A series of photos has gone viral on the Internet which depict mothers breastfeeding their babies in dirty, public bathroom stalls. The goal of this photo series is to raise awareness for breastfeeding mothers who are not allowed to feed their children in public and must find a secluded spot to do so. While the fight for the right of women to breastfeed their children wherever they please continues, those for and against allowing women to expose themselves in public hash out personal biases and continue to fuel the fight.
The image at the top of this article features the pop icon Madonna seemingly breastfeeding while wearing a leopard-print bra, glorifying her sex-appeal. This is an excellent way to communicate what many feel is a problem: the sexualizing of mothers breastfeeding in public, which, according to many, should not be sexualized. Breastfeeding mothers are not protected from discrimination laws in Texas, and can therefore be asked to leave if they are seen feeding their children in public. The series of photos depicting women in bathroom stalls was created by two students, Jonathan Wenske and Kris Haro, in support of a Texas bill that will protect breastfeeding women from discrimination. As the photo-series of women in public bathrooms suggests, many women have no choice but to seek an unsanitary place to feed their children while in public.
There are many individuals with the bias that women should not be allowed to breastfeed in public because they believe it is a filthy act, as well as largely inappropriate for a woman to expose her breast in public. Some even go so far as to say that public breastfeeding is a social act of perversion, and in turn fight against its legality. While these opinions may be daunting to new mothers who desire the freedom to breastfeed their children in public, they have no legal weight in many cases.
Forty-five states have laws which allow women to breastfeed their children in public or private places. Twenty-eight states legally protect breastfeeding women from public indecency laws. Also, under President Obama’s Affordable Care Act breastfeeding mothers are legally allowed to pump breast milk for their infants during break times at work and are not forced to do so in the confines of a restroom; rather, the woman’s employer must provide a place for her to extract milk that is safe and sanitary.
Many people are of the opinion that breastfeeding is completely natural and should not be given an unnatural, sexual, or gross stigma. Breastfeeding is healthy for the child, with studies showing that children who are breastfed have fewer medical complications than those who are bottle-fed formula. Mothers who breastfeed their children have a lower chance of developing pre-menopausal breast cancer, as well as having a better chance of losing pregnancy weight quickly.
While many individuals and establishments prefer that women do not breastfeed in their presence or on their premises, many women continue to fight against the discrimination by knowing their personal rights to public breastfeeding and standing up for those rights. Many argue that women who wish to breastfeed children for a year, the minimum recommended length of time to breastfeed infants, cannot simply stay inside and only breastfeed in the privacy of their own home. On average an infant feeds every three hours; a mother often has no choice but to breastfeed in public. The viral photos have stirred the breastfeeding debate once again and the fight for breastfeeding freedom is not expected to end any time soon.
By Courtney Heitter