It’s now 3 months since Elissa came into the world, and while breastfeeding has worked out for us, public breastfeeding brings a separate challenge.
To breastfeed my child has certainly taken a lot of hard work and dedication to the cause. But, it’s also been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Something I’ve learnt is that when you breastfeed, you need to be prepared for others to voice their opinions on what you’re doing.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons breastfeeding rates are so low, I’m not sure.
“Only 35 per cent of UK babies are being exclusively breastfed at one week, 21 per cent at six weeks, 7 per cent at four months, and 3 per cent at five months.”
But, why are breastfeeding rates so low, despite well-documented evidence of the benefits?
Attitudes towards public breastfeeding
I totally agree with what Lila said. She thinks the reason for these low figures is the societal attitudes towards public breastfeeding.
To me, the ability to feed my baby is a God given gift — this is exactly how God created us as women — and therefore breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world.
However, many people do not view it this way. And, in todays society, the women’s body has become more of a sex symbol, than anything else.
As a result, it seems many women are weaning their babies from the breast much earlier than they would like; the social pressures around public breastfeeding are simply too much.
What they say about public breastfeeding in Australia
According to an Australian survey, one in four Australians think breastfeeding in public is unacceptable (I’m sure these results represent similar views in the UK too).
Apparently, people think the most unwelcome places for public breastfeeding are in a church, at work, in cafes or restaurants, and in a shopping centre.
I have to say I’ve breastfed in all of the above places, without any negativity (that I noticed, at least).
Personally, I believe breastfeeding should be a normal part of everyday life. So, why is it okay to make women feel they are doing something wrong by breastfeeding their child in public?
In the early days, I was concerned about leaving home with Elissa in case she became hungry — I wondered if I could feed her in public places, without feeling completely embarrassed.
I’ve since learned to care little about those around me. My baby comes first!
In the UK, the law states:
1) There is not, and never has been, any law that prohibits a woman from breastfeeding a child of any age in public, for example in a cafe.
2) The 1975 Sexual Discrimination Act created legal protection for a woman under the provision of goods, facilities and services section. This protection covered a woman breastfeeding a child, of any age, by implication, and meant that she could not be discriminated against for breastfeeding in places such as restaurants, cafes, surgeries, libraries etc.
Here is a summary of breastfeeding laws in America.
Regardless of what the law states however, we do sometimes find ourselves a little anxious about feeding in public places.
Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful to overcome the public breastfeeding challenge:
- Realize the benefits of breastfeeding, and be happy that you are doing something good for your little one.
- Master the art of breastfeeding in public — dress appropriately with loser clothing, and work out how to adjust your clothing quickly and discretely. I find wearing two tops really helpful to keep myself covered up.
- Use a light shawl or blanket over your shoulder, if necessary.
- Act naturally and don’t wait until your baby becomes extremely hungry, as this will draw attention to the process.
- Ignore any negative looks or comments — if people don’t like what you’re doing, they should look away!
Update: since writing this article in 2010 I have had another baby, and now use the Breastfeeding Butterfly when feeding in public.
I have found Lois likes to move around a lot during feeding, which makes public breastfeeding a challenge. This coverup allows me to feed when away from home with complete confidence, because I know it will stay put.
What are your thoughts on public breastfeeding?
Perhaps negative comments have prevented you from leaving home? Or, have you stopped breastfeeding early due to unhelpful attitudes?
Alternatively, you may have had a wonderfully positive experience, we’d love to hear your success stories too…
Along the same lines: