If you’re a mom or a mom-to-be, chances are you are very aware that August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month by the incessant amount of flyers in the mailbox and emails to the inbox you’ve likely received telling you so.
Some information sent to me so far this month has been helpful. New scientific studies published in journals this month have found added benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and child. It is well known that there are benefits, but that reassurance has been encouraging.
I've also received “calls to action." One in particular-- a letter asking me to gather with other mothers in a public display of breastfeeding solidarity. Essentially, a “boob-olution.” Their words. Not mine.
I did not want to write about breastfeeding here yet, mainly because I know how much emotion the topic evokes from both those who strongly advocate for breastfeeding and those who do not breastfeed. But I've been slammed with emails urging me to show my support by feeding in public. The main goal of these campaigns is to send a signal to other mothers not to be embarrassed about breastfeeding outside the home.
In public and private, more people are breastfeeding. The rate of babies who begin breastfeeding has risen from 71 percent in 2000 to 77 percent in 2010, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate of babies still breastfeeding at six months has also risen from 35 percent in 2000 to 49 percent in 2010.
This is great news. But it doesn’t mean that I’ll be joining the public “boob-olution.”
Yes, I breastfed my daughter. In public when we needed to. No, I did not do it to make a statement to anyone. I did it because she was hungry and needed to be fed. It was a choice I made for no one else but the two people involved: Baby and me.
Because some of you who struggle to breastfeed in public or private have asked, at some point I will share a part of my story. It’s a difficult and emotional one. Today I will tell you that my story does not involve having the need to look at a woman breastfeeding in public to make that decision for myself. Seeing a public breastfeeding session would not have swayed my decision in either direction.
In fact, I regard the breast form of feeding the same way a mother takes a bottle out of the diaper bag when it’s baby’s time to eat. There’s nothing a-ha about it. Regarding it in revolutionary terms or ascribing a day to do it does the opposite of what is wished-for if the goal is to erase the stigma associated with breastfeeding in public.
Perhaps there is strength in numbers, but if a woman is uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, it’s likely she doesn’t want to highlight her actions as if it were something radical enough that it warrants a rally of solidarity. There should be no special day to feed a child. Our breasts don't need to revolt. There’s benefit in a much calmer approach -- in treating breastfeeding as the normal choice that it is.
Although this ‘lution is well-intentioned – because the end result is nutritious meals for the infants involved – perhaps this public display should be focused on the participating mother than on showing other uninvolved mothers how it can be done. Perhaps for some mothers, their own participation in a public feeding will be a way to overcome a personal barrier they may have. In that way, a public support group is wonderful. Or it may simply be just another meal on the feeding schedule. Those reasons, I think, would be more beneficial than turning it into a “how-to” for otherwise uninvolved expecting and new moms.
As for me, I refuse to breastfeed at the public the same way I refuse to parent at other mothers. That means that I will not breastfeed in public for the sake of breastfeeding in public or to show-and-tell any mother that just because I can, you should too. Because that’s just not true.
My boob-olution will not be televised.
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