The Way I See It: This should no longer be an issue

Michele Blais asks why we are still shaming women who breastfeed in public

Motherhood is sacred, and  holds a very special place within our society.

We want to support mothers to be the best they can be. There is increased education and support for healthy pregnancies, the importance of no alcohol and drugs during pregnancy — great strides have been made here; healthy nutrition; exercise, reducing stress, etc.

Then the bouncy baby enters the world and we really want parents to do their best and take great care in nurturing that young person, with a caring and safe environment, immunizations, healthy nutrition — breastfeeding if possible, but apparently not in public and if you must, then cover up!

I just find this whole attitude to moms nursing publicly in the year 2015 to be a bit odd.  We know for sure that nursing is good for the baby and the mom on many levels, not only the health benefits to the baby but also with bonding. The same as parents who bottle-feed — that cuddling time with your baby has nutritional, psychological and emotional benefits. Babies benefit from cuddling. We want moms to nurse but for goodness’ sake don’t show the baby suckling your boob! It makes me laugh. If you do not want to observe this turn away. We can deflect our vision so easily with a simple turn of the head. But why is this offensive?

I am just going to discuss breastfeeding, and this is not in any way reflective of anyone’s decisions. I believe with all my heart that parents do the best they can.

All moms and dads with new babies have a lot on their plate — they are excited and scared about the challenges of parenting; they are tired, with your first you are on new ground here making mistakes learning, being helicopter parents, over reacting and  wanting to be the best you can be. There is great deal of information available to sift through and a great deal comes your way from other parents and parenting experts, generally those are people without children.

I knew I wanted to nurse if I could and I was able. I was awkward at first, nervous but persistent. I loved nursing, in my mind a mother nursing a baby is a beautiful image and experience.

I found nursing to be easy, economical, and a lovely time for me to spend with my boys. I am also a bit lazy, so nursing suited me well and Gord loved it because it meant no night time feedings for him. When my second was born I put him on the boob immediately —  he did not have any other option. He also thought all women were food sources which made for some interesting reactions from women who wanted to hold the little precious. Sometimes when I nursed the youngest, the other son was tucked under my arm and we read a story. They were healthy and continue to be so.

I did nurse in public sometimes but mostly I sought privacy in a store dressing room if it was an emergency — the Bay was great — or on a bench with a blanket, in the car, in a bedroom at a party. There were times when this hunt was very frustrating.

So now 25 years later and I am surprised that with our acceptance of so many lifestyles that a mother nursing a baby is offensive to some. If this is offensive to you it may be something you should examine as to why.

I love to see a woman nursing a baby and have been so pleased to see this natural experience be more accepted. And I think it really is but it is those naysayers that unfortunately we often give our power to.

I am offended by some behaviors: violence; horrible swearing; domineering behavior; rudeness; but a woman nursing a baby, no way.

I tend to smile when I see a mom nursing in public because it reminds of that special time with my sons.  Also because these women are saying, “we don’t need to hide to feed our babies.” I also smile when I see a young pregnant woman wearing a bikini proudly announcing to the world, “I am pregnant!” and there is definitely no shame in that!

What I know about mothers is that they can be bears! There are lots of issues we can tackle; a woman nursing a baby in public without a blanket need not be one.

Michele Blais is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star whose column appears every other Sunday. She has worked with families and children in the North Okanagan for the past 29 years.