I have seen quite a few pictures and/or articles floating around social media with the intention of normalising nursing (in or out of public places) and trying to encourage mothers not to feel ashamed when doing it.
(Warning: discussion of boobs, boobs in public and possibly controversial opinions. Yeah :P)
There’s always a pattern to the responses made to these sorts of things. It pretty much always goes like this:
[Picture of breastfeeding woman]
Person A: Urgh, I don’t want to see that!
Person B: Person A is stupid. It’s perfectly normal, natural and the best thing for baby.
Person C: Persons A and B are stupid. I support breastfeeding, but I do wish women wouldn’t take advantage. Cover yourself up!
B: Person C is stupid. I’m not covering myself up.
A: Go to the toilet to do it or use a bottle when out, it’s disgusting.
B: Would you like to eat in a toilet? Breastmilk >>> formula, some people can’t/don’t want to use express or use bottles, therefore must feed in public. Baby must eat now!
A/C: I don’t want to see it!
[Arguments about formula vs BM]
[Arguments about covering up and respecting the views of others]
[Arguments about how breastfeeding mothers make formula-feeding mothers feel bad for something that is their choice]
[Arguments about boobs being private and not for show]
[Obligatory mention of breastfeeding being natural but then so is pooping and having sex]
…repeat to fade…
Now, I say this as someone who has huge self-confidence issues. It took me til D was over 6 months old before I had the confidence to nurse him in public – before that, I’d sit in the car, or go to a feeding room if there was one. I’d panic at the thought of having to feed in public. I didn’t want a) to show anyone anything they didn’t want to see, or b) get into trouble (I know I wouldn’t have, but such is the mind of a serial worrier!).
Before having D I was pretty much person C above. I supported breastfeeding and was all for it, but I felt odd at the thought of seeing it when I was out and about. I wasn’t utterly disgusted by it, but I was uncomfortable. I should note here that I was never consciously aware of ever having actually seen anyone do it – it was just the thought that disturbed me. So when friends of mine started having babies and reporting on just how bad it is for nursing mothers to feed their children in public, I changed my mind and felt bad for being so narrow-minded :(
I think there needs to be a bit of respect from both sides. Breastfeeding NEEDS to be normalised, because until then we will continue to have arguments like the above, where people believe they have a right to tell nursing mothers to hide away when feeding. No, you do not have that right. But you do have the right not to see things you don’t want to, that is true; you could look away, or leave. On the other hand, I fully appreciate that there are people, like my former self, who don’t want to see things like that. Most nursing mothers – myself included – do everything they can to keep things discreet (because quite honestly, if nothing else, it’s a hassle to get everything back in if I unload it all!). When I feed D in public, it is almost impossible to tell what I’m doing. It took me a long time to realise that. I get the odd stare, but I think it’s more to do with the massive baby I’ve got squashed in my lap nowadays :P However, sometimes accidents happen. Best thing? Ignore it and move on. The mother in question will thank you for it.