Last night, I came across an article via links to Fox News from Lifetime Moms, regarding one Simone Manigo-Truell dos Santos. It seems that about a month ago, Ms. Dos Santos was confronted by two female security guards at a Washington, D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles office while breastfeeding her four-month-old infant, and told that she had to stop doing this because it was considered “indecent exposure,” because she was baring her breast in a public place.
Now, according to a Washington Post article on the matter written by Ms. Dos Santos herself, there were no chairs or signs pointing to a breastfeeding privacy room, so she had to accomplish this task in the hallway. But I digress. Unbeknownst to the two guards, in addition to being a mommy, Ms. Dos Santos is also an attorney. She immediately donned her cell phone and called her law firm, enlisting pro-bono assistance on the issue. She was also able to obtain the name of the supervisor of the two guards in question.
Later, she discovered that indeed, there are local and federal laws on the books that safeguard a mother’s right to breastfeed her baby in public. So, she filed a formal complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights on December 2nd.(1) (2)
(SOAPBOX=ON) I’m not sure just how common it is that a male blogger would comment on something of this nature, but then again it is something that I feel strongly about and have some experience with, being the father of three wonderful children. You see, I’m one of those dads that’s been through the Lamaze classes, right there along with my wife doing the breathing, the kagels and the lot. So here I go…
Echoing the sentiment expressed by Kimberly Seals Allers, the author of the Lifetime Moms article, I find it very distressing that we live in a society where it’s perfectly fine to have a restaurant chain that openly uses women’s breasts to hock beer, burgers and onion rings, but when a mother wants to feed her infant, that’s somehow unacceptable. What is wrong with this picture, people? We wonder why so many mothers are hesitant to breastfeed these days, but at the same time we assign social stigmas, encapsulated in words like “indecent exposure” to this otherwise healthy, nurturing and perfectly normal practice! How many children have grown up to have developmental issues, simply because their mothers ran up against breastfeeding stigmas, and elected to bottle feed as a solution?
As I’m sure a lot of my fine young readers know, breastfeeding has several benefits over bottle feeding, for both mother and child. I went and looked! In addition to the established relationship between breastfeeding and the transfer of immunities from mother to child, I dug up some other interesting data on breastfeeding:
- Research conducted by Dr. Alison Stuebe at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, shows that mothers who breastfeed for at least six months are less likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure) over a 14-year period, compared to those that bottle fed.(3)
- According to a comprehensive study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, children who were breastfed tested 5.2 IQ points higher than bottle fed children.(4)
- Breastfed children have a better ability to cope with stress and anxiety situations later in life, according to a study published in the August 2006 issue of the Archives of Disease in Childhood. The study observed almost 9,000 subjects in Great Britain, with information taken at birth and at ages 5 and 10 years.(5)
- According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, “Infants who had never been breastfed were 50% more likely to have gross motor coordination delays than infants who had been breastfed exclusively for at least 4 months.”(6)
So what do we know so far? We know that with breastfeeding, both mother and child are healthier, the child is more well-adjusted, develops faster and is more intelligent than their bottle fed counterpart. Any questions? The point that I’m trying to make here, if I’m saying anything at all, is if we as a society are intelligent enough to be able to accumulate and analyse all of this data on the benefits of breastfeeding, then why are we not intelligent enough to place breasts and breastfeeding in their proper perspective when we witness it out in the everyday world?
When I see a mother breastfeeding their child in public, I’m not thinking, (and I write this next bit at the risk of sounding crass for a moment,) “Hey, look at the tits on her!” Instead, I’m thinking, “You go, mommy,” because I know that this mother loves and cares enough about this little life that she carried in her womb for nine months, and just brought into the world, to make sure that she is doing right by him or her, society be damned!
As for Simone Dos Santos, and every other mommy out there who has made the choice to breastfeed, I say the same thing; society be damned. Keep doing what you’re doing, while we all work together to eliminate this ridiculous stigma that lingers. You’re not alone moms, you have allies out here, including The Cybersattva!