Letter: Mothers deserve public’s support while breastfeeding

This pressure to hide away is killing breastfeeding relationships everywhere.

To the editor:

In response to the West Kelowna council’s initial rejection of the Baby Friendly initiative:

I remember sitting on our couch, trying to get comfortable to breastfeed my second baby. It had been going fairly well, and we breastfed most of the time. This particular day, we had guests over to help and as I pulled my shirt down—in my own home—to latch my baby on, our guest came over with a blanket and covered us up.

We were still learning what we were doing and I needed to see, but unwilling to offend a guest that was helping out, I remained silent.

Our society has taught us to see breastfeeding as something private, to be hidden away, and even disgusting. And so society had taught our guest to be offended at me doing what was best for my baby, in my own home.

After this, I did my best to remain covered. As my baby grew older, the cover drew more attention rather than less as my baby would play peek-a-boo with it while feeding, or scream and pull it off.

Without a cover to remain ‘discreet,’ we retreated to parenting rooms and corners of bathrooms, in the sweltering (or freezing) car before entering a restaurant; and after a while of being separated from friends and families while I fed, I chose to not hide away and started supplementing bottles instead.

And each time I decided to supplement a bottle rather than ‘indiscreetly’ feed, my breasts slowly started making less and less milk. I was unable to make enough to feed my baby, society said.

This was actually common, people told us, most women don’t make enough milk to feed their babies. I was taught that it was my body’s fault.

But it was not my body’s fault. Now that I know better, I know that it was society’s fault—cultural pressure to hide away, to not feed my baby whenever and wherever my baby needed to feed, to not feed on demand and society’s refusal to acknowledge my legal right to do so.

This pressure to hide away is killing breastfeeding relationships everywhere. It is shaming our mothers into thinking their bodies cannot make enough milk, because they are pressured to hide away to feed their most precious children.

Our laws in B.C. protect a mother’s right to breastfeed whenever and wherever her baby needs to eat, without harassment. By acknowledging and initiating a baby-friendly environment, we are not shaming mothers who choose to bottle feed, they already know they are doing what is best for their babies and their families.

What you are doing is giving those who want to breastfeed but are struggling, your support. You are saying to those mothers: ‘Go ahead, we know your right to breastfeed is protected and you are safe from judgement here.’ You are protecting so many breastfeeding relationships that are on the verge of failure without some help.

And let me remind you: Our laws already support our mothers, it’s time we did too.

Amanda Martin, CD(DONA) certified doula,