwear tank with Bamboobies breastpads (I may be The Leaky Boob but I didn’t want to leak during my talks), I fed my hungry baby shortly after we were seated while we skimmed the menu.  She was hungry and had missed me so she got down to business pretty quickly and stayed focused.  Our server brought us our drinks and a random cup of coffee neither of us ordered and took our food order.  As we sat joking about the random cup of coffee and waiting for our food (I think he thought I looked like I could use some caffeine), a lovely woman in a suit approached us.  She smiled and asked us how we were then very politely requested that I use a cover, nodding in the general direction of my baby at my breast.

People, I laughed.  I couldn’t help it.  I laughed and asked her to repeat herself.

After confirming that she was indeed asking me to cover while I fed my baby I returned her smile, barely suppressed my laughter, and informed her of my legal right to breastfeed my baby anywhere my baby and I have the right to be, covered or not.  (Do you know the laws where you are?  This helpful resource compiled by You Can Breastfeed Here is a great place to start to find out.)  Her smile waining ever so slightly and her eyes widening ever so noticeably, she gently, though firmly, informed me that I could do whatever I wanted to do but that if I covered I would be making others feel more comfortable as there had been four tables that complained about what I was doing.

I laughed again.  Harder.  “They do know they are in Vegas, right?” I asked her through my laughter.  Because this is what is on the sidewalks and shoved into the hands of those walking on the strip:

Vegas Nudie card

She looked around and I kept looking at her, still chuckling at the irony of this situation.  She knows that just before walking into her cafe I walked past a platform where that very evening, like every night, a woman exposing far more than I was while feeding my baby, dances with moves intending to sexually entice.  She knows that the sidewalks in front of the hotel are littered with photo cards of naked women with tiny stars on their nipples.  She knows that this very hotel advertises a burlesque show featuring breasts (bare), butts, and spread eagle moves on a video that loops endlessly in each guest elevator.  She knows that the very people that complained have seen all that and probably more in the 10 minutes before they sat at their table.  I know she was just trying to do her job.  I know she had no idea that there was actually a law stating I had the right to breastfeed anywhere my baby and I were legally permitted to be.  I know that in her line of work making the customer happy is a delicate balance when one customer may be making another uncomfortable.  I know that in that moment she was wishing I had never walked into her cafe.  I wondered if news coverage of irate breastfeeding moms flashed through her mind.

When she looked back at me I felt sorry for her.  She was probably a mom, I don’t know, but she wasn’t trying to make my life hard, nor was I trying to complicate her job.  In her mind it was simple, I could cover.  In my mind it was simple as well, putting the comfort of others over my child’s right to eat without a blanket on her head just wasn’t ok.  Her smile gone but her face still pleasant she stated again that I could do what I want but it would really help if I covered.  I thanked her and kindly told her that I would continue feeding my baby as I was.

Note that she didn’t yell at me, she never touched my baby or me, she did not call me names, she did not go over to the tables that complained and loudly inform them that I wouldn’t comply, she didn’t ask me to leave, and she didn’t threaten me in any way.

My friend and I laughed once she walked away, we could hardly talk as we shook with laughter.  Jamie Greyson, TheBabyGuyNYC,  joined us for lunch and we all talked about what had just happened.  This was a big deal but I didn’t want to do much about it before giving the hotel and casino the opportunity to make things right.  As I had another session coming up there wasn’t much I could do in the moment but finish feeding my daughter, eat my lunch, and tweet about the irony of the situation.  Jamie and I both shared the story on Twitter, tagged Flamingo, ordered our food, and discussed the entire situation over our meal before heading to my next session.  We all agreed that how I was feeding Sugarbaby at the moment showed far less than the poster outside the cafe and the cards handed out on the Vegas streets.

Vegas showgirl and breastfeeding mom

Poster outside cafe, me feeding Sugarbaby inside cafe.

