Breastfeeding in public is a much-debated and quite controversial issue that continues to divide opinion. While many people don’t see a problem with it, many others find it quite off-putting and even offensive – but why? Is it down to personal views or even a deeper reason, such as their faith or the over-sexualisation of breasts in the public’s perception?
Thankfully, a whole host of celebrities have been photographed breast feeding their children including Gwen Stefani, Gisele Bundchen and Maggie Gyllenhaal so you’d think a more understanding attitude would have descended on society. The thing is though, it hasn’t.
photo courtesy of @gwenstefani on Twitter
There have been a number of high-profile incidents where nursing mothers have been ejected, humiliated and victimised for feeding their children in shops, swimming baths and even on social media.
All I ever hear from the haters is ‘why don’t they go into the toilet and do it’ or ‘stay at home?’
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t fancy eating my lunch in a toilet and, with breast feeding taking sometimes hours, why shouldn’t a mother have access to food and refreshments when feeding out and about.
Every time I have seen a woman breast feeding her baby, I have never recoiled. I see it as a thing of beauty and something that should not even applauded. It should be seen as the norm.
According to a recent survey by Benenden, a health and wellbeing, mutual community, almost half (49 per cent) of mums that didn’t breastfeed, wanted to or tried to. Of those that didn’t, only 16 per cent said they chose formula feeding because it was more convenient. So what is it that’s really putting people off breastfeeding?
Well, with a shocking one in five mums who completed the survey experiencing negativity in public, it’s little wonder that people have their reservations. In fact, of those that have breastfed in public, only 57 per cent of them were comfortable about doing so. But who are they experiencing negativity from, and why?
The aim of World Breastfeeding Week is to raise awareness of the health benefits of breastfeeding and provide support to those across the world wanting to breastfeed. But here in the UK, what are our attitudes towards breastfeeding? Do we allow women to feel comfortable about this natural act, with its indisputable health benefits?
Perhaps surprisingly, 16 per cent of women believe that breastfeeding in public is unacceptable, compared to just six per cent of men. What’s more, 12 per cent of women said that public breastfeeding would be acceptable if they were covered, either by breastfeeding under clothes or using a modesty cloth, whilst only four per cent of men felt that this was necessary.
It seems that people’s age groups also affect their views on breastfeeding. The most lenient groups were the 25-40 year olds, with 90 per cent of them finding public breastfeeding perfectly acceptable. The biggest percentage of those that found it unacceptable were over 60, 40 per cent of whom deemed it inappropriate.
Attitudes also appear to vary depending on location. Of those that have experienced negativity when breastfeeding in public, 41 per cent of them were from the south of England. Those from Northern Ireland seemed to have received the least amount of negativity from breastfeeding in public, with only two per cent of people being affected.
It seems that whether people are deciding to breastfeed or not, there is still a lot of controversy surrounding breastfeeding in public, and despite the proven health benefits for both mother and child, these attitudes continue to put people off. But in this modern world, where science prevails and health should be everyone’s number one priority, should this really be the case?
Breast feeding is hard. Anyone who has tried it will tell you so but, with help and determination, it can be the most rewarding thing you will ever do for your baby.
Personally, I struggled breast feeding Boo. Even three-and-a-half years ago, there was little help when I struggled and I ended up giving in too soon.
With the added worry of what other people think, it is little wonder mothers leave the house, let alone continue to nurse their babies when the going gets tough.
With this new baby, I am determined to have another go at it. The midwife has assured me that there is a lot more help out there now.
Let’s make breastfeeding normal for our children and stop the stigma.
*This post is in collaboration with Benenden and all opinions are my own