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Wednesday 30 March 2011

Breastfeeding protest: do you agree?

Did you hear about the woman who was allegedly forced out of a Lifeline charity store in Asquith, NSW, for breastfeeding?

According to an article on news.com.au, Abby Hogarth was breastfeeding her son in the charity store and was allegedly told breastfeeding was against OH&S and “you can’t do that here”.

So, Abby is going back to the Lifeline store this week - bringing with her hundreds of breastfeeding mums - and plans to sit amongst the second hand clothes to feed her baby boy. She even posted a "Facebook Nurse In" event on the social networking site. Apparently, the Lifeline worker said breastfeeding was against OH&S because “She might touch the secondhand clothing and then her baby might get sick”.

You can read the rest of the article here: http://blogs.news.com.au/naughtycorner/index.php/news/comments/breastfeeding_woman_forced_out_of_lifeline_store

So, what do you think? On Facebook last night, one of my school buddies posted this exact link and added the following comment: "[I think] things are just getting too far. I breastfed both my boys for months and never ever did I do it in public, not even in front of any male relos at home. How hard is it to plan your day around feeding times, going to a shopping centre mother and kids room or going to your car if you have to? I may be prudish, but so be it."

So, I thought about that comment - and it kinda made a lot of sense. Please don't send hate mail about my not backing breastfeeding - I do! I breastfed both my twins - sometimes at the same time (how's that for a visual?) - and loved it. Yes, there was one time I had to do it quickly because one was screaming - I swathed myself in so much muslin, nobody got a peep of the girls (my boobs, I mean). Mind you, it was when the twins were three weeks old and I was at my twin prenatal class reunion, so I knew I was in an understanding environment. If I was at home, with visitors, I simply went to another room. Or again, covered my breasts in a light material.

When you are out, and you have a suddenly hysterical baby, and you know the only thing that will calm them down is your breast, of course you will give them what they want, wherever you are - I know I would. I think it's just a matter of assessing the situation quickly, doing it as discreetly as possible (lactating mums know boobs are not sexual; men still view them as 'fun bags'... crude, but true!), and feeling comfortable that what you are doing is right for you and your child in that moment.

What did you do when faced with a similar situation? Have you ever had a complaint - even a disapproving look - from someone around you?

Further, the news.com.au piece added an updated comment from Lifeline themselves after the incident: "Here’s a comment from Lifeline that I thought deserved to be up here in the blog. Hi Everyone, Chris from Lifeline here, We wanted to update you on our response to this complaint; we believe you all have a right to know. To begin with, as an organisation we have no policy that discourages breastfeeding in any of our stores. We want to be clear about that from the outset. Here is a message from Wendy Carver, the local Centre Manager responsible for the store: “Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury has received a formal complaint from the customer who attended our Asquith Shop last week. Lifeline always takes these complaints seriously, especially when they involve a member of the public feeling that they have been treated inappropriately. Lifeline believes all people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and we are immediately disappointed and upset if anyone accessing our services or shops is not treated well. Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury has a Complaints Policy and Procedure, and the complaint that was received last week is currently being investigated.

You can read the rest of the statement here: http://blogs.news.com.au/naughtycorner/index.php/news/comments/breastfeeding_woman_forced_out_of_lifeline_store



  1. There will always be people who are uncomfortable with women breastfeeding in public places. I have no problem with it at all. My first instinct would be to go and find a private place like a Mum's room or back to the car or in another room (if at home) but seriously we can plan the day or trip or even the hour to run errands around the baby but it doesn't always go to plan. Babies are babies and they need to be fed and attended to or their routine can change on you at the most inconvenient times. Just like a Mum can easily pull out a bottle of formula, a Mum should be able to breastfeed. Yes, be discreet. Don't just rip it out and start breastfeeding there. It does make some people uncomfortable and sometimes there are other children around. Most breastfeeding Mums use a baby sling to carry their babies these days, have tops that have an easy access to breastfeed and do cover themselves up with a blanket, towel or similar. I have been out with a girlfriend who needed to breastfeed on the spot and she had two other kids running around and I had my two older ones with me. I told her that if she didn't have a problem with it, to just breastfeed and I'll cover her up with the baby blanket. I also told her I wasn't bothered with it if it didn't bother her. Problem solved. Happy baby! I read the incident about the woman at Lifeline and I guess there are two sides to the story and everyone has their opinions or does things according to their comfort zone and/or beliefs. Times have changed but breastfeeding will always be here.

