There has been a lot of angst and pearl-clutching over the last 60 years or so about women breastfeeding their children in public, with shouts of indecency and shame towards anyone daring to partially bare a breast within view of another human being.
Whether this attitude was initiated by infant formula manufacturers and their marketing teams is up for debate, but here we are, in one of our most enlightened and tolerant eras, still discriminating and badgering breastfeeding women to cover up ‘those indecent breasts’. While still celebrating them for their sexual purposes of course. The mind truly boggles at the logic.
We are delighted to see a viral Facebook post that is helping to open the eyes of those still insisting women breastfeed under covers, in toilets, or behind any closed door they can find. Women nursing their children in full view of anyone they happen to be around is a thing that’s been happening since forever.
Rene Johnson has shared some historical images of women breastfeeding their babies in public. These vintage photos of mums nurturing their children are simply beautiful. She writes:
“When people say that openly nursing in public without a cover is a new thing. Uh no, no it is not, I promise. It wasn’t until the 20th century that breastfeeding started to be seen in a negative light.”
While commenting from an American perspective, these negative attitudes are being shared around the world as cultural influences take hold. It is not hard to draw similarities to our own country’s history and way of life back in the days before commercially produced infant formula.
“Nursing in public seemed to be a non-issue in colonial America. Our foremothers were expected to maintain a busy household, which included feeding the baby, and breastfeeding in the market or other public areas was not a cause for uproar. At that time, breastfeeding was the only way to feed a baby, either by the natural mother or a wet-nurse. The Puritans believed breasts were created for the nourishment of children and strongly encouraged women to nurse their own babies. Breastfeeding in public was commonplace for colonial women because they lived in a society that supported breastfeeding.”
“There are plenty of reasons a mum may not cover while breastfeeding. The baby could not allow it, and repeatedly remove the cover, or cry. It could be too hot, and a mother doesn’t want her child to get too hot and sweaty. “
“It is also really hard to cover while learning to nurse a new baby, and babies benefit from eye contact while breastfeeding. Believe it or not, covers actually draw more attention. Sometimes the mother simply doesn’t wish to cover, and they legally don’t have to.”
In Australian Federal Law breastfeeding is a right, not a privilege.
Under the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 it is illegal in Australia to discriminate against a person either directly or indirectly on the grounds of breastfeeding.
The law in Australia protects you from being discriminated against because you are a breastfeeding mother. This includes if you are expressing milk by hand or with a breast pump to give to your baby later.
Babies can be breastfed anywhere and anytime.
There is no Australian law against a member of the public telling you to stop breastfeeding. However, there is also no law to say that a mother cannot breastfeed. So even though they may be able to tell you not to breastfeed, you have the right to continue breastfeeding.
Australian women are allowed to breastfeed in any shop or restaurant. This is a mother’s right and is legally supported through the Sex Discrimination Act 1984.
Australian mums are also not obligated to feed their babies in a specifically designed area. Baby Care rooms are provided as a service only. We are advised to not feel pressured to breastfeed in one if you do not wish to. Some mums are very glad of the privacy that a Baby Care Room offers them, but other mums prefer to breastfeed wherever they happen to be. By breastfeeding out and about these mums are also helping the next generation of Australians to learn that breastfeeding is normal.
Breastfeeding is a mother’s right. She has the right to feed her baby at her breast or express breastmilk for her baby.
As an added bonus breastfeeding is natural, normal, environmentally-friendly, affordable and healthy for all of humanity.
And it has been happening for thousands of years. If not for breastfeeding, none of us would be here.
Using breasts for their natural intended purpose shouldn’t ever be met with scorn, criticism, or strangers saying it makes them feel “uncomfortable.”
Tough titties, as they say in the classics.
You can read more about your legal rights while breastfeeding in public here.
Source: Facebook/Rene Johnson