Working at a high-end baby store, I spend a lot of time thinking about breasts. You know the drill: breast pumps, nursing bras, reusable nursing pads, and, of course, the infamous Hooter Hiders. Hooter Hiders, made by Bebe au Lait, are essentially glorified aprons specifically designed to cover up during breastfeeding. This of course leads me to ask a pretty obvious question: why do we feel like we need to hide our hooters?
Breastfeeding has become more and more taboo over time, which is ridiculous, considering most of us, at one point, gained all of our nutrients from breastfeeding. Our culture expects nursing mothers to be ashamed of nursing – it is something that should be done in private, on your own, and only for a certain amount of time. But who are we to decide how/when/why a mother should nurse her child? Of course, as someone who is not a mother, I can’t preach my opinion to anyone, but who says I can’t blog about it?
I’m sure many of you saw the recent Time magazine article about attachment parenting. Both the cover photo and the headline were extremely inflammatory, but they certainly made a point. I was particularly stricken by the overt sexualization of breastfeeding in the cover photo. The magazine boasted an image of a beautiful young mom, cocking her hip with attitude as her three year old son stands on a stool in order to breastfeed from her. Both mother and son are looking at the camera, as if they know they’re toying the line of what is/isn’t culturally acceptable. This image was meant to make readers uncomfortable. And you know what? It worked. The cover photo made me so uncomfortable, in fact, that I was prompted to do some research about the culture of breastfeeding in the US and around the world.
Did you know that there are actually laws about breastfeeding in public? According to the article by Jake Marcus, since there are no national laws that actively protect breastfeeding mothers, women may legally be asked to leave (or even escorted by police) privately-owned spaces for breastfeeding. Marcus does point out the three tiers of state breastfeeding laws, however. The first category of state laws protects breastfeeding mothers from any sort of harassment, regardless of whether the breast is actually showing, and actually provides these women with the right to take legal action if necessary. The second category allows for public breastfeeding, but provides no way to enforce this law. The third category of state laws regarding breastfeeding specifies that breastfeeding in public is not, in fact, indecent exposure, and that breastfeeding mothers cannot be arrested for a sex crime.
I’m sorry…we need a law to protect breastfeeding moms from being arrested for a sex crime? Since when is feeding your child sexual or a crime? Needless to say, not all cultures handle breastfeeding with the same trepidation that we do here in the west. I recently came across a book about the culture of breastfeeding in Tanzania, called Breast Feeding and Sexuality. Look forward to a blog post all about it when I’ve finished reading!
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