"People shouldn't confuse breastfeeding with sex..." Find out what Singaporean dads have to say about breastfeeding in public...
Breastfeeding in public: this is a topic that causes much debate in both the parenting community and the general public. Even among breastfeeding mums, opinions can differ.
Those who have an issue with mums nursing in public argue that it’s just not appropriate; that a woman’s breasts should not be on “public display”; that a toilet or nursing room should be used; that the child should be bottle-fed when going out; that a nursing cover should always be used; that the mum is just an attention seeker; and so on.
Those who support breastfeeding in public say there’s nothing inappropriate about it – if you don’t want to see it, look away; that what is inappropriate is asking a mum to give her baby a meal in the toilet; that some babies hate being covered while feeding; that wearing a skirt that barely covers your buttocks is attention-seeking, not breastfeeding.
In the background of all this divided public opinion, governments, researchers, and health institutes around the world continue to study and promote the stellar benefits of breastfeeding for both mums and their little ones.
With all this authoritative backing behind why breastfeeding is so important, surely nursing in public shouldn’t be the issue that it is today?
But it is.
One of the biggest reasons why breastfeeding in public has become the topic of contentious debate is because of the sexualisation of females in the media. Many men (and women) find it difficult to see beyond the sexuality of breasts… even when there is a child getting nourishment out of them.
It’s no wonder then that mums are hesitant, and even ashamed, to breastfeed their babies when others are around.
So, in the effort to de-stigmatise breastfeeding in public, it’s important for men – dads especially – to support breastfeeding, at home, and when out and about.
According to La Leche League International, “the support of a baby’s father can help the breastfeeding relationship succeed.”
A dad can ward off discouragement, deflect negative comments from friends and relatives, help calm a fussy baby, and bring his partner food and drink while she is breastfeeding.
Most importantly the baby’s father can remind his partner that breastfeeding is one of the most important things she can do to get their baby off to a good start in life.
We spoke to several Singaporean fathers who do all this and a bit more – they support their partners in their breastfeeding efforts, especially when it comes to nursing in public.
Here’s what they had to say:
She should be proud of herself…
“A child is precious and breastmilk is the best thing to give when he or she is hungry – no matter where you are. There is nothing to be ashamed about a mum breastfeeding her child anywhere she wants to. In fact, she should be proud of herself and give other mums the courage to breastfeed in public too.”—Roshan, dad of two.
There is also the option of not looking…
“Do I support mothers nursing in public? Why is that even a question? Is it to do with exposing a small part of her breast? I see much more flesh and cleavage exposed by non-nursing women and nobody’s complaining.
“Between the two groups of women, breastfeeding mums are actually doing something productive and useful with her body. For those who continue to feel that mothers nursing in public is a gross show of indecency, there is also the option of not looking.
“Go ahead, grab your smart phone and play a game, or surf the web. Leave the mums and their babies alone.”—Aaron Low, dad of two.
Breastmilk is good for my baby’s health…
“Nursing in public is convenient and breastmilk is good for my baby’s health! There’s nothing more to it than that!”—Mizi, dad of one.
Babies have the right to eat in public…
“People shouldn’t confuse breastfeeding with sex and mothers and fathers should care more about their babies than the opinion of others. Babies cry for a reason – their tummies are tiny, so if they need to eat they cannot wait like adults.
“They must be fed immediately especially if crying which is a late sign that they are really hungry. Babies have the right to eat in public just like everybody else. Nursing rooms are not everywhere, and not every nursing room is clean and comfortable for nursing.
“And they are often hard to find and get to, especially if you are pushing a pram. It’s just better for the whole family if baby is fed wherever you are. Those who don’t like it can look away.” —Wanlop Navepap, dad of two.
No need to care about what others think…
“A baby’s needs come before anything else. If a mum has to feed, she should just feed – it doesn’t matter where she is. There is no need to care about what others think.”—CW, dad of one.
Breastfeeding is a choice and so is nursing in public. Each mum has the right to make decisions for herself and her baby without being judged.
And if you a dad and you are reading this, know that you can play a big role in supporting and encouraging your wife, should she choose to nurse in public. By doing so, you are doing your part to de-stigmatise breastfeeding for all mums, not just your wife.
Note: most of the images used in this article are by Ivette Ivens, an award-winning photographer who, through this series of photographs, hopes to assist with normalising breastfeeding. You can purchase her book “Breastfeeding Goddesses” by clicking this link.
Need breastfeeding help or support? Don’t fret!
theAsianparent has a Singapore Breastfeeding Mums Support Group that you can join for mum-to-mum advice.