Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Feeding time

Why are people still so hung up about breastfeeding? It's a totally natural activity, all the experts recommend it, there's nothing sexual or porny about it, yet any public glimpse of it is still seen by many as shocking or even distasteful. Why such extreme reactions?

One woman suggests it's partly the lack of breastfeeding photos in the media. If you never see pictures of it, it turns into something odd and furtive, something you feel uncomfortable about. If images of breastfeeding were everywhere, that sense of peculiarity would disappear.

It's not only photos we're lacking. It's any mention at all, other than in parenting columns. It seldom comes up in books or plays or movies. Or public health ads. Or people's photo albums. Even in ordinary conversation, it's a bit of a taboo.

Not so long ago pictures of heavily pregnant women were thought outrageous. Now they've become normal and nobody bats an eyelid. Breastfeeding photos need to become equally common. And not just photos in a domestic setting but in those public places we use all the time - restaurants, cafes, shops, cinemas.

Feeding your child with your own milk (or someone else's child for that matter) is one of the most natural and beautiful things in the world. It's far more natural than the sort of images routinely plastered over the media every day - images of death and destruction and disaster.

Newspapers fall over themselves to publish pointless pictures of buxom, scantily-clad women. Yet when breasts are put to their intended use, suddenly mass coyness descends and nobody must see this awful, corrupting sight. It's absurd.

If breastfeeding mums were as visible as page three girls or underwear models, maybe ordinary women with hungry children wouldn't find themselves relegated to a filthy toilet or dingy storeroom as if they were hopeless perverts.

20 comments:

Bijoux said...

I have never thought of the lack of photo aspect of it.

I've seen this topic discussed on forums and most want to blame America's obsession with T and A , while others blame puritanical roots. There seems to be the assumption that in Europe and other parts of the world, there isn't any hiding of breast feeding. I guess they are wrong!

Nick said...

Bijoux: No, I hadn't either. But it's a very good point.

You'd think the obsession with tits and arse would make breastfeeding pics perfectly okay. Perhaps men just don't want to see breasts that are in use and not actively flaunted for men's pleasure?

Oh yes, breastfeeding is just as hidden in the UK. I can't remember the last time I saw a woman breastfeeding in public.

Ursula said...

This post does so not deserve an answer, Nick, it takes all my might to not delete what I have just written.

U

Z said...

I did, quite recently. It was discreetly done, not many women would choose to bare their breasts completely. I've never come across any objection personally, and I've been in the company of my daughter-in-law with each of her three babies and my daughter with her two - I think there's a lot of it about, and we only hear about people who object strongly or those who kick back at the objections.

I agree with your point though - I wish it were unacceptable to see a baby being fed artificially, modified reconstituted milk by bottle and that the norm was pictures of breastfeeding.

Z said...

And, to anyone who was unable to breastfeed, of course they have the right to bottle-feed and babies do very well on it. But the depicted norm is the wrong way round, I think.

Nick said...

Ursula: How very enigmatic....

Z: That's good that you've never come across any objections. And yes, it should be bottle-feeding people object to rather than breastfeeding.

I guess you're right that some women wouldn't want to show too much so they'd rather breastfeed in private anyway.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I'm one of those women who breast-fed publicly all the time. Discreetly - I didn't just whip my top off and completely expose my breasts - but I never felt any qualms about hiking up my shirt to feed my hungry baby. I always figured I was doing what was right for my baby and if anyone had a problems with it, it was their problem. And occasionally people did. Once I'd pulled my car to a distant parking space and was nursing the baby there. A family pulled in next to me and the woman (weirdly, the woman was the only one who noticed or cared) craned her neck to see what I was doing and then said, "Oh my God, she's BREAST-feeding her baby!" I thought that was a truly bizarre reaction. On the other hand, I was once nursing one of my babies at the mall - because babies don't wait for convenient times to get hungry - and I looked up to see a man watching me with a smile. Not an icky, ogling smile but a sweet sentimental smile if approval. I appreciated that.

Wisewebwoman said...

I think you hit the nail on the head when you suggested men seeing breasts for the purpose for which they were intended could be a turnoff.

And T&A sells. Pornification sells.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

Agent: Exactly, it's the objectors who have the problem, not the nursing mother. And isn't that weird when it's a woman who disapproves?

Nice that a man could be fondly appreciative and not just gawping.

www: Yes, breasts NOT on sexual display for the nearest male. How outrageous!

bonsaimum said...

We don't see many women breastfeeding here either, in public. It's not like you whip them out for all to see. Its a natural thing and usually done as discreetly as possible-a special time between mother and child. People should be more outraged at young men wearing their pants halfway down their backsides and waddling along trying to stop them falling off. Mind you, I do laugh as they look ridiculous.

Nick said...

Bonsaimum: Oh, I do agree with you, those guys with oversize pants are absurd. I saw one a few weeks back. He was having a hell of a time trying to keep his pants from falling down. Utterly pointless, unlike breastfeeding.

Suburbia said...

Yes, a complete mystery as to why people are offended! I enjoyed feeding my kids but I was always on the look out for potential conflict when I was feeding them in public.

Nick said...

Suburbia: I can imagine. You never know when some lunatic is going to make a big fuss over something that's totally unremarkable.

Nick said...

I see UNICEF China now has a mobile app that locates breastfeeding rooms in public places in different cities. But why should mothers be relegated to special rooms?

blackwatertown said...

Good photos on this subject here - http://blackwatertown.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/is-it-time-to-see-more-breastfeeding-in-public/ though you've already seen them yourself Nick.

There's also a good and all too rare instance of the use of the verb "slaver".

Meanwhile good for SecretAgentWoman - I militantly agree with her and you. What's natural is wonderful. Bar the begrudgers not the breastfeeders and breastfed.

Nick said...

Paul: I see from your link there's a school of thought that mothers shouldn't look too "sexy" in breastfeeding selfies (which as far as I can see only means a bit of make-up and a good hairdo). Oh, for goodness sake, get a grip....

kylie said...

you made one single mistake here , nick:

breastfeeding is totally, entirely , spectacularly remarkable!

;) but i knew what you meant

Nick said...

Kylie: Yes, I know what you mean too! I guess from the mother's point of view, the whole combination of feeding and love and closeness and protectiveness must be amazing.

Liz said...

The community cafe run by our church has a sticker in its window saying something like breast-feeding welcomed (I can't remember exactly). But that there has to be a sticker that says as much is too bad. It should be welcomed everywhere. Most breast-feeding mothers are discreet and people don't even notice unless they're particularly looking. Which is their problem.

Nick said...

Liz: True, a sticker shouldn't be necessary. But at least it's giving a positive thumbs-up to any passing mum who's wondering where to feed her child.