  2. Thanks so much for your comment!

    I could not agree with you more - happy baby, happy mummy.

    Yes, it is indeed all about comfort levels. One thing is for sure: no woman intentionally wants to turn anyone on by pulling out her boobs when all they are focusing on is their screaming child!

    I went to my kids' playgroup the other week and there was a new mum there - I basically clapped eyes on her face at almost the same time I saw 3/4 of her boob. She was breastfeeding her blissful newborn and it was the most delightful thing I could witness. She covered up as best she could (I had to sidle past her, so that's why I got such a birdseye view) but she had a job to do.

    And that's what it's all about in that moment - nurturing and fulfilling a primal need in your baby.

    I think a general rule of thumb is: cover up as best you can - and avert your eyes if you are easily offended.

  3. My mother had six kids and always got them fed and watered before going out.

    If you've got your act together then there's no need to get your boobs out in public regardless of how you feel about it.

    But what about just taking a break from it to let your boobs have a rest. Sure having a baby suck on it may be one reason for having them but Jesus, let the poor things have a rest from being sucked on ocassionally. Stick a bottle in the kids mouth and it does just as well.

    Breast is not always better and babies don't die of thirst because they don't get to suck on one.

    I can also see the point of the woman from the store. Why would you walk around ANY store breastfeeding. If you can't take that time to rest while the baby feeds then you've got a problem.

  4. The idea that a nursing mother 'has a problem' because she breastfeeds her child when they need to be fed is ridiculous. Just this morning I was out with my 6 month old in KMart and I fed him while I was there while he was in the ergo baby carrier. I do 'have my act together' but my child is fed on demand which is the recommended by health professionals, so I can't exactly plan around that. Why is it my problem that other people are uncomfortable with seeing a baby breastfeed? I'm uncomfortable with seeing women grab or hit their kids in public but does anyone make a fuss about that? I'm uncomfortable seeing a baby being fed formula from a bottle, but I'd never go tell her to feed the baby elsewhere.

  5. Hope you don't mind me commenting Josie. I've refrained from commenting on most blog posts as there has been some very rude and insulting comments posted, but so far your followers haven't posted anything too offensive.

    Just to clear up a few things......I wasn't forced from the store, that was sensationalistic reporting. If anyone has read my original description, the comment wasn't said to me, it was said to my mother and other customers in the store. What was said goes totally against Lifeline's policy of all women being welcome to breastfeed in their stores.
    I wasn't walking around breastfeeding. My son is 18 months old, I would find it hard these days to walk around feeding him, but even if I was walking feeding him, that's my business and folks can turn away if they find it offensive. I have really small breasts and I doubt very much if anyone saw anything really, apart from when he jumped down without first stopping feeding. My little one had hurt himself and was crying, he wanted a quick comfort feed it lasted about 30 seconds. Breastfeeding isn't just for nutrition, it's also for comfort and connection. Can I plan around those things for outings? No. Who knows when those times will come? I'm certainly not going to withold comfort from my own child due to a person who is a stranger to me feeling uncomfortable by my, totally natural, actions.
    I know it's different in other countries, but in Australia it is lawful for a woman to breastfeed wherever and whenever and however she feels. I myself have had serious breastfeeding problems which took many months to work through. If I had to worry about what other people 'felt' all the time then I would never have continued on with breastfeeding.
    All women should be able to feel comfortable. As mothers we have SO much to focus on with the needs of our own family, why then should we have to worry about the comfort of other adults who can clearly look after themselves by turning away if they feel uncomfortable? Or better still, they can question their own beliefs about breastfeeding and why they find it a problem and deal with those core issues within themselves so they don't make others feel uncomfortable with their unlawful attitudes.
    I totally respect the way individual women choose to breastfeed. If a mama chooses only to breastfeed at home and that's where they feel comfortable, that's fine. If a mama chooses to vreastfeed in public but only with a shawl on, that's fine. If a mama chooses to lift up her shirt and tandem feed that's fine too. This is the law we're taling about. We're not talking about individual comfort levels, we're talking about the law.
    For me, I actually don't really care what others think of my breastfeeding. I learnt a long time ago how to turn my attention to my child's needs and not on others who choose to look. I was upset that the women in Lifeline were so rude to me as I am a very sensitive person, but it worried me that other breastfeeding mamas who weren't so confident might feel ashamed if similiar comments were made to them, that's why I spoke out about this. If discrimination against breastfeeding wasn't an issue in this country then our fullterm breastfeeding rates would be higher and our children healthier. It's really important that we ALL make women feel comfortable when breastfeeding publically. They should be made to feel on top of the world and congratulated for their desire to nourish and comfort their little ones not looked down upon for their actions.

