- Trouble with feeding – There are many minor issues and challenges that may arise and cause a woman to stop breastfeeding. She may feel like she’s not producing enough milk, the baby is not latching on properly, she struggles to find time pumping, etc.
- Poor body image – Women may feel self-conscious about lifting their shirt up or pulling it down in public, especially with changes their body underwent during pregnancy and birth.
- Cultural and societal issues – Certain cultures and societies value breastfeeding and seeing women breastfeeding public is considered normal. In other cultures where public breastfeeding does not regularly take place, people may feel uncomfortable with it. People may make rude comments or look at the woman in a rude manner.
- Partner jealousy – Partners may feel jealous when a mother decides to breastfeed for many reasons. They may feel like they are not involved in the feeding process, or they may feel jealous of the time the woman must spend with the baby when breastfeeding. Partners may also feel jealous or uncomfortable that the woman is exposing her body in public.
- Media – I rarely see babies being breastfed in movies and television shows. This applies to both fictional shows and reality television. One of the most frustrating things to watch was a season reunion of 16 and pregnant, where an audience member asked why none of the moms breastfed. They all gave reasons/excuses (it hurt, etc) and Dr. Drew followed up by saying that most people don’t realize how hard breastfeeding is. Rather than turning this into an opportunity to promote breastfeeding, they basically gave the audience and viewers more reasons not to breastfeed.
Solving these issues to improve breastfeeding rates will require several different angles. For the immediate issue of trouble when trying to feed and poor body image, women need to know about and have access to resources that are affordable, whether it’s a nurse or ob/gyn, WIC, La Leche League, a peer group, or a lactation consultant.
But the larger problem is at the societal level. Why do we look at breastfeeding as dirty? Marketing campaigns for beer and restaurants can use scantily clad females to convince men to purchase their products – yet breastfeeding mothers are accused of making people uncomfortable in public? There are 13 year old girls taking photos of themselves in bikinis to post to facebook - yet facebook has a history of pulling photos of breastfeeding mothers for being ‘inappropriate.’
I'm sorry - this double standard is ridiculous. Public breastfeeding is not taboo. It is not exposing your body for a sexual reason – you are feeding your child. At a societal level, breastfeeding needs to be more widely promoted and accepted. And to do this, it needs to be seen more often – in public and in the media. The more that women breastfeed in public, the more commonplace it will seem, and the more other women should feel comfortable with it. The same goes for portraying it as a natural part of life in the media.
If I’m blessed to have a child and breastfeed in the future, you better believe I’ll be out in public feeding my baby. You don’t want to look at my breasts? Don’t. Turn your head, look at something else, and let me enjoy bonding with my child.