Why I breastfeed in public
Perhaps it makes most sense to start this essay with the myths about why I might breastfeed in public. These are all 'reasons' that have been put forward by people from my city over the past week:
1. I'm selfish. I don't quite understand this one. It brings me no particular pleasure to breastfeed in public. It's about my baby, not me. Her needs, not your preferences, nor mine.
2. I'm irresponsible. This one makes even less sense than the previous one. Surely it would be irresponsible not to feed my baby - if I'm feeding her breastmilk, or even formula, I'd say I've got at least one part of this parenting gig right.
3. I like to titillate (pun intended) and/or offend members of the public. I'd love if no-one was offended or seeing it as a sexual thing, because it's not. I take no pleasure in people's negative reactions. Look the other way if it offends you; if it arouses you, you have issues.
4. I want people to share in my moment of joyous bonding with my child. No, honestly, I don't want you to share anything. Just don't look!
5. I'm making a political point. Actually, I will be on Thursday when I attend a nurse-in outside the WA Premier's office, but I can honestly say that if you see me feeding my baby on a bus or in a shopping centre, I am not trying to make a point.
OK, so the real reasons ...
... there's only one. My baby's hungry: she has a right to eat, and this is how I feed her (a method which is the biological norm for our species). I really don't need any other reason.
1. I don't breastfeed with a blanket over my baby's head. For those who choose to, fine, but I think it draws more attention to what we're doing, and more to the point, it would annoy my baby incredibly.
2. I also don't show much, 90 per cent of the time, when I feed. Not because I'm particularly concerned about modesty, but because I don't see the need to. Babies do go through stages of being very curious and unlatching all the time to look behind them, or being fussy at the breast and going off and on. At these times, you might catch a glimpse of a nipple, if you're staring at me. You'd definitely see more with some of the 'fashions' people choose to wear in public. I've breastfed a toddler in Brunei and Dubai airports, and on Royal Brunei Airlines flights, with no problems, and those are places with far more conservative views than Perth, Australia, surely!
3. Babies are unpredictable in their feeding times. To try and force a baby into a feeding schedule so that one can plan outings around feeding times, can be dangerous for the baby and detrimental to the breastfeeding relationship.
4. Expressing milk and feeding it from a bottle when I'm right there is pretty pointless, and can also cause mastitis, supply drops and nipple confusion, again endangering the breastfeeding relationship. In addition, many mothers - myself included - find it extremely difficult to express any significant amount of milk.
5. I am not 'staying home until my baby weans'. Two years or more? HAH. That's just silly.
But really, as I said, none of these reasons matter. It's a human rights issue. My baby has the right to eat. Period. Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed said baby, and not breastfeeding has many risks or costs to baby, mother, and society in general.