  6. I think it's incredibly sad that the person you quoted (and most responses) did not feel comfortable enough in her own home and around her own family to breastfeed her children. It just goes to show the attitudes that people still have around breastfeeding and why people like Abby are standing up for what is a mother and child's right in this country. I am 100% with Abby on this one and if I lived in NSW I would have participated in the nurse in. I breastfeed my babies where ever (except the toilet or dirty parent rooms filled with the smell of feces) and I am not interested in another adults comfort levels with me doing it. They will see me for a second (and wont even see my breast). My baby's comfort and health come before them and I will never apologise for it. If you've ever listened to a newborn scream their head off in the shopping centre because their mother is too embarrassed to feed them, I'm sure you all think 'please feed that baby'. My baby doesn't scream because she is fed when she cues for it and before she has to cry. And it is my lawful right to do without being shamed, removed or arrested for indecent exposure (for which there is no exposure anyway)

  7. its comments like yours that make breastfeeding seem and look like it should be hidden away!! woman have breasts to feed there children with this is what mother nature made them for, not for them to be seen as some glamourised sex attraction, why is ok then to see breasts all over the tv or magazines but not to use them for what they were intended for? breast will always be best and i hope my daughters will feed with pride when there time comes as i did for them as its only natural : )

  8. I fully agree with the protest and I think Lifeline's response to it has been great (based on the media reports). I breastfeed my baby (now toddler) wherever and whenever he needs it. The issues that generally come up when breast feeing in public is discussed are-
    - 'mothers should time feeds for when they are at home'. Four hour feeds were recommended in my grandmother's day, they are NOT recommended now. Current advice is to feed whenever baby wants. This could be three hours apart or 20 minutes.
    - 'breastfeeding should happen in parent rooms or the car' No thanks, the car is hot, parents rooms usually stink of crappy nappies, are often dirty and always boring. I'd much rather sit outside in a nice park or a cafe having a cuppa. I also don't want to hear babies crying for milk or comfort while mum finds an acceptable place to feed.
    - 'I'm ok with breastfeeding in public as long as the more is discreet'. This is a personal bugbear of mine. Breastfeeding is normal and appropriate. Forcing women to drape cloth over their baby's head is assuming it's not normal and appropriate. That doesn't mean I take my top off and hang my boobs out for all to see. I feed my baby, very unlikely anyone is going to see a nipple except for maybe a split second. My bub hates having fabric near his face, he just wouln't tolerate it, much as I would hate to cover up while eating my lunch. I have never had a negative comment and I have fed everywhere, even walking around shops. My toddler just had a breastfeed after lunch at a swanky yacht club, I doubt anyone even noticed.
    - 'You wouldn't defecate or or have sex in public, why breastfeed?.' I don't think anyone on this blog is claiming this, but I'll cover it anyway. Breastfeeding is like eating. There's no waste products, no bodily fluids left anywhere, and it's certainly not like sex by any stretch of the imagination.

    Finally, it's the law not to discriminate against breastfeeding women, so detractors should just put up and shut up. You wouldn't ask someone with a different skin colour to leave a shop, same with breastfeeding women. I don't care personally about what people think of me breastfeeding, but I do care about what affect the general public attitude has on new mums and their confidence levels while breastfeeding. If a woman is shamed because they are doing what is right for their child then something is very wrong with our society.

