Breastfeeding Around the Globe: It’s Time the U.S. Caught up with the Rest of the World

A beautiful breastfeeding photo from the Xingu region of Brazil. Source: fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net via Kate on Pinterest

Breastfeeding in public is not a novel concept. It’s covering up and hiding the act that is a recent development. Here are some anecdotal insights into breastfeeding around the world.

For instance, did you know that: 

  • In Iran, “Even though women are forced to wear head covering in public, people breastfeed everywhere in public and it is considered not a sexual act. Similarly women breastfeed in front of their family members and friends openly.”
  • Ghana is a very conservative country, yet women breastfeed “without cover and without shame.”
  • In Ghana, If you don’t breastfeed your baby in public when it cries people will think the baby is not yours.
  • In Egypt “Not breastfeeding is sometimes frowned upon.”
  • In Ghana, “Bottlefeeding is for orphans, babies whose mothers cannot produce enough milk, upper class wannabes and expatriates. Ghanaian women breastfeed – everywhere and anywhere.” And that “…this is not the ‘Africans run around naked’ thing. There are very high levels of decency and even tight pants are frowned upon. But your baby’s gotta eat!”
  • In Kenya, “Breastfeeding in public is normal” and that “Breasts, especially of a nursing mother, are not regarded as sexual.”
  • In Kenya, Breastfeeding until 2 years old is quite common.
  • In Liberia, “People don’t have problem with mothers breastfeeding their kids anywhere in public. Mothers breastfeed wherever the baby request for food, they feed him/she to be satisfy. Our babies Mother don’t have problem of breastfeeding their in public.” They are proud of the fact that they are a mother.
  • In China “Breastfeeding is viewed as a positive thing, and breastfeeding in public is fine.”

As I mentioned, we (meaning those of us in the U.S. that feel that breastfeeding women need to hide in the bathroom) really need to catch up with the rest of the world. Economic and technological advancment should not result in behaviors that are actually backwards in movement. Sexualizing the breast to the point that feeding your child in public or in uniform, be it military or otherwise, is discouraged and looked upon in disdain is a social, ethical and moral crime.

For more anecdotes on breastfeeding around the world, visit http://www.007b.com/public-breastfeeding-world.php

Related Posts:
Kissing Kids on the Lips (www.singlemomontherun.com)
What is a Doula and Why Do I Need One? (www.singlemomontherun.com)
The Power of Breastmilk: Kills HIV Virus! (www.singlemomontherun.com)

Breastfeeding Isn’t About Sex

A baby sucks on your breast. Is that a sexual experience? No. Might there be a sexual response that occurs from time to time in the mother while her child is nursing? Yes. So let’s look at this issue a little more closely. First of all, the idea that breastfeeding might cause mild sexual arousal is not something to be swept under the rug. It’s a natural biological response. We do not need to be afraid to talk about it. As a matter of fact, I think a graduate student at the University of Minnesota might be writing her dissertation on this very topic as we speak.

The author of another blog felt anxious that breastfeeding might produce sexual feelings. I’m sure that any sexual feelings a mother might have will differ from child to child, from mother to mother, from breast to breast, and from year to year, depending on the age of the child.

I can tell you from my experience that the first days of breastfeeding can be very difficult and it’s a job, not something that’s fun. (Remember, I’m speaking from my experience and my experience alone.) This is especially true if you’ve just undergone major surgery to have the baby removed from your body and especially true if for some reason the latch is painful. And forget about modesty. By the time I had that baby I didn’t care who saw my breasts. I can’t even recall how many nurses, friends and lactation consultants put their hands on my breasts while the baby was sucking away. They were helping the baby to latch and then examining her latch. I was just trying not to scream.

As she got older and her mouth got bigger, the pain subsided. This probably took about six months. Before that any time my milk would let down I would have searing pain that ran around the front of my body and into my back. Pumping is no fun either. You literally feel like a cow hooked up to a machine. My sister walked in on me one morning while I was pumping and just stared. She said, “It’s like looking at a train wreck. It’s so horrible, but somehow you can’t manage to look away.” It wasn’t pretty and it didn’t feel pretty.

Any sexual arousal experienced during breastfeeding is a biological response. I’m assuming people experience it otherwise why would a graduate student be studying the topic. As for the idea that a nursing toddler might somehow experience some inappropriate sexual experience while nursing, that is ludicrous. The toddler associates nursing with two things: food and comfort. Most nursing toddlers won’t even remember nursing as a young child and if they do it will be something along the lines of “Mama Milk” or “Num-Num” and that will be that. Even as a non-breastfed baby ages she will be wanting to lay on mama’s chest and feel the warmth of her breath, the softness of her breasts and the relaxing sound of the heartbeart. These are close to the experience of being an infant or being inutero. My three year old still goes to sleep most easily while I am carrying her in a sling. Luckily she is quite petite. She feels safe and warm and close to the source of milk. She can sense it and can feel my warmth. She’s not nursing and there is nothing sexual about the experience.

The sexualization of breastfeeding for me is not the act of nursing that occurs between mother and child. The sexualization of breastfeeding is what comes from the media and the public, as it did in this last Time Magazine issue and as it does when a woman is breastfeeding in public and there are men around. Because breasts are so sexualized in our culture, as compared to other cultures, breastfeeding in public is put in the same category of nudity. In some culture more remote cultures women walk around without shirts on. No one is gawking, no one is repulsed. No one is being asked to leave the village to nurse. It is a cultural norm. In the current U.S. society, we need to make the shift from breasts as objects of lust to breasts as objects of nutrition and bonding. And men, this isn’t a job solely for women, it’s a job for you as well.

Related Sites:

A photographer captures of the beauty of breastfeeding women and babies.

Breastfeeding around the world.

Breastfeeding is Universal

Breastfeeding is Universal

“Love is food: food for the soul. When a child sucks at his mother’s breast for the first time, he is sucking two things, not only milk — milk is going into his body and love is going into his soul. Love is invisible, just as the soul is invisible; milk is visible just as body is visible. If you have eyes to see, you can see two things together dripping into the child’s being from the mother’s breast. Milk is just the visible part of love; love is the invisible part of milk — the warmth, the love, the compassion, the blessing.” ~ Osho

A friend suggested that perhaps this could have been the Time Magazine cover photo.