In a world where women are objectified as body parts and little else, in a world where we get our morning news with a side helping of nipple, in a world where little girls are given high heels to play being grown ups, is it any wonder we have lost our way?
When the ability to see breasts all day every day is considered to be a man’s right, when teenage girls in playgrounds are judged on their bra size rather than their IQ, when the mainstream media obsesses over every inch of the female form, is it any wonder we are confused?
In a world of misogyny, sexualisation and hate, the new mothers are feeling under pressure to conform. To conform to the generation before who favoured bottle over breast, to conform to the men who say breasts are for sex, to conform to the societal pressure to hide.
Some mothers who wanted to breastfeed are giving up because they are scared. They are scared of the people in cafes and restaurants, the ones flicking through newspapers showcasing pert breasted women in provocative poses. These mothers are scared that they might offend, that a glance at a milk-swollen breast might cause a stranger to slam down his coffee, on top of page 3, and approach her to tell her to cover up.
These women who know that breast is best, feel unable to mother the way that they want, for fear of upsetting society. A society that holds such little value for what mothers do. A society that belittles, that pities, that hates, these mothers who worry about upsetting the peace. The women who feed away from prying eyes, who listen mutely to their baby’s cries, as they try to soothe them without feeding in public.
The anxious, the introverts and the shy, are less likely to breastfeed. These women give up or don’t even try, they’re worried about feeding in front of you and me. They’re scared we will look at them in disgust, that we’ll whisper and point or complain in a huff. They can’t bear to think of their nipple on show, next to the naked women in your newspaper, as the baby latches on.
In a world of sexual imagery, where pictures of naked women are displayed at child height in shops, where breasts are used to sell products, can we please say that breastfeeding is ok? That this natural thing can be visible too. That women feeding babies is nothing new. That breasts were designed for this very reason, and women should feed them without feeling indecent.
Can we each do our bit to support these new mums, and make them feel normal and like they belong? Can we smile, reassure and congratulate friends, can we smile shyly at strangers to show our support? Can we embrace breastfeeding in public spaces, and make mothers feel welcome in all kinds of places?