Breastfeeding in Community
I have so enjoyed the discussion about breastfeeding in public. Thank you to all who chose to contribute. I really enjoyed hearing everyone’s differing views and you have all caused me to stop and think carefully about this issue.
Here are the thoughts that have been ruminating in my mind these last few days…
We don’t live in a world where it is possible to keep everyone happy at once. Unfortunately we live in a world where people increasingly expect their own needs to be met regardless of the cost to others. Though we would never express it like this and in fact would probably be both shocked and horrified if we realised it, in wanting what we want, when we want it is inevitable that others are inconvenienced.
So long as we insist on inhabiting the world as individuals we will never resolve this issue, nor a whole host of other much more weighty and significant issues. For every argument in favour of one person’s rights a counter argument can be made. In the end it’s my rights vs. yours. We may as a society, rightly, decide that in some instances “some rights simply trump issues of social discomfort” but this does not necessarily resolve the issue in the minds of society.
I think we need to come at this issue from a different perspective. When we consider ourselves as part of a community then we will put relationships and mutual respect ahead of our own rights. In the case of a breastfeeding mother, if we view others as part of the community in which we belong, then we can ask and expect people to look at a new mother breastfeeding her child with empathy, acknowledging all the changes in her life and the sleep deprivation accompanying them. In acknowledging this we would be compelled, by our own conscience, to put aside any feelings of discomfort in order to support and encourage these mums, for their work in raising and nurturing a child is not for their benefit alone but the benefit of the community as a whole. At the same time, these new mothers would be considerate of those around them not flaunting or taking advantage of this supportive environment but gratefully acknowledging it and showing respect in return through their own behaviour.
Though there is a place for making political statements, when we live in community with one another we would not seek to do this unnecessarily.
I’d like to share another experience that is the ‘practice’ of this – it’s only a small example but I hope it illuminates what I am trying to say. There is a cafe next door to the Baby Bunting (big baby store) that I go to. It’s a very small cafe frequented by a diverse group of people including the elderly. The first time I went there I needed to breastfeed Bliss. I felt that it was right to acknowledge the size of the cafe and the clientele and so I asked the cafe owner if they were happy for me to breastfeed Bliss. I don’t ask permission regularly but I felt that in this particular environment it was the respectful thing to do. The owner was of course, very happy for me to feed Bliss and I was able to do so feeling comfortable that no one would be offended or upset, including me! As a result it was a very positive experience!
For many of us the idea of a community in which we all know each other by name does not exist. Therefore our sense of accountability towards others, of supporting those in our community, also no longer exists. To quote my husband on this issue “because we no longer live in these communities we have to create this responsibility within our own hearts and minds”. By doing this, we begin to create a community in which we a pleased to be a part.
So, what do you think? Have I oversimplified the issue? Is it too unrealistic? Or is it possible that putting aside our sense of “our rights” and thinking first about the needs of others in our community we may begin to create a much happier, positive and mutually beneficial experience for all?