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Why I Don’t Support Importing Or Selling Human Milk For Profits

This week a story has hit media outlets about an Indian company looking to sell breastmilk in Australia.  Every now and then the topic of commercialising the sale of human milk comes up, and it makes me shudder.  I am a big fan of milk sharing, but I feel commercialising it is wrong.

The main thing that makes a commercialised milk bank sound attractive is the idea that we could earn money from our milk.  Instead of families donating their excess milk for goodwill, there would be remuneration involved.  As a breastfeeding mum who has the ability to express far in excess of what we need, this is appealing to me.  If you have not returned to work due to family commitments, the idea that you could earn some money from doing something that you already do for free is obviously tempting – plenty would agree.

As it currently stands in Australia, if you donate breastmilk, you do it for nothing.  Well, not really nothing, I mean you get to know you did something really really good for someone else, and you might get some good karma in return.  But no one donates their milk for a profit, and that fact has always made me feel comfortable about the type of people who are doing it, and therefore the level of risk involved with the whether the donor uses illegal drugs or has any diseases that can be transferred through their milk.  But if people stand to profit from the sale of breastmilk, the risks become unacceptably high.

Imagine families that are so desperate for money, that they deprive their own children of the milk that was intended for them, opting to give them a less valuable (and less healthy) option.  What if people began selling their milk to fund their drug habits?  If money is involved, where’s our guarantee of clean, safe milk?  Will people lie about their health or disease status because they need the money?  Will people in key positions within businesses become open to bribery? Or what happens if the milk bank can’t source enough milk?  Will they dilute the product they have with water or other substances to stretch it out, so they can make more money from less milk?

And then if we are paying people for their milk, that means the cost of the pasteurised product increases.  Do we want to get into a situation where only the very wealthy can afford to pay for human milk?  Will the milk go to whoever needs it the most, or will it go to the person who can pay the most for it?  I donate my milk to to families – I wouldn’t donate it to body builders.  If I sell my milk to a business, they will sell it to whoever has the most money, not to whoever I want it to go to.

The situation in the news this week was about a company selling milk from India.  India has previously been in the news for their “baby farms”, where women are paid for their unwanted babies.  Some baby farms hold women against their will, forcing them to carry babies and then taking them away to be sold to wealthy foreigners.  Will someone start running illegal “milking farms”, where women are held against their will and forced to lactate, so that criminals can sell the product for a profit?

Abbie (also pictured above) with human milk ready for donation. Her mum Sarah Hopps expects nothing in return for her milk.

In Australia, we have a few not-for-profit milk banks.  “Not-for-profit” doesn’t mean that everyone works for free, and it definitely doesn’t mean they operate at a loss, or are “pro-defecit”.  It doesn’t mean that one person has to fund the project from their own pocket.  Generally they focus their resources on finding donated milk from families with a child up to 6 months old, and most of the milk is sold to hospitals for premature or sick babies.  The milk is sold at a rate that is designed to cover the milk bank’s operating costs (eg pasteurisation, storage, staff wages and then all the usual overheads, like rent, utilities, etc).  It means that the income generated by the milk bank is invested back into the business to maintain and possibly improve their services.

I wish that our current milk banks could take donated breastmilk from families with kids older than 6 months of age.  I wish that they could provide milk to the wider community, and not just babies who are premature or sick.  I wish that those who choose to give away their milk could be rewarded in a meaningful way (although the love and goodwill IS valuable).

And I hope that one day our governments will realise the value of breastmilk, and see that investing in milk sharing is an investment into the health of our nation and will therefore decrease health costs in the future.

But I will never support commercialised milk banking.

Did you know you can also donate your milk informally?  Human Milk 4 Human Babies and Eats On Feets are two organisations that facilitate peer-to-peer milk sharing

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3 Types Of People Who Talk About Breastfeeding

There are generally three types of people you will come across when talking about breastfeeding.  These people will be most obvious to you when you are pregnant, or when you’re in your early days of parenting.

