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It’s 2016. Why is breastfeeding still an issue?

It’s 2016 and people still get excited over breastfeeding. Men, women and babies. While hungry infants are excited for all the right reasons, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, adult men and women are still getting their metaphorical knickers in a twist over whether or not a woman should use her mammaries for feeding a baby, and even more relevantly, whether she should do so in public.

It is astounding and disappointing that this conversation is even happening. It is disturbing that people still shame women for being responsible; that is, providing her child with nutritional goodness when the baby actually needs it, not half an hour later when the mother can find a suitably clean and sanitary toilet to cower in with her breast barely exposed, if at all.

Recently, a photo posted on the CFA (Country Fire Authority) Facebook page of a breastfeeding volunteer firefighter caused a huge stir, with the typical media reaction. A Spanish politician caused an outcry after breastfeeding her baby in parliament. A café in Queensland allegedly ‘unfairly’ copped a social media grilling after ‘the woman who was breastfeeding was not courteous enough to minimize her exposure.’ These aren’t isolated incidences. In January 2015, a restaurant owner, in denying his staff asked a breastfeeding customer to leave, said that if a woman was breastfeeding ‘we would find a quiet corner for them so it doesn’t bother anyone else.’

Seriously?

Why is it that women who breastfeed their babies in public, or share photos of breastfeeding on social media, are practically accused of committing an act of gross indecency? Why are they being publicly sidelined for the sensitivities of other people who are offended by a perfectly natural thing?

Why, in 2016, do people still have an issue with breasts?

Of course, the loudest detractors insist they are not anti-public-breastfeeding or indeed, not anti-breastfeeding at all. Apparently they just don’t like women exposing themselves or being exhibitionists.

It appears that the condemnation is not for feeding a child with a breast (because that would be so politically incorrect), the condemnation is for doing it in such a way as to publicly draw attention to the fact the mother is breastfeeding.

But it doesn’t seem to matter if there is flesh showing or not, there are still cries from men and women alike, for the mother to cover up, be ‘decent’, stop exposing herself and have some modesty.

The reality is, the vast majority of women do not breastfeed their babies in public because they want to display their breasts to the world. They do not do so to elicit a sexual response from men salivating over the mere thought of a soft, pliable, fleshy boob. Women do not eagerly request someone photograph them breastfeeding because they are desperate to share an image of their breast flesh with every man, woman and child for their own personal gratification.

The vast majority of women do not breastfeed their babies in public because they want to announce to the world that they are YAY! BREASTFEEDING. They are not making a public statement. They are not doing it to rub it in the faces of women who cannot breastfeed. They are not making a self-righteous point about how ‘breast is best’ and therefore how much more responsible and caring they are as mothers than parents who bottle feed. They are not attempting to elicit a negative response so they can storm back to their social media accounts and cry ‘discrimination’ (by the way, it is perfectly legal in Australia to breastfeed in public.)

Astoundingly, the vast majority of women who breastfeed their baby anywhere, do so because their baby is hungry or needs comforting.

That is it.

Yet non-private breastfeeding still brings out a swarm of whingers, whiners and holier-than-thou critics, who seem to find the sight of a nursing mother more offensive than leaving a child to scream and starve.

The condescending, patronising and downright rude comments from men and women alike implies that feeding a child in a completely natural and normal way is morally repugnant and akin to engaging in a public display of pornography.

It is astonishing that in 2016, a woman providing an infant with a healthy meal still causes such a stir.

The main reason, it seems, is society’s perception of ‘decency’, and the inability of some people to see breasts as anything other than sexual things.

The whole concept of ‘exhibitionism’: extravagant behaviour that is intended to attract attention to oneself, seems to have been taken off the stage and applied to mothers who are doing what mothers do; feed their babies.

Yes, breasts may be considered sexual organs. However it is ridiculous that in 2016, displaying breast flesh, or even alluding to the fact a woman has breasts, is still only acceptable if it can be sexualised in some form. It is even more disturbing that people cannot differentiate between breasts as functional baby-feeders, and something to attract a mate.

People barely bat an eyelid at breasts in a bikini. Breasts cupped in a well-fitting, supportive and shaped bra nestled beneath a smart, yet low cut blouse. Pictures of breasts in silky, sleek lingerie plastered along shopping centre walls. These are all okay.

But breasts in the mouth of a hungry child? Outrageous.

“I breastfed all my children,” tap the self-righteous women, the introduction to prove they are not, per se, anti-breastfeeding, “but I did it discretely, with my baby’s head covered in a crocheted quilt, hiding behind a wall of pot-plants. I didn’t exhibit myself and flaunt my naked nipples to other women’s husbands in a desperate attempt to show them my swollen, milk-filled mammaries and entice them away from their wives. I had self-respect back in my day.”

“I too breastfed my child,” chips in another pious anti-exhibitionist. “But I don’t want my children to see that. I don’t want my husband to see that. It’s just not necessary to flaunt them and flop them around.”

“I just don’t feel comfortable staring at breasts”, sniffs another.

These sanctimonious critics might as well say, “OMG! She’s deliberately exposing herself for the sexual gratification of me/my husband/that man over there who will work himself into a masturbatory frenzy over her exposed flesh! And not only that, she is making all women look like shameless whores because she has her BREASTS out!”

What gives any man or woman the right to tell another woman how and where she should and should not feed her child?

Breastfeeding in itself, is not ‘making a statement’. A photo of a breastfeeding mother should attract no more attention than a family Santa photo.

Breastfeeding in public is not exhibitionism. It is not a public display of vaginal knitting – and even the vaginal knitting exhibition in question was not for external validation.

It is ridiculous that mothers who breastfeed are still expected to stay at home, cover up, or sit in a corner so as to not offend people with their breasts. Mothers are volunteer firefighters, politicians, professionals, community members, and, unbelievably to some, completely normal people. The Department of Health recommends babies are exclusively breastfed until 6 months of age, and continued up to 12 months or longer if the mother and baby wish. Yet in Australia,  by the time a baby is four months old, less than 40% of women still breastfeed and by 6 months, less than 15% of babies have breast milk. Many women struggle with breastfeeding, and it is disgusting that mothers are subject to negative community attitudes instead of support in the first year of their baby’s life.

