Should Women be Allowed to Breastfeed in Public Areas – Yes

If you asked me “Should women be allowed to breastfeed in public areas?” I would not doubt it for a second and exclaim “Yes, please!”. My baby is eleven months old and I have breastfed him till he was eight, so I still feel that the question affects me a lot.

When breastfeeding, you feel that you are always on the run. At home, it is OK. You just have to stop doing the housework, sleeping or whatever you are in, from time to time. But when you are not at home, it is terrible. No matter if your are shopping, walking, on the bus or having dinner in a restaurant, when the baby is hungry, it is your time to unbutton your blouse and take your boobs out… to feed it.

Doctors, nurses, old relatives and well intentioned people in general advice you to go out and have a walk with your baby daily. Babies are supposed to be fed “under demand”, that is, whenever they “ask” for it and you never know when this is going to be. Moreover, my baby had low weight and at the beginning I had to feed him each 3 hours, I even had to wake him up if the baby was sleeping, or sooner if he asked for it, because he could not miss any of his meals. For that reason, I have the feeling that I have breastfed the baby in most of the parks around my place and also in the malls, restaurants, buses, subway…

In general, nobody cares, at least here in my country, Spain, despite its catholic background. But old women would always suggest that the baby and I would feel better in a quieter place, even when I was in a private house, like an aunt’s home or something like that. Of course, they were well intentioned but I could notice that there was something else behind their kind words, certain badly concealed embarrassment to see me there, breastfeeding in front of men. I always dismissed this attempts saying that I was so tired that I would surely fall asleep in a quieter room. The truth is that I always found it very boring and annoying to be forced to go away just because my baby had to eat and somebody could feel bad.

But the main problem I found is that there are no right places to breastfeed babies comfortably. I mean, many times one can only feed the baby in the toilets, and that is no nice at all. The alternative is that you sit down facing everybody else, with no hiding corners or walls. That is the case of the cafeterias in grand stores. But anyway, I always preferred that exposure to spending such a long time with my baby in a toilet.

When my son was three months old, we went to the wedding of our American friends, which took place in Helsinki, Finland. This gave us the chance to compare the different attitudes of people from different nationalities and cultures towards breastfeeding in public. Thus, I found out that the Finns and northern Europeans have no problems at all and they just find it normal; maybe some of our American friends could have problems about it, I do not know, but the truth is that since they recognize it as a very natural thing, they just accepted it; on the other side, we noticed that the people from Asia find it odd and just stare at you, without pretending otherwise, while you are breastfeeding the baby.

I know this sounds like I have been showing my breast to everybody around me… Guess why my friends and family joke saying that I have been showing my boobs domestically and abroad!

Now, seriously, although nowadays most people understand that it is perfectly normal and natural, we should allow women to breastfeed their babies publicly, and not only that, we should assist them and make sure they have right places for it (meaning places where they and the children can feel comfortable). Recent mothers are very stressed and tired, so it is the whole society who should work together to reduce their worries regarding the right places to breastfeed, and each of us as individual should help with an appropriate attitude (do not stare at them, but make them notice that you find it the normal thing to do).