If a mother has hungry wailing babies asking to be fed, it’s reasonable for her to just feed them, right? Yet, women need to fight for the right to perform a basic biological act of instinct because society has made it shameful for them to feed their infants without a bottle. According to the World Health Organization, it is highly recommended for babies to be breastfed until six months old for peak effectiveness for child health and survival. Not only is it good for the infants, but breastfeeding would also reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancers for the mothers. So why has society deemed breastfeeding shameful?
It’s Just Biology
Humans can produce milk because we have mammary glands. The whole point of lactation is to nurse our young and give them the nutrition they need as a mammal. Breastmilk contains the necessary proteins, fats, vitamins, and carbohydrates for babies to thrive, boost their immune systems, and reduce the risk of diabetes, asthma, and obesity. And that would be in the teats for easy nursing. The formula, though a commonly used replacement, doesn’t have the antibodies, living cells, enzymes, and hormones that breastmilk has. Therefore, for the best source of nutrition for newborn babies, there is nothing better than being breastfed by their mothers.
Unfortunately, the organ for nursing is also the organ that is heavily sexualized, causing it to be controversial. Some people would claim that the sight of a baby breastfeeding in public is inappropriate and makes them feel uncomfortable. This shouldn’t be the case since, generally, that’s how mammals feed their young, and people have no problem with dogs or cats feeding their babies.
However, rather than educating the people who are uncomfortable, society has either forced women into hiding to feed their kids or pressured them into just using the formula. As established before, the formula is not a good enough replacement for breastmilk, which caused a lot of infants to grow up to be weaker. Even if people thought it was simple to just cover themselves up, not all babies like having something over their faces as they feed. With how frequent this issue is for mothers, one decided to share her story of being shamed at the airport.
Let Me Be a Mom
Jenna Tsou, age 37
This happened with my first child when he was only four months old, and I needed to fly back home to Taiwan. The plane was in the air, and my baby started to become fussy. I am aware of how crying babies are one of the most annoying things people hope not to encounter on the plane, so I quickly positioned my child and turned my body slightly to the window before I pulled my shirt down.
I didn’t need to feed him yet, but it’s also a way for me to comfort him, and a baby on a plane would need it. Unfortunately, that’s not what the man sitting next to me thought. He tapped my shoulder and sounded very annoyed when he said, “Excuse me. If you need to feed your baby, could you do it in the bathroom? Or at least cover yourself up? It’s indecent.”
If he had just stopped after the first question, I probably wouldn’t be as upset. If anything, I might have felt more uncomfortable than this man did. I had already turned away from him, why didn’t he avert his own eyes if he’s not comfortable? And who is he to say a mother breastfeeding is indecent?
A stewardess happened to notice us and came to ask what’s wrong. Before I can even talk, this man spoke up, saying how I should be where no one else can see while rudely pointing at me. My baby was thankfully not disturbed by the commotion, but if the man were any louder, my son would have started crying and affected everyone else within the vicinity.
The stewardess also seemed to be aware of that and told him to kept his voice down before she said, “Sir if you’re uncomfortable, we have an empty seat at the back for you.”
The man looked offended that he was the one needing to move instead of me. Still, before he could utter a word, the stewardess continued, as politely as possible, how I was already feeding my baby, and it would be difficult for me to move out of my window seat while nursing my son.
To my horror, the man grumbled about me not leaving my seat in the first place before he went to move. How was I supposed to know exactly when my child needs comfort or feeding to know when to move? For the benefit of practically everyone on the plane, shouldn’t I act as a mother should and not let my son’s cries ruin other people’s flights? I was very thankful for the stewardess siding with me. She even gave me a blanket for my baby in case he was cold after and apologized for the inconvenience. Needless to say, if anyone feels uncomfortable because a mom is doing her job, they should feel ashamed of themselves for twisting this into something indecent and just look away. We shouldn’t have to stop keeping our babies alive because they feel bothered by it.
Breastfeeding is Natural
Mothers have it hard. If they don’t do their jobs as a guardian, they get criticized. However, if they make the most simple biological gesture a mother should do that is breastfeeding, they get shamed for it. At this point, people can only blame themselves for perverting the science of nature and life. Like the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Norma Escobar has stated that breasts as sexual objects are a “purely cultural belief.” Breastfeeding is only seen as inappropriate because society has made that specific part of the body inappropriate with no exceptions, not even for mothers to nurse their young. Though it isn’t illegal to breastfeed in public, it’s wrong in the eyes of those who are shallow.
Women shouldn’t have to hide when they’re just being responsible mothers, so just let moms do what they have to do without misconstruing basic biology. Heck, some mothers might only use the bottle for their own personal biological reasons, and no one should judge them. And to all the moms reading this, don’t let anyone else tell you how to feed your kids, you’re doing amazingly.