Philosophy with Attitude

August 9, 2002: Letter to Tom Moroney, a commentator for MetroWest Daily News. Basically, he trotted out the old argument that breastfeeding in public was pretty much the same as masturbating, excreting, or having sex in public, and women who breastfeed should do it in the bathroom or give bottles while they're out. Yucktard. (I wanted to link to the column, but it's in a payment-required archive.)

Dear sir,

Let me get this straight.  Were we in a restaurant together, you would rather listen to my baby scream in hunger and sadness at not being able to eat, than allow me to breastfeed him there?  Keeping in mind that even if you were to stare at us (which would be incredibly rude anyway) while he nurses, you would likely not be able to tell what he was doing, since his face covers all of my breast that needs to be exposed?  Or would you prefer that I bring him to the bathroom, which may be of questionable cleanliness, so that I can sit on a dirty toilet while my son eats his meal, meanwhile missing my meal and the company of those with whom I came to dine? 

Well, clearly my convenience and comfort are not at issue here.  What is of utmost importance is that your squeamishness be honored.  Heaven forbid you might someday be exposed to a brief glimpse of an infant having a meal in a normal, healthy way -- the way nature/God/whatever intended it.  No, you would rather that women subject themselves to the trouble and inconvenience of pumping milk for bottles, increasing their babies' risks of many diseases by giving them artificial baby milk, or hiding away from the world while their baby feeds... which, for an infant, is quite frequently.

Yeah, right.

It's people like you who contribute to the abysmally low rates of breastfeeding in this country.  While the American Association of Pediatrics recommends that women breastfeed for at least a year, both for their health and the health of their children, only a fraction of mothers actually do so.  I don't know exactly why, but I'll bet that attitudes like yours -- that breastfeeding is a shameful act that needs to be done in private, hidden away lest someone might possibly be offended -- contribute significantly to the problem.

Urinating or defecating in public is neither natural nor normal.  While the acts of relieving oneself are necessary and natural, our culture recognizes that urine and feces are not meant to be spread publicly, because of their potential for spreading disease (not to mention the smell, etc), but are to be contained appropriately.  Breastmilk, on the other hand, is sterile, has no offensive odor, and is indeed meant to be ingested -- surely you can recognize the difference.  In addition, breastmilk is given only to the baby, not spattered or spread on the ground as one might if relieving oneself in public.  99% of the time, you would have not even a glimpse of the milk itself, unless you happened to be staring (quite rudely) at the mother's breast when the baby unlatched.

Breastfeeding is normal.  It is the way we were meant to feed babies. It is not shameful, disgusting, or wrong.  Personally, I think a plastic container filled with modified cow's milk is a pretty gross way of feeding a baby, but I've never even considered reacting to a formula-feeding mother the way you suggest breastfeeding mothers should be treated.  Would you like to spend hours with a breastpump, cart around bottles that need to be chilled and then heated, and deal with the washing-up, so that you could feed a baby in public?  Or would you like to have your lunch in a public toilet, miserable and alone?


Well, then, grow up, and realize that breastfeeding mothers don't want any of that either.  All we want to do is nourish and cherish our children in the best way possible, and if that means that idiots like you might take offense... well, pardon me if I don't seem to care!

Jan Andrea
Proud breastfeeding mother.

PS.  I have never shown any more than a small amount of skin -- less than you would see from most women on a typical public beach -- while breastfeeding my child in public.  Most people have no idea what I'm doing when I nurse my baby, unless they have nursed a child themselves.  I daresay you have yourself seen many women breastfeeding in public, and thought only that they were holding their sleeping babies.  But even if I needed to expose my entire breast to feed my baby, no one is forcing you to watch or even to look.  If you stare and are offended, it's your own fault, and you should probably seek therapy for your problem.

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