It is long past the time for people to stop being offended by breastfeeding, and it is time for people to stop manufacturing offence on behalf of others. Almost every single Australian child, teenager, and adult man and woman has seen a breast at some point in their lives – their own mother’s, their own, their wife or girlfriend’s. If a person has ever gone to a sunny beach or swimming pool, they have seen as much breast flesh, if not more, than that which is displayed when breastfeeding. And if a mother flashes a little bit more? Why does it matter?

If the smugly righteous prudes cannot handle the sight of a suckling child, or the overly-sexed perverts feel they cannot control their sexual urges if they catch sight of breast flesh pressed against the cheek of a hungry baby, the issue is with them, not the mother. The solution for the offended is incredibly simple – just don’t look.


62 comments

  1. Deanna Jones

    Thank you for writing this, Eva. It all comes down to the context of male dominated society and the attendant need to police women’s bodies and sexuality. The social pressure on young girls and women to conform to gendered expectations of their bodies, breast enhancers, push up bras, surgical implants etc. juxtaposed with this “Cover yourself, whore!” message is easily understood. The message is that women’s breasts are for but one purpose; sexual objectification by men. Any other function, such as their actual physical function of feeding babies, is deemed invalid.

  2. Sir ScotchMistery

    Oh please

    Why is it always “evil bloody men”?

    From my observations most of the complaints have come from older women when these things are analysed properly.

    Find a cafe you like and ask if it’s an issue before you start. Men are occasionally to blame in this instance, often members of the ACL who have a hard time accepting any decisions women make about anything including their bodies.

    One thing I am tired of though is this constant generalisation about how bad “men” are. We aren’t all bad same as women aren’t all intrinsically “good”.

    If we look at stats, there are 14% of partnerships with problems not most. The DV numbers are all found in that group. To read the press you’d have every man feeling guilty which is simply wrong.

  3. Steve Laing

    Who said Evil bloody men? It’s not mentioned in the article? Why did you feel the need for a man rant ScotchMisery?

  4. Sir ScotchMistery

    Steve it is all about evil bloody men, and it wasn’t actually the article I was commenting on, and why do some men feel a need to address other men on the issue as if it’s an autonomic reaction.

    And my name just in case you were being ironic Steve, (which if you are I missed completely in your “man rant”), is ScotchMistery, but I assume you either missed the nuance or you were trying to be funny, at which exercise you were painfully incompetent.

    And to help with your reading:


    The message is that women’s breasts are for but one purpose; sexual objectification by men. Any other function, such as their actual physical function of feeding babies, is deemed invalid.

  5. Lee

    “Thank you for writing this, Eva. It all comes down to the context of male dominated society and the attendant need to police women’s bodies and sexuality. ”

    Oh it’s not just men who feel the need to police women’s bodies. Take a look at some of the mothers’ groups on social media. Women are judged harshly by other women for bottle feeding, for having hospital births, for vaccinating, for not sleeping with their babies, for not carrying their babies around all day long, and the list goes on. It’s bloody ridiculous. I’ve lost count of the number of judged women who feel exhausted and depressed because other women are trying to make them conform to some ludicrous ideal of super woman. Having a crotch trophy doesn’t suddenly make them experts on mothering or health, nor does it give them the right to dictate to other mothers.

  6. Lee

    “Breastfeeding in public is not exhibitionism.”

    I beg to differ, Having a photo of oneself breast feeding, taken whilst sitting on Santa’s knee (yes such a photo went viral recently) or a group of mothers wearing nothing but underwear, photographed standing in a lake whilst breastfeeding is exhibitionism. I’ve noticed that the women who tend to support this behaviour are the same women who judge others for formula feeding. If it’s not exhibitionism or trying to prove one’s perceived superiority, why don’t we see the same types of photos circulated of children or adults eating from a plate? Ironically, the perpetrators claim to be normalising breastfeeding. Hands up all you mothers who, whenever you need to breastfeed junior in public, strip off your clothes and stand in a body of water to do it.

  7. Felicitas

    I agree in principle Lee, so I guess it’s all about perspective and intent. When I was breastfeeding my youngsters in the ’70s, I had to hide in public toilets to do so (such a nice place to feed a baby! NOT!!!). Yesterday, at a public swimming pool I noticed a lass feeding hers poolside. No cover over the baby’s face, no nipples being paraded around, and yes, Lee, no standing waist-deep in the water with next to nothing on. What’s more, NO-ONE apart from me seemed to notice. Now I’m one of ScotchMistery’s ‘older women’ and I thought the whole thing was not only wholesome, but quite charming. Wish I’d had even a quarter of such a response when I was doing it.

    So, it comes down to who is doing the judging, what their intent is in doing that judging, and when it’s a woman it’s part of that critique of other women we all learned growing up (to be criticised means to learn how to criticise others). When I pointed out the young lass and her baby to my (equally ‘aged’) partner, his response was a purely sexualised one – so much for ‘not all men’. I have yet to hear a single comment from a man about a woman’s body that doesn’t carry those same connotations.

    Criticism and sexualisation of an act are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but you don’t hear the issue of breast feeding critiqued by a woman in sexualised terminology.

  8. diannaart

    Excellent article, Eva.

    Just one teensy mistake – when mentioning pious self righteous behaviour of silly people remember always, I can’t stress this enough, ALWAYS include women along with men every single time you are making a point about pious self righteous silly people – else you might just make a man think he is being personally vilified.

    Cheers

  9. margcal

    So sad that so little progress has been made since I was breastfeeding 40+ years ago.
    Almost seems to have gone backwards in some respects.

  10. Lee

    “When I was breastfeeding my youngsters in the ’70s, I had to hide in public toilets to do so (such a nice place to feed a baby! NOT!!!).”

    I wish to clarify, I am totally in favour of women breastfeeding in public and they should never be made to hide in toilets to do so. The majority of women who do breastfeed in public feed their babies discretely, in keeping with the way other members of our society eat in public. I’ve never seen a parent make an exhibition of their older children whilst being fed (i.e. those eating solids or able to feed themselves), therefore I don’t see the parading of breastfed babies (examples posted above) to be “normal”. Someone is either seeking attention or trying to make a statement.

  11. Eva

    Nonsense, Lee. Social media has more ‘dinner’ and ‘lunch’ photos on it than breastfeeding photos. There are more photos of drunken partygoers with beer in hand than breastfeeding women. No one, I repeat no one is expected to eat or drink discreetly except a baby on a boob. Are you offended when a child has a photo with santa holding a banana? What about a pretty girl at the beach in a bikini eating an icecream? Ridiculous. You have an issue with breasts.

