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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Public Breastfeeding: Yea or Nay?


So the Main Salt Lake City Public Library has a new breastfeeding lounge sponsored by the Utah Breastfeeding Coalition. It's located in one of the storefronts that line the main entry hall of the library, complete with glass walls and open doors. (See lower left side of photograph.)

Having walked past several times, I've noticed the lounge looks an awful lot like one of those mostly-deserted Lovesac stores in the mall, complete with lots of couches and pillows, and one or two patrons who aren't actually looking to buy anything, but would just like a soft place to sit for awhile. And of course, there are babies suckling at the teet.

So anyway, I have a bit of a problem with the breastfeeding lounge being right in the middle of the library in full view of library patrons who sit at the tables on the other side of the entry hall or who walk by on their way to the checkout desk.

I mean, breastfeeding is fine and dandy, and yes, it's natural. Some people even consider it a beautiful act. I'm not one of those people, but hey, whatever brings a tear to your eye. I even support there being breastfeeding lounges available in public venues for women with infants. I just don't support the lounges being public themselves. Wouldn't a private room near the restrooms be more appropriate?

Public breastfeeding proponents say that breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful act that should not be relegated to the dungeons and closets and dirty restrooms. Women should be able to engage in this beautiful act out in the open. No more shame!

But here's how I see it: Sex is also a beautiful and natural act. But it is a beautiful and natural act that ought to be done in private. And though not beautiful acts, the things done in restrooms are also natural acts, but there's a reason public restrooms are themselves private. In general, I think any bodily function ought to be done in private. And to me, that includes breastfeeding.

But maybe I'm just being prudish. Or maybe I'm just a childless woman who doesn't understand because I've never been there.

What are your feelings on the matter? Where do you think an appropriate venue for breastfeeding is? What kind of limitations, if any, do you think breastfeeding venues ought to have?


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14 comments:

Trovan said...

I'm all for it. I don't even mind the occasional nip slip.

In my experience (as the husband of a lactating mother) a woman can often feel alone and isolated from the world around her when she is breastfeeding. Especially if she has to go hide in a corner somewhere.

Several months of this can be pretty wearing on our loving mothers.

Claire said...

I've long been a champion of some sort of "privacy booth" that's portable. You pull it out like an umbrella, slip your head through the loop, and then your baby feeds out of site, but your head is still visible to others for conversation.

It would also be great for those embarrassing lunchtime spills. "Mary, why are you wearing a shower curtain?" "Oh, sorry, Bob, I got linguine on my lapel - you know how it is."

Although I'm sure teenagers would just use them for sex. Which would, in turn, lead to the need for the breastfeeding privacy screen, thus perpetuating product development and positioning within the market cycle. Mwa-ha-ha!

I'm off to the patent office!

tauns said...

As a mother that has breast fed, I say that public feeding is just that...feeding. I know some find it to be private and should be in a corner somewhere, I am not one of those people. I believe that a baby should be able to eat in public whether bottle or breast fed. I do think that mothers need to be good about covering up and be inconspicuous about it. They should whip out the boob for all to see, you can be subtle about it.

tauns said...

The word not didn't appear even though I swear I typed it. The last sentence should read, "They should not whip out the boob for all to see, you can be suble about it."

Ben Sloan said...

(This is not directed toward you, Sra my blogfriend, but at a certain mentality concerning this issue and others that many people inadvertently slip into on at least some points. You're an intelligent person and I don't think you're a fascist or even a social conservative.)

I don't give two shits about babies or beautiful moments or kodak milk time, but I don't see how there can be any logical argument for breastfeeding being regulated to private rooms.

It's a nipple. With a baby sucking on it. It in no way harms any individuals, nor affects anyone but the two people involved.

The, "it's gross" argument doesn't work. Firstly, it's not gross. You usually can't see anything, and even when you can, it's just a blob of fat with a baby on the end. And even if some do view it as gross or shameful or somehow "private" that is the problem of those individuals and not of the woman and her child.

The gross/private argument could be used by many things: two men holding hands or kissing. "That's gross! It belongs in the bedroom! I don't have a problem with the gays as long as they keep it private!" Hell, there are great multitudes of people who consider low cut jeans, sleeveless shirts, or shorts on women to be inappropriate.

