Free the breasts

Editorial cartoon by Toby VanWeston.

Breastfeeding in public is not seen as the breast…um, the best place for women to feed their babies. Last month, a staff member from a Toronto country club escorted a woman to the basement so she could finish breastfeeding. When asked to leave a public setting to finish breastfeeding, a nursing mother may begin to wonder if the sole function of the breast has been forgotten.

A woman breastfeeding in public may not be the most comfortable situation for people, but mothers shouldn’t have to accommodate the needs of others. A mother’s responsibility is to her child. Women should be able to feed their children without interruption or indignation.

Female body parts are all over the media. While it’s understandable parents view ‘private parts’ as inappropriate for young children, sexual education is starting early. According to the Ontario Ministry of Education, students as early as first grade are learning about different body parts and their functions. This includes genitalia.

Breastfeeding is a natural process. Humans are among over 5,000 species of mammals that produce milk to feed to their young, according to the Encyclopedia of Life. Farmers wouldn’t shame a cow into finding a more private part of the barn to finish nursing its calf. Women are no different.

Women are not consciously making the decision to reveal their body to the community. It’s not easy to work around the time when a newborn needs to eat. Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel, authors of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, believe newborns must be fed about eight to 12 times each day. According to Kelly Bonyata, a certified lactation consultant, a mother shouldn’t wait to feed until her baby is crying. It’s better to nurse too often than not often enough. Breastfeeding about ten to 12 times daily helps produce good milk supply. Newborns also take anywhere from ten to 45 minutes to finish feeding. Hind milk, the most nutritious milk babies need to gain weight, isn’t produced until near the end of the feeding. Stopping a mother from nursing her baby prematurely is detrimental to the baby’s health.

Not only is breastfeeding healthy for the baby, there are ways the mother can benefit from it. According to Cochrane, an organization dedicated to informing people about health and lifestyle choices, women who breastfeed reduce the risk of gastrointestinal infection. Milk production burns 500 calories a day, according to Murkoff and Mazel. This means women lose the weight they gained during pregnancy at a much faster rate if they breastfeed. Breastfeeding also encourages the continuation of healthy eating well after the stages of pregnancy. It’s important for mothers to maintain their energy while breastfeeding, according to the Canadian Women’s Health Network.

Breastfeeding is a natural and healthy process; therefore women should not have to hide away from such a natural part of motherhood. Mothering a newborn takes a lot of time and energy. It shouldn’t be wasted on judgments others may have about exposing their breasts in the name of attending to their child. It’s something that you may not see everyday, but you’re going to run into it whether you’re in a country club, on the bus or on campus.

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Jessica Stoiku is a second year journalism student at Durham College. With a passion for writing, she enjoys exposing the arts and culture stories of people within the community for The Chronicle. She hopes to work for a publication that focuses on human interest and issues on a broader scale.