This past week was World Breastfeeding Week. If you are a mom or even your friends are moms, your social media was dotted with photos of nursing babies and articles about women’s right to breastfeed.
I’m all for women being supported to breastfeed. If you know me at all, you know I don’t think anyone should tell a woman what to do with her body.
However, with the move of most hospitals to become baby friendly, lactation consultants in most urban pediatrician offices, and more women breastfeeding, I think there’s a backlash happening. Where I live, just outside of Raleigh, the capital, I felt much more stigmatized and judged for bottle-feeding than breasfteeding. You shake up that bottle of formula under the table and try not to draw attention.
I think in a small, rural areas it is different and more of this general breastfeeding awareness might be needed. I have family who live in Beaufort County and the lack of resources and education on breastfeeding create a very different environment there.
However, the theme of this year’s WBW was on breastfeeding and the workplace, yet this is not the focus I saw from the news and friends. This, breastfeeding access and maternity leave, I can get on board with, it seems very necessary and timely.
But I don’t think we are in a time when breastfeeding mothers can try to claim society shames them more than others. Unfortunately, we are in a time when mothers are judged for just about any feeding choice they make. It’s equal opportunity judgement and shunning.
So let’s focus more on access to flexible work hours for mothers and a space for them to pump at work. These are practical, timely concerns. Are some women shamed for nursing in public? Yes, but I’ve never met one personally. Those concerns are not as pertinent as the ones that were actually the goal of WBW this year: breastfeeding and the workplace.
I know many stories of women who were not provided a place to pump, or if they were, it was a glorified closet or not-so private room. These seem like the issues that need addressing and could actually be solved with practical solutions in the workplace.
So this is just me saying World Breastfeeding Week had it right, but many of us got it wrong.