Have you ever seen a woman let out a ‘look over here’ whistle, lift up her top, wave her bosoms around and then, once she’s got everyone’s attention, attach her baby for a suckle? No. But I have seen a woman all twisted up in a cover-up blanket, peeking in and out of it, adjusting it so there’s breathing room for the baby, then struggling again to find her bra to clip up and performing a shrouded Houdini move beneath to change sides. To me, that was drawing a lot more attention to herself than simply lining up her baby for a drink, getting her breast out and latching him on. Breast and nipple exposure: a few seconds. Amount of people who noticed her during the feeding session: maybe a couple. Disapproving stares from strangers: hopefully none. Smiles from other women (especially other mums or grandmas): lots.
When I was still breastfeeding my littlest guy, I remember watching an episode of The Circle, when UNICEF Australia’s breastfeeding patron Tara Moss was being interviewed and the topic of feeding in public came up. I remember Denise Drysdale, who’s in her 60s, say ‘But you can be discreet about it’, and Gorgi Coghlan (mum of a 1-year-old) slamming her, saying ‘Why do you have to be?’ I nearly stood up from my lounge chair and cheered. Breastfeeding mums are not flashing their tits to attract ogling men to a wet T-shirt competition. This is a normal, natural act. The issue of breastfeeding being considered nudity has also come up when Facebook has periodically images of women breastfeeding their babies.
Pre-baby or pre-parenting, I get it that some women aren’t the types to wear a string bikini and that cleavage-revealing isn’t their thing. The thought of breastfeeding in public when they are pregnant can even cause quite a bit of worry and angst. But once that little baby enters their world, feeding her and settling her when she cries becomes top priority. Instinct takes over and the thought that someone may actually be watching them breastfeed fades. There are a few who will still take along capes and blankets to drape over them, and I would definitely rather those women did this than not breastfeed at all, but I wish I could wave a magic wand and give them the confidence not to hide their bodies doing what they were designed to do — feed their babies.
The nature of breastfeeding means it can be very difficult to be what society deems as ‘modest’. Sometimes your bare breast does need to be out for a bit longer to get the ideal latch. Bunched-up fabric from clothing can get in the way. Some women have very large breasts and struggle to get their baby positioned to meet them together harmoniously without fuss. Older babies can be very distracted in public, and may pull off the breast for a bit of a gawk when someone walks past. In the early days, breastfeeding may still feel awkward, or your baby fusses, and hormones and emotions can pile up and the last thing you need is an old lady walking past going ‘tut-tut’. People need to understand this. So everyone, don’t hide away, let’s breastfeed our babies wherever we are. It’s the only way we can spread the word that it’s a normal, everyday activity.
For more info on breastfeeding in public, check out: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bf-info/breastfeeding-and-law/legalright