Breastfeeding in Public
Breastfeeding is the normal and natural way to feed babies, and breastmilk is the perfect first food for babies. However, that doesn’t mean that breastfeeding is always easy, especially in modern society. One challenge that has arisen in modern society with breastfeeding today is breastfeeding in public.
Problems Women Face Breastfeeding in Public
Before formula came about, all babies were breastfed. Nobody would even think about batting an eye at a mum feeding her bub with her breasts. That was simply the way babies were fed. When formula was invented and became popular, breastfeeding rates declined. There was even a period of time when breastfeeding was considered to be only for the poor. Since the many benefits of breastfeeding began to be better understood, breastfeeding rates began to increase again. In recent years, research indicated that over 95% of mothers started out breastfeeding. Even so, there remains a stigma around breastfeeding for some people.
1. Sexualization of Breasts
In modern society, women’s breasts have been highly sexualized. There is no doubt that breasts can play a role in sex, but it is definitely not their intended purpose. The reason women have breasts is to feed babies, but they are so sexualized in today’s societies that many people see them as no different than genitals. For this reason, many people find it inappropriate for breasts to be visible in public even if it’s to feed your baby. Actually, our society has got it so backwards that some people are perfectly okay with women wearing extremely revealing sexy clothes that show most of their breasts, but they have a problem seeing a woman breastfeed even though most breastfeeding women show little to no skin when breastfeeding in public. Breasts are so sexualized by our society that some people can’t handle seeing them used in a non-sexual manner.
2. How Some People React to Breastfeeding in Public
Since breasts are seen as primarily sexual objects to many people, they may be extremely uncomfortable seeing them used for their intended purpose of feeding babies. Sometimes people are so affected by this mindset that they think it’s inappropriate to breastfeed babies in public areas and they may even get it in their head that it must be illegal. This is actually the opposite of the truth, however. These people may feel the need to say something to a breastfeeding mother which can obviously make the breastfeeding mother very uncomfortable and can lower her confidence. It’s important for breastfeeding mums to understand the ignorance of these views so that they aren’t deeply affected if someone confronts them.
Your Legal Breastfeeding Rights
It’s also important for a breastfeeding mum to understand her legal rights. It is a mum’s legal right to feed her baby whenever and wherever they are hungry. A hungry bub should never have to wait to eat. They aren’t like adults that may be able to handle being hungry for a while. Babies need their needs met as soon as possible no matter where they may be when the needs arise.
1. Federal Laws
The federal Sex Discrimination Act gives mums the right to feed their baby anywhere they may be when their baby gets hungry. Since only women breastfeed, it’s considered sexual discrimination to discriminate against a breastfeeding mum. Therefore, breastfeeding mums receive protection from the Sex Discrimination Act. This protection applies all throughout Australia.
2. State and Territory Laws
In addition to having protection under federal law, many States and Territories have their own laws protecting the rights of breastfeeding mothers. These laws vary by area but often protect a breastfeeding mother and child against discrimination when it comes to work, school, goods and services. Look into it with your State or Territory government agency to find out the details about breastfeeding laws in your area.
3. What You Can Do if You Are Unlawfully Discriminated Against?
Even if you know your rights, it can be overwhelming if you are wrongly confronted for feeding your baby in public. It’s important to remain calm and remember that you aren’t doing anything wrong by meeting your bub’s needs. If you are discriminated against, it’s up to you about what you should do. You may feel very confident and simply respond by stating your rights and that may be good enough. If you wish, you may want to file a complaint.Sometimes the discrimination you may experience could be protected against by both federal law as well as local law. If that is the case, you will need to choose only one to file your complaint with. Reach out to the Federal Commission and your local government agency to help aid your decision making in this case. If the person discriminating against you gets physical or makes you feel threatened, you should contact the police.
4. Positive Experiences of Breastfeeding in Public
When the time comes that you need to feed your baby out in public, you may be nervous that you will get dirty looks or that someone may confront you about it. Luckily, this isn’t as common as it may seem. In fact, most breastfeeding women never have a problem with it at all and have nothing but positive experiences with breastfeeding in public. Women feed their babies all over the place on a daily basis without any problems whatsoever. The reason that sometimes it seems like more of a problem is because if a woman feeds her baby and nothing happens, it’s obviously not going to make news or be talked about a ton. You may hear about a woman being asked to leave an establishment for breastfeeding, but you won’t hear about all the women that are not asked to leave places for feeding their bubs.
How to Breastfeed in Public?
Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to breastfeeding in public. Some women are completely at ease with feeding their bubs in front of others, while some prefer it to be as private as possible. There are different things you can do to make yourself more comfortable depending on your own feelings about breastfeeding in public. The important thing is that you base how you breastfeed in public off of your own personal preferences and not what others may think or say.
1. Nursing Covers
There are specialized devices designed to help you cover everything up while you feed your baby. There are many designs and styles of nursing covers to choose from. They do have some drawbacks as using them can make baby hot and uncomfortable. Many babies don’t like nursing covers, and they can be very difficult to use in the first place since you generally can’t see what you’re doing when using one. However, some women are more comfortable covering up altogether and are able to use them successfully. If you wish to use a nursing cover out in public, you may want to practice using it a few times at home to make it easier when you actually need it.
2. The Two-Shirt Method
Some women choose to use something called the two-shirt method when nursing in public. This allows you to discreetly nurse your baby while revealing little to no skin without having to use an actual nursing cover. To practice this method, a woman should wear two shirts. Often times, she will just wear a tank top underneath her normal shirt. To nurse your baby this way, pull up the first shirt, and pull down the second shirt. This way, the bottom shirt will cover everything below your breast, and the top shirt will be able to cover your breast down to your nipple. Your baby’s mouth, of course, will cover your nipple. Once you get good at doing this, you will be able to do it without revealing any skin while feeding your baby. If you want to be very discreet, you can make sure that both shirts are the same colour so it all blends in and is less noticeable.
3. No Cover
How you breastfeed in public is completely up to you and depends on your own personal comfort level. If you are confident about nursing in public, just go for it without any extra steps. You can simply feed your baby however you normally would if you were alone at home. It’s all about what you’re most comfortable with.
Breastfeeding is Natural
The most important thing to remember when it comes to breastfeeding in public is that it is completely natural. There is nothing weird or gross about it and you should never let anyone make you feel like there is. Breastfeeding is the biological norm, and it should be treated as such. Remember that most people have a very successful experience with no issues when breastfeeding in public. Chances are you’ll never have to worry about breastfeeding discrimination. However, it’s always important to know your rights just in case something does come up. Never be afraid to properly care for your little one, no matter where you may be or who is around.
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