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Breastfeeding in public: the new trend ?

Recently, controversial YouTube personality Spiritual Tasha Mama, a mum of two from San Diego, has come under fire and even investigation for speaking out on her breastfeeding habits for her two children, ages three and three months. Tasha Maile admitted she once had sex while breastfeeding one of her children, something many called disturbing and distasteful. While this act is questionable, many of her online viewers are even more disturbed by her willingness to display images of her  breastfeeding her children in public and even posting live feeds of the act while working out. While some support her multitasking efforts, many have criticized her choice to display these images publicly.

This isn’t the only instance of controversial breastfeeding in public. It seems breastfeeding itself becomes a topic of conversation in the news every few months, with many people offering their opinion for and against women doing it in public.

Forgetting the controversy for one moment, think of the health benefits breastfeeding has for mother and child  During the first six months of a child’s life, breastfeeding is a convenient and portable way to feed your baby, A mother’s milk is clean, often the right temperature, and packed with custom produced vitamins, minerals, fats and proteins amongst other beneficial ingredients.

The Public Health Agency of Canada often supports breastfeeding infants, as breast milk also contains antibodies to prevent diseases in newborns and it also has been shown to reduce allergies in a child’s development. Essentially, many claim that breastfed babies are even smarter! Though I beg to differ, as I am a formula baby.

Breast milk is also a cheaper option to the expenses of formula. There are many health benefits for the mom as well, as research indicates breastfeeding can lower the risk of certain cancers including breast and ovarian.  The body also releases a healthy emotionally balancing hormone, which is beneficial to the mother after birth.

Over the years, there have been numerous stories that have attracted the media’s attention. One instance includes a Starbucks in Ottawa, where a young woman complained to a male barista about a mother in the café that was breastfeeding her child without a “modesty shield.” This story, however, had a happy ending when the barista provided the mother with a free coffee for having to deal with unpleasant complains and stares. Back in 2014, the spokesperson for Starbucks, Laurel Harper stated that Starbucks does not have an official policy on customer experience or breastfeeding.

There was even a controversial health campaign in Mexico City that featured topless celebrities who were encouraging breastfeeding for new mothers. This was met with backlash from critics who argued the campaign sexualized women and placed shame on mothers who could not breastfeed for medical reasons.  There always seems to be someone that is not too pleased with the display of a woman’s bare breast, or feeding her child uncovered in public, and while people have their opinions, views, and personal preferences when it comes to where they feed their children, women should not be shamed for providing essential nutrients for their babies.

This week, Apple announced a new set of emoji’s for World Emoji Day and notable emojis include a breastfeeding emoji! Now you can add that to your next social media post proud moms. While the debate over breastfeeding may be endless, August 1-7 2017 is marked as world breastfeeding week and the movement is celebrating it’s 25th year in encouraging breastfeeding on a global scale in an aim to attract political support, media attention and participation.

For more information on breastfeeding, visit Eat Right Ontario or consult publichealth.gc.ca.

 

Why is there still a stigma around bare breasts?

As the temperatures continue to rise, women may see more and more guys walking around the streets without their shirts on. It’s a normal thing, right? But, what about when women try to walk down those same streets without their shirts on?

People would probably stare or point. Someone may even ask these women to cover up, saying they are indecent in a public place.

Every year it seems like women get in trouble for baring her breasts in public. Whether it’s two sisters asked to cover up while cycling without a top or an eight-year-old girl told to put her shirt back on in a swimming pool, it’s obvious there is still stigma and misunderstanding over a woman’s right to go topless in public.

Over the last week, the media has reported a woman in Cornwall is making a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, claiming a pool policy that makes it mandatory for girls over the age of 10 to wear a top is discriminatory. City councillors now have to decide whether to fight the complaint or change the policy — a conversation that is bound to turn heads in both the press and in the chamber.

It’s a bit silly toplessness is still a problem in 2017, especially considering Ontario essentially made the act legal in 1991 when Guelph University student Gwen Jacobs won her court case. Municipalities have followed suit, adjusting policies where needed to adapt to this change, but it still isn’t common place. Women still get harassed and told to put more clothes on. Public beaches and pools still don’t understand that it is perfectly acceptable for women to go topless while outdoors. And men use this as an opportunity to make sexual remarks or comment on a woman’s figure.

While I was in Mexico, I went to a beach every day and saw women of all shapes and sizes walking around without a bathing suit top on. And you know what? It wasn’t a big deal! And in Europe families walk down the street or relax in the park wearing nothing but underwear! So, why is it that in North America it’s so taboo?

Personally, I think the sexualization of a woman’s breasts has become so engrained in social culture that it has seeped its way into every day activities. Anatomically, women have breasts in order to breastfeed. They were never “meant” to be sexual objects, and yet the number of brassieres and pasties makes it impossible to think of them as anything else. Even for women it becomes stigmatized. I know that for myself, being in public without something covering my breasts would make me uncomfortable. That’s a shame, but a reality of the kind of society we live in.

For those women who do feel comfortable — rock on! Remember that breasts are a part of the human body. They are not sexual objects, despite what people have been taught, and are no different than the nipples men showcase every day of the summer when they wander around downtown without a top.

So next time the heat becomes too much to stand, remember that baring your breasts is legal and totally okay — and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Will toplessness ever be considered a norm for both women and men? Let us know what you think in the comments below!