Elizabeth Davies: The breast option is concern for your baby's health
Pick up any can of Enfamil formula and you’ll likely see the motto: “Even closer to breast milk.”
Even formula companies admit it: Breast milk is the healthiest food for our babies. So much so that the federal government has set a goal of having three-quarter of all babies breast-fed in the next two years.
At present, slightly less than 75 percent of all babies are breast-fed. That means 75 percent of new fathers have seen breasts function as a source of nutrition rather than excitement. Seventy-five percent of older siblings grow up knowing that a woman’s breasts do more than look good on the pages of Playboy.
But despite growing education and promotion of breast-feeding, society is sending nursing mothers a mixed message. Consider this:
* A nursing mother was asked to stop while at a Wheaton swimming pool because it was a “family” setting, according to the Wheaton Sun.
* A nursing mother in Kentucky was asked to cover herself in an Applebee’s restaurant, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. Upon hearing her complaint, the company said it would provide blankets for nursing mothers in its restaurants.
(OK, all mothers go ahead and shudder in unison at the thought of putting a public blanket over your child’s face.)
* A nursing mother on a Delta Airlines flight was asked to leave the plane, according to MSNBC.
I’ve nursed my child in parks, restaurants and department stores. I’ve done it at the gym, in a hair salon and at church. To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t given an X-rated show to anyone around.
I have, however, fed my child when he was hungry and comforted him when he was upset.
I’m a fairly modest person, so I didn’t expect to be the type to nurse in public. But when your child eats every two hours, you have two options: 1) never leave the house; or 2) get a life and get over it.
Like many moms, I get a tad nervous about feeding in public. Obviously, I would prefer to be in the comfort of my quiet, private home.
Nursing moms always have their guards up, ready to spring into action if their little one’s busy hands decide to expose mommy’s goods to the world. But we’re more nervous about the one person who will walk up and try to bully us out of doing this very good, healthy thing for our child.
Moms in Illinois have the legal right to breast-feed anywhere they otherwise are allowed to be. Standing in line for a roller coaster? You bet. Wandering through the produce section at the grocery store? Absolutely.
But those hushed whispers and open-mouthed stares make it difficult. That shouldn’t be the case. Nursing mothers should not be made to feel dirty or promiscuous simply because they are making a choice for their child.
As breast-feeding becomes a more popular option for mothers across the country, society needs to learn some tolerance. This isn’t about sexuality — heck, teen girls wandering the mall tend to show more skin than a nursing mother — and it’s not about indecency.
It’s about giving a child the benefits of breast milk: A lower risk of obesity, reduced exposure to food allergies, a stronger immune system.
It’s one of the things mothers were made for.
Elizabeth Davies’ column runs Thursdays in People of the Rock River Valley in the Rockford Register Star.