Here’s where it gets most interesting.  In the 2.5 years I’ve been running The Leaky Boob I have watched how companies handle such fumbles when they receive public scrutiny for harassing a breastfeeding mothers and precious few navigate the rocky terrain well.  That very weekend Hollister Co was facing a national nurse-in protesting their handling of one of their store managers humiliating a Houston woman for breastfeeding in their Galleria store.  Over a week later and the company still hasn’t responded adequately.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Las Vegas hotel and casino but was pleasantly surprised to discover tweets from them responding not only to mine and Jamie’s tweets regarding the situation but individual responses to each of our followers that tweeted Flamingo about the situation as well.  It wasn’t long before I had a direct exchange with Flamingo on Twitter, in direct message, over emails, and then a phone call.  The representatives of the Flamingo asked if they could meet with me before I left and they publicly informed Twitter that they would be working with me to make it right.

My day was full of events and meetings so I was unavailable until Saturday, just before I had to leave.  It would have been easy to brush me off on a Saturday but instead Scott Farber Director of Food Operations, met with me personally Saturday morning to apologize, let me know that he had a meeting with his staff on Friday and informed them of Nevada state law permitting a woman to breastfeed her child where ever she has the legal right to be, and instructing his staff that should customers complain about a woman breastfeeding again they would not address the mother but would work with the customers that complained.  Kind and genuine, Scott laughed with me at the irony of being in Vegas and asked to cover.  Scott offered to make it up to me with a free meal and more and was genuinely concerned about how I was after the experience.  He shared that Estella, the manager, was horrified that she had misstepped in saying anything to me and he extended her apology as well as I didn’t have time to meet with her.  We discussed how the Flamingo could better welcome families and some changes that could be made to do so well.  The possibility of me returning to train their staff and sister hotels to consult with them on how to be set apart in Las Vegas as a family friendly destination came up.  These weren’t the actions of a company that wanted to embarrass their customer families, these were the actions of a company that cared to stand apart and understands the value of doing things right.

Yes, the cafe manager should have been aware of the law prior to asking me to cover but it isn’t a well-known law and probably not something they would have even anticipated needing to know.  Now that they are aware, however, they are responding and preparing to not make the same mistake again.  Instead of ignoring or responding heatedly to the situation, the Flamingo has become a model for other companies that find themselves in what could be a PR disaster.  A company that will receive my repeat business because of how well they handled their mistake.

The problem is a simple fix for the historic Las Vegas hotel and casino and they are well on their way to making it right.  The experience reflects more on society as a whole though.  That the most scandalous sight for some Las Vegas visitors was a baby eating is a little mind boggling.  Thankfully, I’m not easily intimidated, am informed on the law, am more than happy to help educate, and in the end I’m glad this experience happened to me because I believe through it The Leaky Boob and the Flamingo hotel and casino can work together to better support breastfeeding moms be they in Las Vegas or on the other side of the world.  If it happened to someone else it could have greatly damaged their breastfeeding relationship or intimidated them to not risk leaving their home setting them up for postpartum depression and extreme isolation.  Hopefully, by raising awareness others can become informed of the laws and their right to feed their baby and more companies will work to educate their employees on how to better support breastfeeding mothers and more and more mothers won’t have to be afraid to breastfeed their babies in Vegas or anywhere else.

Vegas call card compared to breastfeeding

_______________________________

 The Flamingo Hotel and Casino has asked me for tips and suggestions as to how their staff could handle breastfeeding situations in the future in a way that would be supportive and informed.  

What would be your suggestions?  

What tips would you give the employees that may encounter a breastfeeding pair and possible complaints from other guests?

_______________________________

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Toe Cleavage

toe cleavage, breastfeeding,

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Feeding babies, breasts, planes, cameras, and discrimination

Airplane, airport

Forget having it all, breastfeeding activists want it both ways on a plane.  Which sounds dirty.  Surprisingly though, it’s just about feeding a baby and not having their pictures taken.

Anyone else surprised this is an issue?  Anyone else think this really isn’t about breastfeeding?

