It’s taken some startling research to unearth some truly astonishing attitudes about breasts and breastfeeding. It seems like there are a whole lot of people out there who are comfortable seeing breasts as sexual objects to leer at but go weak at the knees (in a bad way) at the thought of them BEING USED TO FEED A CHILD.
Because, who would have thought of THAT use for boobies? Oh wait, I know NATURE. The saddest part of this story has not even been the research itself which goes like this:
- Up to a third of Australians still believe mothers should not breastfeed their babies in public, a new poll shows, while a third think a baby should stop breastfeeding within six months.
- Despite 65 per cent of people saying breastfed babies had a better chance of surviving beyond a year old, a Newspoll survey also found only 29 per cent “strongly agree” that women should be encouraged do so in public.
- Up to 36 per cent said breastfeeding was unacceptable in a cafe or at work and the survey also found it was young adults – those aged 18 to 24 – who were the least supportive of public breastfeeding.
- The study also found 34 per cent of respondents felt a baby should stop breastfeeding within six months, 39 per cent said 12 months and only 10 per cent said two years.
- A church was the most unacceptable place to breastfeed (29 per cent opposed), followed by work (27 per cent), a cafe or restaurant (26 per cent) and then a shopping centre (19 per cent
“It is unacceptable to expect that women should be locked inside their houses to breastfeed,” said Dr Jennifer James, lecturer in Midwifery and Breastfeeding & Human Lactation at RMIT University. “Part of the issue why young mothers wean their babies too early is societal pressure and isolation from other mothers experiencing the same difficulties.” Dr James is also vice-president of the Australian Lactation Consultants’ Association (ALCA), which commissioned the study of 1,000 men and women across the country.
She said the poll showed Australians continued to be have “unsympathetic attitudes” surrounding breastfeeding mums, and this was despite the best efforts of health professionals. “Australia needs a paradigm shift, and it has to start in our schools with education that normalises breastfeeding and prevents young adults being shocked or embarrassed.”
Sigh. And it gets worse. As if those neanderthal attitudes weren’t dispiriting enough, some of the comments left on news websites which have reported on the story (I don’t wish to publish any of them here because they are vile but you can check out a delightful sample here) ARE JUST BEYOND BELIEF.
There was a great piece published last week in News Ltd newspapers by Marea Donelly who wrote….
ON billboards and beaches, in city offices, at shopping malls and cafes, bulbous breasts in uplift bras are everywhere.
Yet put a breast to its biological purpose and wait for the uproar. “I don’t p..s in public,” one particularly vulgar responder wrote on a newspaper comment site, “so why should women breastfeed in public?”
An extreme response, perhaps, but a recent survey found that fully one-third of Australians still do not approve of public breast-feeding.
So, sadly, the reaction of the NSW police force to a mother needing time to express milk for her baby probably should not come as a surprise.
And the police employee is not the only victim. As women heed health calls to breast-feed their babies for more than a year, while employment rules provide just 12 months’ maternity leave, the Australian Breastfeeding Association fields thousands of such calls.
The police force intelligence analyst was banned from using tea breaks to express milk for her infant and forced to make up for work time spent expressing.
Another woman complained to the Breastfeeding Association that when she retired to a coffee room – closing the door after her – to express milk, her male colleagues congregated outside for “titty time”, calling out embarrassing and lewd comments.
The true tragedy of petty complaints over women expressing milk while at work is the underlying disdain not only for women, but for our babies.
Along with the health benefits, breast-feeding bonds mother and child. How can such a beautiful demonstration of love be offensive? Work colleagues can accept a 15- or 20-minute cigarette break, but are hostile to a woman nurturing her offspring. And few mothers will express milk for as many years as it takes smokers to quit.
Instead of supporting a mother’s self-sacrificing decision to nurture her child, she is castigated. “She should be at home with her kid, a place of work is no place for a baby,” wrote one unsympathetic reader.
Perhaps they would prefer the costs of carers’ leave for parents as they stay home to care for a sick child, given that US research found children weaned early were five times more likely to be hospitalised in their pre-school years.
It also means that while workplaces adopt equal-opportunity employment policies, this equality collapses as soon as a woman becomes a mother. It also demonstrates ignorance of western governments’ attempts to encourage young people to have enough babies to replace the elderly.
A century after social sensitivities resulted in beach patrols at Bondi protecting the public from offensive beach wear, public offence is being used to keep breast-feeding mothers out of the workforce. No wonder so many women choose not to have children, or to stop at one. Despite assurances women can work and have children, the message here is that childcare remains a woman’s issue.
And in case the critics haven’t noticed, there is an even bigger social crisis: who will work to pay the taxes that keep baby-boomers alive during their increasingly lengthy retirements? “It is hard to return to work when you have had a child and even harder when people don’t support you,” wrote one exasperated woman. “My manager was female so it has nothing to do with men discriminating against women.”
Memo to inflexible employers: just like this woman, unhappy staff will look elsewhere for work. “Where I work now I am valued for the great work I do. I have flexible work and am not made to feel guilty about not working 9-5pm every day.”
So the great mystery is, when did society decide essential care for children was not a social issue? People are horrified at gross examples of child abuse, yet they seem to be just as horrified at the purest demonstration of maternal love.
Anyone who denigrates or stresses breast-feeding mothers, especially one trying to express milk, obviously has no idea how difficult this can be. Breast feeding may be natural, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. As much as it is a physical act, it requires psychological calm and contentment.
Who can remember 13 years ago, when Hillary Clinton suggested it takes a village to raise a child? Perhaps it’s time to rebuild the village – one where our babies are breast-fed and mothers are revered.
* standing ovation * for those sentiments. Breast feeding is hard enough for so many mothers. Why the hell are we making it harder? And also? Can I take a wild guess that the imbeciles who find lactating breasts ‘disgusting’ and would like them kept ‘at home or in toilets’ have absolutely no problem with tits on billboards, magazines and on the beach?
What do you think?
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