The thoughts and opinions (oh so many opinions) on breastfeeding in the public eye have changed a lot in recent years as society has called for a breakdown in the stigma surrounding it. At last. After all, it’s arguably one of the most natural acts on earth, so why shouldn’t it be a topic that’s discussed openly, honestly, and often?
A brief history of attitudes
The fact that we even have to advocate for breastfeeding in public is suggestive of a previous and, still largely outstanding, negative attitude. The main issue surrounding breastfeeding is the wrongful sexualization of the act. Like seriously people, how can feeding your baby be sexualized? That’s because society (ahem, mostly male society) has depicted breasts as body parts that should only be shown during sexual acts, ignoring their primary, biological purpose of breastfeeding. The out-of-date viewpoint that a woman should remain ‘covered-up’ is also at the forefront.
The legal bit
In the US (all fifty states) and the UK, women are legally allowed to breastfeed anywhere they damn like in public. As it should be. More specifically, in the UK if a woman is treated unfavorably because of breastfeeding in public, it’s an act of sex discrimination according to the Equality Act of 2010. With this in mind, it’s important to stress that no woman should ever be made to feel embarrassed or ashamed to breastfeed in public and anyone who evokes these feelings is in breach of legal acts.
Anything they can do...
You can do too. It’s been so refreshing to see countless breastfeeding celebrities using their sphere of influence to normalize public breastfeeding with a positive outlook. And while we don’t need to see a supermodel or world-class athlete do it to make it OK, there are loads of famous women who have been helping to pave the way for others like:
How to breastfeed in public if you’re nervous
It’s A-OK (and totally normal) to be an advocate for public breastfeeding while simultaneously being nervous to do it yourself. If you do decide to publicly breastfeed, we’ve created a list of things you can do to ease you into the process.
Recognize which position your baby best feeds in. This can minimize the need to change positions several times while in public.
Use a mirror to practice covering yourself effectively (should you wish to).
Start in locations where there are often a lot of other mothers and young babies such as baby cafes, parks, etc.
Bring a support partner with you for the first few times. Having someone with you to support you through the process can help with confidence.
Dress for success – there are a number of products that can help with easy access including nursing tops and covers and using a sling.
Plan a response to potential negative interactions – this can help you to be cool, calm, and collected in the event that someone should bother you whilst feeding.
How to cope if someone bothers you while breastfeeding
Unfortunately, there’s a small narrow-minded (and that’s putting it nicely) portion of society that will still openly condemn women who publicly breastfeed. If you find yourself in this situation, there are a few measures you can take.
Stay calm, it’s likely that they are looking to provoke you so, where possible, don't retaliate.
Remind them of your legal rights to breastfeed in public places.
Share your experience – it may help to consult online blogs and forums to see the experiences that others have endured.
A final word on breastfeeding in public
Like anything in life, the more times you do it, the more normal it will become. Think about the first day at a new job, and how nervous you are. Then think about yourself a month in, discussing Real Housewives with anyone who will listen. That’s a bit like breastfeeding in public. The first few times you do it might feel a little nerve-wracking but we promise you, fast forward a few weeks and you’ll be whipping your boobs out with confidence.