It is somewhat hard to understand at first glance why our modern society views breastfeeding as nothing but a slightly icky alternative to formula feeding. Breastfeeding your baby is free, easy once you know how, and it is the nutritionally superior choice. Surely it’s a no-brainer, right?
If only it were that simple. It sometimes feels like the whole world is out to make life difficult for breastfeeding mothers. The problem is deeply rooted in our society.
The over-sexualisation of the female body is one of the big contributors to this issue. Some women feel like their breasts are purely meant for sexual purposes, and therefore feel uncomfortable using them for their primary function of nourishing their babies. The modern-day obsession with the breasts is forced down our throats wherever we look, making it hard to view them as they really are — a beautiful and functional part of our bodies.
Formula milk and baby bottle companies also must take some of the blame in how the western world views breastfeeding. Although they have rules they must adhere to regarding advertising and promoting their products, they have found some very clever ways to get into the heads of new mothers. Formula milk is advertised as a perfectly acceptable substitute for breast milk, regardless of the fact that it has been proven time and time again that a formula fed baby is at much more danger of poor health than a breastfed one.
If a woman chooses to bottle feed her baby, it is her right to do so and she shouldn’t be judged. However, I can’t help but wonder if a lot of those mothers would choose to breastfeed their babies if they felt it was more socially acceptable to do so.
So, what can we do to help normalise breastfeeding in our society?
The answer lies a lot closer to home than you may think. Changing the world is a huge task, but spreading the word amongst your friends and family is a lot easier. From little acorns, mighty oaks grow.
The best thing you can do to help change people’s preconceptions about breastfeeding is an easy one — breastfeed your baby, and don’t be ashamed! Don’t ask the waitress if it’s ok to feed your baby at the table; your baby has as much right to eat as a formula fed baby does. Don’t allow yourself to be pressured by anybody to hide away whilst feeding your child. By hiding yourself from view, you are assuming an air of “I am doing something wrong”. There are lots of easy techniques to breastfeeding your baby discreetly, such as draping a muslin cloth over your shoulder or by using a specially designed nursing top or shirt. In all honesty, a lot of people won’t even notice that you are feeding! The #1 worry of most new parents is how they will feel about breastfeeding in public. Most women don’t actually feel ashamed, but are worried about making others feel uncomfortable. Trust me, they will only feel uncomfortable if you do too.
The truth is that most people are very accepting of breastfeeding and interested to learn more about it. It depends on where you live, and on the kind of people you surround yourself with. In our community it is considered very normal and I personally have never had any negative comments or questions (although I know a few friends who have). There is no need to be constantly on the defensive; just go out and about, live your life, enjoy nursing your baby and know that you needn’t ever explain yourself.