8 Ways To Help Normalize Breastfeeding

Ad failed to load

Believe it or not, in the year 2017 breastfeeding is still a polarizing issue. Just as formula-feeding moms have to continually defend their choice (and sometimes it's not an choice, people), moms who choose to breastfeed are faced with harsh criticism and judgment. The sexualization of the female body and the way it's portrayed in the media continues to make any breastfeeding attempt, especially one in public, difficult. And regardless of whether or not you breastfeed, bottle-feed, or even have a child, rest assured, there are ways to help normalize breastfeeding that will support tired moms and hungry babies the world over.

Moms everywhere have empowered themselves by sharing their nursing journeys unapologetically, be it a social media post or a well-written blog post, and in doing so have slowly but surely changed the culture to be a tad more accepting of women using a highly sexualized part of their body for it's intended purpose. So by breastfeeding and/or pumping in public, you're already helping to normalize something that's previously been viewed as "taboo." According to Slate, the sexualization of the female breast began during the World War II era, when Marilyn Monroe glossed the cover of Playboy. Suddenly people forgot one of the reasons why women have breasts: to produce breast milk if and/or when they choose to have children.

Not long after, Slate adds, companies like Gerber, Beech Nut, Heinz, and Clapp's were portrayed as "civilized," making breastfeeding "barbaric." It's all cloaked in double-standards and objectification, especially when you stop to consider that more skin is shown during a daytime television show than from a mom feeding her child.

Ad failed to load

Thankfully, public opinion surrounding the act of nursing is changing. According to one study, two-thirds of moms in the United States agree that breastfeeding is totally natural and, as a result, they refused to be shamed. But what about the rest of the country? If you're feeling outraged by the shame and judgment breastfeeding moms face on a regular basis, here are some ways you can help normalize breastfeeding:

Ad failed to load

Remind Yourself Why Women Breastfeed


There are a slew of reasons breastfeeding works for women and their families. March of Dimes lists just some of the ways breastfeeding promotes better baby development, while helping lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The site also highlights how mothers benefit from breastfeeding, too.

If you're a breastfeeding mother, you likely made the decision to use your body to feed your baby for a variety of personal reasons. And regardless of those reasons, normalizing breastfeeding begins and ends with you. So if you're feeling insecure or in doubt, remind yourself why you started nursing in the first place. Then ignore the damn haters.

Join & Promote Local Support Groups


Support groups, like a La Leche League group near you, are a great way to jump-start the conversations that could end up completely normalizing breastfeeding. Not only will you be around like-minded women with the same goals and desires as you, but they'll be going through the same trials and tribulations as well. In other words, you'll be supported and inspired in your journey.

And if you're not breastfeeding, you can donate to helplines — like the LLL Breastfeeding Helpline, a part of La Leche League International — to assist women in getting the nursing support they need and deserve.

Support Public Breastfeeding


If you're nursing, Today's Parent offers some great tips for breastfeeding in public spaces. And if you're uncomfortable nursing in public, or it's something you haven't quite mastered, a cover-up is a good option to ease your nerves.

As always, however, it's important to remember it's your decision to feed in public. No one should make you feel as though feeding your child with your body in front of strangers is an obligation, and no one should shame you or tell you to cover up if your breastfeeding in a public space. Breastfeeding is legal in almost all states , and nursing moms exempt to public indecency or nudity laws.

And if you're not a breastfeeding mom, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a guide of strategies to support breastfeeding mothers and their babies, including support for breastfeeding in the workplace and social marketing that will help normalize breastfeeding in public.

Ad failed to load

Cheer On Other Breastfeeding Moms


Another way to normalize the sight of a mother feeding her infant is to cheer on and support any mom you see in passing who's doing this very thing. Again, there's strength in numbers, and a collective voice can work to de-stigmatize breastfeeding far quicker than just one or two dissenting voices.

Intra Health International encourages breastfeeding on demand, so go ahead and give those moms breastfeeding in public a high-five. Chances are, they will welcome the support and encouragement.

Call Out Judgement & Shaming


There's always going to be someone who can't seem to look away when you're breastfeeding. They're also typically the ones who complain or tell you to go somewhere private.

