Breastfeeding: The Breast Things in Life Are Free!

Breastfeeding in public has become a recent topic of debate. Some people, both men and women, say that they find it uncomfortable seeing a mother breastfeed her baby, even though it is a natural thing, and, no doubt, women have been breastfeeding since time immemorial.

In the UK, breastfeeding in public is currently protected under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 under the provision of goods, facilities and services section (no, not because of the provision of breastmilk!). Also, the UK's Department of Health did a survey which found that 84% of people find breastfeeding in public acceptable if done discretely.Scotland has even stepped up the protection of public breastfeeding and has allowed for fines of up to £2,500 for preventing breastfeeding in public places.

But why is public breastfeeding so controversial?

Breastmilk has many benefits:
  1. It lowers the risk of the mother getting breast and ovarian cancer
  2. It uses up to 500 calories a day (equivalent to ice skating for over an hour!)
  3. It saves money on infant formula and buying feeding equipment
  4. It can help to build a strong bond between mother and child due to the release of 'love hormones' such as oxytocin and prolactin
  5. It can delay the return of periods
  6. Breastmilk is natural and is 'designed' for the baby
  7. It has lots of antibodies, which are passed on to the baby, increasing the baby's immune health
  8. It is available whenever and wherever
  9. It is at the right temperature
  10. Research suggests that it reduces the chance of diarrhoea and constipation and developing diabetes, allergic diseases, and possibly asthma
Furthermore, infant formula does not contain the antibodies, hormones, enzymes and other beneficial components that breastmilk has. Contrary to popular beliefs, breastfeeding does make the breasts sad, and almost all women are physically able to breastfeed.

The few reasons why breastfeeding may be contraindicated include an HIV-positive mother and if the mother is taking medication that may harm the baby. Otherwise, exclusive breastfeeding (giving the baby only breastmilk) is recommended for the first six months of the baby's life, and breastmilk along side other food after the six months.

The major controversy seems to have been started off in June 2010, when the deputy editor for the magazine Mother & Baby referred to breastfeeding as "creepy," which received several complaints and kickstarted an online debate. Furthermore, controversy was also aroused due to Facebook removing pictures of breastfeeding mothers, claiming that the pictures broke the Terms and Conditions. This act was followed by a Facebook page being set up called "Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!"

Ultimately, the breasts things in life are free, and that is definitely the case with breastfeeding.

For more about breastfeeding, visit the NHS website.

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