All About Breastfeeding: Episode 58 – Nursing in public

Why this podcast?
All About Breastfeeding’s opening track consists of a woman rolling out all the euphemisms used to describe our breasts.

” Balloons, bazookas, boobs, boobies, bosoms, boulders, cans, hooters, knockers, melons, honkers, jugs, rack, tatas…The Girls’

How could I not feature this podcast???!

Seriously, though, this is a fabulous resource for anyone planning to or already breastfeeding. The host, Lori Isenstadt, is an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and after having a not so great birth or breastfeeding experience with her first child she certified as a Childbirth Educator and as a Birth Doula.

In her own words –

”Now incredibly thrilled with my second and third birth experiences I now became a mother on a mission to let others know their prenatal, birth and breastfeeding options”

With around ten thousand private consultations with mothers and their babies, I think it is safe to say that Lori knows a thing or two about breastfeeding.

Lori invites guests onto the podcast to talk about breastfeeding, mothering, newborns and childbirth. I find it a really nice balance of expert advice and personal stories from breastfeeding mums.

The podcast is designed to provide –

”Breastfeeding with confidence / inspiring stories / expert advice”

How does it look?
Episodes are released twice weekly and range from fifteen minutes to well over an hour. Without doing calculations on an excel sheet (and I REALLY don’t want to go there) it is hard to give an average length but I’m going to say around forty-five minutes. I discovered this podcast a while ago and was at times slightly put off by the lengthy episodes but there do seem to be a range of shorter ones available too.

All About Breastfeeding covers various areas including nursing strikes, breastfeeding & medication, co-sleeping, tongue tie, latch, breastfeeding in the first week, cleft lip & palate, pumping and addiction in breastfeeding mothers. There are, to date, nearly 150 episodes to choose from so there will definitely be a lot of great information to delve into.

Who should listen to this episode?
Anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding. Anyone whose partner, friend or relative is breastfeeding. Possibly even anyone who finds breastfeeding (particularly in public) distasteful.

The episode
I hope that in my posts so far I have been able to remain fairly neutral. Today’s post, however, will not be. I have a feeling that the vast majority of those reading this will not have any issues with mothers breastfeeding in public so I am not too worried about offending anyone. I will try not to rant and rave but I am making no promises.

I just cannot be neutral about this topic. In fact, I don’t even understand why it’s a topic at all.

If you are out shopping and you are hungry, you grab a bite to eat. Does anyone ask you to go and eat your lunch in the toilet? No. If your child needs food, you are not expected to throw a blanket over them while they eat their sandwich. And, yet, when a mother feeds her hungry baby on a bench or in a restaurant some people freak out. Lose their minds.

Why????!!

I have never seen a woman strip to the waist to breastfeed. The vast majority of the time, even when the mother is not using a cover, you can’t see anything, unless (and here’s something to think about) you LOOK REALLY HARD.

The mother’s clothes and the baby’s head cover most of any exposed area of the breast and the baby’s mouth covers the nipple and all or most of the aureole. It’s a bit of a cliche (but that doesn’t make it any less true) that more is revealed on someone wearing a low cut top or a bikini on the beach.

Plus, breasts were made for feeding babies.

”No matter what anyone’s personal opinion is the primary purpose of our breasts is to feed our babies”

I feel I should be completely open and share that I breastfed all three of my children and LOVED it. I can honestly say that when I was pregnant with my second child, breastfeeding her was one of the things I was looking forward to most. I think breastfeeding is beautiful and amazing and I cried buckets of tears when, at ten months, my oldest went on a breastfeeding strike that never ended (he bit me, I firmly told him no, he was a bit scared, end of breastfeeding).

When I see mothers feeding their babies I find it so hard, no, I’m being honest here, pretty much impossible, to understand how anyone can think that it’s anything other than beautiful and wonderous and the most amazing thing in the world.