This weekend I will be flying with Sugarbaby, a total of 4 flights to get where I’m going and return home.  According to Christopher Elliott and people he talked to that are afraid of a nurse-in happening if they share their name, if I breastfeed my baby on a plane without a cover, I can’t complain if someone snaps a picture of my exposed breast.

Does this happen frequently?  Because I’ve flown and breastfed my babies many times and have never experienced someone wiping out their cell phone to snap a picture of my exposed breast and tweet it to the world or post to a breastfeeding fetish site.  At least, I’m not aware of this happening anyway.  It just seems so immature and ridiculous.

Let’s say it does happen, just for the sake of discussion.  Personally, it wouldn’t really phase me.  Except for the part of a stranger taking pictures of my child and me without my permission.  It’s not the breastfeeding part or the maybe catch a glimpse of my breast part that I would have an issue with.  No, it’s the lack of human decency that I’d have an issue with.  The taking a photo of my child and me without permission that would bother me.  It wouldn’t matter what we were doing, I would never be ok with someone taking a photo of my child if I haven’t expressly given my permission.  Plus, it’s creepy.

Let me be clear, this has nothing to do with breastfeeding.  Or breastfeeding pictures.

It’s not illegal to take pictures of people out in public, so that’s really not the issue, even if it is creepy.  It’s more the attitude that’s concerning here.  Change the circumstances.  A woman giving her child a bottle and some random person pulling out their camera.  Pretty sure that mom would be just as uncomfortable as the breastfeeding mom.  Or the woman with a pedicure in a pair of sandals and a man she doesn’t know starts zooming in with his phone.  Bet she would be uncomfortable, maybe even kick him.  How about the guy that looks like Santa Claus sitting in Starbucks a few tables from me right now?  Surely he wouldn’t mind if I started taking pictures, after all he went out in public with his snowy beard, apple cheeks, and evidence of significant cookie consumption.  It’s like the guy is asking for it.  The man at the beach with man boobs?  Might he have an issue with a teen girl snapping pictures and posting online for everyone to laugh at him?  How about a girl wearing a skirt and that guy sneaking to take pictures up her skirt with cameras on the toes of his shoes?  He was arrested, actually.  Or that baby hanging out in their car seat while their mom has coffee, surely he’s fair game for me to snap a few photos of and share on the internet.  What about the woman with the cane?  The child in a wheel chair?  A black man in a suit?  An interracial couple?  I mean, really, can anyone go out in public and do anything and expect not to have their pictures taken without their permission from total strangers?  Can they really have it both ways?  The law doesn’t protect them from having their pictures taken without their permission, we’re all fair game to random stranger’s picture snapping so if someone thinks you’re strange, gross, or an opportunity for their sexual fantasies, then can you really have it both ways?  Another way of putting it would be “can you really leave the house?”  Or get on a plane.

Taking photos of individuals without their permission is rude.  Sites like peopleofwalmart.com are based on this behavior, taking photos of individuals without their permission for the sake of our personal gratification.  Be it a gross fascination, to mock them, or a sexual fetish, regardless, it is rude and self-serving.

In fact, it’s far more reprehensible than feeding a baby.  Because that’s all it is feeding.  It is not a sex act, not human waste, it’s not gross or strange, and breasts are not genitals.  It is a child eating.  Saying the mother was asking for someone to leer or photograph her feeding her child and blaming her for their inappropriate behavior is backwards.

This kind of attitude where condoning inappropriate behavior because of what someone else is doing is toxic.  It’s this line of thinking that leads to blaming victims of sexual assault for being attacked by questioning what they were wearing, where they were, or that with their clothing they were “asking for it.”  Or claiming that wearing a hoodie is cause for shooting someone.

