Last weekend, we had the rare chance to revisit Manila to pick up a convertible high chair/ swing for Lia. The little one was up on her toes all morning, enjoying the sights and sounds at the mall. But by lunch time, she was beginning to get cranky even after gulping down 4 ounces of pumped milk. It was already her nap time, but our reliable carrier is no place for that, as she prefers to be cradled in the sling AND breastfed to sleep.
Lemme tell you one thing though. My husband is terribly modest. He’s reluctant about breastfeeding in public lest it is obvious to on-lookers. When I breastfeed in the car, I need to don a nursing cover even if the daughter’s completely hidden under a smock blouse I’m wearing. Consequently, I myself developed a habit of being too conscious when publicly nursing.
|Breastfeeding a first time in public. Surprisingly liberating.|
But the parking lot and breastfeeding station were too far away for adult specifications, our pumped milk stash had run out and we still had errands to run. Public perception, including my husband’s, was the least of my concerns. So I decided to do what I only in the car and at home: Breastfeed. Within ten minutes, my baby was knocked out.
Surprisingly, it did not turn out to be uncomfortable as I expected it to be. As I walked along the busy corridors of the mall with my daughter feeding under a sling’s tail, I found that the public didn’t care too much if a mom discreetly breastfeeds. The considerate clerks at Ace even toned down the music when we passed by. Maybe you’d only draw as much public attention as you would draw to yourself. It was a liberating, eye-opening experience.
Back when I was still single up until pre-pregnancy, the sight of women breastfeeding in public made me uncomfortable. Sure, it is a natural phenomenon, but the breasts in Western-influenced societies are generally viewed as sexual in nature. When I became a mother though, it occurred to me that the reason why men’s breasts are structurally very different from women’s is because they were intended for the purpose of nourishing one’s young, not for the pleasure and enjoyment of the opposite sex.
|A mother’s milk has magic powers. It contains hormones that relaxes the baby and induces sleep.|
I realized that I had the maturity of a pubescent girl when it came to the matter. Back in the days when slings and nursing covers were yet unknown, I would judge mothers who plopped their breasts out in public to feed their hungry infants. Why not bring a bottle, I would think. I was ignorant.
Breastfeeding goes beyond sustenance and nutrition. It is giving life. It is sharing and giving back to a gift that was entrusted to a mother. A mom’s choice of what and when to feed her young is hers alone. If adults can feed publicly in restaurants without being judged, why shouldn’t babies -who are primal and can’t curb their hunger as we adults can – be given the same privilege? Why should mothers who answer to the call of their child’s hunger be ridiculed for doing so? We feed using spoons and bottles perfectly fine all the time; why shouldn’t it occur to us that there’s nothing remotely malicious or sexual about babies feeding from a breast?
In the end, breastfeeding publicly is a matter of subjectivity. Whether it is lewd to see infants nursing from their moms outside the home or not remains on the eyes of the beholder. We, breastfeeding mothers, can only hope we’d see a future where the world would finally see it as normal and natural as any feeding is.