Breastfeeding, Featured

The Controversy of Breastfeeding in Public

August 26, 2015
child in a cafe

This is a hot topic, and is something that I know every new mother will think about at some point. I know I personally have struggled with feeding both my babies in public.

My belief is that there is a gross contradiction with regards to breastfeeding in New Zealand. On the one hand the message is breastfeeding is best, breastfeed for the first year of your babies life, formula is inferior. If you pull out a bottle you’re judged and looked down upon for feeding your baby formula (a massive assumption that there is formula in the bottle and not expressed breast milk!).

Now on the other hand, if you breastfeed in public, there are still people who don’t approve. Many cafes, restaurants and other public places don’t welcome breastfeeding, and many members of the general public feel the same. There are frequently posts on social media across the world about businesses or individuals not supporting breastfeeding mothers. So is it any wonder that new mums feel uncomfortable or self conscious when it comes to feeding in public? Are we just supposed to stay at home for the first year of the baby’s life?!

Now that my second child is almost 5 months old I’m finally starting to feel more confident with breastfeeding in public places. I was so nervous and self conscious about it with my first baby, always worried someone would say something to me or that I would receive “the look”. I even resorted to feeding him sitting on the toilet seat in the bathroom at one cafe as I was too anxious to feed him inside the cafe! Its terrible that we have to lower ourselves to this level. On a recent holiday I had to feed the baby everywhere; cafes, restaurants, on the gondola, at a picnic bench in the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley… I did what I had to do so that my family and I could have an enjoyable holiday.

When I feed in a public place I make a conscious effort to be as covered as possible, and 90% of the time onlookers would never even see any skin, let alone a nipple! I try to be as discreet as possible.

I think on the whole most people are OK with it now, its just unfortunate that there is a small percentage of the population who ruin it for the rest, and that this stigma exists. A lot of the issues you hear about in social media are overseas, so I hope as a nation New Zealanders are a little more laid back about it, and recognise we are doing something very natural, and just trying to feed our children. For our own sanity we need to know that we can leave the house occasionally and not worry that others will ruin it for us.

There was a post recently in the UK about an awesome cafe that truly supports breastfeeding mothers. Hopefully someone will start up something like that here in New Zealand (preferably in Christchurch!). I think if there was a cafe that had armchairs for feeding mothers (whether breast or bottle, no discrimination over which), a play area for toddlers, buggy parking, and staff who truly supported it, it would always be busy :-) In the mean time, I hope new mothers can overcome the anxiety of feeding in public, not hide at home, and continue to band together to show its OK.

If anyone knows of any great baby friendly cafes or other places let us know!

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  • Zareena October 23, 2015 at 1:37 am

    I love this Blog post. Having breastfed my son for almost 2 years I found that I would flee to the car instead of breastfeeding inside a mall or a Cafe. I live in Oamaru now but I had my son in Waikato. And it does not change throughout New Zealand! My Husband is Pakistani and it is interesting that in Pakistan women freely breastfeed, ANYWHERE! And they are conservative Muslim women, yet breastfeeding is seen as 100% normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Of course they do not take their entire shirt off and expose themselves to everyone, they do it discreetly. It seems like western countries are going backwards in this sense.