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Breastfeeding Wars

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If breast vs. bottle is the Gettysburg of the mommy wars, then the fight between the out-loud-and-proud breastfeeders vs. the hide-in-the-corner types must be our own personal Bull Run.

woman breastfeeding

Jeanne Sager: If you think all breastfeeding is created equal, Mom, you are woefully misinformed. You have not yet met the mom who will make you feel like you're failing your child simply because you found a quiet room in which to offer your baby his lunch.

Let's call her what she is: a breastfeeding advocate who has gone off the deep end. She isn't just fighting for the right to breastfeed in public, she wants to demand that EVERY woman do it.

And that's where she goes too far.

The right to breastfeed in public is finally gaining traction here in the States. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 43 states plus the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands all have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. Twenty-eight states (plus D.C. and the Virgin Islands) also protect breastfeeding mothers from becoming the target of public-indecency claims.

That's as it should be, because breastfeeding is about giving children sustenance. It's not sexy. It's not lewd. It's the circle of life. It should be both protected and supported.

But while these laws allow women to breastfeed in public, nothing in their language says women "must" do so. The laws are there to give them the right, not to ram it down their throats. So why judge women who don't breastfeed in public?

Take the so-called "support" one mom got when she reached out for advice about breastfeeding on-the-go. "It's time to get over your breast issues and just feed discreetly in public," was one response on the bulletin board.

So much for acknowledging that every body is not created equal. We all have body issues -- and they're not always about sexuality or breasts.

The marks stretching across my stomach were an angry red, the skin already starting to sag from the sudden weight-loss that had occurred when I pushed my daughter into the world. I'd never worn a bikini pre-childbirth, and it was apparent that I'd be locking this tummy away for eternity now.

The thought of lifting my shirt in public was terrifying -- especially after years of struggling with eating disorders. And yet I was being told that I should do it anywhere at anytime. (If not, I apparently wasn't a "real" breastfeeder.)

In one blog, a mom blamed "those who are ashamed" for being "part of the problem of there being shame associated with something normal."

Perhaps. The more women who breastfeed in public, the less hassle those down the line will get as the behavior becomes the norm rather than the exception. 

But that's not reason enough to make private breastfeeding unacceptable. Pushing women to make an example of themselves for a cause? Who will that serve in the end? Not the "modest" mother -- who might very well give up breastfeeding entirely, purely because she's uncomfortable with the idea of having people see. And if that happens, the baby certainly won't benefit, either. 

A recent study found that 50 percent of Australian women were embarrassed to breastfeed in public. In America, the statistics show that more than half of us have introduced at least some formula by the time our babies are 6 months old. 

In other words, all this badgering isn't working. The way to encourage a mother to push past the six-month breastfeeding mark recommended so highly by groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics is to just let us be.

Of course, the North and the South met at Bull Run not once, but twice. I'm not expecting this war to be won in one battle, either.

next: Why I Hate Black History Month
26 comments so far | Post a comment now
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