August is National Breastfeeding Awareness month. A lot of us have heard the “Breast is Best” campaign and stories of breastfeeding moms who have been kicked out of stores and restaurants for nursing their babies. We’ve also heard how breastfeeding has offended a slew of people who either don’t have children, those who forgot what its like to have young children, and those who believe that breasts should not be used to fulfill a babies insatiable appetite, but rather to only be used to fulfill ones sexual appetite.
Breastfeeding is a personal choice a mother makes for her child. It’s not a decision that is right for every mother, child, or situation. It’s not criteria in which to judge a mother’s value or competency as a parent. Although breastfeeding does not come naturally to everyone, it is NORMAL. Breastfeeding is HARD. It is physically, mentally and emotionally draining. The last thing a breastfeeding mom needs is criticism for her choice on how she feeds her child.
Instead of kicking moms out of stores for breastfeeding, or snickering about a mom’s choice to nurse at the table near yours, just remember, babies get hungry the same way you and I do. The only difference is that babies need to eat more often and they don’t know how to control or comfort their hunger pangs except to cry louder and louder until fed. If it makes you uncomfortable to see a mom breastfeeding, look away and focus your attention elsewhere. It takes only a moment and very little effort to fix your gaze onto something else.
The world needs more breastfeeding allies like the teenage barista who didn’t give into the complaints of a customer’s negative reaction to another customer nursing her child. Instead, the barista apologized and offered a free coffee voucher to the nursing mother for having to experience such ‘unpleasantness’ from the complaining customer. And less people like the manager who removed a covered-up, nursing mom, who just spent hundreds of dollars at the store, from a chair in the back of the store to a back stockroom toilet to continue nursing. Ultimately, all the criticism and negativity directed towards breastfeeding moms directly affect the well being of the innocent baby. No one wants that. Take it from me, when I happen to lock eyes with someone while I’m nursing in public, and that person smiles at me, that small gesture never fails to make my day a little brighter. Let’s start normalizing breastfeeding, instead of shaming it.