Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why breastfeed in public

A friend of mine had glossed over a study she had read about primates not knowing how to suckle their young if they had never been around other primate mothers suckling their young before they gave birth. I went on a search for that study because, quite frankly, I think its truth extends into the human family too.

It says in part ;

Primates are, generally speaking, an exception to the general rule of easy nursing. A study of infant-mother long-tailed macaque monkeys showed that they use the same oral nursing motions as other mammals (i.e., suction - German et al., 1992). Yet most primates appear to require a period of leaning in order to successfully nurse their offspring as compared to other mammals (Smith, 2005). Hrdy (1999) has proposed that this learning may be a trade-off between the reliability of innate behaviors and the flexible power of a learning brain. Data from isolated primates provide evidence that without observing or experience nursing, monkeys face a strong likelyhood of failing to nurse succesfully (Abello & Fernandez, 2003 ;  Harlow & Harlow, 1962)

This could well explain why today women just don't 'know' anymore about breastfeeding. The reason for the majority of doubt amidst new mothers' ability to nurse their young is partly to blame on never having been 'exposed' to it when they were young, growing up, or on a daily basis. You know how when you hear a story, and over some years of not having heard it anymore, you tend to forget bits if not, whole chunks of the story. Although breastfeeding is natural, and instinctual, because of it fading into the minority, it has become 'instructional'. We need books, workshops, seminars, classes, and not to mention support groups.

So what should breastfeeding mothers do? Just what a lot of people object to. Nurse in Public. Anywhere, anytime. You'll be doing other young women, children, mothers to be, a big favor


  1. Honestly, one of the main reasons I breastfeed in public with absolutely no cover is because I think it helps other women. I am happy to take one for the team - and I'd really hate to be the person who tried to tell me I couldn't because they'd have NO idea who they're dealing with. I'm not one of those quiet moms who'd leave the store crying, that's for sure! I'd be rattling off state law and calling lawyers immediately!

  2. It's very important for young girls to see breastfeeding and to normalize it. I recall a little girl who saw me nurse one of my babies at a children's sporting event. She was so full of questions! She'd never seen that before! I just explained that I was feeding my baby milk that my body makes. She was in awe! That moment has always stuck with me.

    A niece of mine was visiting shortly after the home birth of my fourth child. This niece lives far away and had though she has fantastic parents, had never been exposed to natural birth,midwifery, AP parenting or breastfeeding. While she was there, I received a copy of a natural family magazine that had a close up picture of a breastfeeding infant on the cover. I put this magazine on my counter wondering what she would think about it.....that launched many conversations and that niece is currently in school to be a midwife!

  3. I completely agree! I always breastfeed in public. It is very important for the generations to come to see that breastfeeding is normal. Thanks :)

  4. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  5. This is so true! Both about breastfeeding needing to be learned and about the need for more breastfeeding in public. I was nursing in public almost 17 years ago, before there were any laws about it. Interestinly, it seems to have become more of an issue in recent years than it was then.

    I was a breastfeeding counselor for many years. I can clearly remember one of the first moms I did "hands on" helping with. She was having a lot of pain and her baby was not nursing well. When I saw her nurse, I had her make some very tiny adjustments to how she was holding her baby--very subtle, nothing I could have described to her over the phone and nothing that someone who had not seen breastfeeding would have been aware of! This was not stuff you could learn from a book, but rather from years of experience seeing babies at the breast. She had been suffering for a month, and in less than 2 hours she was nursing pain free and never had any more problems.

    In a breastfeeding culture, new mothers are surrounded by women who know how to nurse and who can help them. Plus, they have grown up seeing babies being nursed so know what it is supposed to look like. we need to get back to that. Breastfeeding is a baby's birthright and should not be denied because of some people's personal hangups.

  6. What a great post! I really like Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's book "Mother Nature" it is just so fascinating. I definitely think the primates provide a good example for this. :)