Any time you put needless limitations on activities that harm nobody it is a moral abomination with myriad unintended consequences. If people want to establish a place specifically for breastfeeding to make it more convenient for the mothers, that's fine by me. But I find it reprehensible to require them to go there, or to require the place to be kept hidden.

Sra said...

Clearly I hold a minority opinion on this matter.

I hear you on the gross/private thing, Ben. That's a pretty good analogy. But then why am I bothered by breastfeeding in public and not by gay people holding hands and kissing in public?

I think the discomfort some people feel about gay PDA probably stems from a fear of their own homosexual sides (I happen to think that most people are neither 100% straight nor 100% gay).

But where does my discomfort over public breastfeeding come from? I think it has more to do with my categorizing breastfeeding as a bodily function. Just as I don't want to share your number 1 or number 2, I also don't want to share your breastfeeding. Is this something I just need to get over, or is it a legitimate boundary of public decency? I don't know, which is why I've written about it.

As we've discussed before, there is seldom black and white in this world, so it is difficult to draw a line as to what is appropriate and what is not.

But indeed there is a line between what is appropriate public affection and what is not. Holding hands, kissing, and snuggling in public are all fine, if a little bit vomit inducing (gay and straight alike). But sex on a street corner is not fine. Right?

Still, two people having sex on a street corner does me no harm (except for possibly burning holes in my retinas). So then, is it a moral abomination with myriad unintended consequences for me to say no sex on the street corner?

I'd love to hear more opinions, even if no one ends up siding with me.

Ben Sloan said...

I'd say the only problems with streetcorner sex come from:

1. Disease carrying bodily fluids being expelled onto the cement/general area
2. Disrupting pedestrian flow by blocking sidewalk
3. Risk of accident in falling over/on horizontal couples, or running them over
4. Risk of a third party misinterpreting it as rape and calling authorities/intervening physically

Barring those issues, I would have no problem with it. But those issues are real, so it presents a problem.

As far as breast feeding being a bodily function: so is eating and sweating, but we allow these to go on in public because they do not carry the disgusting smells/bacteria/fecal waste littering that pissing, shitting, and vomiting do. Breast feeding is a direct transfer of milk from tit to mouth, the only byproduct of which may be some dribbling/leaking which is extremely minor and will immediately soak into the woman's clothing, affecting no one around. So while I can see the initial comparison, I don't think it's wholly accurate.

feed the world with PEZ said...

I understand everyones point of view on the breastfeeding issue both good and bad. It boils down to what is socially acceptable. I personally find it quite repulsive to see and object to not having the "choice" to not see someones naked breast. No matter how beautiful and natural it may be, its not art and its not a statement. There is absolutely no reason why people cannot feed their babies with bottles while out in public. Besides there are people in this world with lactating fetishes and also pedophiles. So how could anyone feel comfortable knowing that while breastfeeding. I have no problem with them putting a room for all the breastfeeding mothers to congregate and do what they want to do. It is much more sanitary than being in a filthy bathroom but at least put a door on it.

amy said...

Breast feeding is a lovely and natural thing, but I really don't want to see it. I don't see it as often in south Florida, as I did in Utah. Not as many babies, I suppose.

ak said...

I actually think having a separate breast feeding room is stupid. You're basically saying - we don't like the way your baby eats - go to a special room and feed. It seems to go against the platform of the Breastfeeding Coalition. I really don't think that if a mom chooses to feed her baby breast milk that it should be considered a public disturbance.

Just my opinion.

Sra said...

I'm with Amy. I just don't want to see breastfeeding. It makes me uncomfortable. It's like walking in on someone in their underwear -- not obscene or anything, it's just awkward.

But the resounding opinion here seems to be in favor of restrictionless feeding. Maybe I'm just behind in the thought process.

Sra said...

I'm with Amy. I just don't want to see breastfeeding. It makes me uncomfortable. It's like walking in on someone in their underwear -- not obscene or anything, it's just awkward.

But the resounding opinion here seems to be in favor of restrictionless feeding. Maybe I'm just behind in the thought process.

amy said...

Breast feeding is a lovely and natural thing, but I really don't want to see it. I don't see it as often in south Florida, as I did in Utah. Not as many babies, I suppose.

Trovan said...

I'm all for it. I don't even mind the occasional nip slip.

In my experience (as the husband of a lactating mother) a woman can often feel alone and isolated from the world around her when she is breastfeeding. Especially if she has to go hide in a corner somewhere.

Several months of this can be pretty wearing on our loving mothers.

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