Normalizing Breastfeeding Through Solidarity

While the United States pretends to be a progressive and educated society, we come up lacking when it comes to the basic needs of our young. This is clearly evident when the topic of breastfeeding comes up.

US breastfeeding rates are abysmal, and the public view on nursing in public—and nursing in general—rank even lower.

While evidence supports numerous benefits for child, mother, and society, breastfeeding support is lacking and breastfeeding mothers are frequently treated poorly. Many, including the two-faced individuals who claim that they support breastfeeding and yet vehemently exclaim that they shouldn’t have to see that, would have others believe that discrimination against breastfeeding mothers and rude comments are a mythical occurrence. However, too many breastfeeding mothers can attest to discrimination and negative comments. Those instances that make it to the media are not isolated events.

How do we normalize breastfeeding against such ignorance and intolerance?

While educating others, meeting the needs of our children, and protecting ourselves are all important aspects of normalizing breastfeeding, I think we are missing the one thing that will go the furthest: empowerment!

Most of us have received a negative comment (or more than one) about breastfeeding at some time or other. If not, there are the comments about us, said loudly enough to make certain we hear them. How often have we heard positive comments?

Nothing we say is going to change these people. Expecting a majority to band together to support a minority is unrealistic, at best. Instead, I call for solidarity! Support other nursing mothers you see out and about. Anyone can do this. A kind comment, a cheesy smile, or even a thumbs up to show support goes a long way. If nursing mothers and their support networks (husbands, partners, parents, siblings, children) band together, we can empower each other (and future nursing mothers) and make a change.

Vow to make a small difference in the life of a nursing mother you don’t know.

Photo Credit: christyscherrer

This article has been edited from a version previously published at Living Peacefully with Children.

About The Author: Mandy

My NPN Posts

Mandy O'Brien is an unschooling mom of five. She's an avid reader and self-proclaimed research fanatic. An active advocate of human rights, Mandy works to provide community programs through volunteer work. She is a co-author of the book Homemade Cleaners, where simple living and green cleaning meet science. She shares a glimpse into her life at Living Peacefully with Children, where she writes about various natural parenting subjects and is working to help parents identify with and normalize attachment parenting through Attachment Parents Get Real.

8 Responses to Normalizing Breastfeeding Through Solidarity

  1. Anayah

    Great ideas. Solidarity and continuing to show how normal and beautiful beastfeeding is will go a long way to change the stigma and ostracism many of us have felt. As an African-American woman, I know we also need more viability amongst each other, which is why a ferns and I launched the Brown Mamas Breastfeed Project. If there are any moms who see themselves as part of this, please consider submitting photos:

  2. Melissa  

    What a great case for empowerment! I have been the recipient of positive remarks while nursing a few times and each one has made such a huge impact!

  3. Moorea  

    Yay. I said “you’re my hero” to a mom who was openly breastfeeding her three-year-old in my favorite restaurant. She cried beause, “I’ve never had anyone be supportive of us before.”

  4. Ruby

    I had few negative comments while bfing my firstborn, but the positive ones are the ones I’ll always remember. We were in a restaurant and my daughter, as usual, was fine until the food came, and then she started screaming. The place was full, and I never covered up around family and friends, and frankly, she hated me to cover up in public and would pull the cover off. I tried pacifying her with biscuits and gravy, but she wasn’t having it, so finally I started nursing her, under a cover, which she surprisingly did not snatch off this time. The elderly couple at the table next to us, who had been watching us with interest, smiled so brightly at me and said, “Well, see there! Gravy wasn’t what she wanted at all!” It brought tears to my eyes bc I got little support at home even. Whenever I see a nursing mother in public, I always tell her how proud I am of her, esp since sometimes even our partners aren’t very supportive. Mamas, we have to support each other! I was so proud recently when I took my now 3 yo to story time at the public library and we had THREE mothers nursing their babies without covers, and one child was even a toddler. I almost cried. I couldn’t talk to all of them, so I picked the closest one, the one with the toddler, to tell her how proud I was of her.

  5. Janine  

    UGH the two-faced women (WOMEN!) who claim to support breastfeeding but don’t want to “have to see it” are worse than the formula companies. I recently read an article stating that nursing in public is poor etiquette. When I questioned the author, several more women chimed in to agree that breastfeeding is great but not without a cover. She tried to call herself an advocate of breastfeeding simply because she (privately) breastfed her own children.

    I hope that I make a difference with my lack of modesty and willingness to pop my boobs out and feed my baby no matter where I am.

  6. Moorea  

    oh and FYI, my album Whip It Out: Songs for Breastfeeding donates to LLL an Best For Babes to support all moms who nurse in public

  7. Marla  

    There are no other Mothers that BF openly and/or “full term” to my knowledge in my rural area nor did I know any growing up (openly or privately). I was nervous (still am occasionally). I wanted to “feed on demand” and then decided this could also be a segue to uncharted territory for neighboring teens and adults. My conviction has outweighed my nervousness knowing I had to…”be the change I wanted to see”.

    I do utilize my nursing tank top and a thin shirt on top for seamless manageability, that my little one doesn’t seem to mind. (just my preference) My hope is that I can at least inspire someone to nurse.

    To the Mothers that are nervous about nursing in general or whenever needed… wherever you are…take courage that you might be inspiring someone!

    BTW my continual Thanks to all the bloggers and comment-ers out there!!!! You have been/are my support and the whisper in my ear, to keeping on going! My babe’s contented nursing smile is priceless!

  8. Amy  

    Yes! Solidarity, support, and modeling the gift of nursing our children will eventually turn the tide. . . it is so frustrating that our society puts such a hold on what’s normal and beautiful because of unhealthy stigmas, both sexual and social, but moms that are not afraid to do what’s right and natural for their children openly really help to make breastfeeding a natural and normal occurrence. We can advocate for breastfeeding and support moms in LLL groups and hospitals and WIC offices, but what really will turn the tide for moms is mothers doing as mothers naturally and rightly do, openly and honestly. Solid post! Thanks!