BOSTON — Should a mother breastfeed her baby in public? Last week, 20 moms staged a "nurse-in" at a Singapore cafe to protest a waitress's treatment of a woman breastfeeding her newborn.
Singapore isn't the only place where such issues arise. As pediatricians encourage women to nurse because of health benefits, more moms are feeding hungry infants at the mall, in museums, or offices. In a number of cases, women have been stopped by managers who view such conduct as indecent at worst, and unseemly at best.
Before I had a baby, I might have sided with the restaurant. I was uncomfortable around nursing women because I felt like an unwitting voyeur to an intimate activity.
When Ben was born two years ago, I happily nursed him - in private. While I envied women who were confident enough to breastfeed in public, I just couldn't join them. Perhaps it was my initial ambivalence about motherhood, or my upbringing. It certainly had to do with fears of disapproval.
The people who disapprove most are usually those who view women's breasts as sexual objects, not a means of nurturance.
In the United States, 20 states have laws that support a mother's right to breastfeed in public. Although I chose not to at the time, I believe the decision of where to nurse should be the woman's.
In all the public wrangling over the issue, it's important to remember who stands to benefit most: a hungry baby.
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