Not for the first time, I've found myself at the centre of a media breastfeeding storm. The catalyst this time? The following sign...
After this picture and my corresponding post recently went viral, with over 335,000 likes on The Huffington Post alone, there has inevitably been quite a reaction.
There's been a lot of this:
"What a step forward!"
And of course, there's also been a fair amount of this:
"But what about formula feeders?"
And so it begins. Or should I say continues? The all-out Breast vs. Formula war. The 'Pick a Side and Slam the Other' debate. The 'Us vs. Them' mentality.
Enough. Enough, already!
A café opening its arms to a breastfeeding mother is not by default closing its doors to formula feeders. Or anybody else outside of this specific group for that matter -- like fathers, or grandmothers, or nurses just finishing a night shift... or even young couples high on honeymooning and totally unaware of the minefield of political correctness that embeds itself into the world of parenting.
Because supporting breastfeeding does not go hand-in-hand with hating formula feeding. It is in itself a perfectly legitimate position to take; an independent cause to fight for.
And by fight, I do not mean against you, kind formula feeding mama; you who sings lullabies to delicate and tiny ears, who kisses squidgy baby cheeks and who also, just like me, has broken up with sleep.
By fight, I mean fight with you, sweet sister.
Because formula feeding mothers can also fight the fight to normalize breastfeeding. The fight against shaming, against discrimination and against the over-sexualization of our maternal bodies.
And believe it or not, breastfeeding-supporting formula feeders do actually exist. In real life. The proof? The picture that sparked these comments was taken by a formula feeding mother. Yes, you read that right. She took it not to share on a hate site or to agonize over the unfairness and selectivity of free cups of tea. Instead, she took it to share the joy, the acceptance and the progress of the drive to normalize nursing in public.
Unfortunately, this drive is still needed. Every day, I see stories online of mothers asked to cover up when their little ones start to root. I can still see the disgust in stranger's eyes from my own early nursing in public adventures... but gone are the days where I would hide away to nurse my daughter... I found my confidence and somehow, quite unexpectedly, I've turned it into a voice.
And so it seems that this voice is getting louder. But just because I'm shouting "boob" from my virtual platform and have the "equipment" to cash in on free hot drinks from one enlightened British café, doesn't mean that I'm cursing formula feeding in the same breath.
So I'm not going to get into the "I bet they have bottle-warming facilities" argument, or the "but you don't begrudge students their discounts" mindset. I'm only going to say one thing: thank you.
To every supporter of breastfeeding -- whether you are lactating or not -- I say thank you. Thank you for seeing this café's sign as the positive step forwards that it is. Thank you for seeing it as a simple gesture of support for nursing in public and not a low-blow at tired and thirsty formula feeding mothers. Thank you for seeing it as a small but important step towards normalizing the normal; towards normalizing breastfeeding.
This post originally appeared on Mama Bean Parenting.
This article is part of HuffPost Parents' World Breastfeeding Week series. Read more here.