Despite it being a controversial part of our daily news, many people are still unaware of the Florida law, regarding breastfeeding babies in public. Recently, a small group of mothers were breastfeeding their children in an Apopka park. Arranged in a circle, so as to keep it more private and not have to expose themselves to anyone, the mothers felt that they were perfectly safe in doing what they were doing. That is, until one of the pool lifeguards approached and told them that they had to stop exposing themselves.
Even when the mothers explained that they weren’t breaking any laws, the lifeguard shrugged off their plight and told them to take it up with a manager. In fact, no one deemed the situation important enough to respond to, until the mothers threatened to have a peaceful “nurse-in” protest in the park.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that public breastfeeding has made Florida headlines. A little over a month ago, a woman protested when she was asked to stop breastfeeding her 2-year old in the lobby of a Hillsborough Elementary School. When offered a quiet room where she could nurse her toddler, the mother became outraged and took it to the school board.
I’ll admit that even I had to go read up on the details on the Florida law, just to make sure I had my facts straight – Having been brought up in a more modest time (at least I like to think so), I still find myself occasionally scandalized by some of the modern practices. While I breastfed my own children for a short time, I can remember the feelings of embarrassment and the awkwardness of what I was doing – It didn’t feel natural or comfortable at all, particularly when I had to hide my baby under a blanket (and pray that they didn’t manage to rip it free and wave it like a free attraction flag). There was also my mother making comments like, “Just flip one out and open up the milk bar…baby’s hungry.” More often than not, I was shame-faced and felt like people thought of me like some kind of cow. Moo.
Is it good that we have a new generation of more natural, more at-ease mothers, who aren’t afraid to “flip one out,” or is this one more slippery step forward towards that slide down into human decadence? People seem divided on this, despite the law – the nursing child’s age and the public location seeming to play a major factor in making some people uneasy and uncomfortable. Some people believe it’s alright for infants, but not alright for toddlers to breast feed in public. Others say that it can be done in public, so long as the mother is discreet and doesn’t draw attention to herself.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the battle, nursing mothers try to remind people that breastfeeding is a beautiful thing, often arguing that it’s natural and shouldn’t be hidden from children, or drawing the religious card and stating claims of how Mary breastfed Jesus and how she didn’t have to take him off into a public restroom to do so (can we say ew?).
For those who have yet to read it, the law states the following:
“The breastfeeding of a baby is an important and basic act of nurture which must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health and family values. A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether or not the nipple of the mother’s breast is covered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.”
Regardless of where some stand on the debate, breastfeeding in public IS perfectly legal, provided that the mother is somewhere that she has a right to be. In other words, so long as mom’s not trespassing, she has the legal right to flip one out – regardless of whether it’s in front of your kids while you’re having dinner at your favorite restaurant, in front of a class full of 4th graders at school, or sitting at a bus stop on a busy downtown street.
Myself, while I do respect mothers and their right to breastfeed in public, I would prefer that they have respect for others and keep it discreet. While I would never suggest anything as disgusting or unsanitary as feeding one’s baby in a bathroom, I would still hope they didn’t feel the need to offer my son a free boob show, if there is a discreet alternative available to just whipping out the girls in front of him. Everything in moderation. Respect is a two way street and, while we might all agree that the work of Salvador Dali is a beautiful thing, it doesn’t mean we all want to stare at it.