There will be those who make you feel like breastfeeding is horrible, the absolute worst. They will make you feel it’s painful and incredibly difficult, bordering on impossible. They will make you feel like breastfeeding is only possible for a very small amount of special, lucky people, and this will probably leave you expecting to be one of the unlucky ones. They might tell you about their own breastfeeding horror stories, which will terrify you. They will invoke negative feelings in you, like fear, uncertainty, inadequacy and incompetence. They may leave you feeling unwilling to commit to breastfeeding, or if not, uncomfortable with vocalising your commitment.

Most people fall into the second category.  They are usually pro-breastfeeding, but somehow manage to make breastfeeding look a little unattractive.  Their eagerness to tell you EVERYTHING might make you feel overwhelmed at how complicated breastfeeding sounds.  You might worry about how you’re going to remember everything.  They might tell you about their own breastfeeding journey, and how they overcame their challenges.  You’ll be impressed with their stories, and they will probably terrify or impress you (or even both).  You might regard these people with admiration for their grit and determination, but they might make you question whether you’ve got what it takes to deal with such difficulty.  When you express concerns, these people usually reassure you that they will be there for you, but you don’t know how you feel about having to rely on another person to breastfeed.  You want to be able to do it yourself.

The last group of people are champions of breastfeeding. I call them “champions” not because they are simply really good at breastfeeding, but because they champion the act of breastfeeding.  These people will make breastfeeding sound amazing AND achievable simultaneously. They will make you feel positive, excited and confident.  They won’t overwhelm you with volumes of information, but they’ll tell you just enough to motivate you to learn what you can on your own.  A champion of breastfeeding isn’t focused on telling you about their breastfeeding journey, because when they talk to you, it’s not about them – they want to help you get on the right path for your own.  You know you can rely on a breastfeeding champion if you have problems, but since they’ve made sure you know about the many different places you can seek information and support, you’ll feel good that you haven’t placed all of your eggs into one basket.

The key difference between the three groups is that breastfeeding champions empower you, instead of making you feel inadequate.  They don’t tell you what to do – they give you the tools to work it out on your own.  Even a very successful breastfeeder with the best of intentions can railroad you away from breastfeeding success if the focus of their stories is on them instead of you.

If you’re feeling a bit crappy now, having realised that you aren’t a breastfeeding champion, please don’t.  Most people aren’t!  Your opinions and experiences are valid, and I just hope you have plenty of safe places where you can voice them, and that you get loving and supportive responses.

At the same time, I am mindful of the effect my words can have on an expecting or new parent.  Our words have the power to shape someone else’s experiences, so I save my stories about mastitis, tongue ties and elimination diets for a time when it’s really needed.

If your goal is to become a breastfeeding champion, to support and empower other women so they can experience a successful breastfeeding journey, hopefully I’ve given you just enough information to get where you want to be.

Do you agree that there are 3 main types of people who talk about breastfeeding?

 

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When The Village Pulls Together – ABA Training

Last Sunday I attended my very first training weekend with the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

I didn’t want to go. Sundays are important to my family and I don’t give them up easily. I went along to the training day begrudgingly and was prepared for a complete drag of a day.

Here are some of the special things that I was a part of last Sunday:
– rearranging a table of a dozen or so women so the ladies with babies in prams could sit with their prams next to them, instead of on the other side of the room
– swapping chairs with a lady who had hearing trouble so she was able to sit closest to the trainers
– seeing everyone rally around a mum who spoke English as a second language after she confessed that she felt inadequate during a brainstorm session
– everyone taking it in turns to hold babies so everyone had a turn to eat, drink, write and pee
– watching a trainer settle an unsettled baby to sleep, and then hold him for his entire nap because his mum said he usually woke when he was put into the pram
– mums working while wearing babies in slings and carriers
– a dad or two looking after their kids at the venue, striking a balance between letting mum work, but also being near enough in case her kids needed to breastfeed
– cups of tea and coffee being brought over to anyone who looked too busy to get their own
– a few sneaky boxes of chocolates doing the rounds while everyone was working

The Girl Guides attended. The young ladies stayed outside minding kids with some toys and equipment. But there was also a small pop-up tent with toys set up inside in case any kids needed a quiet space.  The senior Girl Guides catered our event, and put out a feast fit for royalty. They even included ingredient lists for some of the dishes, for those who had specific dietary requirements.

