***WARNING*** Possibly inflammatory post! Read only if you are open-minded. :)
I have an acquaintance, for whom I have the utmost respect and admiration. She is a firm believer in standing up for what she thinks is right, a modern-day crusader, if you will. Most recently, she is tirelessly vocal about the rights of breastfeeding mothers, which are far too often overlooked if not completely ignored. I admire her for her conviction. She has introduced me to a hot button issue, of which I have made a casual but constant study for quite a while now.
I was a breastfeeding mother once. However, I was never the unfortunate recipient of discrimination, so I can't say I completely understand how this feels. In addition, I am a fairly passive person; I tend to avoid confrontation whenever possible. This being said, I have a hard time with some of the opinions and methods of breastfeeding activists (aka "lactivists") as a group. I don't say this to be contrary, offensive, or accusatory in any way. I'm merely voicing my views on an extremely polarized topic of interest.
(A good thing to remember before I start is that no two people are exactly alike. The following is an opinion I've developed based on a group of people as a collective. No one person or her convictions inspired this post, and I'm certainly not attacking anyone.)
A big issue I have with "lactivists" is the predominant attitude of "if you don't like it, don't look." This stinks of selfishness to me. I understand a woman's desire and her responsibility to put the needs of her child first. But how rude it is to tell someone that their feelings are completely unimportant to you? I know that breastfeeding is completely natural and nothing to be ashamed of. Exposed breasts make some people uncomfortable. It would seem that exposed breasts are the moral taboo of the United States. I wholeheartedly believe that the people of this country need to realize breasts are not primarily sexual in function. I just think the brazen "to hell with all who disagree" attitude is not the way to show people that breastfeeding is natural. It seems that open dialogue, consideration, and compromise would be a better pathway. It's my opinion that people will be more accepting of a woman breastfeeding in public if she engaged her naysayers in conversation, addressed their concerns, and calmly and respectfully explained that while she understands their opinions and will try to accomodate them, the needs of her child will always take precedence. Respect is a two-way street.
Another beef I have with "lactivists": breastfeeding is the only right way, and anyone who gives their child cow's milk or formula is doing irreparable damage to him/her. I agree that nothing is better for a child than being breastfed. Unfortunately, that's not always an option for many women. I myself only breastfed Kyle for just over 3 months. Kyle was and is unbelievably stubborn and independent, and I struggled to nurse him for as long as I did. When I finally made the decision to switch to bottle feeding, the change was remarkable. We both were far happier and more well-adjusted than we had been to that point. It killed me to stop breastfeeding, but I honestly believe it was the best choice for us. How do I know that? I recently ran across an article (one of many I've read recently) that outlines the benefits a baby receives from breastfeeding. Always at the top of any list: the transferring of mother's antibodies to the child, strengthening the child's immune system and reducing the likelihood of disease. My child has had maybe three colds in his life, and one fever, which doesn't seem to be excessive in the slightest. This is only one of many contradictions I have seen in my experience. What does that prove? To me, that says that while breastfeeding is best, bottle-feeding is not too far behind. My choice to bottle-feed Kyle made us both happier, and the consequences of that choice were not as detrimental to his health as many experts would expect. I definitely made the right choice for us. I would appreciate it if "lactivists" could be a little more open-minded on this subject (which is not too unreasonable, since they justifiably ask for others to be more open-minded all the time).
I MAINTAIN that anyone who feels passionately about any hot-button issue will not be judged and will be respected if he/she tries to do the same for others. Promote tolerance and understanding through your actions and example, no matter what you believe. It's my opinion that one silent example stands out in our world full of noise and distraction better than any speech or interview possibly could.