  12. Barry Thompson.

    One of the most natural acts in the World. Mother Nature at her best.
    Get over it people!

  13. Wally

    Lee at 12:02 pm

    I agree some people take it to the limit and it is nothing but exhibitionism.

    There is a time and place for everything and being discrete is the obvious solution.

    If a male was busting for a leak and there was no toilet nearby should he stand where he is and urinate or walk around the corner out of sight? There are many ways for woman to be discreet when breast feeding, they can put a nappy over their shoulder to cover their breast and/or move to a quite corner of the room. Breast feeding does offend some people, I don’t understand why but being discreet makes a big difference. More bystanders will stand up for a mother feeding a bay discreetly than a mother who is blasé about the whole thing.

  14. evacripps

    Really, Wally? Are you really comparing a male urinating in public with a baby drinking breast milk? Wow. Just wow. Think about that for a moment. It’s astonishing that people have such appalling ideas about breastfeeding.

  15. Wally

    evacripps

    I don’t take offense to people doing what needs to be done when nature calls wether that be breastfeeding, picking your nose or urinating.

    In all cases I think being discrete is the way to go.

    And who is now making a big fuss Eva?

  16. Backyard Bob

    Wally,

    Trying to draw some sort of equivalence between urination and breastfeeding is kinda fuss-worthy, frankly. I’d let this one go if I were you 😉

  17. corvus boreus

    Being discreet whilst peeing is more than polite discretion, it is also legally advisable.
    Adults exposing their genitals to urinate in open public view is classified as indecent exposure.
    Not so with babies on boobies (or nostril-mining).

    As for breastfeeding in restaurants and such, for my own experiential pleasure, I would rather babies suckling than screaming.
    The sight does not offend me, and I do not gaze so as not to offend.

  18. king1394

    I have always been offended at the sight of a poor innocent baby being forced to suck on a bottle – and the fact that you can actually see the milk inside really turns me off.
    You see both men and women bottle feeding everywhere, with no concern about how offensive people like me might find it. They should be more considerate. There is no reason why they can’t hide in a corner, or shut themselves in a cupboard while they undertake this disgusting activity.
    Even more horrifying is the fact that many larger babies and toddlers are permitted to run around with a bottle in their hand, guzzling at any moment, through snot and dirty faces. Something should be done about this.

  19. Lee

    “You have an issue with breasts.”

    I didn’t write the article about breastfeeding. Quit making your issues out to be someone else’s problem. While you’re at it, tell the Sanctimummies in your social circle to get over formula feeding.

  20. Lee

    “Really, Wally? Are you really comparing a male urinating in public with a baby drinking breast milk? Wow. Just wow. Think about that for a moment. ”

    Urinating is a normal bodily function. If you can’t urinate, you’ll die. Eva, you’ve got an issue with urine.

  21. Kim

    Seriously? You are going to compare expelling waste from our bodies with eating? While urinating may be a natural bodily function, it is NOT something which is normally performed in public – with or without an audience… EATING on the other hand is something we commonly do in public, on our own, with friends or as a family…

  22. Lee

    Gee, many times when I’ve been working outdoors, or hiking with friends, or travelling, someone has needed to do number ones or twos in the great outdoors because there were no public conveniences nearby. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. Animals expel waste from their bodies all the time in public and that’s considered acceptable by most.

  23. abbienoiraude

    Thank you for writing this…but I am so shocked.
    This is not Queensland during Joh’s time!!
    Good grief.
    Back in 1977 I had to hide in the toilets and there were no seats but the toot…and I found as a first time mum it so difficult to ‘relax’ and feed ( yup ‘relaxing’ is vital for ‘letdown’ to occur).

    I remember being with my husband and sitting at a table in a pub with his work mates (male and female) and finally getting enough courage to ask;
    “Does anyone mind if I feed my baby?”
    ALL the men said; Go ahead.
    Most of the women said: “Um…well we feel a bit uncomfortable”.
    The men won!

    I gingerly started breastfeeding and suddenly no one noticed….

    Is it 2016? Is it?
    Goodness me.

    Drinking human milk from a breast is NOT like urinating, or vomitting, or shitting, or spitting, or snotting….

    It is ‘eating’. Good, perfect, totally nutritious food.

    By the time I got to my 3rd child I didn’t care about who was looking….( weird fckers)…I fed my child.

    If you can see anything other than a mum doing the best thing she can to start her child on a healthy diet, then you are one sick arse.
    Bugga off and get some counselling, because you really are some crazy Freudian disturbed person.

    Oh and…by the way….I insist breastfeeding IS sexy. It is totally sexy for the woman….believe me….that’s why men should be smart and encourage their partners to breastfeed their bubs…..

    Now…off you go little weirdos and get some help…for Mother Nature has some REAL work to do!

  24. Lee

    “Oh and…by the way….I insist breastfeeding IS sexy. It is totally sexy for the woman….believe me….that’s why men should be smart and encourage their partners to breastfeed their bubs…..”

    Breastfeeding may be totally sexy for you. That doesn’t mean it is totally sexy for all women. In fact, for some women it is stressful and unpleasant. There are study results that suggest that the oxytocin increase triggered by breastfeeding may worsen anxiety and depression for some mothers. Choosing to feed formula is not stupid. There are good quality formulas available that provide balanced nutrition for babies. For some mothers and babies it is the best choice. And it is a choice that is supported by smart partners, rather than forcing some ideology onto and stressing a new mother who, for whatever reason, is having a problem breastfeeding her baby. The best method of feeding is the one that works best for the mother and baby in question.

  25. Lee

    “There are many ways for woman to be discreet when breast feeding, they can put a nappy over their shoulder to cover their breast and/or move to a quite corner of the room. Breast feeding does offend some people, I don’t understand why but being discreet makes a big difference. More bystanders will stand up for a mother feeding a bay discreetly than a mother who is blasé about the whole thing.”

    I don’t think women should have to keep their breasts covered when feeding in public, nor should they have to go and sit in the corner. Lots of women have an exposed breast and they blend in with the crowd and probably go unnoticed by many. I don’t understand why people would be offended by the sight of a woman breastfeeding. It’s not like they’re being forced to watch. Even when a woman is obviously seeking attention, others can choose not to give it to her.