Lots of organisations SAY they are inclusive and family-friendly, but this was the first time I had experienced it myself.  It was beautiful.

If you’ve ever avoided going to an ABA training day, don’t. My day was productive (assessments for 2 units have now been sent to head office, and I have the RPL paperwork ready to submit so I can transition from the old course to the new one) but the highlight was seeing an actual village pulling together. Study with small kids can feel utterly impossible, but with this kind of support, anything can happen!

If you are interested in training with the Australian Breastfeeding Association, you can find more information on their website at https://breastfeeding.asn.au

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Breast Cancer – Pink Ribbons And Red Flags

You’ve probably heard of the Cancer Council’s Pink Ribbon Day. They coordinate fundraising to provide research, prevention programs and support  regarding breast and gynaecological cancer

On the Pink Ribbon website, there’s a tab dedicated to Women and Cancer, and it talks about different kinds of cancer risk factors.

I was really surprised and disappointed to note that breastfeeding doesn’t appear to be mentioned anywhere on the Pink Ribbon Day website, as a protective factor against breast cancer. Increasing age, family history, genetic mutations, exposure to female hormones, obesity and excess alcohol consumption all make the list, but not breastfeeding.

There’s a ton of evidence to demonstrate relationship between breastfeeding and breast cancer, specifically the fact that the longer you breastfeed, the lower your risk of breast cancer is.

I checked the Cancer Council’s website to see if they talk about the relationship. They have a position statement titled “Overweight, Obesity and Cancer Prevention that mentions “breastfeeding convincingly decreases a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer”. This one obscurely-titled position statement is the only spot I can find this limited amount of information, and it’s dated June 2008. I KNOW more information has become available since then.

The Breast Cancer Network Australia are a separate organisation in Australia, and I can’t see any mention of breastfeeding on their website either.  Cancer Australia offer a measly “Breastfeeding for a total of 12 months or longer can slightly reduce your breast cancer risk.”  However they have a calculator where you enter information about yourself and are given a calculated risk of breast cancer, which takes into consideration how many months you have breastfed.  So while Cancer Australia claim that breastfeeding may slightly reduce your breast cancer risk, it appears that they still feel the reduction is significant.

If I was an organisation dedicated to raising awareness about preventing breast cancer, and there was something that “convincingly decreases a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer”, it would form a key part of my campaign.  But it’s barely mentioned.  I can think of a few reasons why, but no good ones come to mind.

Obesity is listed as a risk factor, and there are people who can’t, won’t or don’t want to lose weight.  Excess alcohol is mentioned, and there are people who can’t, won’t or don’t want to drink less.

My husband is one of four kids.  His 3 siblings and both of his parents struggle with obesity (although miraculously, my husband doesn’t).  This increases the risk of obesity in my children.  I won’t deny this risk, and although it sucks, accepting it means I can try to do something about it.  As a family, we focus on healthy eating habits and regular exercise because I believe it’s especially important in our situation.  Our circumstances don’t mean our kids are doomed to be overweight, and my steps towards good health don’t mean they are guaranteed to stay in a healthy weight range, but we will still do what we can.

Feelings are important, and I know there are people who feel triggered, upset and confronted when they learn about the relationship between breastfeeding and breast cancer.  But are feelings more important than facts?  If I was at a greater risk of sustaining breast cancer than the average woman, I’d want to know about it.  Would you?

For information about breastfeeding and breast cancer, please see this link, which contains a comprehensive list of studies that demonstrate the relationship.

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Inclusive Language and Men Who Make Milk

Yesterday morning I scrolled down my newsfeed in Facebook and got caught up in a discussion about the importance for inclusive language when discussing lactation. The discussion was taking place in a group for lactation professionals (note: I am not a lactation professional, I’m probably not supposed to be in that group, oops!).

