I’ve breastfed all four of my children, three of them finished around three years of age and I didn’t stay home to do it. I never used a cover. I believe most of New South Wales has seen me breastfeed (or at least it feels like it). I don’t know if I was “discreet” or not, but I do know I didn’t intentionally draw attention to myself. It was just something I did. Lucky me!
Last week on the Sunrise program in Sydney (Australia’s leading morning tv program), host David Koch said that he thinks breastfeeding in a public space should be done “discreetly.” It was in response to a news program where a breastfeeding mother had sat on the side of a public swimming pool feeding her child, causing some kind of request for her to move to a different location.
The response was a little bit insane. The switchboard at channel seven went crazy, and calls for a nurse-in outside the studio in Sydney were flung around social media to ‘teach Kochie a lesson’ or some such thing.
Let me be clear: Kochie said the word “discreet.” He did not say breastfeeding in any context was inappropriate. Kochie did not say breastfeeding in public is wrong; in fact he said the opposite. A number of times. But some don’t want to listen to what he actually said.
I can’t help but cringe a little when I hear of outraged mothers responding with calls for a massive nurse in when a public figure states his honest opinion (and let’s face it, that opinion wasn’t even negative towards breastfeeding or even breastfeeding in public). Breastfeeding advocates who say that breastfeeding is not a political action, but a needed, natural child-centred thing is conflated by turning up en masse and getting your child to latch on whether he or she wants to or not. It becomes even more of a political statement when there are protest signs and you get Destroy the Joint people on board, skewing the whole thing into some kind of feminist issue that might have created a poorly disguised alignment between David Koch and a shock jock. (Kochie, you really don’t deserve that.)
The superiority complex I see happening with some activists is one which does nothing to further the cause of normalising breastfeeding for all of us in western society. Some activists have decided to look down on people who disagree, and cloak that condescension as “education.” Surely if Kochie didn’t come around and suddenly denounce his “uneducated” view, then he’s an idiot who must be bombarded until he complies?
Not so much.
Some people, both men and women, are just a little perturbed by breastfeeding. Slamming them over the head and yelling at them with vitriol makes breastfeeding advocates such as myself appear to be more than a little unhinged.
I think it is time to go back to basics. What can we do to empower women to feel confident as individuals to breastfeed wherever and whenever their child and they want to? Individual women need to breastfeed when they are not supported by the outspoken members of the advocacy lobbyists. They need to find a resonance with the message themselves.
Advocates must begin to listen to people like David Koch and find out exactly what “discreet” to him means. Women who find breastfeeding in public weird or strange should be asked more questions about why and what their solutions are. Understanding from both sides is needed here, before any support can be achieved.
I’m pretty sure yelling at people won’t get there. Breastfeeding advocacy, while passionate, needs to be nurturing, balanced and sensitive. I am grateful that the Sunrise program and David Koch himself took such a positive stance and responded generously with time and focus on the issue. I am glad that Kochie didn’t perform a flacid backtrack on his statement, and remained honest in his views, and I am also thankful that he demonstrated his complete support for breastfeeding. I just wish we’d found out what “discreet” means.