The internet is buzzing with videos of people reacting to women nursing their babies in public. Or pretending to nurse a doll, as is the case with the Joey Salads video that has gone viral. Many new moms might be concerned by these videos, thinking that if they nurse in public, they might face the same kind of scorn as is displayed in them.
This concern is far from new. In 2006 the August issue of Baby Talk magazine ran a cover that featured a baby latched up onto the breast, and looking up at his mother. Before the end of July (and remember, this was the AUGUST issue), the magazine had received 700 letters to the editor about the cover, and ultimately the magazine would report getting 5000 letters to the editor about the cover. I thought those baby eyes gazing up at his mother were just adorable, but apparently some people are more concerned about the exposed breast.
Never mind that many of the people who were so concerned are likely the same ones who stay up to watch the Victoria’s Secret special on TV.
CBS Channel 3 News out of Philadelphia covered the story at the time. Of course they talked to some newly minted moms (still in the hospital) to get their take on things–one supportive of the cover, the other not so supportive. The “not so supportive” mom claimed that she had tried to breastfeed, but it was just too hard. That is really sad that she didn’t have the support she needed to even make it a couple of days!
She then went on to pontificate on how she feels that breastfeeding shouldn’t really be pushed on moms so much because society really doesn’t accept nursing in public:
“There’s alot of pressure to breast feed,” said Agnes. “In today’s society, you can’t do it anyway. People look at you like you’re disgusting,” she continued.
I’ve breastfed 6 kids in public, and never once got asked to move. I would guess that half of the time no one even noted what I was doing. At least 5% of the time I actually got positive comments or encouraging looks. I know there are some moms that do get asked to move…but come on…here is a mom with her first baby not even out of the hospital yet, and she thinks she knows that society at large is going to make her feel uncomfortable if she were to breastfeed in public?
This is a problem, and one I think that in a way, “lactivists” have created. And continued to nurture for well over a decade. What is the problem they have created? A problem where new mothers are scared to breastfeed in public because they are scared of facing humiliation. I think that making a huge issue out of every situation where a store clerk who likely doesn’t even have children asks a nursing mom to move really isn’t helping paint a portrait of nursing as a natural part of public life.
I think that moms who have nursed in public and not had it be an issue need to speak up more to let the next generation know that it really isn’t that big of a deal. Recently in a Facebook group of mostly Lehigh Valley area moms, someone asked the question of whether moms have had problems nursing in public. Of over 50 women responding, only 6 reported having ever had any kind of a negative response to them nursing in public, and those negative responses were very mild. This certainly makes one wonder how Joey Salads was able to spontaneously get multiple people to make negative remarks about a woman nursing in public.