Let me get something clear from the outset, before I find a thousand angry breastfeeding women on my doorstep, baby in one hand, pitchfork in the other. I have no issues with breastfeeding in public. It doesn’t offend me, it doesn’t upset me, but – as this post explains – it can make me look a bit odd.
Breastfeeding is a wonderfully natural thing. But the fact that it’s natural is not an excuse for mums to get their boobs out whenever they feel like it. There’s a time and a place.
The recent instance of a mother being ordered to stop breastfeeding whilst waist-deep in a swimming pool is a case in point. From the articles published, it seems the staff could certainly have handled the situation better. But even an ounce of common sense says that breastfeeding in a public swimming pool, with all the germs it contains, is a daft idea. What if the baby had vomited into the water?
And so, the mother was asked (or told, depending on which version you read) to stop breastfeeding, and instantly complains to the national press. “I should be allowed to breastfeed where I want,” she argues, getting all indignant. It’s natural, and therefore I should do it where I like, when I like, forsaking any modicum of common courtesy because I breastfeed and am therefore better than you. It smacks a little of arrogance.
She should be able to breastfeed where she pleases, but she should also have the decency to apply common sense to the situation. If there is the risk that other swimmers could inadvertently swallow a mouthful of baby sick whilst doing lengths, then don’t breastfeed in the pool. Get out and sit on a chair instead. It’s safer, more hygienic, and – most of all – it makes sense.
I once saw a photo on a Facebook pro-breastfeeding group in which a mum was breastfeeding her baby in the middle of a supermarket aisle; just sitting, cross-legged, on the floor. Most of the comments were gushing, saying how wonderful it was, such a natural thing, so amazing.
It is wonderful; it is natural; it is amazing. But sitting on the floor in the frozen aisle of Sainsbury’s is not a good idea; nor is it acceptable to hide behind the excuse of it being ‘natural’ to get all indignant when people object. Again, it comes back to common sense. Shall I sit on the aisle floor, where people have to step over me to get to a bag of McCain’s? Or shall I wait five minutes and sit on one of the benches that many supermarkets have, either inside or outside the building? You wouldn’t sit in the middle of an aisle to bottle-feed your baby, nor would you bottle-feed in the middle of a swimming pool.
Breastfeeding in public is absolutely fine. Nobody should be offended by the sight of a mum feeding her child, as long as it’s done with others in mind. The fact that it is natural is not an opportunity to actively offend people.