You are under no obligation to put yourself in a potentially uncomfortable and/or unsafe situation in order to educate the small-minded. If you are feeling unsafe and/or attacked by someone who thinks breastfeeding is "gross," call for help and/or remove yourself from the situation. Your safety, and the safety of your child, is always the most important.

But if you do feel safe and supported, call the individual out. Let them know that in no way is judging and shaming women, including breastfeeding women, OK. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released some tips on how to "handle criticism" when breastfeeding in public, including talking to other moms who have experienced shame and asking how they responded.

Advocate For Products That Support Breastfeeding


Even when you're pregnant, you should make your plans for breastfeeding known to everyone who is supporting you, including your health care providers, your partner, your family members, and your friends. Surrounding yourself with people who understand your nursing goals will not only help you succeed, but will enlighten those individuals who may not have experienced a first-person look at breastfeeding any other way.

It's also vital that breastfeeding women become champions for the companies that support breastfeeding initiatives. If you couldn't do it without your pump, or you can't imagine breastfeeding without a particular nursing bra, tell those companies (and other breastfeeding women!) and advocate for them. Not only are you supporting businesses that support nursing women, but you're creating a real, honest dialogue about breastfeeding and how difficult it can be. No new mother should feel as though she has to do this nursing thing all by herself.

Ad failed to load

Teach Your Kids That Breastfeeding Is Natural


Believe it or not, breastfeeding is completely normal and natural. No, that doesn't mean it's easy, but it does mean that it shouldn't be frowned upon as this "gross" thing that needs to be hidden.

So it's important to teach your children that a woman's body isn't to be judged or shamed, especially when it's doing something it's designed to do. If you don't want your children to grow up shaming other moms who breastfeed in public, learn to be comfortable feeding in front of them and talking about how nursing nourishes the baby. Your positive message will combat the media's problematic one.

Be A Consistent Ally


The only concrete way to shut down breastfeeding shame is by doing it often, speaking as much as possible about it, and never folding to the societal pressure that tells you it's not OK. Because it is.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

6 Early Signs You're Going To Have A Short Labor, According To Experts

As far as I'm concerned, a short labor is right up there with winning the lottery in terms of lucky life events. (And when I was actually in labor, I would absolutely have traded a bucketful of lottery winnings for a speedier birth.) While some women…
By Kelly Mullen-McWilliams

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In March

You can always count on Netflix to keep it fresh: though there are already so many movies and shows to choose from, every month there's an influx of new content to keep your entire family entertained. As February enters its final weeks, it's time to …
By Megan Walsh

Here Are 10 Ways To Boost Your Baby's Immunity To The Flu

As I'm sure you've read in the thousands upon thousands of articles written about it this winter, the flu is spreading like wildfire and it's bad. Really bad. This strand of flu is the worst we've had in a very long time and it's the most widespread,…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Khloé Kardashian Asked Twitter About Her Bump, & Moms Totally Delivered

Like her younger sister Kylie Jenner, Khloé Kardashian managed to keep most of her pregnancy a sort-of secret. But unlike Jenner, Kardashian chose to publicly announce her pregnancy several months before the baby's due date. While there's no wrong wa…
By Sophie Hirsh

21 Moms Share The Most Surprising Part About Having A C-Section

Honestly, I don't think we, as a culture, talk about C-sections nearly enough, especially considering so many mothers experience them. And because of a number of factors, the little we do talk about it always seems to be a familiar narrative: "It's n…
By Jamie Kenney

13 Yummy Instant Pot Recipes To Make Under 30 Minutes

An Instant Pot seems to be the must-have appliance in every kitchen these days. If you are anything like me and never knew the beauty of a Instant Pot, you are about to have your life changed. Basically, you put some ingredients into a pot, set the t…
By Kristin Manna

9 Things The First Six Months Of Motherhood Will Teach You About Your Baby

Personally, the first six months of motherhood was a mixed bag. I learned some harsh lessons about myself that made taking care of my baby seem overwhelming. For example, I was clueless, and no amount of research could help me feel like anything but …
By Steph Montgomery

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack