Regardless what side of the baby feeding debate you’re on, one thing is for sure: No parent should ever get shamed for how they choose to feed their child. Formula-feeding moms catch flack for not “trying harder” or for "giving up too soon" when they already possibly feel guilty for being unable to breastfeed. And breastfeeding mamas have it just as rough, dealing with judgmental people who wish for them to hide away when they opt to feed their babies, who shame them for their bodies and their choices.
So when self-professed lactivist Ashley Kaidel noticed herself getting the stink eye from a woman at a restaurant while she was breastfeeding her child, she didn’t take it sitting down. Instead, she returned the favor, in a stare-down I only wish I could have seen in person. Kaidel then had someone take a photo of her, seemingly staring off while her baby nursed.
In reality, I'm staring into the eyes of a woman staring at me. She is looking at me with disgust and shaking her head with judgement in an attempt to shame me and indirectly tell me without words that I am wrong and need to cover myself.
Kaidel goes on to discuss the reasons she refuses to cover up while breastfeeding, and the importance of breastfeeding visibility. These are her main points:
Breasts Are Made To Feed Babies
Breasts were made to sustain your baby's life before they were made to bring pleasure to any other man, woman, partner or spouse.
Kaidel raises the point that nursing, to an infant, is the same as using cutlery is to an adult. This is how babies eat, after all, so why the stigma? Why the fear of breasts? In a society where we are constantly bombarded by sexual images of breasts — women in bras, women in bikinis, women with lots of cleavage — why is it worse to see breasts performing the one function they’re made to do? I don't know that I fully agree that milk production is the breast's sole function, but I do know it is probably their main function.
It’s Unfair To Ask Breastfeeding Moms To Cover Up Or Leave
It is exponentially unfair and selfish to ask a mother and baby to exclude themselves from a table or event or gathering because you're for some reason uncomfortable with how she feeds her child. No person should be isolated and shunned because they're eating.
Here's the thing: Breastfeeding moms have just as much right to feed their child any place and anytime as anyone else. Sadly, though, cases in which mothers are asked to cover up or leave an area while breastfeeding are unbelievably common. Just Google, “nursing mom asked to leave” and you’ll find plenty of examples, like this pair of nursing mamas who were asked to leave an Ontario restaurant, or the time a USPS employee asked a woman to leave the post office while she nursed her three-week-old baby. Kaidel claims she is breastfeeding publicly not just for her and her child’s sake, but for all the other moms who have been shamed at one time or another.
Kids Need To Understand That Breasts Are Meant To Feed Babies
Opponents of public breastfeeding often remark that there are children present in a room, and that breastfeeding is therefore not appropriate. But why? Breastfeeding is the first way most humans are fed. There is nothing sexual about it, and those who choose to sexualize it are responsible for their own thoughts. Allowing children to observe this very natural, very normal act might actually help them not to see breasts (and women) as sexual objects. It may also encourage them to breastfeed later in life (should they be able to).
Know Your Rights
Breast feeding mothers are protected under federal law to breast feed any way, any how and any where they're allowed to be in all circumstances otherwise.
Kaidel is right. Forty-nine of the 50 states allow for breastfeeding in public or private locations, and 29 states exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws (including Florida, where Kaidel is located). Both breastfeeding parents and those who oppose public breastfeeding must acknowledge the law.
Side Note: Formula Feeding Is Not A Trend
The only time Kaidel lost me was when she talked about how breastmilk and breastfeeding being “should forever be the first and best choice for both mom and baby.” While I certainly understand that breast milk is technically better for babies, not all mothers can breastfeed (even if they really want to). So to say this is actually kind of shaming formula feeding moms.
Additionally, Kaidel says that, “Formula and bottles are a trend. Breastfeeding is not.” Formula and bottles are not a trend. I don’t think any mother out there decided to formula feed because she wanted to be ~on trend~. Rather, formula and bottles are a perfectly good alternative to breastfeeding when you are otherwise unable to breastfeed for whatever reason. I hope that Kaidel recognizes the error in this part of her otherwise wonderful argument.
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Earlier today I posted this picture of my son and I breastfeeding uncovered in a public restaurant. In the picture, it appears I'm staring off into the distance. In reality, I'm staring into the eyes of a woman staring at me. She is looking at me with disgust and shaking her head with judgement in an attempt to shame me and indirectly tell me without words that I am wrong and need to cover myself.
Let me make my reasoning clear on why I post pictures of my son and I publicly breastfeeding uncovered. I don't mean to say "Everyone should breast feed without a cover. Show the world your boobs!" If a mother is more comfortable covering herself because SHE feels better doing so, then I totally support that.With that being said, the reason I post these types pictures is for the mother that tried breastfeeding uncovered once and she got shamed, she got stared and pointed at, she got nasty comments, she got asked to leave the room, she got asked to cover up.
Number one, breast feeding mothers are protected under federal law to breast feed any way, any how and any where they're allowed to be in all circumstances otherwise. Number two, you should not ever feel shamed, belittled, embarrassed or wrong for feeding your baby the way nature intended. I do this for the person that has the mentality "Boobs are to be covered. They're for your husbands eyes only. They're intimate. It's a personal/private thing to feed your baby. Cover up out of respect. My kids don't need to see that. Walk out of the room." and any other derogatory, close minded comments and sentiments alike.
Again, breasts were made to sustain your baby's life before they were made to bring pleasure to any other man, woman, partner or spouse. Their sole purpose is to make food and dispense it straight into a baby's mouth. There is nothing weird about this and there's no difference in me feeding my baby with my breast than you feeding yourself with a spoon.
Secondly, it is exponentially unfair and selfish to ask a mother and baby to exclude themselves from a table or event or gathering because you're for some reason uncomfortable with how she feeds her child. No person should be isolated and shunned because they're eating, especially when you yourself are eating while ridiculing how someone else is eating. Is it not certainly easier to avert your eyes from a displeasing sight rather than suggest or demand a mother and child remove themselves from your presence? How pompous and selfish is this? Just look away. It's simple to do so. No harm done at all.
Lastly, your children need to see breastfeeding for the same reason you do. They need to acknowledge, comprehend and appreciate that breast milk and breast feeding is and should forever be the first and best choice for both mom and baby. Formula and bottles are a trend. Breastfeeding is not. Your 11 year old daughter watching me nurse may say "Mom, why is that baby sucking her boobie?" But as a parent and human being that understands, respects and appreciates anatomy and mothers, your reply should only and always be "because that's the way babies eat." Hopefully it encourages your daughter to grow up with the goal to breast feed and experience the incredible bond and invaluable benefits it comes with.
So again, I don't post this for attention. I don't post this because I think everyone should nurse uncovered. I post this to give mamas encouragement. And to encourage others to make breastfeeding mothers feel accepted and supported; not alienated, ridiculed and judged. Signed, a badass breastfeeding (uncovered) mama.