Ending the Stigma Around Breastfeeding in Public

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Author Name: Mia Barnes
Date: Tuesday June 19, 2018

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Fewer things are more important to a newborn’s life than providing them with the nutrition and support necessary to help them grow into healthy toddlers. Knowing this, you’re likely to do whatever possible to nurture your children, including resorting to breastfeeding in public at times. Hey, the public breastfeeding laws say you can do it! Why not?

But imagine trying to provide your child with the necessary nutrients and vitamins to help them to develop only to be met with hostile or judgmental stares.

How dare you feed your child so that they might live! The horror!

For women who breastfeed, this is all too often the unfortunate reality of feeding their babies in public. Although most of the public is aware of the health benefits of breastfeeding, that doesn’t make engaging in this act any easier for mothers when the negative stigmas of nursing beacon them to simply use formula instead.

But what’s the logic behind shaming women for helping them provide their babies with natural, free and healthy nourishment? In fact, many public breastfeeding laws grant women the legal right to nurse their child whenever — and wherever— they’re hungry. So, the question remains: “What’s the problem?”

Although the stigma surrounding breastfeeding in public can be baffling, that doesn’t mean it should prevent mothers from confidently feeding their babies. As law-makers, mothers and the general public begin to work together to reshape how we once viewed breastfeeding, it becomes much more likely to one day feed babies with the same level of peace we can feed ourselves in public.

What Are the Public Breastfeeding Laws?

As the public continues to fight for women’s rights, lawmakers have responded by passing bills that protect nursing mothers in public in virtually every US state.

If you’re worried about breaking the law, you’ll be happy to know that breastfeeding is an act commonly supposed in most US-based regions. You may have heard terms such as indecent exposure or nudity thrown around by rivals of this natural act. However, breastfeeding protection laws, fortunately, override any of these decrees.

Today, all fifty states in the nation have public breastfeeding laws that grant women the right to breastfeed their babies in both public and private spaces without hassle. But just because the government now recognizes nursing as a legal action doesn’t mean you won’t still encounter individuals against public breastfeeding.

But the future looks promising for current and expectant mothers. If lawmakers changed their view towards breastfeeding in public, the general public should one day as well.

When Support Overpowers Stares

You may be asking yourself, “Won’t people stare at me if I breastfeed in a public space?”  For many mothers, the fear of negative looks can prevent them from feeding their baby whenever they let out that first hungry cry.

Fortunately, there are many resources available to women who are too anxious to handle the potential criticism they may face. The best way to support breastfeeding in public is to stand together and encourage mothers to nurse their baby whenever necessary.

Whether you’re reading this article as a prospective mother or someone who is merely interested in public breastfeeding laws, know that the most effective way to end the taboo surrounding breastfeeding in public is to normalize it. Free the tatas and feed the tiny humans!

If you passed someone eating an apple in the subway, would you give it a second thought? Unless they’re spitting the seeds in your face, probably not. Breastfeeding is simply how babies eat — and it should be thought of in precisely this way.

Ending the Sexualization of Breasts

When you scroll through Netflix or Hulu, you’re likely to encounter countless shows that have a busty woman on the preview screen, beaconing you to want to explore the series further. Sex sells, which is why marketers have — and continue — to use and objectify women’s anatomy to sell their products to consumers throughout the world.

Unfortunately, the sexualization of breasts has created significant difficulties for breastfeeding mothers wanting to feed their child in public without hassle. In a world where our supposed celebrity role models sing about sleeping with curvaceous women and advertisers seem to fixate on large bosoms, hips and bottoms, it’s easy to see how our culture contributes to the oversexualization of women’s breasts.

There’s not necessarily an easy solution to breastfeeding in an overly sexualized society. Changing things will likely take years and years of cultural uprooting. You can support movements like Free the Nipple. And mothers can choose to simply engage in breastfeeding as a simple and natural act, so that others may soon follow suit, too.

Supporting Women Who Choose Not to Breastfeed

It seems that as the years progress, so too does the amount of national support surrounding public nursing normalization. As more women adhere to the “breast is best” idealization and join rallies such as March for Moms to display their support for women’s rights, it’s become almost the norm to back motherly behaviors.

Public breastfeeding laws serve as a constant reminder that mothers have the right to use their breasts to feed their babies, too. Could we ever get to a point where this ideology grows so strong that it starts to stigmatize those who choose not to — or just can’t — breastfeed their children?

Probably not. But an astonishing 5% of new mothers experience complications with producing enough milk to breastfeed and many others undergo D-MER — a negatively emotional response to lactating — that increases feelings of depression and anxiety. Whether from physiological issues or simple discomfort, some women may choose not to breastfeed while remaining supportive of public nursing, too. And that’s totally fine!

Ending the Stigma Against Breastfeeding in Public

Remember that a child’s health and well-being should always be amongst our top interests, which means the opinions of strangers is secondary. Keep breastfeeding in mind as the beautiful and natural process it is. Find friends with similar mindsets — it may help make it easier to overlook any criticism you could meet.

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