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Another Editorial On Breastfeeding in Public

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Every now and then I run across a news report, article or blog that has someone spouting off about the horrors of breastfeeding in public. As if a nursing mom was the most disturbing thing they've ever seen...

Usually these people use phrases like "whip it out" or "for all the world to see" and then go on to compare nursing a child in public to things like peeing in public or some other gross bodily function. The general idea here seems to be that there are legions of nursing mothers floating around that get their jollies off of flinging their breasts out for all the world to see.

The latest of these morons (yes, I'll say it, I think they are morons) writes a letter to the editor of Style Weekly. In it, the writer complains about a recent experience with a woman who nursed her six month old in public and goes on to compare the act to public masturbation.

A few snippets from the letter...

As I read Scott Bass’ report about a fellow who was arrested [and charged with] masturbating in his car (not the best choice for lunchtime reading), a woman sitting directly across from me whipped out her right breast and began feeding her six-month old son. She ignored the surprise of the other patrons, and all the while held a running conversation with two other women.

It struck me as incredibly ironic that at the very time I was reading a story that depicted one natural act as lewd (“Loupassi Defends Accused Masturbator, Angers Residents,” Street Talk, Oct. 26), I was being given a graphic demonstration of another natural behavior that, when done in public, would also be described as lewd or at least distasteful by some. Most of us would simply choose not to look upon either situation with any great concern and proceed along our way.

Hopefully, they will all find ways to behave in public — including both respecting the privacy of others and showing personal restraint by refraining from overexposing themselves while out among their fellow citizens.

Is this guy serious? I mean really, is he actually serious in comparing public masturbation to nursing a child? If so, I've got to wonder what other connections his brain manages to make.

Disregarding the entire bit about the ridiculous comparison, because it doesn't even deserve a response, let's simply go back to the bit about overexposure. Ballance talks about how this nursing mother "ignored the surprise of the other patrons, and all the while held a running conversation with two other women."

It's highly unlikely that she "ignored the surprise" because it never even dawned on her that it would surprise anyone. By the time you've been nursing a child for six months, it's such a part of your day that you wouldn't think it was any stranger than running your fingers through your hair. On top of that, the nursing mother of a six month old knows what she's doing as does the child. That means that it's highly unlikely that anything was being "exposed" for more than a brief second or two.

New mothers that are still getting the hang of nursing often have trouble getting their baby to latch, so it wouldn't be unheard of to see a flash of nipple for a few seconds while she tried to position the baby. That said, I've yet to meet a new mother that wanted to try and get their baby to latch in public if they could at all avoid it. The mothers that breastfeed in public are the ones that are confident in nursing and that can allow their child to latch while carrying on conversations without missing a beat.

It's a sad world that we live in when jeans can be so low that they require a Brazilian to wear them and no one blinks an eye, but people get up in arms over the act of an infant eating their lunch.

Sounds to me like that mom needed to be sporting a "My baby doesn't like to eat in the bathroom...do you" shirt. ;)

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  1. Anonymous Anonymous | 6:29 PM |  

    Unfortunately the original letter was severely edited so that the point that people who expose themselves in public should be treated with counseling, rather than jailed as violient criminals was lost. The letter does not equate breast feeding to masturbation, but merely cites that some people are shocked by all sorts of public behavior. Instead of breast feeding, any other public act could have been substituted to make the point (nose picking, plumbers' butt cracks, you name it). The point of the letter was to encourage more compassion and more civility; not provide fodder for a Jerry Springer style rant contest. It is wrong to conclude that breast feeding was in any way being EQUATED to masturbation in the letter. The text of the letter merely cited those two behaviors, among many others, that tend to draw negative public reaction. Citing the behaviors as examples in no way links the two behaviors. These are just behaviors that independently draw strong reactions by the general public. Before flying off the handle, one would hope that the readers would take into account edits that typically occur and also take examples in the context that they were intended, rather than drawing false conclusions. By the way, breast feeding is in no way offensive to me and I support all such natural methods of raising healthy children.

  2. Blogger Jennifer | 6:36 PM |  

    If it's the case that that wasn't your intent, then I thank you for making that clear, but I'll still stand by the fact that your choice of comparisons was a poor one if you are not, in fact, upset by breastfeeding in public.

    I hope that as you ask us to consider your meaning, you'll also understand why a breastfeeding mom might be offended by being lumped together (intentionally or not) with people who masturbate in public.

  3. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:00 PM |  

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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