    I was simply responding to Eva’s assertion that breastfeeding in public is not exhibitionism. There are some examples that clearly are exhibitionism, with very atypical poses that are intended to attract attention or be confronting because someone wants to make a statement. However, most of the breastfeeding that I have seen in public I would not consider to be exhibitionism.

    Here’s an example of a professional portrait, typical of the type that I see posted on social media in an alleged attempt to “normalise” breastfeeding. What is normal about wearing a thin evening gown, sitting on cold, wet snow and risking hypothermia to feed one’s baby? Who does that? Actually I’m concerned about the risk of hypothermia to this baby all for a portrait. I’m concerned about others trying to copy it and possibly taking bigger risks. If people want to normalise breastfeeding, then portrait normal situations rather than obviously contrived ones.

  26. Sir ScotchMistery

    Well now that thread has been completely hijacked..

    I don’t see breasts as exciting. I see them as a structural part of a woman. For a baby they are an important structural part of a mother as well.

    I don’t lionise them, I don’t decry them. They have a lot in common with belly-buttons, and feet. I don’t lionise or decry either of those body parts either.

    My point originally, was and remains, not so much in Eva’s post as noted to Steve, but in the first instant reply. from Deanna, that men are ALWAYS the beast, men ALWAYS get their way and so on and so on. Tired old mumbling from those who should know better.

    Things are changing, slowly it’s true, but changing none the less.

    The place to begin the process of change to people whinging about breast-feeding or any other female specific issue, is in the parliament. We need far more thoughtful women in parliament. Far more. From that place they can change the world, but ladies and gentlemen, we can’t get them interested on a large scale.

    In a proper parliament which this one isn’t we would have 51% of the house female, representing the actual numbers on the ground, but we can’t get them to run, and after Julia Gillard’s experience, not very surprised.

    So we need to go one step back, to the home, where the men in parliament reign in a somewhat lesser way than they do as our rulers. And in that place, have the women drive the bus and see whether there is any change then.

    If that doesn’t work, women are stuffed and nothing can be done to change the status quo. Apologies to the women who wish it were not so.

  27. Matthew Oborne

    Breast feeding in Public is not about a woman flaunting her body, The picture you have a link too so what it is a photographer setting up a scene of a woman breastfeeding so what, it isnt a moral issue because Babies have to feed, it is an outdated dinosaur issue, because it is perfectly fine, she isnt having a wee in public. it is 2016 as Eva says so grow up.

  28. Matthew Oborne

    there is one valid point, I take my daughter with me everytime I go shopping, we love it, we have fun, she makes video’s like mommy and gracie on youtube of our adventures to the shopping mall. I get away with it, it is daddy trying his best if my daughter isnt properly presented, it is cute, it is gorgeous etc. Yet I have seen other women judge women if their children arent under perfect control. I have seen looks of sympathy as well. but I do see women moralise over other women if their children are anything less than well behaved and well presented. Point taken that women should not demonise other women as well for perfectly acceptable behavior.

  29. Lee

    “Breast feeding in Public is not about a woman flaunting her body, The picture you have a link too so what it is a photographer setting up a scene of a woman breastfeeding so what, it isnt a moral issue because Babies have to feed, it is an outdated dinosaur issue, because it is perfectly fine, she isnt having a wee in public. it is 2016 as Eva says so grow up.”

    When someone expressed the concern of hypothermia to the baby, the photographer insisted that the total exposure time was 40 seconds. Proof that this exercise was not about feeding the baby. If the baby had to be fed, mother and baby would be trying to keep as warm as possible. Babies rapidly lose body heat through their heads, yet this baby has exposed head and shoulders. Nowhere have I said that this is a moral issue. Nowhere have I said that I am opposed to women breastfeeding in public – quite the opposite in fact. It is neither mature nor productive to dress any issue up as something it isn’t, and then cry foul when you’re called out on your BS.

  30. Matthew Oborne

    Lee I think you may be making stuff up to prove a point..

  31. Matthew Oborne

    just like locking people up saves them from drowning Lee, Like Harry potters cloak of invisibility you falsely donned the cloak of protecting the baby.
    There may be attempts to promote breast feeding in all sorts of ways, people do all sorts of things with the best intentions, perhaps if breast feeding was just considered for what it is a completely normal thing to do we could move on, but unfortunately this issue has been around for so long it looks like staying, that is a real problem, I would thing society is full of idiots if this issue is even considered an issue 20 years from now.

  32. Wally

    Matthew Oborne

    “if breast feeding was just considered for what it is a completely normal thing to do”

    The point Lee is making is that breast feeding is a completely normal thing and should be accepted but some people try to make it a huge issue by taking pictures and publishing them on social media that take it out of perspective. I could cite an example but it seems that people here are more interested in how the example directly compares to breast feeding rather than having the awareness to see the bigger picture so I won’t waste my time.

  33. Lee

    “just like locking people up saves them from drowning Lee, Like Harry potters cloak of invisibility you falsely donned the cloak of protecting the baby.”

    Oh great analogy oh wise one. Where did I advocate causing harm to the baby in order to keep it safe?

    “perhaps if breast feeding was just considered for what it is a completely normal thing to do we could move on,”

    If you want it seen as a completely normal thing to do, then promote it in a normal “just feeding the baby” way. That woman has been deliberately posed to be sexually provocative. Yet people who point out that normal women don’t do that to feed their babies have been accused (in another forum) of sexualising breastfeeding. I’m not saying people should not create sexualised portraits of themselves breastfeeding. I’m saying don’t present me with a totally unrealistic portrait of “just feeding a baby” and pretend that “just feeding a baby” is what it is all about. If that woman wants to feel sexy and posing like that achieves it for her, fine, but have the decency to admit what it really is. Don’t insult my intelligence by telling me that the baby needs to be feed and this is nothing more than providing nutrition.

    Yes there are attempts to promote breastfeeding in all sorts of ways. Like some advertising campaigns, some of those ways fail to sell a convincing message. That’s the fault of the advertiser, not the audience. If it’s not credible, most people tend not to buy into it.

  34. diannaart

    abbienoiraude got it right with this:

    Drinking human milk from a breast is NOT like urinating, or vomitting, or shitting, or spitting, or snotting….

