"The Sunday Star-Times asked its readers panel about perceptions of breastfeeding in public. Again and again the respondents said they had no issue with either doing it, or it being done, but with one proviso - 'as long as it's discreet.'
'The woman should breastfeed with modesty', said one respondent. . . .
But then there's the issue of how best to do it in public. The days of open disapproval may be declining but most breastfeeding mums say they still feel the pressure for discretion to avoid the tut-tutting of strangers."
"Breastfeeding 'doesn't add up'": Susan Pepperell Auckland Sunday Star-Times. April 3 2011.
"If we can get past the pain, the discomfort, the alarmed looks from other cafe-goers who, with every repulsed flinch seem to imply that you're transgressing some unwritten health and safety code, it does, most of the time, get better."
"The Agony and the Ecstasy": Megan Nicol Reed. Auckland Sunday Star-Times. April 3 2011.
This is PART 2 of the series on BREASTFEEDING.
The call for discretion to mothers who breastfeed in public is today being sounded in most western cultures. As a breastfeeding mum of the 1980's and '90's, I rarely heard this call as a nursing mum.
"Discretion" = "liberty of suiting one's action to circumstances."
"Discreet" = "skillful in adapting one's measures to the occasion, intentionally unobtrusive."
My Oxford dictionary then referred me to
"Discern" = "recognize with sense or mind the difference or distinction between things.
The message seems to to read, if you want to breastfeed your baby in a public place, remember you are in a public place. The baring of private body parts in that public place would be inappropriate, so when breastfeeding, cover up with a scarf or shawl, a baby wrap, or use a sling or pouch. There are plenty of products on the market to choose from. Or wear a top which is not fitted so your breast and the baby's connection to the breast, is covered. Again there is fashion clothing tops for breastfeeding mums.
It is not hard to discretely breastfeed. With just under ten years of breastfeeding history, both private and public, I happily fed our babies - often in the company of others who for most part were totally unaware.
You need to PLAN - (take the shawl with you, wear the loose top, think out where you are going and where you could feed once there. If the place is new to you, pick out a private place on arrival - a corner, near a wall, and sit yourself with your back to the crowd. If all fails, return to your car to feed, then return to the party afterwards.)
You need to PRACTICE - (practice at home in front of the mirror so you can see what others would see. Test how much different covers actually 'cover', and which position is the most modest. Pick up the baby and get them feeding in a relaxed style before their bellow causes you to become the in-cafe 'entertainment'.)
You need to RELAX - (My husband, of dairy farming background, always said the relaxed cows on the farm were the best mothers. So RELAX and enjoy yourself.)
The dictionary definition brings another point to the conversation, which I like. The word "liberty" first caught my eye and then the more I read the definitions I felt there was a general tone of respect for the one doing the discerning, the one practicing discretion. The idea of "suiting one's action to circumstance", is to maintain that respect for the mother who is breastfeeding.
My last post "Public Perceptions of How Competent a Mother is Who Breastfeeds" WEEK 34 QUOTE 34, commented on Montana State University's studies into how the public viewed breastfeeding mums in areas of their mental competence, mathematical skills and if they should offer them employment. The findings were that the public viewed breastfeeding mums as incompetent, poor in mathematical skills and therefore didn't want to employ them. The researchers at Montana University saw this as a bias against breastfeeding mothers and suggested the public's poor attitudes had been affected by the increase of "sexualized breasts" on display publicly.
Megan Nicol Reed in her article "The Agony and the Ecstasy" said, "As breasts have been implanted, lifted, exposed, they have become sexual entities unto themselves. For the next generation of mothers, fed a diet of promo girls and Girls of the Playboy Mansions, it must be confusing, inappropriate even, to look down and find a baby on the end of your nipple. Shouldn't there be a tassel?...." This 'enlightenment' gives understanding to the mindset of participants in the Montana University study.
This widespread mentality toward a woman's breast has had detrimental affect on the public's attitude to breastfeeding mothers. The word used in last week's post "objectification", sums it up.
This huge shift of mindset found both in men and women, has removed the respectful admiration, which not too long ago was the public's view of breastfeeding mums, and left us with the "repulsed", "tut-tutting" which today just pressures and confuses a Learner mum.
It is often said that mothers today are overly barraged with instructions on what to do, how to do it... A third of Megan Nicol Reed's article is full of the like. Near the end of her article she says, "And now we're all grown up, with the benefit of several decades of women's rights giving wind to our wings, we're really cross that anyone can presume to tell us what to do." What a sad thought, and then her article's conclusion, "The feminist in me thinks, well, it's a woman's right to choose. The mother in me thinks, suck it up and get on with it. Motherhood involves sacrifice." This may sound partially true but the underlying philosophy is faulty and results in a motherhood which is not beneficial to the mother herself, and is a poor example of motherhood to her children and observing friends around her. Possibly here is another reason for the negative attitudes to breastfeeding mothers by the participants in the Montana study and in our community.
The offer of huge amounts of information to breastfeeding mothers, I think is wonderful. Could it be the problem of annoyance "...that anyone can presume to tell us what to do..." , comes with the increase of older mothers or grandmothers and women stepping too much into the lives of young Learner mums - doing all for them, arranging everything, paying for everything, overly instructing even dictating - instead of answering a question when asked, simply giving the advice to be picked up as the new, thinking mother wishes. This second method shows respect for the new mother to, yes "choose" how she will proceed. (You may like to refer to my post on "Controlling Mothers" WEEK 15 QUOTE 15, or another post full of ideas to help be a confident mum WEEK 11 QUOTE 11).
"The Montana State University study concluded breastfeeding was viewed negatively and the only way to fight this was to encourage more women to do it openly." from Susan Pepperell"s : "Breastfeeding 'doesn't add up'".
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ if you are a breastfeeding mum -
BE PREPARED - by reading and understanding the wealth of information on breastfeeding. Plan how to tackle the feeding time in public.
BE WISE - and cover yourself showing respect for others. With no skin showing most people will think you are holding a sleeping baby. Choose maternity bras that are quick and easy to open and close one handed.
BE CONFIDENT - and ask questions of those you admire and trust in the field. There is nothing shameful in breastfeeding your baby regardless if other people think differently.
BE POSITIVE - with a correct attitude of respect for yourself as you feed your baby using the best method ever devised for your baby's health and development, for your own future health, while practicing the start of a great relationship with your child.
As Karen Hunt : "How to Discreetly Breastfeed Your Baby in Public" says, "nurse proud and nurse long."