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A woman's right

MY OWN decision not to breastfeed was partly because I was not comfortable with the idea of feeding in public.

However, I didn't base my decision to bottle-feed solely on this as I had to return to work and worked in a male-dominated environment which made no concessions to nursing mothers.

I was content with my decision and I can't say that, even if society was less discriminatory and more accepting of breastfeeding in public, I'd have chosen differently.

But that doesn't mean I'd criticise anyone who chooses to breastfeed in public when I'm in their company. No woman should be condemned for however or wherever she chooses to feed her baby. If a woman breastfeeds, she deserves not to feel embarrassed or ashamed for feeding that child when it needs to be fed -- even if that means doing so in public.

If a woman is breastfeeding she needs to be with her baby most of the time and she has to be ready to feed it as and when baby needs. That applies whether they are in the shops, restaurant, park or wherever she chooses to enjoy spending time with her baby.

Yet I have friends who have been made to feel embarrassed by people approaching them to comment negatively on their decision to breastfeed in public. They were doing so discreetly. But this discretion did not stop members of the public chastising them or even asking them to stop. Some of these busybodies even said breastfeeding was okay, but only as long as it was done out of the public eye. Outrageous.

One of the more disturbing aspects of why so many disapprove of public breastfeeding is that breasts are viewed as sexual objects. Most images of the female breast are for titillation. So some people think that women who breastfeed in public are exhibitionists. It's almost as though these women are whipping them out with tassels attached to them.

But we did not always view breasts as sexual objects. Women have always breastfed their children, until relatively recently it was the only option to feed and nurture your child.

To make a woman feel embarrassed for feeding her child is wrong, whether with a bottle or breast. It's hard enough to be the mother of a young baby without being made to feel inadequate or guilty for your choice.