Breastfeeding shouldn’t be con­tro­ver­sial

Cape Breton Post - - Editorial -

This is an ed­i­to­rial that shouldn’t have to be writ­ten about an event that shouldn’t have made head­lines in coun­tries around the world. But it did. And we do. The event? Aus­tralian Greens party Sen. Larissa Wa­ters – get ready for it – breast­fed her baby on the floor of the coun­try’s Se­nate.

The ques­tion is why in 2017 a woman breastfeeding her in­fant in pub­lic – some­thing Wa­ters rightly de­scribed as “nat­u­ral” – isn’t just par for the course. But judg­ing from the re­ac­tion in newspaper comment sec­tions and on Twit­ter it’s not, by a very dis­turb­ing long shot.

How bad was it? One critic ac­tu­ally compared breastfeeding at work to pee­ing in pub­lic. “Sorry #laris­sawa­ters but uri­nat­ing is per­fectly nat­u­ral also, but we still go some­where pri­vate to do it.”

Hap­pily, there was some praise amongst the de­ri­sion. Fem­i­nist Sh­eryl Sand­berg, the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of Face­book, de­clared online: “Go Larissa Wa­ters – lead­ing by ex­am­ple!”

Even that praise, though, wasn’t without irony. In 2012 Face­book re­peat­edly deleted Van­cou­ver mother Emma Kwas­nica’s breastfeeding im­ages and re­voked her ac­count ac­cess on four oc­ca­sions.

And if moms who breast­feed at work, as Wa­ters did, hoped her ex­am­ple would en­cour­age their bosses to be sup­port­ive, their hopes might have been dashed by a col­umn her act sparked in the U.K. pub­li­ca­tion Man­age­ment To­day. “The trick is to breast­feed your baby be­fore the meet­ing,” it ad­vised.

Sadly it’s not just at work that breastfeeding moms are dis­re­spected. Me­dia re­ports in­di­cate it hap­pens at clubs, res­tau­rants, malls and even com­mu­nity cen­tres.

In 2016 Alexandra Shimo was breastfeeding her baby in a hall­way at Toronto’s Lambton Golf and Coun­try Club, for ex­am­ple, when staff told her she was of­fend­ing other guests and es­corted her to the base­ment.

Nor was the at­mos­phere more wel­com­ing at a baby and toddler pro­gram, for heaven’s sake, at Thorn­hill’s Rose­mont Com­mu­nity Cen­tre in 2016 when Sarah Lam­ber­sky was told to breast­feed her baby in the wash­room.

In both cases man­agers apol­o­gized when the sto­ries went pub­lic, but the dam­age was done.

Sadly, breastfeeding women con­tinue to learn they will be shamed, de­graded and shunted off to base­ments and bath­rooms to feed their ba­bies if they dare stray from home. This de­spite a rul­ing from the On­tario Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion that says: “No one should pre­vent you from breastfeeding your child sim­ply be­cause you are in a pub­lic area. They should not ask you to cover up, dis­turb you or ask you to move to an­other area that is more dis­creet.”

Con­grat­u­la­tions to Wa­ters, then, for de-stig­ma­tiz­ing an act that shouldn’t raise an eye­brow. We’re only sorry that in 2017 we have to men­tion it, never mind de­fend it.

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