I often feel a little gagged when it comes to these types of discussions. I feel like I’m not knowledgeable enough of gender issues to talk about it without saying the wrong thing or offending someone, but I want to make a commitment to do better. I trust that anyone reading this who is more knowledgeable than me on such issues, understands that my learning process may include some mistakes. I am always happy to receive constructive criticism.

Two main messages were reinforced in this discussion:

  • A person that calls himself a man may not have the chromosomes that would slot him neatly into our society’s conventional image of a man. Vice versa for a woman.
  • I do myself no justice when I make assumptions about whether someone is a man or woman (or otherwise), what organs they may have beneath their skin and clothes, what roles they may play in their family and anything else they do in their life and who they do it with.

I know that LGBTQ people exist, and now that I’ve had the benefit of being involved in a discussion with a very broad group of people about the issue of inclusive language in lactation, I feel humbled and spurred to make some changes.

I know men breastfeed.  I know some Pygmy men allow their babies to comfort suckle, but I have also followed Trevor MacDonald’s story with interest. Have you heard of him before? He identifies as a man, but gave birth to a son and chestfed. But more than that, the more he learned about breastfeeding, the more passionate he became. He went on to become the first male to be accredited as a La Leche Leader and is now a health researcher and author in the field of LGBTQ lactation. You can read his story and follow his blog here.

The thing about Trevor is that I see more similarities between he and I, than I do differences.  He learned about the amazing qualities of human milk and what it could do for his baby, and became a passionate advocate.  He’s a lactivist!  Basically if Trevor and I met, I’d hope we could become best friends.  That alone is a damn fine reason to change my vocabulary when I’m talking about lactation, infant feeding, human milk and parenting.

While I had read stories about a few men who breastfed, it was only upon being involved in this particular thread about inclusive language that I realised what I say can actually have the potential to include or exclude people, especially those who don’t fall in the societal womanly norm.  That bothers me.  People who overcome huge hurdles to give their children human milk blow me away, whether they are breastfeeding, chest feeding or supplementing with human milk.  I’m disappointed to think that there may be something about the words I choose to use that has not made this clear to everyone, especially those in the LGBTQI community.

I never really thought about how using words like breasts, breastfeeding, motherhood, mama and breastmilk might be potentially excluding people who wanted to lactate.  Men make milk too, and I feel like I’ve been experiencing female privilege!

If it was hard for me, a cisgender woman, to find the information and support I needed in order to reach my breastfeeding goals, I can’t even imagine what it would have been for someone who is not a cisgender woman.  The idea that I’ve been accidentally excluding people who are already short on support doesn’t sit well with me, and I’m committed to changing this however I can.

How I will change is an idea that’s still evolving in my mind.  I will still talk about breasts and breastfeeding, because most of my posts are about my journey and I am a woman.  But I will be more mindful of my words going forward, and will probably start talking about human milk more than breastmilk going forward (which is logical – we talk about cows milk, not udder milk).  I will think more carefully when addressing posts to my followers, because even LGBTQ people aside, the parents following me to support their lactating partners deserve to be acknowledged too.  But I would like to make it known that I support and welcome men who want to feed their babies their own milk.

The Australian Breastfeeding Association are committed to providing non-judgemental breastfeeding support.  If you identify as LGBTQI and require breastfeeding support, please speak to a trained breastfeeding counsellor on 1800 MUM 2 MUM

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Who Can We Donate Breast Pumps To?

Back on 26 August last year, the Pumping It Forward Project gave away it’s very first pump, and we’ve continued giving them out ever since. It felt so good to give, that we’ve continued giving them away. Our tally has now reached 20 breast pumps, with no end in sight.  For a full list of recipients, go here.

To support our project and help us keep donating pumps, all you need to is shop through our affiliate links. When you shop through our links, the Pumping It Forward Project receives a 10% commission to fund more pumps. for us to donate.

