At MFM HQ, we read about a breastfeeding in public ‘shaming’ story pretty much every day of the week – and of course we totally and utterly defend every woman’s right to breastfeed in public.
But this particular story – which has come from a woman who was asked to cover up at a Boy Scout meeting in Tennessee, USA – gave us slightly more mixed feelings.
Jasmine Millar says she was breastfeeding her 1-year old at the back of the hall at a Boy Scout meeting, while her other 3 children were also there, and she used the ‘2 shirt’ method – where you wear 2 shirts, and pull one up on the side you’re going to breastfeed – and one down enough to release your nipple so your baby can suckle.
The mum said everything went smoothly but that at the end of the session, a female scout leader came up to confront her.
“I was told several times how inappropriate I was being,” she recalled. “I was also told that other parents would be upset with me and would feel it was inappropriate too.
“I was told I needed to leave or cover completely with a blanket from now on… I was so shocked and embarrassed… I ended up leaving in tears and continued to cry the remainder of the night.”
Following the encounter, the Boy Scouts wrote a letter to Ms Millar, which was later shared by Breastfeeding Mama Talk on Facebook.
“While you absolutely have the legal right to breastfeed in public and we support that right, there are those in your Troop who feel uncomfortable,” the letter reads.
“When you choose to nurse your baby uncovered and/or in the same room as the Scouts, it causes disruption. Some young boys do not understand about breastfeeding and have families who may not be ready to have this discussion.”
It ends with the following line:
“Parents respecting one another’s personal boundaries is a good lesson for boys to observe.”
The note has caused a real bunfight all over social media, with hundreds of comments of Facebook.
One commenter said: “That letter is shameful. And I can’t get over the fact the Boy Scouts are all about being prepared but parents or leaders aren’t ready to simply inform them breast milk is a natural source of food for babies and move on.”
Another wrote: “Nursing mothers should not be shamed.
“In Girl Scouts (which I know is not run by the same leadership but both I assume have the same principles) we are taught to love others as ourselves. Shaming a nursing mother is not loving.”
But there were plenty of comments defending the letter too, one saying:
“If you want to be respected, you need to be willing to give respect. I breastfed all 3 of my kids, and I would have compromised if I had in the first place chose to nurse openly.
“They were not rude, hateful, or intolerant in the letter. They were looking for a compromise… and for one to not try to comply shows pride and rudeness in my opinion. Who is intolerant of who here???”
And a mum even wondered if the whole breastfeeding in public debate has just become a war between mums who cover up and mums who don’t:
“So what we have here now is bashing of moms that choose to cover while we feed ???! 99% of the time I stay out of this crap strictly for this reason!
“You all say you support every decision but when someone voices their opinion that isn’t breastfeeding get uncovered you bash them!!!!
“She didn’t say it was wrong. It is your personal decision. I breastfeed with a cover in public. All the time!!!!! I’ve never been asked to move or looked at twice for it!!!
“…Mothers of whatever you choose. Support one another. If you want to breastfeed in front of others uncovered go for it!!! More power to you!! But do not shame mothers that choose to cover!”
Hmmm, so what do you think?
Here at MFM, a few of our team totally get that boys of 9 or 10 can find bodies and all that business a bit icky and embarrassing – and if they haven’t had a younger sibling there might be no reason for them to have been told about breastfeeding, right?
On the other hand – it’s a woman’s legal right to breastfeed wherever she wants – so do we just need to get a whole lot better at educating kids about it?
What do you think? Tell us in the comments below or over on Facebook – we’d love to know.
Library photos used