    It is ‘eating’. Good, perfect, totally nutritious food.

    Anything else is applying one’s personal values onto others.

  35. FrancescaA

    Why is this still an issue? Because we are a backward, bogan, male-dominated society, generally speaking? We can portray women on TV and in movies in various states of undress so long as it’s to provide sexual titilation and gratification for men. Yet we cry foul at seeing women use their breasts for the specific purpose that breasts were created to fulfil?

    Freud would have a field day with this topic.

    Is it that as a (male-dominated) society we object to breasts being visible unless they can be used as playthings? Or is it that this is just another way that our patriarchal and dare I say it bogan society seeks to repress women? It all comes down to women having power and a sense of self-determination in this country and most countries on the planet. That’s how I see it. And women can be just as guilty of repressing other women as men.

    And we would risk making babies suffer, because breast-feeding is far and away more beneficial for the baby than bottle feeding for a long list of reasons that do not need to be documented here, just to make the point that women need to stay in their place and keep their milk-oozing breasts hidden from society?

    I don’t have children. And I’m not having children so this will never be an issue for me. But I defend the right of all women everywhere to feed their babies as they see fit. And for those offended by the sight of an exposed breast with a baby attached to it I suggest therapy.

  36. Lee

    “abbienoiraude got it right with this:

    Drinking human milk from a breast is NOT like urinating, or vomitting, or shitting, or spitting, or snotting….

    It is ‘eating’. Good, perfect, totally nutritious food.

    Anything else is applying one’s personal values onto others.”

    That’s an interesting choice of words. Breastfeeding is not always good, perfect and nutritious. Babies can and do starve at the breast – an important fact that is seldom imparted by lactivists to new mothers. Let’s not counter irrational beliefs with more falsehoods.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/76455814/Newborn-baby-dies-after-midwives-fail-to-follow-up-on-ailing-health

    If that baby was put onto formula when the signs of starvation first appeared, chances are he’d still be alive. Pushing breastfeeding onto mothers as the right way or only way to feed is also applying one’s personal values to another person.

    Dr Christie del Castillo-Hegyi highlights some other detrimental effects of inadequate breast milk in the links below.

    http://insufficientbreastfeedingdangers.blogspot.com.au/

    http://www.fearlessformulafeeder.com/2015/05/interview-with-dr-christie-del-castillo-hegyi/

  37. kathysutherland2013

    You’d think people could drink their coca-cola discreetly! Dunno about discretely though.

  38. diannaart

    Nothing on earth is always 100% perfect, Lee.

    Please credit mothers with the intelligence to determine what is best for their baby.

    Many women cannot breastfeed at all, some mothers produce heaps of milk.

    Whatever!

    Feeding an infant is not disgusting or exhibitionist. Unless you make it so.

  39. FrancescaA

    Who here, Lee, is “pushing breastfeeding onto mothers”? From my reading of this article, it’s not seeking to debate the efficacy of breast feeding. It is seeking to challenge the behaviour of individuals who see fit to heap scorn on women who dare to be so audacious and offensive as to breast feed in public. As such your comments are completely irrelevant, Lee. If you have a problem with women breastfeeding in public then that’s your problem, not the breast feeding mothers’. And yes, breastfeeding is ALWAYS the preferred choice if at all possible. But not to the exclusion of feeding your baby in other ways if you cannot breastfeed. I thought common sense would mean that this was a given to everyone reading what is an intelligent publication.

  40. Deanna Jones

    Jeez Lee, I said “in a context of male-dominated society” not “in a context where only men police women’s bodies”.

    I would expect better reading comprehension here. I would also expect a progressive space to accept feminist perspectives. Yes looking at you ScotchMisery. The “but not all men!” silencer is so outdated.

  41. Lee

    “Please credit mothers with the intelligence to determine what is best for their baby.”

    Reality check – mothers don’t always know what is best. If you bothered to read the article about the dead baby, his mother clearly stated she was a first time mother and had no idea what was normal or abnormal. She wants to prevent it from happening to other mothers. Mothers can only make decisions based on the quality of information made available to them.

    To put it in perspective, when a mother is prevented from breastfeeding in public, she’s going to take her baby elsewhere and feed it. It won’t be allowed to starve. Whereas when lactivists push their idealogy onto nursing mothers, a great deal of harm can be done, including death of mother and/or baby.

    I’ve witnessed many women discreetly breastfeeding in public and no one has voiced an objection out aloud. A lot of bystanders don’t even notice. I surveyed 8 women in my lunch room today who have given birth in the last few years and not one of them experienced a problem breastfeeding in public. So I really have to wonder when people complain that breastfeeding is not acceptable in public, are we really talking about just breastfeeding, or are they deliberately being confronting and provocative so that they can justify jumping on a soapbox when someone objects?

  42. evacripps

    Lee, have you ever breastfed? Do you have a medical qualification?

    A mother’s decision to breastfeed is between her and her partner, and her health advisers. You are looking increasingly delusional with your attempts to find ways to justify your idea that there is either ‘no issue’ or that women should feed discreetly, or whatever other point you are trying to prove.

  43. Lee

    “Who here, Lee, is “pushing breastfeeding onto mothers”?”

    Ahem. Abbienoiraude said “Oh and…by the way….I insist breastfeeding IS sexy. It is totally sexy for the woman….believe me….that’s why men should be smart and encourage their partners to breastfeed their bubs…..”

    Have you forgotten already that you wrote “And we would risk making babies suffer, because breast-feeding is far and away more beneficial for the baby than bottle feeding for a long list of reasons that do not need to be documented here”?

    Actually breastfeeding isn’t far and away more beneficial than formula feeding. In first world countries there are small benefits to breastfeeding, over formula feeding. In other places studies have revealed that the infant mortality rate is higher in breastfed babies.

    “From my reading of this article, it’s not seeking to debate the efficacy of breast feeding. It is seeking to challenge the behaviour of individuals who see fit to heap scorn on women who dare to be so audacious and offensive as to breast feed in public. As such your comments are completely irrelevant, Lee. ”

    By that definition then your comments are irrelevant too, FrancescaA. My comments about the efficacy of breastfeeding were not in response to Eva’s article, but from the misinformed comments appearing underneath. I think it’s laughable that you’re judging people for being prudish and forcing their opinion of public breastfeeding on mothers, when in fact you’re doing the same thing when you insist that breastfeeding is superior. Actually your position is potentially more dangerous than someone who objects to seeing a breast in public.