If you would like to shop with Spectra, please use this link – https://spectra-baby.com.au/ref/Breastfeedersinaustralia (or here).

The Spectra S2 is by far the most popular breast pump among the mums I interact with, however Pumpables released the Milk Genie earlier this year, and I predict it’s going to grow in popularity and will be a worthy adversary to rival the S2.  For under $170, it’s a steal!  To buy the Milk Genie or pump parts from Pumpables, use this link – https://pumpables.co/ref/breastfeedersinaustralia/ (or here).

As long as people keep buying pumps through our affiliate link, we will continue donating pumps to professionals and organisations who support breastfeeders and their families. The Pumping It Forward Project team don’t profit personally from the project – every cent that we receive goes towards donations.

The only downside to giving away so many pumps is that it starts to get hard to pick who to give one to next!

Do you know a professional or organisation who are instrumental in the support of breastfeeders and their families?  Could they put a brand new Spectra S2 to good use?  Please comment below!

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Criticism From People Who Are Hurting

Today I had someone react badly to a post that was shared from our website (a Member Post about being Unsure About Breastfeeding).  I don’t get a lot of negative feedback about the posts I write, but that’s probably because I’m relatively small-time, and my posts are generally shared with people who have opted, in some way or another, to read posts about breastfeeding.

The post was shared on the Parent Talk Australia page on Facebook – a Facebook dedicated to sharing content from Australian writers aimed at parents) and it attracted a really negative comment.  “Please stop making out that breastfeeding is amazing because not everyone feels that way… I breastfed because I thought it was the best thing for my son but the feeling is yuk and I felt so wrong doing it“.  She said if she ever had another child she wouldn’t breastfeed, and then criticised Parent Talk Australia for regularly sharing positive stories, when there are many women like herself who don’t have positive experiences.

When I first read the comment, I felt really hurt because while it may not always come across that way, I try extremely hard to keep my posts positive and aimed towards celebrating breastfeeding without putting non-breastfeeders down.  To feel accused of something I strive not to do felt really insulting and hurtful.  Besides that, what the heck did she want us to do?  Never ever talk about breastfeeding positively because she had a crappy experience with it?

But as quickly as I felt upset and defensive, after rereading her comments a few more times, I softened.  It sounds like she had an extremely difficult time trying to breastfeed.  It sounds like she had dealt with some seriously negative feelings about breastfeeding, and despite no longer breastfeeding, was still greatly affected by them.  It sounds like whatever she went through was bad enough to make her act irrationally in response to gentle, happy stories about mums feeling good about themselves.

And then I felt bad that I couldn’t even really offer her support.  I don’t know what it’s like to try really hard to breastfeed and not succeed.  I can’t tell that mama she was wrong for feeling the way she did – I don’t know exactly what she went through, but it must have been pretty bad to invoke such an angry reaction.  When someone’s in the moment of being angry and hurt, there’s often nothing you can say to bring them out of it.  In deed, anything I said from that point on, no matter what my intention or how nicely I worded it, would likely be seen as something with an agenda beyond offering support.  There was nothing I could do except let her feel what she felt and hope she had people around to help her through it.

I hope she’s OK.

If you are having a hard time with your emotions after your breastfeeding journey, the National Breastfeeding Helpline’s breastfeeding counsellors are trained in offering a debrief.  You can contact them on 1800 MUM 2 MUM,

 

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Polite Ignorance Is Bliss

This morning after the preschool drop-off, Miss 2 wanted milk more than usual, and it couldn’t wait til we got back home or to the car.  So we sat down on a random person’s brick fence next to the footpath leading to the school.  Some parents left the school gate and were having a loud, cheerful and animated chat, but they stopped talking as they approached me, walked past in silence with averted eyes and resumed their conversation when they were away from us.  If it were me walking past, I would have given my fellow breastfeeding mama a smile, wave, hi-five or a “Thank You For Breastfeeding” card.

