By Brian W. Donnelly, M.D., I.B.C.L.C.
Elise Solé tells the story of a mother uncomfortable with nursing her infant in public:
So Johnson-Smith threw on a nursing cover and began discreetly breastfeeding her 12-month-old. “I usually don’t like to breastfeed in public because people can be judgmental,” she says. “The waitress kept walking by, and I was worried she didn’t want me nursing in the restaurant.” Eventually, worried that her baby would continue crying, Johnson-Smith left the restaurant and finished nursing in the car.
Shortly after, Johnson-Smith’s husband walked out with a huge smile on his face. “He handed me the dinner receipt and at first I was confused—why is he showing me how much my birthday dinner cost?” said Johnson-Smith. To her surprise, there was a handwritten note on the paper: ‘I bought one of your pizzas. Please thank your wife for breastfeeding!’
Johnson-Smith posted later on her Facebook page:
I was speechless and emotional. Although I don’t need a pat on the back for feeding my child, it sure felt amazing. It is amazing how we women can make each other feel when we empower each other.”
Personally, I have witnessed a steady decline in public breastfeeding over the past 20 years. Most mothers nowadays give their babies manufactured formula or pumped breast milk when they are not at home.
The reason: fear of harassment or of offending someone’s sensibilities.
We live in persnickety times. We also live in a bottle – feeding culture. But breastfeeding is so good for babies. And for mothers, too!
Breastfeeding is also best for the environment. But this fear of nursing in public is fouling that up.
Things may change as more women learn and appreciate the benefits of breastfeeding, coming to realize what the mammary glands are truly designed for.
Maybe there will be more change as increasing numbers of mothers have the confidence to lactate wherever it is safe and convenient for them, regardless of what others might think. Even if there is no free pizza involved!