    “If you have a problem with women breastfeeding in public then that’s your problem, not the breast feeding mothers’. ”

    Please tell me where I said I have a problem with women breastfeeding in public. I’ve never said any such thing.

    “And yes, breastfeeding is ALWAYS the preferred choice if at all possible.”

    No it isn’t actually. It is well recognised within the obstetric community that some women choose to not breastfeed for reasons that have nothing to do with supply or quantity. Good obstetricians and midwives work with women to find the method that works best for the mother and baby.

  44. Lee

    Great Eva. Another straw man. Congratulations.

  45. evacripps

    Agreed, Lee. Good obstetricians and midwives work with women to find the method that works best – and there is simply no place at all for people to then put their own requirements on top of that as to where and how a woman should breastfeed. Where does the obstetrician call for women to be ‘discreet’ to save the feelings of people offended by breastfeeding? The community should be supporting the mother however she chooses to feed her child.

    Your ‘factual’ assertions about breastfeeding and formula are incorrect. Published yesterday from The Lancet: http://www.medicaldaily.com/breastfeeding-help-sudden-infant-death-mothers-breast-cancer-risk-371528

    “The benefits of breastfeeding extend beyond providing basic nutrition for infants: A two-part study published in The Lancet found the practice could avert the deaths of more than 800,000 children and 20,000 mothers each year if virtually every new mother breastfed her baby.

    “Breastfeeding is an exquisite personalized medicine,” said Dr. Cesar Victora, lead author of the study, according to Stat. “There is a biological dialogue between mother and child. The breast milk may change according to the child’s need.”

    Despite the many health benefits associated with breastfeeding, including fewer incidences of colds and illnesses in children and a reduced risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in mothers, only 20 percent of infants in high-income countries like the United States are breastfed for up to 12 months. This is compared to low- and middle income countries, where only 37 percent of children younger than 6 months are breastfed. However, the importance of breastfeeding is recognize more in low- and middle income countries than it is in high-income countries.

    “Breastfeeding is one of the few positive health [behaviors] that is more common in poor than richer countries, and within poor countries, is more frequent among poor mothers,” Victora said in a statement. “There is a widespread misconception that the benefits of breastfeeding only relate to poor countries. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

    After reviewing 28 studies, researchers found breastfeeding has dramatic effects on life expectancy. For example, in high-income countries, breastfeeding reduced risk of sudden infant deaths by more than a third. And in low-and middle-income countries, breastfeeding reduced about half of all diarrhea episodes and a third of respiratory infections.

    For mothers specifically, longer-duration breastfeeding seemed to lower risk of dying from breast and ovarian cancer. Previous studies have also linked this practice to mothers’ reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s and diabetes.

    Why are rates so low? The study speculates it has to do with the widespread belief women can substitute breast milk without consequence. The infant formula industry is also a lucrative one, reporting $45 billion in sales in 2014 alone.

    These sales may be influenced by those who are skeptical of the benefits associated with breastfeeding. A 2014 sibling study found little difference between natural feeding and bottle feeding, while a recent New York Times editorial claimed breastfeeding was “oversold.”

    Victora says countries can improve breastfeeding rates and practices by modifying interventions and policies. For example, breastfeeding rates in Bangladesh increased 13 percent after the country implemented interventions that included six months of maternity leave, comprehensive health-worker training, community mobilization, and media campaigns promoting breast feeding.

    Source: Victora C, Bahl R, Barros A, et al. Breastfeeding in the 21st Century: Epidemiology, Mechanisms, and Lifelong Effect. The Lancet. 2016.

    Source: Victora C, Bahl R, Barros A, et al. Why Invest and What it Will Take to Improve Breastfeeding Practices? The Lancet. 2016.”

  46. diannaart

    It is not harmful for a child to be fed in public.

    Non-breast feeding and breast feeding mothers may or may not make mistakes – none of this has anything to do with breastfeeding in public.

    It is the onlooker who chooses to be offended or not.

    In your case, you are using spurious arguments to shore up your belief that public breast feeding is offensive – only to you, Lee, only to you and others like you.

  47. Wally

    diannaart

    “to shore up your belief that public breast feeding is offensive”

    I have read and re-read the comments (twice) and Lee has not said she believes public breast feeding is offensive. See her comment below.

    I don’t think women should have to keep their breasts covered when feeding in public, nor should they have to go and sit in the corner. Lots of women have an exposed breast and they blend in with the crowd and probably go unnoticed by many. I don’t understand why people would be offended by the sight of a woman breastfeeding. It’s not like they’re being forced to watch. Even when a woman is obviously seeking attention, others can choose not to give it to her.

  48. diannaart

    Indeed Wally, that’s what Lee has stated.

    She has also stated:

    “Whereas when lactivists push their idealogy onto nursing mothers, a great deal of harm can be done, including death of mother and/or baby.”

    Lee bangs on and on about formula being better in some circumstances (third world countries), this is true, sometimes formula has to be used.

    Lee informs myself and other women that we don’t always know what is best for us. Yes, some women ARE stupid.

    What does any of this have to do with breast feeding in public?

    Apparently defending public breastfeeding is equivalent to being a lactivist

    First time I have ever heard of ‘lactivist’ – I am quite certain I and others are not such ‘ists’.

  49. Lee

    “Where does the obstetrician call for women to be ‘discreet’ to save the feelings of people offended by breastfeeding? The community should be supporting the mother however she chooses to feed her child.”

    The obstetrician doesn’t. But those of us who work with patients are taught to be sensitive to and respect a wide variety of cultural differences. There are things that I consider to be normal bodily functions and would not cause embarrassment for me, but I do consider that the patients I work with may feel differently. Likewise, I accept that some people may be offended by a woman breastfeeding in public. I think that greater acceptance is more likely to be gained by behaving discreetly than by blatant exhibitionism. I also know that people differ on their definitions of exhibitionism. Where people have widely varying views on any topic, there is more to be gained by building upon common ground and respecting those differences than by one group demanding their right to have everyone else conform to their personal views.

    “Your ‘factual’ assertions about breastfeeding and formula are incorrect.”