Before I get jumped all over that it could all be avoided if breastfeeding moms would just cover/pump/feed bottles/go to the bathroom to nurse, what would you say to the others that don’t want their pictures taken without their permission?  The woman with the pedicure in sandals should wear boots?  The mom bottle-feeding should turn to the wall?  The Santa Claus in plain clothes should shave his beard?  The child in the wheelchair should work harder at walking?  The interracial couple should stay home?

None of those would be accepted, we would call all of that discrimination and rightly so.

This has nothing to do with breastfeeding.

It has to do with respect.  Decency.  Human rights.

Speaking of respect, someone is bound to mention that it’s not that hard for a breastfeeding mother to cover (someone that has never had a baby fight being under a cover) out of respect for those that don’t want to see that.  I bet there are other things you don’t want to see that you would never ask someone to cover because, again, that would be discrimination at worst, rude at best.  But surely these moms can respect that not everyone is comfortable seeing the female breast.  If she weren’t so selfish about her rights she would consider the rights of others, right?  I have to ask, why would any mother ever be expected to consider the rights of complete strangers over her child’s right and need to eat and find comfort?  My baby just wants to eat.

I will be feeding my baby on the plane this week.  Someone may take a picture of me doing so.  Probably me.  I can’t really prevent anyone else from doing so even without my permission but I’m not going to let that intimidate me from changing how I meet my daughter’s needs.  Some day breastfeeding won’t be considered a freak show where strangers pull out their cameras at the sight.  I have glimpses of hope that we’re headed in that direction, like this unexpected article by Tyler Brown at The Collegian reflecting, as a male college student, on the uproar surrounding a professor breastfeeding her baby as she gave a lecture to her “Sex, Gender and Culture” class.

How can we be OK with breasts on display all around us, encouraging us to consume more crap, and yet when a single mother in a tight spot needs to feed her child, people throw hissy fits? I can’t help but hear an uber-male bro voice saying, “Yeah, but she wasn’t using them for what I want her to, and that’s not cool.”

Guess what folks, we’re mammals. And that means, along with hair and a myriad of other distinguishing features, mammary glands. That’s how Pine, along with other mothers, feed their children, believe it or not.

See the entire article, it’s well worth the read.

Can breastfeeding advocates have it both ways?  Can we ask society that we stop just giving lip service to breastfeeding as “best” and stop discriminating against breastfeeding mothers?  For the sake of our children, let’s hope so.  There will come a time when the discrimination against breastfeeding mothers will end and mature responses to a woman feeding her child will just be expected.  Such as not pulling out your camera to take a picture.  Until then, I will continue to both feed my children and talk about how the rest of the world needs to get over it as necessary.  Some day, the mature perspective of this young, heterosexual male college student will prevail.  I hope.

If you’re planning on flying with your child that breastfeeds, you may find the tips from Annie at PhD in Parenting helpful.

 

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Have you flown with a breastfeeding baby?  What was your experience?  Have you ever had someone take a picture of you breastfeeding without your permission

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I can’t wait to stop writing about breastfeeding in public

Some day I won’t write another thing about breastfeeding in public.  Because I won’t have to.  Eventually, some day, everyone will have grown weary of the debate and realize just how silly it is.  Mothers feeding their babies will be left alone, in peace to care for their children by meeting their needs for food and comfort.  In time the fact that message boards and news broadcasts filled up with comments arguing about the “appropriateness” of feeding babies in public will seem ridiculous and celebrities that dissed women that breastfeed in public will be dismissed as ignorant and intolerant.  In a lesser but similar way that we feel looking back at other civil justice issues and wonder how in the world anyone could ever have had any question about where people sit on a bus or what water fountains they drink from, breastfeeding in public debates will be an embarrassing mark on our social history.  As a society we won’t bat a collective eyelash at a woman breastfeeding in public whether she’s using a cover or not.  The idea that a women is permitted or not permitted to feed her child in public will seem as archaic as women not being permitted to vote.  There won’t be polls posted on news affiliate sites and Facebook pages won’t explode with heated arguments that resort to name calling to prove one’s point about how inappropriate/appropriate it is to breastfeed in public.  Instead, it will just be normal and nobody will even care any more and maybe they’ll take up some more important issue to pour their passionate energy into.  Some day.  Apparently, not today.

