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article imageOp-Ed: Why do breastfeeding mothers face opposition in modern day? Special

By Leigh Goessl     Jan 2, 2012 in Lifestyle
Women breastfeeding their babies in public has been a topic that has repeatedly emerged in the media over the last month. There have been numerous incidents where mothers have been openly criticized for nursing their babies.
A Washington D.C. area mother recently experienced a negative occurrence in a Federal building where she was told she was guilty of "indecent exposure" by building guards.
Across the pond in the United Kingdom, a group of mothers staged a 'flash mob' after a mother was confronted by a combative customer in a café. After the latter experience, 40 mothers in the vicinity got together and nursed their babies publicly during the Christmas shopping season.
Shortly after Thanksgiving Michelle Hickman was approached in a Texas Target store by employees when she was nursing her baby. Best for Babes first shared Hickman's experience in a Dec. 14 post which stated the 35-year-old mom was "harassed and humiliated."
Hickman's experience sparked a 'nurse-in' at Target stores across the U.S.
Women choose to nurse their babies for many reasons, which include recommendations by the medical community that states breastfeeding is the best food for a baby's nutrition. Despite this, women are often still faced with opposition when nursing their children.
With negative sentiments towards breastfeeding, it leads to the question, how does a negative experience that includes hurtful comments, or in some instances outright hostility or bullying, impact new mothers?
This reporter had the opportunity to speak to Michelle Hickman about this issue.
Digital Journal: How did it make you feel when Target employees approached you [regarding nursing] on Nov. 29?
Michelle Hickman: "As a veteran breastfeeding mom, because this is my fourth baby, I wasn't as bothered as I would have been with my first. [In the recent Target experience] I wasn't even that offended until employees surrounded me and started shaking their heads."
Hickman described how one employee offended her she was told she could get a "ticket" for indecent exposure and said employee wouldn't back down. Hickman said by this time she felt, "OK, now I'm upset."
She was affected enough by this experience to contact Target Corporate. Hickman indicated this call did not result in a satisfactory response, stating, this was the "icing on the cake. At that point, I was infuriated."
Digital Journal: How do you think an incident, such as the one you experienced at Target, could impact new mothers in their choice to breastfeed?
Hickman indicated she probably would have given up. "If this would have happened when I was learning how to do it [breastfeed], learning how to latch on," and teach baby how to nurse, "I would have cried for weeks."
She points out many new mothers are already dealing with breastfeeding challenges, and possibly postpartum depression; negative reactions could contribute to a woman deciding to give up nursing.
This sentiment aligns with breastfeeding experts. For instance, Norma Ritter, recently told Digital Journal new mothers are especially vulnerable to criticism as they establish milk production and learn how to be proficient at nursing. Ritter had indicated, "Derogatory remarks can be particularly hurtful."
Digital Journal: Any advice you would give to new breastfeeding mothers who encounter negativity?
"All breastfeeding moms should find others in their area" for support, Hickman said. "If you have a support group such as La Leche League, a mommy's group or other support, this could make the biggest difference in the world."
Unkind and anti-breastfeeding comments, such as the remark recently made by NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne on Twitter after he observed a mother nursing her baby in a store, also have an effect. This is evidenced by the outpouring of reaction he received. His tweet included the hashtag "#nasty" and also some profanity aimed at a person on Twitter who called him on his anti-breastfeeding comments.
Kahne later issued an apology that was posted on Facebook.
Unfortunately this type of response to breastfeeding is not all that uncommon in today's age. Nursing mothers should not have to be subjected to types of negative encounters that Hickman and others have experienced. Not to mention, there are laws protecting a mother's right to breastfeed in public or private locations.
If a new mother wants to nurse her baby, shouldn't she be afforded that right to do so in peace? If a new mom is scrutinized and insulted, this could increase and create additional stress.
As ABC asks in a recent piece, why is public breast-feeding still an issue?
Good question. Why is it?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about breastfeeding rights, negative reactions, Nursing, breastfeeding mothers, New moms
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