In day-to-day life, there are lots of opportunities to be polite and do the right thing at little or no personal expense. You can hold the door open for the guy with his hands full. You can return that $20 bill to the fellow shopper who just dropped it at the mall. And as a matter of human decency, it's important to make sure a mom carrying a baby has a place to sit on public transportation — especially if she's breastfeeding. And when it didn't pan out that way for one mom in England, she had a spot-on response for the train passengers who made her stand while breastfeeding.
Bryony Esther was toting her 15-month-old daughter, Saffron, in her arms and accompanied by her 5-year when she boarded the commuter train recently. Despite the fact that she had two young children with her, Esther couldn't score a seat, she told BBC News. Another passenger even went as far as to tell her a vacant seat next to him was taken when she first entered the train and tried to claim it, she said. Soon, she was faced with about five men "watching and sniggering" as she lifted her shirt to breastfeed the baby.
Moms experience such inconsiderate and downright rude reactions when breastfeeding in public all the time. In this case, Esther's experience prompted her to go public.
In a Facebook post that has since been made private, Esther shared a photo of herself on the train featuring some of the men who did not give up their seats in the background. And she had a message for both them and the world about her experience:
Having to stand on a train whilst breastfeeding my baby thanks to the lovely bunch of charmers giving more priority to their suitcases and rolling joints!! It stinks. Plus the cyclist with a fancy bike that keeps rolling into me, sat in the disabled seat. Please share because I'd love it if their mothers, girlfriends, and wives get to see how they behave.
According to Refinery29, the post quickly went viral and had racked up about 32,000 shares by about 5 p.m. It's really no surprise that the post had such an impact on the internet, either. Esther told BBC News that the whole experience left her feeling "quite intimidated and uncomfortable." It's a feeling that many moms undoubtedly feel in similar situations.
Just last month, for example, an Illinois mom named Brei Theison also took to Facebook to express her dismay when management at a public pool told her to cover up while breastfeeding her daughter. The manager, she wrote, even suggested she do so in the bathroom. She characterized her situation as "very upsetting/very angering," and noted that it was her legal right to breastfeed however she wants, wherever she wants:
... Am I supposed to starve my child because someone is uncomfortable with themselves or because they are sexualizing breastfeeding [?] ... I'm so unbelievably speechless about the whole situation and not only is it illegal to tell a breastfeeding mother to cover up or go to the bathroom but to tell me why can't I feed her by a toilet! I'm speechless and people wonder why moms are so scared to bf in public.
Both of these women's experience underscore just how little respect so many people have for breastfeeding women. Because it's somehow still necessary in 2017, Esther and Theison spoke up, no doubt, to educate others about how not to treat breastfeeding moms. Anyone who's never had to breastfeed in public should truly consider their perspectives and apply that knowledge anytime a mom looks like she could use some help or support. It's just the right thing to do.