Please don’t tell me it could all be avoided if women just had some “decency” and used a cover or went some place private.  That’s not the issue nor is it the solution, women should not be ostracized from society for feeding their babies and covering is a personal choice much like clothing choices.  Not that it helps, plenty of women are harassed for breastfeeding even when they choose to cover.

The comments in those online threads often quickly turn to comparing breastfeeding to some other bodily function that people find disgusting and “nobody wants to see.”  Comments like:  ”If breastfeeding in public is acceptable then I should be able to just piss anywhere I need to!”  ”That’s disgusting, why can’t they just pump and use a bottle?  I don’t want to see someone getting a blow job while I’m shopping and I don’t want to see breastfeeding.”  ”We go to the bathroom to take a dump and don’t just crap on the sidewalk, women can go to the bathroom to pull out their boob, we don’t have to see it.”  ”If a woman can just whip out her boob and stick it in a baby’s mouth, I should be able to just whip out my dick and jerk off.”  And more, so many more.  I usually roll my eyes and move on dismissing the writer as someone that doesn’t understand some very basic and crucial differences that flaw their comparison rendering it completely invalid and not worth my time.  Moving on is also to keep me from commenting “well, when you’re ready to prepare a bottle of piss or serve up some human shit in a beautiful dish for your dinner guests and when grocery store shelves are stocked with products claiming to be ‘as good as human urine/feces’ then I might hear your point.”  But then it happened in real life and I couldn’t bite my tongue and roll my eyes in time to not decidedly educate the poor individual that would dare to compare breastfeeding in public to taking a dump in public in my presence.  As it turns out, maybe people really are confused on some of these basic differences.  I decided to see what a larger sample size thought of the issue and how breastfeeding in public compared to these body functions commonly argued as being equally as disgusting (their words, not mine) as breastfeeding in public.  To gather some admittedly biased information considering my poll group consists of fans of The Leaky Boob  (and some got very confused that I’d even ask such a question, a few were a bit upset, they didn’t expect to see that kind of question there and I can’t blame them) I asked the followers of TLB FB, Jessica The Leaky Boob Facebook page, and my own personal friends to vote which was the most disgusting: urinating in public, defecating in public, sex in public, blow job/masturbation in public, and breastfeeding in public.  The results:

In case you’re wondering, breastfeeding didn’t make it on the graph.  Nobody in our unscientific and poorly constructed poll voted for breastfeeding as being the most disgusting option of the 5.  But since not everyone followed the directions (to only pick one that was most disgusting) we ended up with another pie chart illustrating how many of those polled think  urinating in public, defecating in public, sex in public, and blow job/masturbation in public is more disgusting than breastfeeding in public.

 

 While it could be argued that this sample is biased and not indicative of the general population given that they were drawn from a breastfeeding support community, I still would argue that they all make a good point that even those not in favor of breastfeeding would find valid.  However, in case some have yet to understand how it could possibly be that breastfeeding in public is considered less gross than defecating, urinating, masturbating, oral sex, or intercourse in public I created two tables and some notes in order to help clarify.  You can find those here.  It would make me very happy if you went and checked those out, I actually made myself sick doing the research for those puppies.  Reading that much about poop while pregnant and dealing with HG is asking for trouble.

Some day my dream will be a reality and I will stop writing about breastfeeding in public.  Nurse-ins will be a thing of the past and idiotic celebrities won’t be concerned about the PR nightmare they create for themselves simply because we’ll have all moved on and they won’t be saying stupid comments about breastfeeding in public.  Kasey Kahne and Kim Kardashian (what’s with the Ks?) will be cited as examples of ignorance regarding breastfeeding and society’s attempts to control and shame women for their bodies and mothering for future generations.  For now though, I’ll keep talking about it even though I’m tired of saying the same things and I’ll be grateful for moments of sanity in rational mainstream media articles like this.  But to keep it interesting I’m going to have to start making fun of the people ignorant enough to be serious about certain comparisons.  I just can’t help it, when someone confuses urine or feces for breastmilk or thinks there’s something similar with breastfeeding and masturbating in public, I have to laugh at the absurdity or I’ll go crazy.

