Thursday, June 16, 2011

Breastfeeding in Public, or How to Become Socially Unacceptable

I've done a post swap with Marilia of Tripping Mom. Marília is a surfer-single mom of a 4-year old girl. She writes about our common values system, how to find a relevant education and ways to keep your sanity around a kid. Her single mom blog has lots of unconventional parenting ideas. 

Below, she writes about breastfeeding in public in metropolitan Brazil - apparently not as socially acceptable as you might think.  I'll be posting about breastfeeding in Ireland over on her site, soon.


Breastfeeding in Public or How to Become Socially Unacceptable

 If you decided to breastfeed your baby on demand, or even if your child is on a schedule, it´s hard to avoid doing it when you are out of the house. If you have a young baby, say up to 6 months, people are tolerant to breastfeeding in the big cities. But if your baby is a bit older, then you get all kinds of negative reactions from people looking at you disgusted to outright telilng you that you could be doing it elsewhere  (like the bathroom, go figure), to asking silly questions about your toddler like ¨Isn´t she too big to breasfeed?¨

We know there is no such a thing as too big to breastfeed and La Leche League has tons of articles about the benefits of extended nursing (beyond one year).

Back in my home in the northeast of Brazil, a small beach village, breastfeeding is more of the rule. But when my daughter was 2.5-years old we went to visit my family in São Paulo, a big metropolis with over 20 million inhabitants. There, I felt really judged for doing this wonderful nurturing thing. Even my family felt awkward too see a ¨big¨ child breastfeeding.

I felt so bad about this, and breastfeeding was still so central in my relationship with Luísa, that I decided on not going back while I was still nursing. I went back to visit my family only last January, when Luísa was closer to 4-years old and free from the boob.

For me it was easy to solve the problem just by staying away from the big cities (where crazily people avoid so many natural things). But the women living in the big cities have to face people´s unfounded criticism no matter what.  La Leche League advises us to do it anywhere anyway, instead of hiding, to encourage other women to do so, to make this more common place with time.

 If you live in a big city, you can use humor when people ask you stupid things like: ¨Why are you still breastfeeding her?¨  You can try something like this:

¨I decided to be socially inacceptable.¨

¨My child is not very keen on the hormones injected in cows.¨

¨We have an incestuous relationship, as you can tell.¨

The important thing is to keep the answer short and not engage in too much of a discussion. First because this would mean turning yourself into a breastfeeding advocate, publicly trying to get people on our side (and although there´s nothing wrong with that, I think it´s better to do it by example than by engaging in polemics with narrow minded people). Secondly, because no matter what you say, those people will most likely keep thinking you are an aberration.

 Instead of discussing the important topic with people that clearly have no idea, get inspired by people who are also doing it.

If you don´t know anyone in your physical world doing it (I didn´t), get online support, read stories and rest reassured of the fact that breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby. Remember that besides the weird looks, there might be silent curious looks from women who will get encouraged by you.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I was in Brazil and upon returning to the USA after 5 years in Brazil, was petrified of how I would be looked at in the US while breast feeding a toddler.

    I would have to say the hardest part was around my family, and how uncomfortable they made me feel. It is such a shame that this is not a social norm for us, and rather people with unhealthy "hang-ups"!

    We should not hide, and use those crazy cover-ups (I mean really, who wants to be smothered by a piece of cloth while eating) but rather keep it out in the open and make this the norm, after all we are giving the best nourishment for baby. You can read about my experience with Breastfeeding in public in Brazil here:



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