This past Saturday was nice. We took the kids to the zoo and had a great time. It was a great family outing yet we felt exhausted when we got home. There was an interesting thing that happened while we were relaxing on a bench near the Elephant exhibit – which, by the way, is amazing! They have added to it and it now has 12 elephants, 3 of them are babies. Extremely cute one’s too! So anyway, the interesting thing was this: One of the baby elephants was getting milk from its Mother. They were standing off to the side of the small lake that is in the exhibit. After a few minutes, 2 of the full-grown elephants marched over to the Mother that was breast-feeding and began nudging the child away from getting her milk. Once they got the baby away from the Mother, the 2 elephants then proceeded to nudge and push the breast-feeding mother into a small, isolated cave. The baby followed the mother. So, at this point, the mother and child are tucked away from all the other elephants and the 2 pushy elephants walked back to their original spot and continued doing what they were doing.
Okay, you caught me. That story is fake. I made it up to light a spark to this topic. Can you imagine such a ridiculous thing actually happening? Elephants being offended that a mother is breast-feeding in public?! What an absolutely ridiculous concept. Right? Right? Wrong.
As you are probably aware, this is a real discussion for us humans. I suppose we aren’t ready to truly understand we are animals. There is an unenlightened, narrow-minded, endless discussion about breast-feeding in this country. More specifically, breast-feeding in public.
You may be asking yourself ‘Why is he writing about breast-feeding?’ The answer to that is simple – because it’s still an issue with people. Yes, I am amazed it’s even a discussion but since it is – I am writing about it. Breast-feeding is also something I found myself “defending” when my son was an infant. I found it shockingly difficult to defend because my arguments for it are things that I consider common knowledge. It doesn’t take a gifted mind to understand the concept of Mother – offspring – milk.
So, here we are in 2015. We have accomplished many things together. Let’s see – we’ve sent humans into space, connected the world population and can now communicate with devices we hold in our hands, discovered galaxies and planets outside of our own solar system, and many more historical achievements. We are an impressive spawn. The dominant race of the planet – by far. Top of the food chain. Intellectually superior by a vast margin yet we still have occasional issues with one of the most natural traits of the human female.
I try to understand situations when I am on the other side. I attempt to view things from a different perspective when possible. I try, to the best of my ability, to understand the rationale of an opposing viewpoint on any topic. Most of the time I can, at the very least, understand how some people form a conclusion that may differ from mine. I respect them and their opinions. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy a nice, respectable debate on issues. I’ve even changed my overall opinion on a few things after a well-informed, logical debate with a friend or colleague. That’s communication. Listen to understand rather than talk to be understood. Be willing to accept new ideas and new concepts. You don’t always have to be right because, more than likely, you are wrong just as often as you are right. I believe it to be the case with me.
I sit here on a rainy Thursday afternoon in Seattle and ponder this topic. This discussion on breast-feeding in public. I try to come to a logical argument on the side of the opposition. I can’t. I can, however, think of a few arguments. The issue with the few that come to mind is that they are quickly defeated by my perspective on life, nature, and the responsibilities we have for our newly born brothers and sisters.
According to the NRDC – The United States lags in breast-feeding. This article shares a couple shocking statistics – I will share one with you now:
“The United States has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the industrialized world, and one of the highest rates of infant mortality. Data from 2003 indicate that 71 percent of U.S. mothers initiate some breastfeeding, and only 36 percent report feeding any human milk to their infants at six months. Rates in the African-American community are lower, with only 55 percent of women initiating breastfeeding and only 24 percent still breastfeeding at six months. Those numbers stand in marked contrast to Sweden, for example, where the breastfeeding initiation rate exceeds 98 percent and the rate at six months is 72 percent. In Sweden, there is a high level of awareness about chemical contaminants in breast milk, yet most mothers make the wise decision to breastfeed their children anyway.”
Read full article here:
As you can see, this specific excerpt of the article is not geared toward the rules and regulations of public breast-feeding, however, it is something that is equally alarming. I can’t help but wonder – why such a significant difference? 36% report feeding after six months? I am certainly not an expert in this field – other than the links provided, this is all opinion based on observation, reading, and personal experience. I have read and heard from mother’s personally that there can be slight complications that slow or stop the flow of milk. This is unfortunate and I am sure it plays a role into the numbers given by the NRDC. The endless optimist in me believes there are other notable causes in the low percentages.
When I started writing this, my focus was on those who find public breast-feeding offensive. I don’t understand why someone would feel offended by this. I feel it’s the sign of a disconnected individual to be offended by something so natural. The story that started this post is a perfect example of the point I am trying to make (even though the story is fake). Feeding an infant the way nature intended is far from being offensive. I don’t care what nationality you are, what religion you live by, what your salary is, or what your astrological sign is – breast-feeding is natural for mammals. It’s what we do. It’s the mammal code. The mammalian way.
According to Sharon Knorr, IBCLC – in an article written on Breastfeeding USA, she says –
Each mammal species makes milk unique for its offspring; the milk has properties which are most likely to ensure the survival of its species. Breastmilk is the biologically normal food for human babies. With very few exceptions, anything besides human milk will inevitably result in negative consequences for the baby. Some of the consequences of not receiving human milk can include:
- Decreased IQ by up to 8 points and delayed neurobiological development
- Increased rates of illness, especially gastrointestinal and respiratory
- For premature infants, increased risk of contracting necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) or sepsis which can result in serious illness or death
- Increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Increased rates of allergies, especially if given artificial milk during the first four months of life
- Decreased immunological response to injected vaccines
- Increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and some cancers later in life.
Read full article here:
In conclusion, breast-feeding in public is legal. There are still many women who are not comfortable feeding their young in public, which is understandable (and unfortunate) considering the society we live in. Women and their infants should have the right-of-way, regardless of establishment, to engage in the act of feeding without being outed by members of their own race. I applaud any woman who chooses nature’s way. Your infant is getting everything he/she needs at that critical time of their life and it’s all due to a rational decision. Breast-feeding is more than a rational decision – it’s a decision made with love and nurturing in mind – and that is love in its purest form. Thanks for reading,
Your Mammalian friend,
Photo courtesy of Alex Berger – virtualwayfarer