Permission to Eat Please

This week’s Breastfeeding Blog Hop question is “Should you (or would you) ask permission to nurse in public?”

If you’ve read about my experience nursing my newborn at a Pottery Barn store, you know that I didn’t ask permission from the store manager before quieting my fussy baby by discreetly meeting his needs. Minutes later, the manager proceeded to ask me to nurse in their bathroom because there were “children in the store.” Yes, including my very hungry baby who I was quietly nursing until she interrupted us.

It never made sense to me to request permission to nurse in public and I never have. That is not to say I haven’t chosen private or semi-private places over public at various points in my breastfeeding years. I have, but usually to better meet the needs of my baby. For example, if baby was in an easily-distracted stage, I generally chose the calmest setting in which to nurse him.

Discussions about nursing in public tend to focus on the breastfeeding mother. Naturally so, since she is the one making the decision whether or not to breastfeed her baby in a setting where others might be. But what about the perspective of the baby? After all, the reason a woman breastfeeds her baby is because the baby needs to eat to thrive. So, I’m turning this question baby-ward and reframing it as:

“Should you (or would you) ask permission to eat in public, little one?”

If babies could answer this question, what would they answer? It’s ridiculous, right? What baby is wired to politely request permission to eat in public? Babies simply make their basic needs known. Thus the human race is wired for survival — and breastfeeding is part of that design.

If asking a baby to request permission to eat isn’t ridiculous enough, then let’s take it one step further and ask any adult: “Should you (or would you) ask permission to eat in public?”

Most adults would laugh at the ludicrousness of this question. Let’s take Joe at the diner; does he order his food and once served, turn to his waitress and ask, “May I eat it here?” Or Maria enjoying her lunch break at a city park. Should she holler out to the others at the park, “Is it okay with you that I eat here?”

When have you ever, after ordering food at a restaurant, had to:

  • Ask permission before eating the food you have been served;
  • Position a large blanket over your head or draw a whole-body curtain around yourself for the duration of your meal; or
  • Stop eating at the table because the management said you were not welcome to eat there, and instead should continue eating your meal in the bathroom?

With babies, there is no cultural issue with bottle-feeding in public. What if the only way Joe at the diner or Maria at the park could avoid the above treatments was if they ordered or packed their food pureed and served in a bottle?

How odd non-breastfeeding-friendly cultural attitudes can be.

Why not do whatever we can to help a baby’s tiny tummy get fed in the way his or her mother chooses to best meet that need, wherever works for them? That would truly be a breastfeeding-friendly world.

Wouldn’t it be great if the only questions voiced around a breastfeeding mother and baby were these:

  • What can I do to help support your important work?
  • Could I bring you a more comfortable chair?
  • Would you like a glass of water?

What do you think about whether babies should need permission to eat in public?

This post is part of the weekly Breastfeeding Blog Hop, hosted by The Slacker Mom, and co-hosted by The Gnome’s Mom and Happiness Redefined. Please visit The Slacker Mom to see the linky list and read everyone’s entries, as WordPress.com can’t show it here.

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