And the female world stands and applauds.
I had never heard of Australian Senator Larissa Waters before today, but in the 20 seconds it took me to read the blurb under the photo I glimpsed online, she became one of my heroes.
If you haven’t seen the photo or the headline, Sen. Waters breastfed her 10-week-old infant on the Senate Parliament floor on Tuesday, making history as the first politician ever to do so. She grinned at the camera as she burped her daughter afterwards and later tweeted “So proud that my daughter Alia is the first baby to be breastfed in the federal Parliament! We need more #women & parents in Parli.”
Waters returned to work after 10 weeks of maternity leave on Tuesday and had told The Courier Mail that she intended to make full use of the Senate rules she had helped extend to allow new parents to briefly care for infants on the Senate floor.
“If she’s hungry, that’s what you do; you feed your baby,” she said.
Thank you, Larissa. As mothers we applaud and commend you. And we recognize the intentional obviousness of your statement about the necessity of feeding a hungry baby. So why do breastfeeding mothers in the U.S. so often feel taboo? After all, we know this is the best thing for our babies and it is no longer 1950.
I recall sitting in a trendy restaurant with my parents in Oakland, CA shortly after my daughter was born. She needed to nurse and there weren’t any places to go besides the table where we were seated. I cringed and asked my parents “do you think it’s OK if I nurse her in here?”
My dad, who is an attorney, smiled and said “did you know there is nothing they can do about it? You can legally breastfeed in public and the law prohibits anyone from stopping you.” My eyebrows went up. “Wow,” I thought. And I started nursing her then and there, at our little table in that trendy Oakland restaurant. Since then I have looked at opportunities to breastfeed in public a little differently and wondered – can I breastfeed in church? How about during a movie at the theater? Or at my husband’s work party? Well, technically the answer is yes.
In 49 of our 50 states it is legal to breastfeed in any place, public or private. If you live in Idaho you are the exception. Consider writing to your senator about it. If you live in any other state of the union, you have legal permission to feed your baby when he or she is hungry. You can breastfeed anytime, anyplace, and there is nothing they can do about it.
So why do so many of us feel awkward about breastfeeding in public? Possibly because of the myriad stories we have heard and read of women being escorted out of public places for nursing their infants. Possibly because we fear offending others. Or perhaps we know we would be ostracized for breaking with tradition in spaces that are not accustomed to seeing nursing mothers and babies.
Sisters of the world, it’s time for a change.
In the immortal words of Senator Larissa Waters “If she’s hungry, that’s what you do; you feed your baby.”
Let’s shout it from the rooftops and end breastfeeding shaming today.
Feature image via Twitter
— Larissa Waters (@larissawaters) May 9, 2017