    Perhaps. I’ve read a lot of the science and I know I haven’t read it all. But here’s one OBGYN who has provided a critique of that article and I know she isn’t the only one who considers that the authors are drawing a very long bow. I’ve not yet obtained a copy of the Lancet paper to read more details of the study’s design and the validity of conclusions made, but from what I’ve read from Dr Tuteur in the past, she examines the evidence very carefully and I respect her opinion.
    http://www.skepticalob.com/2016/02/saving-babies-lives-whats-breastfeeding-got-to-do-with-it-not-much.html

    To answer your earlier question, no I haven’t breastfed. My only child, a son, was born at 37 weeks so that I could commence chemotherapy. Given the opportunity I would have.

  50. Lee

    “Apparently defending public breastfeeding is equivalent to being a lactivist

    First time I have ever heard of ‘lactivist’ ”

    Nope. Lactivists believe that the only right way to feed a baby is by breastfeeding and they’ll frequently push that belief to the detriment of the mother and child.

    I’ve also noticed that they have a tendency to indulge in more outlandish behaviours (such as those that would be viewed as exhibitionism by some people) and attempt to pass it off as just feeding their babies rather than admit to their real motives.

    What does lactivism have to do with breastfeeding in public? Nothing per se. I was responding to Abbie’s opinion that smart men encourage their partners to breastfeed.

  51. evacripps

    When a person says they are not against public breastfeeding but adds a qualifier, they are demonstrating that they do in fact have an issue. Requesting women be discreet is a qualifier.

    Yes, Australia is multicultural and we are a nation full of people with a range of beliefs, but why should those persons beliefs comes before the right of a woman to feed her child in a perfectly natural way? If you want to compare like-for-like, would a woman feeding her baby from a bottle be asked to do so discreetly? I don’t think so. And neither should they be.

    If the issue with breastfeeding in public is because of the offence it may cause another person with a different cultural background, why are they offended by it? And why should their offence take precedence? Is it because other cultures sexualise breasts or find breastfeeding disgusting? In which case, why should that be accepted over the right of a woman to feed her baby? Some cultures also expect women to cover their hair, or to dress modestly at all times. Australia does not enforce other cultures dress codes on women who live here because of cultural sensitivity and ‘offence’, and neither should we.

    Why is a photo of a woman breastfeeding considered exhibitionism, when a photo of the same woman cuddling her baby with a bottle not? In both cases, is it not a woman being photographed feeding her baby? If you argue that a woman who has her photo taken breastfeeding, is clearly doing so to make a point about breastfeeding, would it not similarly be the case that a woman who has a photo of a baby with a bottle be doing so to make a point about bottle feeding?

    The vast majority of photos that go viral on social media of breastfeeding women are photos taken by family or friends which are shared around and ‘made’ into an issue by other people – they often go viral after the photo is deleted by Facebook for being ‘offensive’ or someone reports it for being ‘offensive’ or the person in the photo receives such negative comments that they decide to out those who have such outdated ideas on appropriate feeding etiquette. In almost every case, the woman breastfeeding in the first instance was not breastfeeding to make a point, or to exhibit herself, or to draw attention to her breasts. Should a breastfeeding woman ban anyone from taking a photo just on the off-chance it is taken out of context and used to shame her and/or make a point by other people with an agenda? Of course not. That would be absurd.

    The Santa photo Lee mentioned earlier came about because the baby was feeding when it came to the family’s turn for a photograph – the photo was taken as a joke, as the woman was already breastfeeding and she decided on the spur of the moment to go ahead with the shot. It was not a ‘staged photo’ for the purposes of exhibitionism, but something she intended for her friends to have a laugh about. Photos of babies and puppy dogs curled up together also go viral.

    It is 2016, not 1940.

  52. Lee

    “When a person says they are not against public breastfeeding but adds a qualifier, they are demonstrating that they do in fact have an issue. Requesting women be discreet is a qualifier.”

    I haven’t requested that women be discreet. I’ve suggested that there would be greater acceptance of breastfeeding in public if some women were more discreet.

    I seem to recall that you were appalled when someone mentioned public urination. It’s a natural body function, and unlike breastfeeding, it’s medically necessary. Why are you offended by it? How is being offended by public urination any different to being offended by public breastfeeding? How would you feel if those in favour of public urination insisted that you need to get over your hangups about completely normal excretion of waste products and allow them to urinate in public?

    If history is anything to go by,you will not overcome conditioned cultural responses with a sledgehammer approach. If you’re given a choice of breastfeed in public but be discreet and respect boundaries, or demand that everyone complies with your wishes, get in their faces and get yourself banned, which is the preferable solution? Which one will provide you with the greatest opportunities to expose (no pun intended) people to breastfeeding and change their perceptions of it?

    If, as you say, public breastfeeding is solely about providing your baby with nutrition, then what is the problem with being discreet? Does keeping your top on alter the nutritional value of your milk? If your goal is to feed your baby then your goal is achieved. The baby is being fed. If being allowed to breastfeed in public whilst respecting the boundaries of others is not acceptable to you, then you’re lying about the sole aim of feeding your baby and perhaps you should deal with your real issues instead of making it out to be someone else’s problem.

  53. diannaart

    The majority of public breastfeeding mothers are doing so to feed their babies – not create a sensation.

    Yet, you seem to believe that is not the case with your continual recommendation:

    If history is anything to go by,you will not overcome conditioned cultural responses with a sledgehammer approach. If you’re given a choice of breastfeed in public but be discreet and respect boundaries

    Women’s boundaries are violated every day with sexual images plastered on wide-screen advertising through to pictures on magazines and online – no need to discuss the abundance of porn available to any teen.

    Yet you believe that women breastfeeding in public should be hidden away. Lee, you can’t even see a nipple with a babies head attached to it.

    Once again you compare feeding babies to excretion of bodily wastes:

    I seem to recall that you were appalled when someone mentioned public urination. It’s a natural body function, and unlike breastfeeding, it’s medically necessary

    There is nothing about a visual “sledghammer” when a mother feeds her child – however there clearly is there is if anyone urinates in public view – it is unhygienic – that is why we have public toilets – why should women forced to feed their babies in such places that are only for the elimination of bodily wastes?

    You are trying to force women to conform to a closeted sterile image of motherhood, you are qualifying your argument with frequent requests for discretion and attempting to equate feeding with something obscene.

