Sunday, June 8, 2014

Why I don't use breastfeeding rooms

I've only used a breastfeeding room once. It was in Eastwood Mall. My husband's family and I were eating dinner when Vito—I think he was less than a year old that time—decided he wanted to eat dinner, too. If we were back home, I'd just need to pop out my boob and let him nurse while I continued with my own meal. Happy mommy, happy baby. But since we were at a public place, I excused my ravenous self and went around the mall looking for a breastfeeding room.

About ten minutes later, with a fussy hungry baby, just as fussy and hungry me found the said room in some hidden away corridor. There was no one in there. It was furnished with generic seats and a few side tables, plus curtains in case mommy wants to hide even more, which I found silly. We were already inside a room; there's no further need to hide! After a while, as the silence began to bother me, I started thinking, "If some bad person entered this place, I could get robbed, or raped and killed and no one would know."

With that thought, I figured I should not be hiding away when I was just feeding my child. So I packed up baby and off we went back to dinner. I've never used breastfeeding rooms to nurse since then. I only go in there to change my kids' diapers. But if I needed to feed my kids, I fed them whenever and wherever I can find a place to sit.
While with friends.
At a café.

I do think that a special room is needed by nursing moms to express milk. So I will join the push for pumping stations at the workplace. Working moms who are stuck at the office for 8-14 hours need a clean and quiet place to express and store their milk. I, for one, just expressed milk at my desk (no pumping room at the place I used to work, so moms either put a curtain around their cubicle or went to the clinic). I put a nursing cover on, attached the pump to my boob, and continued working! People would pass by my desk, talk to me even, and they never realized what was going on under my "shawl."

As for breastfeeding rooms at malls and other public places, I dunno. I don't think they're necessary. I think they're part of the reason why breastfeeding is considered taboo and shameful. For me, breastfeeding rooms are kinda like the veil or hijab or burqa. These are pieces of clothing designed to keep a woman modest and to protect her from the eyes of evil men. So when a woman breastfeeds in public, she's considered immodest, displaying her wares to the poor men who can't control their sexual impulses. Women who breastfeed in public are considered shameless, even sluts (here's an example). Hence, breastfeeding rooms.

Look, I'm not saying we should ban breastfeeding rooms. A lot of women need a quiet place to feed their babies, where a fussy baby won't kick the table and knock down plates. Or some mommies are very shy. So sure, breastfeeding rooms are cool. In fact, I wrote to Power Plant Mall many times a couple of years ago requesting for a nursing room. I did this because I was changing my kid's diaper in the bathroom when an old woman started banging on the door because she needed to use the loo. In Power Plant, the changing station is the same stall as for disabled people. So I asked Power Plant to create a space where moms can change their kids' diapers in peace and breastfeed in comfort.
Part of the email I sent to Power Plant Mall.

But I also think that more of us breastfeeding moms should nurse out in the open. When we hide away, we tacitly agree that breastfeeding is immodest and something to be ashamed of. Breastfeeding is a natural human act! I know some people say, "Well, having sex and pooping and peeing is a natural act but I don't do it in public!" That's a stupid analogy because breastfeeding is all about EATING. If we think it's okay to eat in public, then it should be okay to breastfeed in public!

Seriously, it shouldn't be a big deal. I breastfeed in public and no one has ever made me feel bad about it. Well, I sometimes get stares, but I nurse very discreetly and then people lose interest and go back to whatever they were doing. It's not like I expose myself. I use a shawl, a scarf, a cover when I'm latching and unlatching baby so as to prevent nip slips (because we all know how offended people are by nipples!). It would be lovely, however, if women just pop out their boob! Photos like these by photographer Jade Beall are part of the effort in making breastfeeding (and a mother's body) beautiful and normal:

Then there's the recently sensationalized Instagram photo of supermodel Natalia Vodianova. Many people hated it. It's a private bonding moment, it's too sexy, etc etc. When did eating become a private thing? Why do people sexualize breastfeeding? And so what if it's sexy—she didn't become a mommy without having sex!