I understand that some women choose not to breastfeed. I understand that some really try but either due to a medical issue or, in so many cases, a lack of good support, they are unable to. These are not issues that I want to get into here. This post is purely about breastfeeding in public and why we are shaming mothers for it. In Lori’s own words –

”I just don’t get it”

Whilst this episode tackles a pretty serious issue, I love how Lori brings in some humour to highlight how crazy it is that this is happening.
There is, she says, a very simple solution for those that are uncomfortable with public breastfeeding. It’s groundbreaking actually. Amazing. Are you ready??

They can look away

See? I told you! Breathtakingly simple. She adds that they could also carry a blanket so that when they find a mother feeding her baby with no cover they can use the blanket to cover up……their own heads. I think it’s fair to say that I pretty much cracked up at this point.

This episode features an email that Lori received from a university student who was also a breastfeeding mother. Autumn had been given the assignment to write a persuasive speech topic and decided to choose breastfeeding in public. This subject was close to her heart as she was being made to feel ashamed for doing just that.
During the episode, Lori responds to each of Autumn’s questions and you can find the transcript for this episode by clicking on the link at the top of this page. I won’t cover all of the question and answers here but the one that really stood out for me was this one:

Is the sexualization of breasts the major issue with public breastfeeding?
I was fully expecting Lori to say, yes, absolutely, that’s the reason! However, although she certainly feels that this plays a role in people’s negative reactions to seeing women breastfeeding, she also cites another key reason that people are so uncomfortable – a complete lack of exposure to and understanding of, all things breastfeeding.

I think it’s fantastic (and a good lesson for me) that instead of simply writing off those who have issues with public breastfeeding she tries to understand the reasons behind their discomfort. A lot of people have simply never been around breastfeeding. Perhaps they were formula fed, maybe their friends and family did not breastfeed their children.

Lori explains that this can result in a complete lack of understanding of some really key components of breastfeeding

”the lack of understanding about how the breasts make milk, what is normal for newborns feedings, the act of supply and demand and many other things are also things that cause people to have issues with public breastfeeding.”

It had genuinely never occurred to me that some people might think that you can feed your baby before you leave the house and then wait until you get home to feed them again. Regardless of how long you are out. Listening to Lori talk about this took away some of the frustration I felt towards those who react in a negative way when they see mothers breastfeeding. It reminded me that you always have to put yourself in that other person’s shoes and try to see what they see.

Exposure is they key. Once those same people become parents or grandparents they suddenly get a major lesson in all things breastfeeding!

”They understand hungry babies and bursting boobs can’t wait. They begin to get it…. And stop thinking of it as a sexual thing. So, I think education is KEY.”

We have taken many steps back in the last fifty years
This is not something I had thought about or heard too much about in relation to breastfeeding in public. Lori points out (and has some beautiful photos of this on her website) that feeding in public in the 1930’s, 40’s & 50’s was completely normal. No-one batted an eye. How have we managed to backtrack so much even though we now know far more about the liquid gold that is breastmilk??

This episode really gave me some food for thought and I have to admit that I was quite shocked when Lori stated that we should stop focussing so much on making people comfortable with public breastfeeding.

”More women just need to do it, despite what others may think. The more we see it, the more it will be accepted.”

To wrap up
I had to think about Lori’s above statement for a while and I am still not sure I totally agree with her. I can see, however, that trying to persuade someone to feel or not feel something is almost always going to be an uphill struggle, to say the least.
Education is a key factor. People need to learn more about breastfeeding and then, they need to see it.

Simply put, it needs to become a part of our lives.

I breastfed all three of my children in public. Not as some kind of statement but because they were hungry. I really never thought too much about whether I was on my sofa at home, in a restaurant or on a park bench. If my babies were hungry, I gave them food. Along with loving and protecting their children, isn’t that what mothers are supposed to do?

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic, please leave a comment at the bottom.

Until next time!

Other episodes on this topic
Birthful: Episode 46 -Nursing in Public
Features Michelle Hickman who was harassed by staff for nursing in a Target store in 2011

Pea in the Podcast: Breastfeeding – Tips, Hints & Advice to Make it Work for You

 

Emily Wills is a doula based in Stockholm. She believes that birth can be a beautiful and empowering experience and started this blog as a way of sharing some really great podcasts. She is also a mother of three and an enthusiastic runner.
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