Before having a baby I would have never thought about going topless on the beach or displaying my breasts in a public place. And yet only a few weeks after the birth of my son I have been able to shed all inhibitions and find myself getting my breasts out everywhere I go.
What are your thoughts on breast-feeding in public?
Since having my son, I have noticed three distinct types of women on the breast-feeding circuit. First, the ones I like to call “Earth Mothers” who have absolutely no inhibitions at all. They tend to ‘wear’ their babies rather than ‘push’ them around. Their babies wear cloth nappies and without wanting to generalize, will usually breast-feed their children past the age of one. They feed their babies on the move, in cafes, restaurants, parks, festivals, just about anywhere and offer no discretion or cover whatsoever. I admire these women. To me, this looks like how it should be done. It shouldn’t be taboo. It shouldn’t be inappropriate. It shouldn’t make anyone uncomfortable.
The second type of women is probably the most common on the circuit – they are women who again will feed anywhere they go but they will usually cover themselves up with a muslin wrap or a scarf or something similar that falls from their shoulder and over their babies head. I wonder at times whether this cloak of privacy is for their own comfort or for the comfort of those around them. Either way, it seems to be the done thing.
The final type of woman comes in two very different packages. The first are the mums who breast-feed comfortably at home but who will express a bottle before leaving home so that they don’t have to worry about public displays. The second type of woman in this category is the woman that will actually get up and leave the table at a café to find somewhere private to feed their child.
Where do I sit amongst all of this?
Well … I move between the first and second type of women and only cover up when I feel it’s necessary or more comfortable for the other people around me. I certainly don’t cover up because it’s easier for me.
I love the ease of lifting my top and attaching my baby without any hesitation. I love holding his little hand and watching his face as he drinks, his eyes on mine. Being all covered up makes all of this interaction more challenging and less enjoyable.
I would like to be more like the first group of women who just get on with the job, either unaware or unconcerned about the outside world. Because really, what is all the fuss about anyway?
When I reflect on all of this I do ask myself sometimes why do I cover up? Why do I feel as though it’s the ‘right’ thing to do? Is that how I have been conditioned and if so, by whom? Who sets these standards? Is it the media? Is it our friends and family?
Whoever it is, it doesn’t make sense. Why should a first world forward thinking country like ours have any concerns about feeding our children in the most natural way possible? Why is it ‘polite’ to cover up in Australia?
Amongst mothers I think anything goes, there is no right way to do things and there certainly doesn’t seem to be any judgement of each other – in the playground, at playgroup, cafe’s… anything goes.
Each woman is on her own journey and must do whatever she finds the most comfortable. If you have a breast feeding story that you would like to share or some thoughts on your own experiences, I would love to hear them.
Thanks for reading.