Mothers breastfeeding in public deserve respect, not repulsion

By Joe Matthews, Staff Writer

“Would you mind doing that in the bathroom?”

I have heard of people making this request, but never actually witnessed it until last week. An apparently new mother was breastfeeding her child in the café I was in and another woman had the nerve to ask her that question. Whether repulsed by her ignorance or just completely embarrassed by the awkward situation, the mother left immediately. She, like many mothers, fell victim to this ridiculous suggestion that breastfeeding in public is taboo.

“Women were blessed with the ability to produce food for their children. It’s a miracle in itself that one’s body is able to make a necessity for survival on its own,” EWU sophomore Charlotte Peters said.

She is right, it is a miracle and it shouldn’t be hidden. With breastfeeding being one of the most natural things parents can do for their child, and with nearly 80 percent of mothers breastfeeding nationwide as of 2014 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Breastfeeding Report Card, it is time for some people to stop being immature and just not worry about it.

The reasons some people feel so obligated to pick on breastfeeding mothers vary from it being called indecent exposure and breastfeeding being sexualized to people not wanting to expose their children to human breasts to people who think it is immoral. But there is nothing indecent about it, and the immorality really comes from those wanting to punish mothers for something that comes naturally to them.

Think about it: By asking a breastfeeding mother to go into the bathroom people are essentially asking her to put her child’s life in danger. Infants’ immune systems aren’t fully developed, and by making them go to one of the most germ-ridden rooms to feed the chances of illness increase drastically. Not only that, but it is dehumanizing both the mother and her child by saying the child shouldn’t be allowed to feed in public.

“Having to feed my child in a public bathroom would be humiliating,” said EWU senior Cory Stone. “The focus should be on the well-being of my child, not on what makes others comfortable.”

Not only is asking the mother to leave the room incredibly offensive, but asking her to cover up can be as well. There are also difficulties new mothers might face. Getting a newborn to latch can be a stressful challenge, among other physical difficulties. But whether it’s not being able to balance a blanket over her shoulder and feed simultaneously, or just not being fully comfortable feeding her child yet, it’s inconsiderate of anyone to put that extra stress on her.

I’m sure some individuals may be thinking, “Why can’t she just use a breast pump?” But think about what you’re asking her to do.

First, she has to either skip one feeding session so she can pump or pump consistently enough to where she is producing enough to pump outside of feeding. Then she needs to be able to keep the milk cold while she is out. When she has to feed, she better hope there is a heating apparatus nearby to warm up the milk. And since she is using the pumped milk she might have to deal with leakage or discomfort from her full breasts due to her baby not feeding from them. Requiring women to go through this when they are able to carry the milk in their body makes no sense.

Now, for those who think it is indecent exposure to breastfeed in public: grow up. You can’t put a woman breastfeeding and a man flashing his genitals at someone on the same level. By putting those in the same category it is implied that breastfeeding is sexual when it in no way is. Maybe a little bit of nipple is visible, but men have nipples too. And if someone really is finding sexual gratification from a breastfeeding child, they should be the ones being shunned, not the mother.

I know some parents really are against their children being exposed to adult nudity and that is understandable. But considering the extent of ways in which a child could come across nudity, wouldn’t it be preferable that it happen in the most natural situation?

Breastfeeding in public needs to stop making people so uncomfortable. There is nothing offensive about it and there is no way it could be considered indecent. You can’t control when a child gets hungry and, having to already deal with the stress of a baby, you can’t ask all mothers to pump.

Breastfeeding is completely natural and instead of insulting women who choose to do it in public, we should be congratulating them on the new life they brought into the world and appreciating the fact that they are able to support it.

As a society we are all responsible to make sure new mothers feel comfortable sustaining their baby’s life and that means letting them feed, harassment-free, whenever and wherever they may be hungry.