Breastfeeding isn't a sexual act -- so why are breastfeeding mothers made to feel that it's pornographic?
A mother breastfeeding her baby on an American Airlines flight last week was told by a stewardess that she needed to "cover up" while breastfeeding. According to the mom (via Jezebel), the stewardess first shot dirty looks to the breastfeeding mother then demanded the mother put a blanket over her son "because there are kids on this flight."
After the woman sent a formal complaint to AA, an airline rep responded, insisting they support breastfeeding mothers. Yet! The rep also wrote:
"Because of the offense it might be taken by others... we simply ask that breastfeeding be done with certain discretion... it is reasonable that the mother cover-up in an appropriate manner."
How about we stop sexualizing breastfeeding? I don't know how else to read this response except that the women and men who might take "offense" to breastfeeding -- like the stewardess in question -- see the act of nursing your child in public as, I don't know, pornographic?
For the record, I breastfed my son for a year and my daughter for only two months. I really could care less if you breastfeed your baby or not. It's a painful, agonizing experience that has its dreamy moments, but overall I'll give it a 50/50. Fifty percent of it is bonding, beautiful, relaxing and magical. The other fifty percent sucks the life out of you and I wouldn't recommend it to my worst enemy. I'm on the side of the mother choosing how she wants to feed her child. Without pressure. Without judgement. Period.
What I take offense to is having someone dictate or make others feel embarrassed by their choice. As I said to a friend earlier when we passed this pro-breastfeeding sign in Iceland just last week, it's not as if breastfeeding mothers whip their breasts out, shake them all around and do the hokey pokey with them. When I publicly breastfed my son, I hated using a blanket to cover him up. I couldn't get it situated right. It felt too hot. He squirmed too much.
But I was always discreet -- not because I was embarrassed, but because prudence is inherent to breastfeeding, just as it is when feeding your baby from a bottle. It's not party time when a baby is drinking milk. It's quiet time. I cannot imagine that this mother nursing her child wasn't discreet -- I'm sure no one noticed except for an over-sexed, over-zealous stewardess who happened to have a better view because of leverage. She was standing above the mother.
While the message of breastfeeding has somehow gotten horribly entangled with the over-sexualization of women's bodies in our culture, the only message should be this: to comfort, feed and calm a baby. And besides, isn't that more preferable than a screaming child? Especially on a plane?
It's time for American Airlines and other companies to be supportive of breastfeeding instead of making women feel as if they are doing something dirty by feeding their child.
This originally appeared on Femamom.
(Image: Hayley Krischer)