Photo from the Normalize Breastfeeding IG feed
On a recent play-date at the zoo, amidst bare-chested chimpanzees and matronly wallabies with their joeys, the exhibit I couldn’t tear my eyes away from was a buxom woman, bare breast exposed, nursing her child on a very public bench. Given the setting, it seemed oddly natural—mother nature in action. But nonetheless, it was disconcerting to see a naked boob on display with so many curious children around, mine included. “Must be one of those lactivists,” my friend observed.
Those what? I’d heard of feminism, Darwinism, even utopianism, but lactivism was novel to me. What the heck is lactivism anyway? Basically, it is the advocacy of breastfeeding over formula feeding. Lactivism is a contemporary movement striving to ensure that nursing mothers are not discriminated against in public places. Lactivists believe a woman has the right to breastfeed her child anytime, anywhere, in any way she sees fit.
Is That Legal?
Federal law states that a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a Federal building or on Federal property, if they are authorized to be present. Currently in the U.S., 45 states have laws allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location (check your state’s laws here). That means it is discriminatory to deny a nursing mother full and equal enjoyment to goods, services, and facilities just because she is breastfeeding. The good news: if you are breastfeeding, the law is basically on your side.
Chick-Fil-A, party of 20
In 2013, a Knoxville, Tennessee Chick-Fil-A employee asked a nursing mom to stop. Soon after, a group of outraged lactivists staged a “nurse-in,” fashioned after a civil rights sit-in, except there were bosoms involved. Around 20 women entered the family restaurant and proceeded to breastfeed their children amongst diners trying to enjoy their meals. It was an effort to educate society about the state law, which allows women to breastfeed anywhere, public or private. It undoubtedly caused some indigestion.
Some call it breastfeeding brouhaha, others call it 100% justified, but lactivism has brought the fight for breastfeeding awareness into, literally, the public eye.
The Shocking Truth
Lactivism, like all great “isms,” is based on a righteous desire: to enable women to comfortably breastfeed wherever they may be. It’s what our bodies were made to do. Where lactivism catches a snag, is when it becomes self-righteous, with promoters denouncing formula feeders and feigning superiority over those who don’t, or cannot breastfeed. The shocking truth: formula fed babies turn out to be smart, beautiful, and talented children too.
The Bottom Line:
When it does work, breastfeeding is beautiful. I’ve been able to breastfeed each of my three children, and to make breastfeeding successful, I’ve had to use my handy nursing cover plenty of times at the library, at church, even at amusement parks. Long gone are the days of my mother, when women locked themselves away in a room to breastfeed.
But can we meet somewhere in the middle? Bare boobs on public benches aren’t necessary. There are so many wonderful cover-up products out there that make it quite convenient to breastfeed your baby while maintaining privacy and appeasing other’s comfort as well. People today are much more accepting to public breastfeeding when it’s done tactfully.
Breastfeeding is one of the miracles of the female body. It doesn’t work for everyone, and those women shouldn’t feel guilty, or ostracized from other breastfeeders. The way you feed your child should not be an “us” and “them” issue. Instead, we should focus more on being the loving, caring mothers our children deserve.
Some moms can’t produce enough to even have this problem – here is some information on milk sharing.
“Hello moms! What tips do you all have for breastfeeding in public? I love feeding my dd but not sure how to go about doing so in public? By the way she is only 9 days old if that makes a difference.”
It really makes me mad when women get kicked out of public places for breastfeeding in public. We use covers and it’s a natural thing that shouldn’t be looked down on & people that get mad about BFing in public need to grow up a little.
Public Breastfeeding Rant- having a debate w my mom on it is hysterical. She is so against a woman just whipping it out to feed. I’m on team whip it out and who gives a sh**. I’m done w having to be insecure about having a baby. How can a woman breastfeeding her child in public be offensive but the Victoria secret models breast blown up and plastered on the side of a store not be. And why do I have to cover up to feed my baby in public but a woman spilling out of a low cut top doesn’t have to?
1) what do you all use to replace your coffee habits/cravings? I’m breastfeeding so have decreased my coffee intake, but miss my coffee. I miss the whole ritual. Had a Chai Tea Latte today, was pretty good!
2) where do breastfeeding moms duck out while breastfeeding in public? I’m pretty modest and sometimes have a tough time finding places.”
I went to Walmart yesterday with my 2 month old and he would not stop crying near the end and I couldn’t get anything done! It was because he was hungry but I’m breastfeeding and it’s hard to find a place to nurse him in public. Any advice on how to make it easier?