  9. personally if my husband or any male i knew saw breastfeeding as an opportunity to look at a womens "funbags"??? I would be very concern for their sexual development, and saddened once more about the over sexualisation of women in our society. I think Abby has made a very important stand and something all of us should think about.She and all the women men and babies involved should be applauded

  10. You jewelry is cheap and tacky looking!

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Blossoms and Bows2 April 2011 at 21:19

    Jewel Divas - My mother breastfed 6 kids as well, and try as she might to feed and water us before we left home, it wasn't a guarantee that one wouldn't need a feed within half an hour of leaving the house. Did you expect a mum of any young children to drag all their kids home just to feed one when it was hard enough leaving the house anyway?

    "Breast is not always better and babies don't die of thirst because they don't get to suck on one." Babies perhaps don't die of thirst, but they can die... http://edition.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/04/05/breastfeeding.costs/index.html

  13. Thanks so very much everyone for posting every single one of your comments - it is certainly a humbling experience and has enabled me to widen my viewpoint even more. And I truly thank you for that. Even as a (former) breastfeeding mum I still have a lot to learn.

    Agreed - viewing breasts as mere "funbags", especially when they are serving a very distinct purpose to feed a hungry child is a sad indictment on our society. And I certainly can't speak for every man with that sentiment (my own husband knew I had a job to do when I was breastfeeding - it was far from sexual in that moment.

    And finally, thank you so much Abby for not only commenting but also for clarifying some mispresented points. And more power to you for standing up for what you believe in.

    Please keep the comments coming, everyone! Feel free to post exactly what you want to say...

  14. You blog post is really disappointing. You can't plan your day around a demand-fed child (and ecological breastfeeding aka feeding on demand is recommended across the board.) And breastfeeding is about more than just food & nutrition anyway. If a child is scared, overwhelmed, overtired, unwell or has hurt herself a breastfeed can be incredibly soothing and comforting. To those who suggest anyone feeding in public should swathe ourselves in material first... please! Maybe you can do that with a newborn, but as soon as my babies got old enough to grab things they would pull the fabric off straight away. Babies don't generally like to be covered up! They like to have fresh air and observe the world around them, like the rest of us. Would you like to eat your lunch under a blanket? And you know what, when I see women in public breastfeeding, my eye is drawn more to someone who is faffing about with a cover, than someone who is just breastfeeding without fuss. Who cares how much breast you can see. It's skin! Come on people! Even if you could see the nipple (which you can't as it's in the baby's mouth) who cares. It's not as if any of us hasn't seen a nipple before. Develop some critical thinking for God's sakes, breasts aren't inherently embarrassing. It's our culture we should be pointing the finger at, for sexualising breasts so that a woman can't even feed her child without being demonised. Really appalling that such a basic, natural and NORMAL act is criticised. Our society is a mess.

  15. Wow, six kids and she never had to breastfeed in public? She either hardly ever went out, or had some very hungry little ones while on these excursions (or someone's misremembering!) There's no way I can go out and avoid feeding my one baby, and why would I want to? Jewel Divas seems to have a poor grasp on breastfeeding on demand, which can include comfort suckling. Breasts don't "need a rest". I wonder if you are/were a breastfeeding mother, with your attitude towards and poor knowledge of such a normal function I would be very surprised if you were.

    I fed my baby last night in a crowded, noisy restaurant because she was hungry and overwhelmed. No one made any remarks, in fact my friends were quite supportive.
    I was happy to be part of the nurse in at the Lifeline store with Abby, to demonstrate that breastfeeding in public is NORMAL, NATURAL and LEGAL. There is no shame in feeding your baby how nature intended. There is a greater attitude adjustment in a large section of our society that needs to happen. Normalising breastfeeding is essential, so other mothers may have the courage to take up and persist with breastfeeding their babies.

    If you don't like it, I suggest you need to take a look at yourself and work on your issues instead of trying to belittle and degrade women doing the best they can for their babies.

