There has been a long standing stigma surrounding the topic of breastfeeding in public. People, most often men, have found this to be too tantalizing, sexual and overall distracting for them to go about their daily lives. Breastfeeding is a natural occurrence. It is a mother feeding her baby breakfast, lunch or dinner. Most people wouldn’t respond well if they were approached when eating and told that the way they were eating was too sexual or distracting and that they should eat somewhere “more private.” This is just a fraction of the nonsense people put breastfeeding mothers through.
Leana Wen, author of the article “Commentary: Breastfeeding Gets Personal For Public Health Advocate,” informs her audience that “Employers must also allow for sufficient time for mothers to pump. A friend who’s a nurse told me that she can take two 30-minute breaks during her shift to pump, but her hospital’s lactation room was two buildings away—a 10-minute walk each way”. Walking ten minutes each way only allows this mother ten minutes to pump enough milk to feed her baby, which is an insufficient amount of time. This employer may think that he is being generous in giving this mother time to breastfeed, however what he actually has done was force this mother to give up on breastfeeding altogether. This is a choice that will negatively impact her child and herself.
Leana Wen writes, “During medical school, I learned that breastfeeding bolsters a baby’s immune system, reduces infant mortality and improves the mother’s long-term health.” So why is it that an option that renders babies significantly better off is looked upon with such disgust? Women’s bodies have been referred to as sexual objects for as long as anyone can remember. It is seen in cinema, literature and the news, with stories of women raped by men simply because their clothing implied that they, “were asking for it.” This oversexualized image society has made for women’s bodies has created a toxic environment for any woman who wishes to feed her baby in public.
Some women have great difficulty breastfeeding, resulting in them having to pump their milk for about forty-five minutes every three to four hours. Now, this seems hard enough as it is without having society’s disapproving stare and real life people telling you where and when it is acceptable to pump. On top of this super invasive and time consuming task, a lot of mothers that are breastfeeding eventually come to the point where they are going back to work full time. Leana Wen, while fortunate when it came to having her own office where she was able to breast pump in peace, eventually had to start traveling for conferences. She wrote in her article, “…I asked event organizers for a designated space to pump. If I got lucky, I’d be shown to someone’s office — usually another mom’s”. Wen goes on to say that when she is less lucky, she is asked to pump in the “privacy” of a bathroom stall. Take a minute to think about how unsanitary that is. What if your coworker or boss asked you to eat your lunch in the bathroom because it was distracting?
This stigma is ridiculous, especially when you consider the amount of hypocritical people that frown down on mothers breastfeeding in public, when they were once breastfed by their own mothers. Oversexualizing bodies complicates things. Why can’t we live in a world where a mother openly breastfeeding her child is seen as a beautiful and natural thing? We live in the twenty-first century! If men can run around shirtless, which by the way offers nothing to anyone, then why shouldn’t mothers be allowed to feed their babies when they are hungry? Get over it!