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Exploring the “body fluids” debate about breastfeeding in public

As a culture we give so much lip service to breastfeeding being “best,” “natural,” etcetera but the reality is that is still not the cultural norm.  Sure, women are judged for not breastfeeding all the time but our culture isn’t actually supporting breastfeeding beyond using it as fodder for flaming mommy wars.  This reality is never more tangible than when a breastfeeding mother gets asked to move, leave, or otherwise change how she’s breastfeeding her child in a public setting.  When the media takes up the story before you know it further proof that understanding and support of breastfeeding is lacking culturally exhibits itself boldly with comparisons of bodily functions or sex acts done in public to breastfeeding in public.  Their point being that breastfeeding in public is just as unacceptable in our culture (according to that individual anyway) as any of those other acts.

Right, because feeding your baby and pooping/peeing or any sex act are so alike.

While it may seem obvious to most that there isn’t really any social, cultural, or medical similarities between breastfeeding and defecating in public, urinating in public, masturbation or oral sex in public, or even sex in public, some individuals insist on drawing the comparison.  A lot, actually.  Why?  I’m not sure but my best guess is shock value, as though they can prove their argument against breastfeeding in public merely by shocking people into silence.

I conducted a highly unscientific poll as to what people actually thought was more disgusting and shared the results here.  It’s very biased, seeing as the participants polled were all from either The Leaky Boob Facebook page, Jessica The Leaky Boob Facebook page, or my own personal Facebook page.  Still, the results are demonstrated in 2 fun little graphs.

But my site is called “The Leaky Boob,” I’m not exactly the type to be shocked or silenced.  Just ask Facebook.  Recently media attention on a variety of breastfeeding related stories (Target nurse-in, Kasey Kahne, etc.) seemed to have brought a rise of individuals that actually believe this is a valid argument.   I decided I needed to see if they had a point.

I talked with a pediatrician friend of mine and learned that the only special handling instructions they were given about breastmilk when she was doing rotations in the NICU was to ensure the milk was not contaminated before it was fed to the fragile neonates in their care.  It was considered a food and was treated as such, not as waste nor a biohazard.  An RN friend echoed these same experiences.  Hmmmmm, doesn’t sound like they thought of breastmilk as potentially dangerous body fluid or waste that needed to be carefully disposed of for health safety reasons.  Pretty major distinction there.

To help anyone still confused, anyone who may be thinking breastfeeding in public is like defecating in public, urinating in public, masturbation/oral sex in public, or sex in public, I’ve put together a couple of tables to break it down.

Breastfeeding:
Breastfeeding in public is legal and protected in the majority of the world.  In the states there are laws in 45 states that expressly allow women breastfeeding in public or private areas.  Twenty-eight states have specific clauses that exempt breastfeeding mothers from public indecency exposure laws.

Breastfeeding in public does not pose a public health threat.  While breastmilk can carry HIV and hepatitis if the mother is infected, breastfeeding in public does not carry an increased risk of spread of the disease and the CDC even cites that a bottle of infected milk given on accident to the wrong baby is unlikely to lead to transmission of the disease in a healthy infant.

Breastfeeding a human infant is encouraged by recognized health organizations globally.

Breastfeeding in public is based on a mother responding to the need of her child for nourishment or comfort.  A small infant or child’s hunger can not be postponed.

Breastfeeding is not a sex act, it is an act of nourishment and comfort for a child.  A small portion of women may experience some level of sexual arousal by breastfeeding but that is secondary to the primary purpose of meeting her child’s nutritional and comfort needs and women are able to distinguish the difference.

