The issue of public breastfeeding is once again in the news, thanks to one breastfeeding mother in Tampa, FL who refused to move when a school principal offered her "a more private place" to nurse her child. Apparently, the No Food and Drink sign posted in the elementary school lobby also applies to breast milk . . .
The controversy over whether women should be allowed to nurse in public isn't new. According to Babytalk magazine, 57% of Americans still disapprove of a mother feeding her child in public. But in many states, incuding Florida, there are laws that protect a woman's right to nurse her child in any public place where she is authorized to be.
Except, apparently, the law is open to interpretation.
When Melissa Taylor approached Hillsborough School District with her frustration at being told not to breastfeed in one of their Tampa Schools, she thought she had the law on her side. But, instead, the school board stood behind the principal involved and made no effort to protect what Taylor thought were her legal rights.
Why? Because they found an impenetrable argument: there are children involved. Young children. Young boys. And God forbid if a little boy sees a woman nursing her child and puts two and two together and realize that THAT'S why mommy has those boobies. The cultural message at play here couldn't be any clearer.
It's okay to nurse in public, unless young children, and specifically young boys, might see you.
Okay, I get it that breastfeeding makes a lot of people uncomfortable. I get that breasts are highly sexualized in our culture, and tend to evoke thoughts of strip clubs instead of lunch or dinner. I get that the school district in Tampa was walking a fine line, trying to figure out how to respect a breastfeeding mother's rights and "protect" students whose parents didn't want to have to explain basic biology.
I agree that sometimes common courtesy and respect for the discomfort of others might be motivation for a breastfeeding mother to choose some place more private.
But I also have to ask what we're doing as a society when we accept the premise that children shouldn't know the basic facts about how babies eat.
I don't quite get how we're going to normalize breastfeeding if we aren't teaching our children that it's normal. And I don't quite understand why we're making the children the issue when it's obvious that it's the adults who have a problem with it.
Check out this video clip from Sesame Street, where Maria nurses her baby, in front of a young girl.
Food for thought, no boobies exposed.