Breastfeeding, Social Media, and Rampant Ignorance

“Nothing wrong with breastfeeding, but I don’t understand why you want to show it to the world. I breastfed, but a photo on instagram or FB??”

The answer to this question is simple. To normalize it.

In many cultures around the world, women breastfeed their children while they work and it is no big deal, because that’s what breasts are for. In many places in America, breasts are seen as only sexual objects, where breastfeeding is compared to defecation, urination and pornography. Our society has it backwards.

People say things like “they have the right to ask you to cover up.” But in reality, nobody has the right to ask a nursing mother to cover up. If you wouldn’t say it to a mom feeding her baby with a bottle, don’t say it to a breastfeeding mom. The baby is eating.

“But, can’t she just put a blanket over herself and be modest?”

There are several problems with that question. To begin with, people just don’t eat with blankets over their heads. Babies are people too. If you wouldn’t eat with a blanket over your head, don’t expect my baby to either.

“Modest” is a fluid word. It’s definition varies from person to person. In some cultures, modest means wearing a burka. In some cultures, modest means covering your midsection (stomach), while exposing breasts is no big deal, because breasts are meant to feed children. In some cultures, modest means women only wear long skirts. And then for some people, modest means making sure your genitals are covered when you are in public.  If you don’t want someone else’s definition of “modest” pushed on you, don’t push your definition of modest on a mother feeding her child.

You see, breastfeeding is not sexual. It is not promiscuous. It is not scandalous. It is not something to be ashamed of. It is not “a mother looking to be an exhibitionist”. It is simply a mother feeding her child in the best way possible. It is natural. It is normal.

When we STILL have media saying things like “we don’t run such photos in our press” in reference to a breastfeeding mama, yet they are willing to run photos of Miley Cyrus and Robin Thick (king of promoting rape culture) twerking together on stage in front of a national television audience, there is a problem. When photos from a zombie walk of a man spitting blood from his mouth is acceptable, but a mama feeding her baby is considered “indecent”, there is a problem. And until this changes, breastfeeding mothers will continue to fight for their right to feed their babies without being harassed.

Did you know that breastfeeding mothers have legal rights?? That’s right! YOU can get arrested for harassing a mother feeding her child.

“She’s welcome to feed her child, but I shouldn’t be forced to see it.”

There’s a few simple solutions to this:

Close your eyes

Turn your head

Put a blanket over YOUR head

Leave

Educate yourself on the benefits of breastfeeding

For all the people who say “OMG that kid has teeth. Feed him real food.”
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Apples don’t lose their nutritional value when a child reaches a certain age. Neither does breast milk. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until 2 years of age and beyond. Also, some babies are BORN with teeth. My first-born had 6 teeth by 6 months old. They NEED milk until at least 1 year of age in order to grow and develop correctly. Why would I give my child milk from another mammal just to make a stranger comfortable?

“Teeth and nipples don’t strike me as cute”

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I don’t breastfeed to be “cute” nor to get the approval of strangers. I do it because it is the healthiest option for my children.

Another thing, depending on what person you ask, many people think breastfeeding should stop at age _____. I would much rather take the advice of the World Health Organization than some stranger on the streets who is clearly uneducated on the benefits of breastfeeding. Like this woman, who thinks it should end at the age of 3 months. >_<

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Switch to what? Donor milk from a cow?? Why do some people find it more appropriate to feed their child milk from a cow than milk from a human? The disconnect is so strong. The social conditioning to view breasts as sexual is intense.

And the woman-on-woman hate is the strongest.  It absolutely makes me so sad to see women making comments like “Cover them saggy tits up. Nobody wants to see that.”

Why refer to other women that way? Again, it’s a mother FEEDING her child. If you are so offended by eating, I must ask, do you go to restaurants where tons of people are eating? What if I said I was offended by seeing people shove nasty McDonald’s down their throat? Does this give me the right to approach someone with a hamburger and tell them to cover up? It’s just rude.

“I breastfed my child and was respectful enough to use a cover.”

I’m respectful enough to allow my child to eat without feeling smothered, and the comfort of my child comes before the comfort of total strangers.

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And again, comparing feeding a child to sex on a plane… Total disconnect.

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Comments like this one above encourage rape culture. Blaming a woman who is feeding her child for all the men gawking at her is completely inappropriate and wrong. I am not responsible for a grown adult’s actions. If YOU stare at a woman feeding her child, YOU have the problem, not her. You are welcome to use your adult head and look the other way. When a baby needs to eat, you feed the baby, right then and there, regardless of who else is around.

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“force others to observe…”

I often hear phrases similar to this. Again, the solution here is pretty simple. LOOK AWAY. No one is forcing you to stare.

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Comparing breastfeeding (the feeding of a child) in public to having sex on a McDonald’s table is beyond my comprehension. Having sex and eating are not the same thing. There is no comparison. If you have to exaggerate this bad to make a point, your point is totally moot.

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Defecation and sex are not the same as eating. When you start eating a poop sandwich and drinking urine for lunch, then you can make a comparison. Until then, please understand that “pushing out a huge turd” and feeding a baby are not the same thing. It’s pretty simple, really.