  16. Firstly I can only seem to post under the Anonymus thread but my name is Carol (I don't believe in throwing out an opinion without a name).
    Anyway I have two girls and still breastfeed both (2 and 15 mths). I used to find mothers rooms to feed in when my eldest was small but hated that they were always near toilets and smelled. So I thought about it long and hard. When Im breastfeeding I am doing something that is mornal, what isn't normal is how our society sees breasts. We have padded bra's for children as young as 5 now, as any mother to a girl child has probably seen in the shops. There are even childrens shirts in K-Mart at christmas with slogans like 'I've been very very naught' written across the bust in glitter. So my point is that long before children start school society is sexualizing a body part that they havn't even developed. We see young girls in very small and revealing outfits but we don't stop their mothers to say its not appropriate. Yet society would have us hide away our breasts and babes foe doing the only thing they were biologically designed for.
    I say every breastfeeding mother should be encouraged to feed openly so young girls can see what their future breast are truely meant for so they can see that it is normal and it is ok. I think there is nothing sadder then when other women comment that they think their fellow sister should be tucked away to feed their babes. The reality is that it is not the 50's or 60's and there is no need to hide away. Maybe instead those who are offended could just avert their eyes and look at something else?

  17. My name is Lotus.
    I was amazed when Abby first told me about this discrimination, then I thought about the age of the ladies that probably made those comments as most charity shop volunteers are retired people. that is when I realised that upbringing and the generation gap certainly are still alive and well. in my baby book my mother wrote that her pediatrician told her that she didn't have enough milk to feed me and that I was getting too fat. this is at 10 weeks old. My mother stopped breastfeeding me and fed my carnation milk instead. I had a head full of rotten first teeth....I wonder why. this is the information dished out to mothers in the early 70's.
    I have however noticed in the modern culture that we are becoming more and more detached from what is normal and healthy and best for our wellbeing. I think it was last year that an Australian politician was ordered to leave question time in parliament for breastfeeding her 10 week old baby. other places have banned breastfeeding from corporate meetings and the like. this is the state of our modern politics. My dear friend is a high level lawyer and when she would leave work on the dot at 5 oclock to go home and breast feed her child who was being cared for by daddy, her bosses were none too pleased. it wasn't easy for her to continue breastfeeding under all this corporate pressure and it did effect her carreer to a point but she was passionate about doing it.

    Then there is the women who "choose" to formula feed their babies. I am not as inclusive as the lovely Abby. unless there is some medical reason that you cannot breastfeed, then why the hell aren't you doing it. I even find myself being judgemental of women who faf about with muslins and covering cloths. I remind myself that at least they are still breast feeding so I should give them a big tick for that. I personally have breast fed both my babies in any and all public places whenever and where ever is needed and don't give two hoots what anyone may think about it. I think breastfeeding is both necessary, effective,time saving, immune boosting, intestinal flora building, human connection creating, skin stimulation for brain development, sensual, intimate loving of your child and also allows them to observe the detailed expressions on your face for emotional cognition, as well as feeling safe in the world and listening to your heart beat to help with reinforcement of instinctual body rhythms. So breastfeeding is way more then just milk. there should be a culture of absolute encouragement and celebration for breastfeeding children for years as is done in many cultures around the world.
    My oldest boy was breastfed till he was three and a half and my little one now is two years old and I have no plan on stopping. I don't experience breastfeeding as an annoyance or something that I need a rest from or that my oh so saggy boobs are sorry about. I feel blessed, I feel like a sensual mamma doing good work for my children. I see breast feeding mammas in public as being a beautiful sight and many men that I have spoken too have told me that they look because they find it beautiful and fascinating and something that they don't get to have and are observing the connection and the beauty. so a lot of 'pervy' men are not that at all.

    The true problem is women not empowering ourselves and each other to just be the radiant beings that we are. the spiritual incubators of future generation and that our lactation is our offering to nourish on a very deep level, the beautiful souls that come into our care. There are no time slots or routines to this experience and I think everyone should throw out their stupid how too book and stop listening to the latest trends that have been distilled in hospital pamphlets and start parenting and loving our children intuitively and instinctively and lovingly in encourage every other women to do the same.

  18. Thanks everyone for your continued comments! It just proves it is each to their own.

    And it also demonstrates there is judgement on every level (Breastfeed? Bottle? Muslin? Bare breasts? Express?).

    I think the moral of the story is: live and let live...