Even when breastfeeding is not tough, it is difficult in the United States. That’s why I have a great deal of respect and gratitude for my lactivist friends.
Today, I had the opportunity to chat with two other nursing mothers. One was also on her second child and the other was on her third. I was saddened to hear both say that they planned on stopping much earlier with their current baby than they did with their previous child.
Both said that it was not due to mastitis or supply problems. Both mothers believed the choice they were making to breastfeed was the right one for their families.
However both felt that breastfeeding in public makes other people uncomfortable. For this reason, they felt they had to breastfeed before leaving the house and had to be back home within two hours. They were, understandably, tired of “planning their lives around breastfeeding”.
With the first baby, they were willing to put up with this personal inconvenience so they could both fulfill the needs of the baby while not offending others around them. However, now that they each had older children, it was increasingly difficult to schedule their day around a baby’s feedings and still meet the needs of their other children.
How sad. A mother who wants to breastfeed her child and is successful in doing so will stop before she or the baby is ready to stop because other people give dirty looks or say nasty things. Because as women we have been socialized to feel the greater fault is to make another uncomfortable, especially if that other is an older male, even one we do not know.
When I engage with people online about this issue, I often hear from opponents of breastfeeding in public that they are not opposed to breastfeeding–they just want mothers to go somewhere else to do it, to respect the feelings of others. This sounds rational (perhaps to others, not to me) until you realize they are asking mothers to place a stranger’s discomfort over a normal, everyday, social activity (to feed your baby when and where he is hungry) over a baby’s right to eat. And it may sound reasonable (again, to others) until you realize the chilling effect it has on breastfeeding rates.
I am all for a society where we are respectful of others. I’ll turn down my music, teach my kids to say “excuse me” if they burp, and hold doors open for people carrying packages–but don’t ask a mother to go somewhere else to feed a hungry child.