And last but not least, there is the argument of “give the kid a bottle when you are in public”.

It is not that simple. Some babies won’t take bottles. Would you rather hear a screaming child who is hungry or have a mother feeding her baby in public? Also, some women don’t respond to pumps. Pumps are expensive pieces of equipment. Pumping is time-consuming. Everything has to be sterilized. You then have to warm the milk to the right temperature (which requires a way to heat it– not always available in public). And the milk has to be stored at a certain temperature until the baby is ready, which requires coolers, ice packs, etc. It’s not as simple as just “giving the baby a bottle”.  Neither I, nor many other breastfeeding mothers are going to put in that much unneeded extra energy and effort (especially on the little sleep that most new mothers get) just to make a stranger comfortable. If you don’t want to see it, don’t look. Problem solved.

And for those who understand flow charts best, this one is for you…

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Categories: Amanda

Author:Amanda Tyson

Hello Wise Mamas and friends! My name is Amanda. I am a 28-year-old Aquarius/Pisces cusp baby. Cheers for cusp babies! I am married to my best friend in life, Ramsey, who has been my rock through thick and thin. Our wedding bands are tattooed on and I love this idea! We have an 11 month-old son named Jasper and a 1.5-year-old Texas Heeler pup named Opie. Those two are best buds. family hike We also have a ball python named Monty who has been in my husband’s family for years. We live in Chattanooga, TN, which is a wonderful city for outdoor fun. I dig hiking, rock climbing, yoga and cycling. We compost and have a garden. I love my herb garden and cook with basil or parsley almost every day! I am pro-breastfeeding, baby-led weaning. I love to baby wear. I am anti forced circumcision, even though my baby was circumcised (due to my lack of research, which I so deeply regret). We believe in gentle parenting, anti-CIO, and teaching with love. Jasper becomes cranky without his outside time, just like his mama. My husband is a musician, and my son is very interested in music already. He has already had his first drum solo, which we videoed. I feel that everyone should be legally allowed to marry their best friend; I’m pro-LGBTQ rights, and equality for everyone. Nothing frustrates me more than labeling, name calling, and deliberate insensitivity of another person. I believe the differences in others are truly beautiful and what makes life so much fun. I am a super health nut. We cook 99% of our meals at home, utilizing local foods/farmers as much as possible. I am not a vegetarian, but I don’t really eat a lot of meat. I love recycling. We try to reuse everything! I cloth diaper and cloth wipe. I make all of our cleaning products like shampoo/conditioner, deodorant, laundry soap and dishwasher detergent. I own my own jewelry business called “Hippie Tree.” Art is my passion in life. I believe co-sleeping /bed sharing is so important for parent-child bonds. I have a B.S. in Psychology and I love to help people. Amanda

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17 Comments on “Breastfeeding, Social Media, and Rampant Ignorance”

  1. Leah
    March 13, 2014 at 7:36 am #

    Thank you for addressing all of these arguments by others-it helps show how ridiculous they are when you put them all together. I’m especially shocked by people who contend breast feeding is akin to peeing and pooping. Really? Wow! Go back to your tv, folks and view some more near porn, you are clearly far more comfortable with that.

  2. dlmoore
    March 13, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    anytime someone uses the word “but” everything prior to that “but” has been made null and void – just like saying – I’m not racist, BUT…. clearly that person IS racist. saying “I’m pro breastfeeding, BUT, it shouldn’t be done in public…well, i rest my case. people are ignorant and we’ve skewed our societal norms. when teaching breastfeeding classes, my simple response was – if someone would bottle-feed a child in a given situation, then breastfeeding is okay in that same situation. Example, bottle-feeding on a dangerous construction site would be a bad idea – and breastfeeding would be bad there as well. Bottlefeeding on the bus? no problem. Breastfeeding on the bus? no problem. we are a skewed and screwed up society. if you’re having issues looking at it, put yourself under a blanket! you go girl!

    extended and tandem nursing – i’ve done both. when someone would ask how old my child was, I’d just use an innocent voice, tilt my head and say “he’s ONLY 48 months.”

    i had a whole rant but decided it’s better to save it for it’s own place….hang in there and keep fighting the good fight. breastfeeding moms need you!

  3. Alison
    March 13, 2014 at 11:07 am #

    I love, love, love this!!! I dare anyone to tell me to cover up when I’m feeding my little boy!! He won’t take a bottle and I will not let him starve so some uneducated, small minded idiot can feel less awkward. I agree. Look away, or stare at what small amount of breast you can see whilst he feeds. I don’t care. I don’t know you and don’t owe you anything including respect. Respect is earned. Have sex on the table in macdonalds. I don’t care. See who the police arrest. It certainly won’t be me!

  4. Kevin
    March 13, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    Breast Feeding is the best thing a mother can do for her children, but she should be discrete about it.

    • March 13, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

      No, Kevin. And I don’t think breastfeeding women are looking for your input. It makes as much sense as me saying “Eating is the best thing Kevin can do for himself, but he should be discrete about it.” Do you like to eat with a blanket over your head? That’s more reasonable than forcing it on a baby.