  54. Lee

    “The majority of public breastfeeding mothers are doing so to feed their babies – not create a sensation.

    Yet, you seem to believe that is not the case with your continual recommendation:”

    It’s about time you started reading what has been written, not what you want to believe and then construct a straw man argument. I clearly stated above that the majority of breastfeeding that I witness, i would not consider to be exhibitionism.

    “Women’s boundaries are violated every day with sexual images plastered on wide-screen advertising through to pictures on magazines and online – no need to discuss the abundance of porn available to any teen.”

    And women are contributing to it! There couldn’t be sexual images plastered everywhere if women didn’t pose for them in the first place. Sorry, but women need to start accepting some responsibility for that.

    Women are sending mixed messages. There’s a term in recent years that is gaining popularity in our culture, “Yummy Mummy”. Women seem to be loving that term, particularly when it is bestowed upon them. The portrait of the woman in the snow clearly indicates that the woman wants to be viewed as sexually desirable and a mother *at the same time*. But hey, please only view her as a sexual being when she’s breastfeeding in the snow. Don’t you dare do it when she’s breastfeeding in the local shopping centre!

    The British forced the Aboriginals to wear clothing. A man can wear Speedos in the street, but not undies. Women still do not have rights equal to men in this country when it comes to toplessness in public. In Finland it is not uncommon for entire families to spend time together naked. Here there’s a good chance you will receive a visit from the Police or Family Services. I like being naked at home. In my last home I could be naked in my back yard because it was private. In my current home I can’t do it without risking problems because all of my neighbours can see over the fence. Like it or not, for better or worse, that’s our culture. Compare the posture of the woman in the snow to a photo of a naturalist. The body language is very different. Our society is inundated with images that pair sex with exposed flesh, but relatively few of exposed flesh where the sexual component is absent.

    “There is nothing about a visual “sledghammer” when a mother feeds her child – however there clearly is there is if anyone urinates in public view – it is unhygienic – that is why we have public toilets ”

    There was a proposal a year or two ago to install urinals outside of a local pub, because men were coming out of the pub and urinating on the ground. Urinating into a urinal has the same public health implications whether it is indoors or out. It met with a lot of opposition despite the hygiene issue being addressed, because people are grossed out by normal body functions.

    “You are trying to force women to conform to a closeted sterile image of motherhood, you are qualifying your argument with frequent requests for discretion and attempting to equate feeding with something obscene.”

    Yet you’re the one referring to normal body functions as obscene. You’re ashamed of the human body but you expect others not to be. I’ve already addressed the mixed messages with the pairing of sex and breastfeeding when it suits women, and the criticism when it doesn’t suit to have them paired. Good luck with the public breastfeeding while you’re refusing to take responsibility for your own contributions to the problem!

  55. diannaart

    @Lee

    Yes, I understand many women contribute to the objectification of women – remember I wrote above “some women are stupid”?

    So why should women have to be discreet about something that is as natural and inoffensive as feeding a baby when there are far more objectionable images of women around?

    How can breastfeeding be accepted as natural if we still hide ourselves away?

    And please stop the comparison to urination – while both are natural, one requires a special place due to the release of waste materials while the other is simply feeding a baby – there is no comparison.

    Wait there is one, changing nappies – now THAT needs to be done somewhere dirty nappies can be removed, baby cleaned up and new nappies put in place – not something one can do in a restaurant, but FEEDING a baby is something that can be done safely and cleanly in public.

  56. Lee

    “Yes, I understand many women contribute to the objectification of women – remember I wrote above “some women are stupid”?”

    Thank you, I had forgotten that.

    “So why should women have to be discreet about something that is as natural and inoffensive as feeding a baby when there are far more objectionable images of women around?”

    They shouldn’t have to be. But I’ve spent enough of my working life trying to find solutions between two opposing groups of people to know that often you need to start with a compromise that gives both groups some of their desires and then build on it from there. With behaviour modification of conditioned responses you can force a change on someone and eventually they’ll give in and comply, but they won’t be comfortable with it. It’s easier to work within their comfort zone and gradually change their perception of the stimulus. Then you get cooperation and they’re happy/comfortable to do it. It’s no different with conditioned cultural attitudes.

    “How can breastfeeding be accepted as natural if we still hide ourselves away?”

    It won’t be. We need to start changing community attitudes towards our bodies and our sexuality in a number of ways, not just with regard to breastfeeding. When we produce images of breastfeeding that we want to be viewed as normal and non-sexual, then don’t include sex and keep it realistic. Recently there was a photo of a woman involved in some emergency service, perhaps CFS or SES, I cannot remember which, and while she was waiting around at the worksite, she fed her baby. It caused an uproar but it was a good example of normalising breastfeeding. There was another photo recently of a policewoman in America who encountered a starving baby on the job. She had milk so she fed that baby. That’s another good example of normalising breastfeeding. Why pass off fantasy images as normal breastfeeding? Most people know that fantasies aren’t real. Why include sexual poses in an image that is intended to normalise breastfeeding? Most people don’t have sex when their kids are in the bed with them and we want people to pair breasts with food, not sex. Let’s see photos of families sitting around the dining table, or having a picnic, sharing a meal, and mum is breastfeeding. Insert mum into normal, every day, realistic situations. Are there employers who allow women to breastfeed in the workplace? Let’s give them some good publicity for supporting working mothers. Hopefully it can provide ideas for other employers to make it work. Allow breastfeeding in our parliament (which looks like it will happen soon). Our nation’s leaders should be setting a good example for the rest of the nation. Let’s allow people to be naked in their own back yards, even when the neighbours can see over the fence. Allow women to be topless at more beaches. Let’s see more images of nudity that aren’t trying to sell sex.

  57. diannaart

    @Lee

    I agree with your points in the last 2 comments you made.

    I am not going to comment further. Normally I would, but I just don’t have the energy – seriously, I have to choose carefully how to use what energy I have – I wish I could be as prolific as others, but that’s life. So, we are going to have to agree to disagree on this – which is not bad – enables both of us to review our beliefs – never any harm in that.

    Cheers

  58. Lee

    Thanks for the discussion, diannaart. I’m happy to agree to disagree too. Cheers xx

  59. (.)(.)

    You should see the looks I get when I’m brestfeeding in public! Mum says I should just ignore them, but after 42 years, it starts to get to ya!

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