Breastfeeding In Public

Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things a human can do. There are places all over the planet that find this act to be so commonplace, they don’t even care enough to do a double-take. Yet here in the one place proclaimed as the most liberal country on the planet, women are gawked at, lectured, cat-called, kicked out of businesses; all for feeding their children when the child wanted to eat. Many people, like Texas Republican Debbie Riddle, think that it is indecent (Hirschhorn, 2013). They imply or sometimes outright state that the mother should go into a bathroom or some other kind of place in order to avoid the gaze of strangers. Some think that children shouldn’t witness that kind of activity taking place.

Annie Reneau is a mother and a blogger, and gives various reasons as to why a mother should freely feed her child without covering up (Reneau, 2014). DaNelle Wolford is another blogger and states that women are not animals and shouldn’t use the “it’s natural” argument to openly breastfeed in public (Wolford, 2015). Annie Reneau points to more facts and DaNelle Wolford gives more extreme analogies, so Annie’s argument holds more water than DaNelle’s does. Annie’s argument seems to have more credibility because she examines more layers of the whole situation than DaNelle does, and she seems to consider more than just her personal preference in her assessment of this topic. Considering how thorough she was in her argument, I would lean more towards what she had to say.

At the beginning of DaNelle’s argument, she openly acknowledges that in some areas of the world, public breastfeeding is very common and women rarely go out of their way to cover up. She then goes on to say that this shouldn’t compel her to “go topless” around a bunch of strangers. The problem with this is, she acts as though she is being forced to do this herself. She equates public breastfeeding without covering up with an animal licking its offspring’s behind to encourage defecation. There are so many examples one could give in order to liken the act of breastfeeding to something animals do in order to make breastfeeding seem like a bad idea, and she picks one of the most repulsive ones. She then goes on to say that if people who are pro-public breastfeeding argue that to do so is natural, why isn’t everybody having sex in public? The very fact that she is comparing feeding a child to people having sex in a public place is absurd. This does not make an argument, nor does it hold any logic. One thing can easily be avoided in public, and the other is quite often inevitable. To insist that a child should wait until one is out of public view in order to eat because it is immoral to feed in public is ridiculous. Lis Marasco and Jan Barger state that most infants thrive when they feed anytime they are hungry. There are fewer children that thrive when they are made to eat on a set schedule than those who get their nourishment on demand.

DaNelle also claims that if you are in public and breastfeeding, you are less likely to produce the “love hormone”, or Oxytocin. This hormone is produced by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland, which is a pea-sized area at the base of the brain (Pappas. Live Science, 2015). This hormone is released when people cuddle up or bond socially. This hormone is quite prominent in women during child birth and when breastfeeding. DaNelle argues that if a woman is breastfeeding without a covering, that bond is less likely to be made, which results in less Oxytocin being released. The fact is, with or without that covering, the noise around the mother and child are still there. The only thing that changes is that people are less likely to notice that a mother is breastfeeding her child. This appears to be a matter more of self-consciousness driven by the social norm of sexualizing women’s breasts than a matter of finding peace and quiet to eat. DaNelle’s argument, aside from the mention of Oxytocin, holds no facts and very little reason. It is an emotional piece and really shouldn’t be taken seriously.

Annie’s argument is very logical, and very thorough. She starts by admitting that she sneaks online to see what other people have to say, and then addresses all of the concerns in an organized fashion. Annie pointedly states that we should come to a consensus at some point, and start referring to breastfeeding as merely feeding. After all, she says, you are not feeding the breast, you are feeding the child. This makes plenty of sense, and I was pretty surprised to find any mention of that, as there is rarely any debate on anything besides the exposure of a woman’s breast to feed her child. Then she tells the readers that it is actually extremely difficult to breastfeed with a covering, especially for a new mother. The need for a covering wouldn’t even be there aside from the moment of latching, but that is the most difficult time, to have a covering and attempt to blindly latch the child to feed. There are some children who don’t even like being covered, either. One of the biggest reasons against covering that Annie describes is the connection with the child when you are making eye contact while they are feeding. Annie also states that when you are breastfeeding without a covering, you are mostly showing less skin than if you were to wear a bikini top, other than at the exact moment when a mother is attempting to latch her child. And the two last big points that Annie detailed about publicly breastfeeding was that covering up draws more attention than not doing so, and covering up also implies that feeding your child is inappropriate.

As stated at the beginning of this essay, I pointed out the logic and reason in Annie Reneau’s argument about public breastfeeding, and the lack thereof when it came to DaNelle’s case. According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, In Kentucky alone, only 52.6% of mothers have ever breastfed (CDC, 2013). The enormous lack of knowledge and awareness of the importance of breastfeeding, as well as the overwhelming over-sexualizing of women’s breasts, is startling. The average percentage of mothers choosing to breastfeed is slowly rising over the years, but the intense pressure to use pumps or formulas in public is still very much there. Considering all of the factors, like the struggle of balancing pumping and breastfeeding in order to unnecessarily use a bottle in public, or that it is often difficult and uncomfortable for both the mother and the child to use a covering when feeding, Annie’s argument wins across the board. Ultimately, society has got to come to a point where the female breast and the female nipple is deemed inappropriate or inherently sexual. Long ago, men actually had to fight in order to wear swimming trunks and actually be able to bare their chest. That was in the early 1900’s. The subject is taboo because we continue to censor and police the body parts and acts such as breastfeeding. Women should feel as comfortable in their skin as men do, and have only the same restrictions as men. Obviously, it all boils down to what a woman is comfortable with if it were to become legal, but human conditioning is very powerful and in time, more women would likely feel more comfortable with feeding their children in public without worry. In closing, Annie has the most important criteria when it comes to reasons for being able to breastfeed in public, with or without a covering, and most certainly without criticism from strangers.

Works Cited

Hirschhorn, Dan. “Texas Republican Lawmaker Rep. Debbie Riddle Speaks out against Public Breast-feeding Legislation.” New York Daily News. NYDailyNews.com, 15 Mar. 2013. Web. 22 Sept. 2015. <http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/texas-rep-debbie-riddle-breast-feeding-modest-article-1.1289507&gt;.

Reneau, Annie. Web log post. Scary Mommy. Some Spider, LLC, May 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2015. <http://www.scarymommy.com/whats-so-hard-about-covering-up-to-breastfeed-in-public/&gt;.

Wolford, DaNelle. “Why This Mama Believes In Covering Up.” Web log post. Weed’em & Reap. N.p., Aug. 2013. Web: 19 Sept. 2015. <http://www.weedemandreap.com/breastfeeding-in-public-why-this-mama-believes-in-covering-up/&gt;.

Pappas, Stephanie. “Oxytocin: Facts About the ‘Cuddle Hormone'” Live Science. Purch, 14 June 2015. Web. 20 Sept. 2015. <http://www.livescience.com/42198-what-is-oxytocin.html&gt;.

CDC. Breastfeeding Report Card. Rep. CDC, 2013. Web. 21 Sept. 2015. <http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/2013breastfeedingreportcard.pdf&gt;

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