Breastfeeding has been essential to the survival of the species for centuries and today is still the biologically normal way to feed a human infant.  Further, public breastfeeding provides a model for future mother/baby dyads to be familiar with normal means of infant feeding, we learn by seeing.

 

Defecating in public:

In all 1st world countries public defecation is illegal.

Human feces is recognized as a very serious health hazard that can contaminate water and food sources.

With the exception of those with special needs, public elimination of feces is considered deviant.

*Yes- if the individual is unable to control their bowels due to physical or mental disabilities.

*No- if it is from a fully functioning healthy adult.  The need can be postponed until a suitable toilet receptacle can be located.

Public defecation is a public health hazard and threatens the entire species including the young.

 

Urinating in public:

In all 1st world countries public urination without an acceptable receptacle is illegal.

Though sterile and not toxic in a healthy person, urine is known to carry pathogens and possible disease and can contaminate water and food sources as it is a human waste product.

In some cultures it is considered acceptable to urinate in public, while others have find it socially unacceptable.  However, all public health organizations warn of the dangers related to urinating in public.

*Yes- if the individual is unable to control their bladder due to physical or mental disabilities.

* No- if it is from a fully functioning healthy adult.  The need can be postponed until a suitable toilet receptacle can be located.

Public urination without proper sewage disposal is a potential public health hazard and as it is a human waste product threatens the entire species including the young.

 

Public masturbation/oral sex:

In all 1st world countries public masturbation and oral sex is illegal.

Semen and vaginal fluid can carry known pathogens though the spread would likely be contained, casual and unprotected sex is recognized in furthering the spread of disease.

Masturbation and oral sex are not acceptable public acts in most cultures and public display of them is consider sexual deviancy and is punishable by law.

*If it is from a fully functioning healthy adult, the need for sexual gratification can be postponed until a suitably private area is located.

Public masturbation and oral sex do not protect or care for the young of the species.

 

Public sex:

In all 1st world countries public sex is illegal.

Semen and vaginal fluid can carry known pathogens though the spread would likely be contained, casual and unprotected sex is recognized in furthering the spread of disease.

Sex is not considered an acceptable public act in most cultures and public display of sex is consider sexual deviancy and is punishable by law.

The need for sexual gratification can be postponed until a suitably private area is located.

While sex is necessary for the procreation of the species, public sex acts are not essential for caring or protecting the young of the species.

 

Our cultural preferences are often born out of deeply held beliefs whether they be religious, anecdotal, circumstantial, a belief about health and bodies, scientific, and more.  A few examples come to mind: the belief that the world was flat, the story of the woman that cut the ends off the roast simply because her mother always did so it would fit in her pan, and the practice of blood letting to name a few.  As our understanding grows we change our practices.  There was a time when washing hands wasn’t standard practice in health care and today we know that basic hand washing reduces illness and the spread of disease.  Culturally we accept hand washing because science has shown that the practice can save lives.  I can’t help but hope that some day the science behind breastfeeding will open our culture to accepting, even welcoming it in public.  Since there are these comparisons made I decided to look at breastmilk, human urine, human feces, vaginal fluid, and semen from more of a health perspective.  I did as much research as I could before my pregnant pukey self had to stop reading simply to spare my stomach any more churning.  As much as possible I included links where I found information.  I wanted to look at a historical and anthropological perspective as well but you know, I had to draw the line somewhere and get to the other things I have to do.

 

 My conclusion is that these comparisons are little more than culturally accepted beliefs rooted in gross misunderstandings of biology and ignorance of normal, healthy human infant feeding.  That and a desire to control women by telling them what they can and can not do with their bodies and shaming them into believing there is something inappropriate with using their body to feed their child.  These issues have nothing to do with whether or not a woman is covered to breastfeed, a personal choice nobody has the right to insist for another person.  It’s time we as a culture trust women with their bodies and their children and leave our ignorant prejudices out of it.

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