    • Amanda Tyson
      March 14, 2014 at 8:17 am #

      Hey Kevin,

      I addressed the “discrete” and “modest” comments above. Here it is:

      “There are several problems with that question. To begin with, people just don’t eat with blankets over their heads. Babies are people too. If you wouldn’t eat with a blanket over your head, don’t expect my baby to either.

      “Modest” is a fluid word. It’s definition varies from person to person. In some cultures, modest means wearing a burka. In some cultures, modest means covering your midsection (stomach), while exposing breasts is no big deal, because breasts are meant to feed children. In some cultures, modest means women only wear long skirts. And then for some people, modest means making sure your genitals are covered when you are in public. If you don’t want someone else’s definition of “modest” pushed on you, don’t push your definition of modest on a mother feeding her child.”

      Also, you may benefit from reading the flow chart. ;)

  5. Sally
    March 13, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    I completely agree with a woman’s right to feed her baby in public for as long as she considers appropriate, the comments posted are small minded and offensive. However the authors attitude is similarly small minded and offensive. A decision whether or not to breast feed is personal to the mother, father and baby- however so is the decision to bottle feed. I bottle fed my babies, and it had nothing to do with a desire to give donor milk from another mammal. If you want your decisions to be respected you should respect those of people who take a different path.

    • March 13, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

      The author didn’t say “all parents who choose formula do so because they want to give donor milk from another mammal.” The point is that people say ignorant things about switching from breastfeeding, or “getting off the tit.” Why? To put the child on milk from another species? It makes no sense. But it’s also not a dig at formula feeding parents. Don’t decide to take it personally when it is not at all directed at you or other parents who use formula.

      • Sally
        March 14, 2014 at 5:28 am #

        I understand the point being made but it could have been put in a more eloquent less derogatory fashion. The phrase was made to shock, otherwise the word ‘formula’ would have simply been used. Ultimately we all, bar vegans, have ‘milk from a donor mammal’ as part of a healthy balanced diet, the decision is just when to decide to make that decision.

        On the whole I thought this was an extremely eloquent article ruined by a bit if shock phraseology – shame

    • Amanda Tyson
      March 14, 2014 at 8:13 am #

      Sally there’s a few problems here.

      1-You are taking/reading this as a stab at formula feeding moms. It’s not. In fact, I don’t even mention the word formula, because this article is NOT about formula. It’s about rude comments made to breastfeeding moms.

      2-You are absolutely wrong about everyone drinking milk from another mammal unless they are vegan. I’ll tear up an entire pound of bacon, but I don’t drink milk from other mammals. We drink coconut milk, almond milk, hazelnut milk, hemp milk, etc in my home.

      “If you want your decisions to be respected you should respect those of people who take a different path” <—-Where did I even mention "people who take a different path?"

      Again, I think you took this WAYYY to personal. This has absolutely nothing to do with people who take a different path. It has to do with people who are so ignorant on breastfeeding that they compare it to having sex on a McDonald's table. Please reread the article. I think you misunderstood the point here.

    • March 14, 2014 at 9:57 am #

      It’s not a “shock” phrase to state that formula is milk from a different mammal. That is literally what it is. If you find that offensive, that factual statement of formula being made from milk from a different mammal, I don’t think there is much we can do for you and I’d suggest looking inside to see what is so bothersome about the truth. Formula is made from milk meant for growing cows. Truth. It’s also highly pasteurized and processed, with synthetic vitamins added. Parents deserve to know what’s in formula, and none of it is “shock” terminology nor should it be taken as a personal attack.

  6. March 14, 2014 at 7:34 am #

    I LOVE it! Well done!
    It’s insane what is happening to our society. :(

    Ignorance is bliss sadly…

    I also find it horrid that formula has been so normal now that people would choose that over breast milk as simply as that. I can’t understand it…

    • March 31, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

      Not everyone that formula feeds chooses to do so so freely. There can be many factors at play. Most women are either uneducated about breastfeeding, don’t have a good support system, or they have a bad experience with it (the latter is usually caused the first two issues). And there are also a lot of medical reasons why some women just cannot do it. Its not “as simple as that”. Understand now?

      • April 1, 2014 at 7:35 am #

        What’s with the attitude? Did the author say anywhere that “everyone who formula feeds chooses to do so freely”? Did she ever deny that there may be many factors involved? There actually aren’t “a lot” of medical reasons why a woman can’t breastfeed– statistically it’s incredibly rare. Why are people choosing to take this blog post as an attack on formula feeding parents, when it is not at all?

      • April 1, 2014 at 9:35 am #

        This wasnt a response to the author. It was a response to the previos commenter. I thought it was a great article and really hit the nail on the head. So thanks for thinking that I was attacking the author, but I was not.

      • April 3, 2014 at 4:25 pm #

        Let me clarify: the author of the comment you were responding to never said “ALL people who choose formula do so freely.” The fact is that some people DO choose it without truly needing it. Most parents in the US, actually. People who have such an extremely negative attitude towards such a simple and accurate statement need to look within and figure out why, instead of taking it out on others.

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