I was just on the BBC Radio Show Have Your Say a few minutes ago discussing (or perhaps debating) the topic of public breastfeeding. The segment was apparently prompted by an incident in which a UK policeman stopped a woman, named Margaret Boyle-White, from feeding her baby:
A woman in the UK was asked by police to stop feeding her baby as she sat on a bench in Watton town centre, after another shopper complained.
Here's the whole story from the London Times. My favorite bit is that the officer suggested that a pub might be a more appropriate venue for breastfeeding than a public bench. Woohoo.
Needless to say, I was advocating the position that a woman should be able to take care of her baby without interference, as was the member of a Scottish parliament who introduced the bill passed earlier this month making it an offense to stop mothers breastfeeding in public. (I didn't catch her name, but I think it was Elaine Smith.)
(Public breastfeeding is legally protected in the State of New York, where I live.)
The opposition, while I was on, was this guy who just kept saying over and over that "public nudity is not socially acceptable." He was pretty funny. Someone should take him to the beach from time to time. It would improve his disposition. When we weren't taking his point, he finally said, "If it is OK for women to breastfeed their babies it public, why isn't it OK to make babies in public?" (On second thought, maybe he shouldn't be taken to the beach.)
I was pleased to have the opportunity to strike a blow for Motherhood!
MEANWHILE, a photographer named Amber Parmley in Tennessee, along with a friend of hers, has just launched Project Got Breastmilk?, a site with a really lovely breastfeeding photogallery. The photo to the right is one of my favorites from her site. She's doing a Got Breastmilk? calendar which you can preorder. Beautiful work!
AND MEANWHILE, a huge recall of Nestle infant formula has been ordered.
A FURTHER THOUGHT, 11/23: For those tempted to buy into the argument that bodily functions are private, I'd like to point out a couple of thing. First of all, if you think about what the person on the park bench would have to be doing for you to call a cop and ask for them to be stopped, asking for police action, or expecting police intervention is actually a pretty extreme remedy. and that is specifically what was at issue in the situation with Margaret Boyle-White.
Secondly, while a certain number of specific bodily functions are expected to be private, most of them are expected to be private with babies as well. (No one is asking you to watch babies poop.) And many other bodily functions, like sneezing and farting do not (except in extreme situations) confine people to their homes for fear they might sneeze or fart in public. And some things, such as public smoking, continue as common practice long after their practitioners have been informed that many people find smoking objectionable.
If the general rule were that one must stay home if there is a risk that one might offend someone or make someone uncomfortable, pretty much no one could leave their houses. And for the mothers of small children, the greater risk of offending is in fact the possibility of a crying child. While I have had very little negative social feedback from my hundreds of hours of public nursing, I can say with some authority that most people object to a crying or screaming child. The claim that the mom should stay home if she might need to nurse because she might offend is absurd in the face of the number of times she has to face public disapproval because her little bundle of joy is screaming at the top of its powerful little lungs.
And finally, why should nursing mothers be singled out?