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Is it Polite to Breastfeed in Public?

There is no debate that breastfeeding is one of the best things that a mother can do for her child!

Aside from the vital nutrients found in breast milk --- nutrients that can’t be duplicated by any powdered formula --- there’s the benefit of bonding between mother and child. And nursing women need to feed their babies regularly, or their breasts would ache and feel heavy.

A trickier question, however, is ‘should a mother breastfeed in public?’ On one hand, there’s certainly nothing malicious about the act. Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world and there’s no reason why it should offend anyone’s sensibilities. You can’t schedule a baby’s cry for milk, and forcing women to breastfeed in just their homes is similar to confining them to house arrest.

On the other hand, there are those who feel that while natural, breastfeeding is a private and intimate matter. It’s better done in closed doors, only in the company of close family members. In fact, there are countries where religion, culture, and even law prohibit public breastfeeding. Younger children unexposed to female private parts, as well as those who may choose to view the act with less than honorable intentions, may not benefit from the display.

Should you breastfeed in public? It really depends on your beliefs and values. Unless, there is a legal impediment for you to do so, breastfeeding is a choice you can explore.

But consider your comfort level. Is breastfeeding in public something that you feel at ease doing? There’s no pressure for you to do so, the same way that there’s no pressure for you not to. After all, there are pumps available that can make breast milk available while mother and child are both on the road. If breastfeeding in public makes uncomfortable, to the point that nursing becomes an embarrassing and traumatic experience for you, then don’t do it.

The real detriment to breastfeeding in public lies in the perception of others. Unfortunately, while there are many educational campaigns about public breastfeeding, we still can’t control how others would react to the sight. We live in a highly sexualized, at times irreverent and sexist society, that any mother nursing in public is at risk for being judged, oogled at, or subject to offensive remarks. You can never guarantee onlooker’s maturity, so always be careful.

To help you guard yourself against possible harassment, it’s best that you always (a) discern where you’re going to breastfeed, and (b) wear the proper nursing attire, when you breastfeed in public.

It is important to determine where you’re going to breastfeed. If a place is frequented by people who may likely react unfavorably to your breastfeeding publicly, then refrain from doing so. Think of you and your baby’s safety and comfort first.

Think about exposure. Nursing bras or nursing tops allow you nurse your baby without exposing anything. If you don’t have nursing bras or nursing tops, you may opt to just bring a blanket with you. Many onlookers concede that, for as long as breastfeeding is done discreetly, it is generally acceptable.

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