Okay, I get it. Natalia didn't have to post a photo of herself naked and nursing. I understand. I don't do that myself. It's the same way I don't do naked preggy shoots and then post my naked baby bump all over social media. But that's because I think nudity and pregnancy and breastfeeding is so normal. I don't feel the need to celebrate it or call attention to it. At the same time, when I see photos like the ones above, I think it's wonderful that women celebrate their new mommy bodies and the power of their bodies to feed and nurture. Apparently, not everyone thinks the way I do. And if that's the case, then perhaps it's time to stop hiding and keeping quiet.

Take the shame out of breastfeeding. Feed your baby whenever and wherever and however! We really, really do need to breastfeed in public. We have to make it so natural, so commonplace, so normal, so completely a non-issue!

Note: Mama Bean Parenting's "Do We Really Need to See It?" inspired this blog post.

More on public breastfeeding around the world in this interesting article (click here). Thanks, Ate Thania!

*Jade Beall photos from Huffington Post's "What 9 Months of Pregnancy Actually Does to a Woman's Body."

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  1. Great point of view mommy Frances. I love breastfeeding too only if until now I still continue to nurse. I really love it contrary to what other moms are saying that it's painful. Where in fact it is very liberating for me when it is latch when my boob is very full of milk and when the milk is dripping already...

  2. I breastfed whenever and wherever, too! I breastfed at restaurants, I breastfed at the beach in Boracay, I breastfed at the MTR in HK, I breastfed at the Avenue of Stars also in HK on a winter night while waiting for the Symphony of Lights (my nipples almost froze haha!). The key for me is to be discreet about it and no one will even know you're breastfeeding your baby. It will only look like your carrying your baby and putting her to sleep :)

  3. Hi Frances! Great point here! As a man, I don't mind mothers breastfeeding in public. Once I was in a meeting with a client then she just breastfed her baby right then and there. :)

  4. Agree! In rural areas, this doesn't seem to be an issue before but when there was formula plague, women tend to get conscious bfeeding their babies out in the open and resolve to formula milk because it was convenient for them and few eyes were ogling. I hope more women would read this. I am sharing this as well.

  5. I was 25 when I had my first child and at first I was hesitant to breastfeed in public because my fear to get exposed. I was thinking of nursing him at the comfort room but its very unhygienic. So I told myself, wala na ako pakialam sa sasabihin nila or if I get those weird stare from people, my baby is hungry and fussy so I need to breastfeed him asap!

  6. Totally agree...In fact, I breastfed inside the bus, in the mall, in a restaurant..I have not yet used breastfeeding stations. I just used lampin to cover me up. Breastfeeding is something I am proud of eversince I became a mother. :-D

  7. Alam mo Frances, eto yung "regret" ko with my daughter. The mommy in me, naawa kaagad sa 1 day old baby because I don't have milk. Ava (my daughter) was so stubborn (like me), she wont latch. I was able to pump milk but hindi sya nag direct feeding sa akin. If God would permit that I have one more child, I would be patient and breastfeed :) Beautiful photos, by the way :)

  8. very good article here frances. im a breastfeeding mom too. permission to share this in my fb wall so people will finally understand about brestfeeding in public. thank you for this.

  9. I want to put a thing straight: It was never a taboo, however, arrogance with power and money made it.

    In India, a lady carrying a baby gets more respect (one can say 'sympathy') anywhere u go....I do that and seen others too. Breastfeeding, in India, is as sacred as worship itself.

    In India, where I belong to, bottles came to masses as a way to put oneself ahead of other moms (they have been useful though at times)...I guess. Coz it was like a fashion. Also, I must say, ladies in rural part of my country are more knowledgeble in these things, and they forbid such practices.

    I am a man. I loved the text....and happy to know that era of arrogance and all that is the first world.


This is all pretty new to me so please feel free to share your mommy wisdom!