I have to confess that it still boggles me that breastfeeding in public is a matter of debate at all. To me, it seems natural that I should breastfeed my child, yes, even past infancy, in public if my child needs that when we’re out of the house. Yet others disagree. To them, I would ask a couple of questions:
1) Do you have an issue with eating in public?
2) Do you have an issue with seeing a child with a bottle or dummy in public?
If the answer to both of these questions is no, then breastfeeding also shouldn’t be an issue, for that is the way we were designed to nourish and comfort our children, yes, even past infancy. Somehow I doubt that the nearly-2-year-old I saw bottle-feeding at Mass got asked to do that elsewhere or make the child wait, yet I’ve been asked to cover or move when breastfeeding a child of the same age (note: I do not use a cover,but this doesn’t mean I’m sitting there topless, as nothing can really be seen as long as the child is latched on). I’ve seen many an older child with Cheerios at Mass, yet somehow I imagine it would be frowned upon if I breastfed Kieran at Mass (another note: I personally don’t allow snacks at Mass, as I know they’d end up everywhere with my children).
Of course, I’m not only speaking of breastfeeding at Mass, it’s just that the children and I usually go to Mass on a daily basis, so it is an easy example for me to use. I could also use the example of shopping, though. I is not uncommon to see babies and older children with bottles, dummies, and/or snacks when sitting in the trolley. Since this is perfectly acceptable, breastfeeding also should be, for breastfeeding is, again, the normal way to feed and comfort a child. The sooner that fact is realised by the general public, the sooner people will stop paying attention to how a child is being fed or comforted in public.
Another critique people sometimes have is when a mother is breastfeeding a child older than 1 in public. To me, this still misses the point, as it seems to suggest that breastfeeding is shameful but a necessary evil when a child is younger and cannot physically wait longer between feeds. Again, if that same person has no qualms about a child over the age of one having a bottle, sippy cup, snack, or dummy in public, then breastfeeding that same child in public also should not be an issue at all. It should also be noted that however we feed and comfort our children, we really aren’t seeking attention or exploiting our children in the name of a cause. We’re just mothers taking care of our children. End of story.