I don’t know why these particular people stopped talking.  Hopefully they were mindful of Miss 2 and I having a quiet moment and didn’t want to disturb or distract us with their loud chatter.  Maybe they were worried I would think they were talking about me, so they just stopped talking all together.  Or maybe they were so gobsmacked at the sight of a breastfeeding toddler that they temporarily lost all ability to speak.

I could stew over these particular people’s thoughts were.  I could become consumed with the idea that breastfeeding should be normal, and feel outraged that they changed their behaviour (even if it was for my perceived benefit) just because I was breastfeeding.  I could be angry that they didn’t smile and nod at me, like they probably would have done if I was just sitting down and not breastfeeding.  But they politely ignored me and continued going about their business.

98% of people treat me with polite ignorance, and that’s OK with me.  I love celebrating breastfeeding and think it’s amazing, but I don’t expect everyone else to ride the breastfeeding train with me.  Not everyone get excited about breastfeeding, but around 1% of people I encounter do.  These are my yet-to-be-met tribe of people who also champion breastfeeding in their own way.  They will go out of their way to actively encourage me, and the sight of my toddler and I would have made their day.  The last 1% of people are overtly rude, which is very unfortunate for them, because imagine going through life being such an asshole that you can’t even mind your own business when a woman is feeding her child?

If the people who I saw today actually disapprove of breastfeeding, they kept it to themselves.  They didn’t demand that I change my behaviour to fit in with their private expectations, they just moved along.  I can live with people feeling uncomfortable with public breastfeeding, as long as there is some understanding that it’s their problem to deal with, and it’s not my responsibility to pander to them.  Someone can disapprove of breastfeeding but still fall into that 98% of people who politely ignore it.

Stories in the media and across social media make it feel like it’s actually more than 1% of people who harass and intimidate breastfeeders, but that’s just because polite ignorance isn’t usually newsworthy.   It might seem very un-lactivist-like of me to be be celebrating polite ignorance, but if it allows us to breastfeed in peace, then that polite ignorance is bliss.

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“Lucky” To Breastfeed

Recently I’ve been thinking about what it means when people say they are lucky to be able to breastfeed.  I hear it often, and even say it myself in some situations.

But it’s not true, and I’m going to make an effort to stop saying it.

If I had to make a list of the hurdles I overcame to be able to breastfeed, it would be long.  Some honourable mentions go to cracked, bleeding and infected nipples, mastitis requiring hospitalisation, IV antibiotics, G cup boobs and a very high needs, un-sleeping baby.  That’s just the REALLY bad stuff, I still had to deal with all of the “common” stuff, like physically recovering from pregnancy and birth, extreme exhaustion, erratic emotions and constant cluster feeds.

There were a lot of factors that got me through those issues – a brilliant IBCLC, an amazing husband, patient friends and family, a supportive workplace, the Kellymom website and Pinky McKay’s Sleeping Like A Baby book.

Support is makes a big difference, but only one person in my family was breastfeeding my child.  I wish it was “luck” that got me through it, because that would have been a hell of a lot easier for me!  Instead I swallowed tears of pain.  Sometimes I didn’t swallow them enough, and I sobbed openly.  I grit my teeth.  I counted to ten.  I held my boobs in my hands while my husband drove, because the engorgement and nipple pain made a simple drive down the street excruciatingly painful.  I slept in uncomfortable positions because my son wanted to sleep in my armpit.  I got neck and back pain because I was too tired to focus on my posture.  I changed my clothes ten times a day because they were soaked with the stench of sour breastmilk.  I missed out on social engagements because I had to breastfeed.  I spent hours googling breastfeeding problems because I wasn’t always confident in the advice I received.

By saying I am “lucky”, I’m buying into the idea that the ability to breastfeed is a rare one, and one that you have no control over.  That a cosmic flip of the coin is what makes the difference between breastfeeding or not.  That breastfeeding isn’t “normal” – that only “lucky” people get to do it.  If I say that I am “lucky” to breastfeed, I’m doing a disservice to my effort.  I went to great lengths to ensure I could breastfeed, and I deserve to be proud of my success.

