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Controversial Views on Breastfeeding in Public and How to Deal with Them

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There is a debate going on over women being able to breastfeed their children in public. Some people believe that breastfeeding should be illegal. Others do not think women should “expose” themselves in public, even when covered up. Women are bashed every day for trying to care for their little ones. Imagine being out in a restaurant and eating, your baby begins to cry because it is hungry too. You begin to breastfeed him to meet his needs, but you are given looks of disgust as you feed your baby. You cover up yet the looks and whispers continue. You remove yourself and head to the bathroom to continue feeding without causing a disruption. The question is, why should women put aside the needs of their child in order to accommodate society? Women should be able to care for their baby at any place and time without being criticized by anyone.

Breastfeeding has always been a natural way for mothers to feed their babies. According to the CDC “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months” meaning that although mothers can formula feed babies, it is advised that women breast-feed for at least a couple months after birth for the wellbeing of their babies. Breastfeeding provides many nutrients that are beneficial to both mothers and their children. These benefits include lowering the risks of cancers (ovarian and breast) and multiple types of diabetes at different stages for women. It also allows the mothers to lose the weight of their pregnancy a lot faster than if they didn’t breastfeed. Another benefit would be that it lowers the risk of postpartum depression and in some cases even creates a closer bond between mother and baby. Benefits for babies is that the antibodies in breast milk help lower the risk of viruses and infections. Not only that but they allow for faster growth in the bones without any ingredients that may be harmful to the baby are less likely to have any problems with allergies and diabetes. The nutrients in the milk also lower the chance of your baby becoming obese.

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Another thing that must be taken into consideration is the babies. Babies have needs that need to be met because it is not something that they have control over at such a young age. They cannot control their stomachs or have the will power to be able to hold off eating until later. Instead, they begin to cry alerting the mother that they are hungry. Women should be able to breastfeed in public so that they can provide their babies with the proper care needed. Not providing them with adequate care can cause a much bigger disruption in public outings. Babies cannot go as long without eating as fully aged adults can. As Kid’s Health from Nemours states, “Newborns should not go more than about 4–5 hours without feeding”. If breastfeeding were to be denied to a child for long periods of time, repeatedly, the child would then become malnourished and sick which could lead to serious complications in the body. In some cases, if severe or extreme enough, malnutrition of a newborn could lead to death.

After a certain point in time has passed when you can stop breastfeeding, most mothers would normally switch to formulas. What happens to women with lower incomes? This leaves those women with no other option but to breastfeed. In the article from Points of Views Reference Center talking about breastfeeding New York University professor, Amy Bentley, explains that “by the post — World War II period, the formula — which can be very expensive — became a symbol of wealth, privilege, and modernity; by contrast, breastfeeding became a primitive act reserved for poorer women or those in developing countries”. Some women are given financial aid from the government that helps cover some of the expenses that help with formula, but some are less fortunate than others are and left to breastfeed and face the judgment of those against it. Under those circumstances’ women breastfeed out of necessity and not as a form of the public exhibition as some overly prudent people, choose to see.

In order to be able to understand the controversy about why breasts are considered a form of nudity, you must look back at a certain point in time where breasts really became “sexualized” by society. You must also look at some of the beliefs in some cultures. Cultures sometimes can affect the way that people look at certain things. In this case, it is essential to look at what they have to say about the breast, its milk, and whether it is morally correct for women’s breasts to be “exposed” for others to see. As Points of Views Reference Center and SIRS Issues Researcher both state on the topic that “public perception of female breasts transformed from food source to sexual object through the proliferation of war-era’ or that ‘In the 1950s the breast became an erotic symbol in Hollywood”. Whether it be through magazines or sexually portrayed by movies and actors, breasts were no longer looked at as what they were naturally intended for. The US National Library of Medicine: International Breastfeeding Journal talks about how some cultures struggle to decide if breast milk should be considered pure or contaminated. It also states “In these settings, the female breast may be considered primarily a sexual organ, and therefore a private part of the body, which needs to be invisible in the public arena”.

Due to things such as these, some people feel that the breasts should be considered nudity because of what they represent. Although people disagree, there are laws that protect mothers who breastfeed. The National Conference of State Legislatures consists of all the laws of all 50 states. Though all the laws vary per state, the NCSL reveals that “All fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location”. These laws make it so that women’s rights are protected. Women shouldn’t be shamed for breastfeeding but instead, encouraged to do so.

Some people argue that breastfeeding is okay to do, but that they should be covered up when doing so. This is a reasonable demand but sometimes doing so could harm the baby. When putting a blanket over a baby’s head, it can make it harder for them to breathe. In the first six months, babies’ lungs are still developing and when covered up their bodies do not take in as much oxygen as they should, their bodies begin to heat up and it causes them plenty of discomforts. Take yourself as an example, if you put yourself under a blanket from a long period of time you begin to heat up and you can start to feel yourself not getting enough oxygen. If your body is more developed and it causes you that much discomfort imagines how much discomfort a baby must feel when feeding.

There are some who think that breastfeeding in public should be banned completely. Should this be allowed to happen? No, there is plenty of evidence stated that show’s why there is no problem with breastfeeding. If anything, breastfeeding in public should be normalized to avoid the feeling of discomfort. Those who feel uneasy should simply ask for women to be covered up in a polite manner. For those who have a problem with it, even when a women’s breast are covered up, should remove themselves, instead of bashing or judging women for simply trying to nurture and care for their baby.

Women have the right to breastfeed in public because they are not doing it for themselves, but for someone who can’t take care of themselves. Taking away the rights for a woman to breastfeed in public would be like taking the right for a baby to eat out like any other person, or telling them to eat in the bathroom, and sometimes even to not eat at all. Women should not be shamed for simply trying to nurture and care for a child instead of being a neglecting mother. This problem could simply be solved if society began promoting breastfeeding as a natural source of food for newborns instead of promoting it as a sexualized object and made essentials sources of foods more affordable to those with lower income.


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