Originally published as a column in NewsKamloops on Friday April 29, 2016.
Every few months or so, or at least a couple of times a year, there is some news about a mom breastfeeding in public and the implications of that. A case of a storm in a glass of water if you ask me. Somehow, we’re just not over this issue though it has been happening since the beginning of human history.
Yes, many of us are still collectively losing it as soon as a mom nurses her baby in public (yes, babies do eat at various times and in various places not just at home or in secretive locations.)
The negative opinions of the crowd range from shaming the mom and her propensity to expose herself (as if!) to whether she should still be nursing a child that is not a newborn anymore. To be fair, there are positive, encouraging remarks that show support and affirm that yes, it is absolutely normal for a young one to be nursed.
The latest nursing offense happened in Ontario. Though in a community centre, the mom was asked to go to the washroom to continue. Right. That she refused to do so only seems logical and self-respecting. No mom does the exposure to the point it becomes an issue and most times all you see is the baby’s head anyway. Covering up works for some babies but not for others so in imposing the cover-up we might just see more of what we’re trying to avoid seeing.
That she was asked to do that only proves that we are a few ages behind in acknowledging a fact of life (literally) that is not only healthy but fully supported and encouraged by various health organizations and yes, the recommendations clearly state nursing exclusively for the first six months of life and along with complimentary foods until the age of two and beyond.
It truly is mind-boggling that so many get their tails in a knot over this one again and again, while the exposure issue is a serious and worrying one in other areas of life that we should be more diligent to look into as a society or even become fully aware of.
It’s highly hypocritical to do the nursing mom hunt while the really troubling stuff exists in the shadows and grows continuously. The dark sides of internet information is where the true exposure to more than breasts happen, yet there is full freedom for kids, teens and the rest of the population to access it as they please and/or are sneaking their way towards it.
We have yet to make it a common place conversation among all of us, whether we are parents or not. As a society we are barking at the wrong tree when approaching the nursing mom situation with such apprehension while not seeing the dark forest behind it.
If we are to regulate things that can and do affect us as a society we have to look at how we’re being robbed of decency and innocence, start a conversation and initiate actions that will see us all better for it.
To be clear, I am an advocate of open conversations with children, explaining things to them according to their level of understanding and curiosity. Moreover, I am an advocate of spending enough time around the dinner table and otherwise, so that such conversations are not awkward and thus avoided, but happening matter-of-factly and thus allowing for the connection between us parents and children to grow deeper every time.
Yes, we need to do something and soon. Highly overdue I’d say when we have yet another 80 people in Ontario – one of whom was a daycare employee – charged with child pornography (charges include 274 offences) and when phone applications like Canadian-made Kik open the door to even more predators. No, I am not blaming the app but its features sure need some fixing so that the ill-intended cannot be given access.
We have much to worry about and baby nursing prudishness is not one of them. We have to worry about people whose faces and identities are concealed going after children (yes, teens are still children), we have to worry about how easily children can nowadays access online pornography and how overspread the rape culture is among young people, and we have to worry about how much even best-intentioned parents miss when it comes to knowing about their children’s online presence simply because there is just so much to handle.
So yes, let’s let the nursing moms nurse and instead approach the issues that can truly hurt us and our children. This is yet another elephant in the room, and we have to deal with it. Starting now would not be too soon.