Women have been discriminated throughout the years for breastfeeding their child in public. One mother, Lauren from Michigan, was verbally discriminated for feeding her son in an empty cafeteria. She claims that she was completely covered, and nobody could tell what she was doing. Lauren talks about an older couple approaching her to tell her that what she was doing was wrong in many ways. She states that the couple made her very self-conscious and made her not want to feed her child. She later talks about choosing to be selfless for her baby’s sake and deciding to not care about what others think.
Breastfeeding in public is a controversial topic but should not be shamed. People who are making mothers feel embarrassed for feeding their babies, when the babies are hungry, are the ones who should feel ashamed. Women who breastfeed while in public have a background of being harshly judged but the evidence and reasoning behind the idea is logical. Mothers don’t want to be glared at and talked about, but they take the risk for their child. Breastfeeding is a part of life and shouldn’t be looked at differently if done in public or at home.
The history behind women breastfeeding in public hasn’t changed since the 1950’s. People have always been harsh to a woman who breastfeed in public. When women started to participate in the workforce and other outside activities, they didn’t have time to join the outside world and be a mother at inappropriate times (“Breastfeeding in Public: Overview”). This forced women to choose between nursing in public or being a part of life outside the home. Mothers who worked from home or mothers who didn’t even work at all were the ones who were able to feed their children in the comfort of their home. These were the higher-class mothers who could also afford formula. The lower-class mothers couldn’t spend the money on formula, so this also gave them no other choice other than breastfeeding.
The debate over whether it is appropriate to breastfeed a child while in public is still in rage today. Now that most mothers can afford to feed their baby formula, people don’t see the need in breastfeeding. People will come to find that the ones that have a problem with breastfeeding today are the people without children. In 2015 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a survey on how mothers felt about breastfeeding in public. 62.91% of mothers agreed that they should be encouraged to breastfeed no matter where they were and only 4.54% disagreed. The 4.54% who disagreed claimed that the only reason why they don’t breastfeed their children in public is because of all the hatred and discontent that they receive. People in this world today thrive from making people feel bad about themselves.
Since breastfeeding in public continues to be such a hot topic, laws were set in place to protect this right. As of 2018, all fifty states offer some sort of legal protection for nursing moms. In 2010 the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed by President Obama, made it legal to let women pump at work (Walano). This law states that employers must give their employees a reasonable break to pump for up to one year after giving birth. Not every state has the same law on breastfeeding, they are all unique. Nebraskan women can now breastfeed their children anywhere they’re authorized to be. They’re also excused from jury duty until they’re no longer nursing (Walano). These laws are in place to keep these mothers protected from hate, but that doesn’t seem to stop rude people.
Breastfeeding brings an incredible number of benefits to mother and child. Colostrum, the “premilk” that comes in after the delivery, is full of antibodies to protect a newborn baby (Namibia). Since newborns are so immune to sickness, breastfeeding is the best way to keep a baby healthy. If a mother dragged a bottle everywhere, more and more germs would attract to the bottle. A mother who breastfeeds in public doesn’t have to worry about unsanitary bottles to get her baby sick. What most people don’t know is that breastfeeding burns calories. If a mother were to feed her baby 20 ounces of milk a day, that’s 400 calories swept off the body (Namibia). Breastfeeding doesn’t only benefit a baby, it benefits a mother too.
When someone feels the urge to eat, they eat. Why should that be any different for a baby? A baby has the right to eat whenever he or she is hungry, in public or not. A mother knows when her baby is hungry usually if the baby is crying and won’t settle down. If the mother were to ignore the crying baby, people would get upset and annoyed. If the mother were to start breastfeeding the baby in public, people would feel the same exact way. Since it is human rights to let the child eat whenever he or she is hungry, people shouldn’t have a say in whether it is correct or not.