I chose to breastfeed.  Even though it was hard, it was important to me, but I made it happen.  I did.  Not “luck”.

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10 Better Questions To Ask About Breastfeeding In Public

It feels like every time there’s a drama over a breastfeeding mum being inappropriately asked to cover up or move on, it’s reported with a poll that asks something like “Should women cover up when breastfeeding in public?”.

Two local papers ran a story last week about a mum who felt shamed into covering up while breastfeeding at the National Gallery of Australia.  They both ran the silly poll too.  Breastfeeding publically is a right, protected by federal (Sex Discrimination Act 1984) and state (Anti Discrimination Board of NSW) law.

It might seem over the top to take exception to a newspaper opinion poll.  I mean, it’s an opinion poll, right?  The beauty of opinions is that everyone is entitled to have one.  But it’s important to consider context.  Our media outlets, such as our newspapers, have a ethical responsibility when it comes to reporting the news and steering public discussion.  When these polls are placed in the middle of an article that discusses a breastfeeding woman being illegally discriminated against, the question is  inappropriate.

Asking for public opinion on an act that’s protected by law, in the middle of an article that talks about the law being broken is a question over the relevance of the law itself.  Why does the poll question the legal act of breastfeeding, instead of the illegal act of harassing her to stop?  It feels like the question suggests that the behaviour of the perpetrator could be condoned, as if that woman’s legal right is trumped by the number of people who disagree with it.

I’ve never seen a poll in the middle of an article about building code violations asking if people should be allowed to build property despite having inadequate skills or experience to do so.  Nor have I ever seen a poll in the middle of an article about fraud asking people if they think it’s OK to forge another person’s signature.  And these issues don’t necessarily involve harassment.  Would it be OK to poll in the middle of an article about rape asking if it’s OK to disrespect women who wear short skirts?

I have come up with ten alternative polls that media outlets could use whenever a breastfeeding-in-public drama makes the news:

  1. Did you know women have a legal right to breastfeed in public without a cover? I feel this is a more important question.  If more people understood that the right to breastfeed is protected by federal and state laws, they might be more respectful of it.
  2. If you were in public with an upset and/or hungry child, and you had the power to immediately calm and satisfy them, would you? Force people to mentally walk a mile in mum’s shoes.  What do they ACTUALLY expect her to do?
  3. Would you rank your own personal discomfort above the needs of an upset and/or hungry child? Are you egocentric?  Our smallest humans are among the most vulnerable of our species.  It makes sense to put their needs first.
  4. Do you think dignity is more important than satisfying upset and/or hungry children? I don’t consider breastfeeding to be an undignified act at all, but even if I did, so what?  I left my dignity behind in the birthing suite when fifteen hospital staff stood around my naked and howling body.  Those hospital staff had a choice whether to be or not to be there, just like people have the choice to watch mum or not.
  5. When you see things that you feel slightly uncomfortable, should you look away and mind your own business? Because why?  Why can’t people mind their own business?
  6. Are you a bully?  Relying on shame to force someone to stop what they’re doing and instead to do what you want is bullying behaviour if I ever saw it.
  7. Would you prefer to listen to the baby cry? It’s a lot easier to avert our eyes than it is to cover our ears.
  8. Are you an utter ignoramus? Pardon me, but if the shoe fits, then wear it.  Because only a total ignoramus could be unaware of the inmportance of breastfeeding, and the fact that there’s nothing shameful or wrong with it.
  9. Can you get your kicks some other way? Because if hassling a mum for breastfeeding in public is what they need to do to feel important, then they need to get a life.
  10. Do you like green eggs and ham? I admit this question has nothing to do with the subject at hand, but at least it isn’t harmful to the right to breastfeed.

In all seriousness, I believe our media need to be accountable and ensure their messages, whether written or implied, are socially responsible.  They have a great deal of power over the way people think, and that power should be used appropriately.

Did you know that the right to breastfeed in public without a cover is protected by law?

 

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