So why do we need a World Breastfeeding Week if the majority of humans in the world are women, the majority of women will have at least one child, and the majority of those children will be breastfed?
Because it’s still not uncommon for women to experience shame and receive negative criticism when breastfeeding in public. And there are still many parts of the world where public breastfeeding is illegal.
If you feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, you’re not alone. It’s a vulnerable act to reveal a body part that you normally keep covered up, and there are people who for many reasons — a big one being they simply haven’t spent time around breastfeeding women — will feel uncomfortable to see you do it.
However, the more women breastfeed in public, the more it will be seen as normal, and the more you do it, the more comfortable with it you’ll become. A recent UK Department of Health survey found that 84% find breastfeeding in public acceptable if done discreetly; however, 67% of mothers are worried about general opinion being against public breastfeeding.
It’s also totally okay if you opt not to do it. My goal as a birth consultant is to help you find the choices that make YOU feel empowered and to honor your personal comfort level.
If you’re breastfeeding in public and someone makes a negative comment, it can help to diffuse the situation by engaging with them in a positive way, acknowledging that it’s common for some people to feel uncomfortable, and ask if they'd like to talk about it. Maybe they won’t — that’s fine — but extending the offer to discuss may help both of you start to feel more comfortable with witnessing and being witnessed in one of the most natural, normal parts of motherhood.