Breast milk doesn’t only give a baby nutrition it needs, it also has some behavioral gains. Children who are not breastfed are found to have not received the significant amounts of certain fatty acids, growth factors and hormones that are vital to the function and development of a child’s brain and central nervous system (Mansbacher 28). A child who has been breastfed by his mother will more than likely have a different amount of respect for her than a child that wasn’t breastf ed. Breastfeeding will give the mother and baby a special bond. Breastfed children show more maturity, self-confidence and interpersonal security when they are adults (Manbacher 28). If a mother must breastfeed her baby in public, she will without any hesitation. Everybody wants a child that will act well behaved, and breastfeeding can help that.
Mothers also choose to breastfeed because of the financial aspect of it all. Babies need to eat a lot to grow and some women cannot afford to feed their baby with formula. The average savings for a mother who breastfeeds can be $800 per year (Mansbacher 29). Also, children who are not breastfed get sick more than children who are breastfed. Mothers will then be paying for doctor visits, medical prescriptions and the baby’s formula and the formula water that needs to go with the formula. Infants who weren’t breastfed spent on average $68,000 on medical costs, and infants who were breastfed only spent on average $4,000 on medical expenses (Mansbacher 29). If a mother breastfeeds, she won’t have to go out and buy new bottles every month either. Breast m`ilk reduces diarrhea as well, so this saves money on buying diapers more than necessary. Babies who are not breastfed are ill more times that babies who are breastfed. If the mother works, she will have to be taking off work all the time for a sick baby. This will then decrease the amount of money that mom earned, and most mothers rely on their paycheck.
Breast milk is nature’s perfect baby food. Breastfeeding boosts a child’s immune system and the effects of vaccinations. Those who are not breastfed for at least four months show an increase in respiratory infections and are three-times more likely to be hospitalized due to those types of infections (Mansbacher 28). Many researchers have found that breastfed infants are less likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, often known as SIDS. Since breast milk has so many positive nutrients, child obesity is lowered for children who are breastfed. Babies find that breast milk is easier to break down than formula. Breast milk will cause the baby less stomach aches and less constipation. Breastfed babies are less likely to develop allergies, diabetes and lymphoma (“Breastfeeding Benefits Extend beyond Baby”). Breastfeeding gives a baby benefits that could save the child’s life.
Not very many people agree with the idea of breastfeeding while in public. Many women have been discriminated and judged for feeding their children in public. Most people don’t agree with this topic because of the way it makes others feel and some find it inappropriate. The most common opinion on breastfeeding in public is that it is wrong and should be done in private.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recognize breast milk as a bodily fluid or require it to be handled as a biohazard like blood, it acknowledges that serious infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B can be transmitted through breast milk (“Breastfeeding Should Be Private”). Women shouldn’t breastfeed at places like pools or other communal areas because of the high risk of diseases that could be spread. Not all mothers think about disasters that could happen if they breastfeed their child in a place that is not clean or sanitary.
Many people do not feel comfortable seeing breastfeeding happen in public. People who disagree with breastfeeding in public often think that a woman’s breast is a private part of her anatomy and that exposing it in public, even to feed a child, is morally wrong. Nobody wants to see a stranger in that sort of way, especially if the people are meeting for the first time. This makes people uncomfortable in many ways. Other people worry about their children seeing a grown woman’s breast if they see them breastfeeding out in the public. People have the right to their own opinion.
People ask women who breastfeed in public to cover up. If a woman were to cover her baby with a blanket while breastfeeding, most people probably wouldn’t even realize what she is doing. This way she is not discriminated, and everybody is happy. Another tactic that women could use to keep breastfeeding in public is using a secret is code word. If a woman is breastfeeding a child that is old enough to talk, she can teach he or she a word to use when they want to eat. Nobody would know what the child wants and this way nothing gets uncomfortable.
Women have been breastfeeding their children since the early 20th century. Even then, breastfeeding was frowned upon. That hasn’t stopped women from feeding their baby the right way. Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed a child, and more women should do it. Laws have been set in place to keep these mothers protected. More research has been done on all the benefits that come with breastfeeding to show people that it truly is not a negative matter. More women should choose to be selfless and breastfeed their babies.