You can breastfeed in public. Really, you can.

Hallelujah. New federal laws have made it illegal to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers. I know – it’s hard to believe this is 2011.

At last women are allowed to feed their babies and not just at home in the comfort of their rocking, feeding chairs. Hey, they can even go out to cafes, restaurants, and to work without being asked to leave – fancy that. .

Under changes to the Sex Discrimination Act passed last week by the Federal Parliament, it will be discriminatory for a restaurateur to decline service to a breastfeeding woman, or an employer to refuse to hire a breastfeeding mother.

As I wrote in a previous column

Nobody can forget the hype when Kate Langbroek, breastfed on live TV during The Panel. “Publicity stunt!” cried some. “Outrageous!” cried others. “Oh please!” I cried at nobody in particular. There’s nothing contrived about breastfeeding. If only infants could follow a PR schedule. Have you met a baby? They tend to be rather spontaneous and extremely unreasonable, particularly when tired or hungry which is approximately always. Kate Langbroek was at work. Her baby was hungry. She fed him. It happens. The end. And yet people still talk about it today.

The fact she was working at all is a problem for some people who feel uncomfortable when the worlds of work and motherhood collide. They can’t compute that personal choice or financial necessity makes that collision a reality for millions of women like Kate every day. Oh look, it’s 2009.

With over a decade of breastfeeding on my CV (not consecutively and not of the same child), there’s not a public place where I haven’t breastfed or expressed. Beaches, planes, shopping centres, parks, airports, restaurants, BBQs, offices, cafes, meetings, parties, weddings, funerals, churches, synagogues…and frankly, I couldn’t care less who was watching.


Oddly enough, I tend to prioritise my baby’s immediate needs over the Elizabethan prudishness of people who have a problem with boobs being used for their natural function. I’m zany like that.

When I’m in breastfeeding mode, my breasts are about as sexual to me as a bowl of Weet Bix. Because that’s exactly what they represent to my baby. Sustenance. Not sex.

I also find the term ‘public breastfeeding’ amusing. Those who oppose it exude a fearful, vaguely alarmed vibe, as if there are groups of marauding mothers using their babies as an excuse to flash their lactating breasts in strangers’ faces: “I know! Let’s meet at Westfield! The first person to flash their leaky nipple to 100 shoppers wins a toasted sandwich!”

As for the suggestion by some that breastfeeding should happen in toilets, I totally agree. As soon as those same people are happy to have their morning coffee made, served and drunk in a toilet cubicle, we shall happily breastfeed right alongside them.

My other favourite thing is when people say mothers should be discreet. This is also true. There are far too many breastfeeding women who brazenly strip naked to the waist in public each time their baby grizzles. Have you seen them throw their bosoms around with gay abandon while waving their arms in the air like they just don’t care? What is wrong with these women? Why do they derive so much pleasure from being almost nude in public? Oh wait. They’re not and they don’t. We feed our babies as quickly and quietly as possible because THEY ARE HUNGRY and SO THEIR CRIES DON’T DISTURB YOUR VERY IMPORTANT PUBLIC BUISNESS such as texting someone while you sip your skinny latte and flick through a newspaper in a coffee shop. Selfish exhibitionists, yes we are.

Have you ever been confronted while feeding your own children? How do you feel when you see a woman breastfeeding in public ?