Archive for January, 2013

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I Have Breasts – And I’m Not Afraid To Use Them!

January 20, 2013

If you are offended, look away now.

If you are offended, look away now.

After a Queensland mother was discriminated against at a local pool for – shock, horror – feeding her baby, Sunrise’s David Koch waded into rather hotter water by suggesting it was fair enough that she be asked to move.

Speaking on the Channel 7 programme, Koch said that Liana Webster should not have fed her baby in a “high traffic” area and that mothers should be more discreet when feeding their babies. I wonder what it is that he thinks will happen if someone catches a glimpse of nipple for a nanosecond. Women have been feeding their babies for thousands of years without social meltdown ensuing – does he think Australians are really so precious as to be unable to cope with seeing breasts used as intended?

Perhaps Koch might want to familiarise himself with the legislation of this century. He would then be aware that the law prevents discrimination against women on the basis of breastfeeding. Women may breastfeed wherever their baby needs them to.

While updating his legal knowledge, Koch may need to update his attitude towards women. He seems to be under the impression that the purpose of breasts is to promote products on behalf of advertisers. It would be good to think that Koch has developed beyond seeing women solely as vessels for sexual gratification, there to serve male whims. On the plus side, Koch’s co-presenters (embarrassingly labelled ‘Kochie’s Angels) did make clear their disagreement.

Like around 50% of the adult population, having breasts has absolutely no bearing on my IQ, or my ability to do my job. They’ve done a great job in giving my child a great start in life, with all the health benefits that brings – and yes, sometimes they have been the source of much fun as well. I am not offended if someone thinks they are pleasant to look at (I like to look sometimes myself for that matter) but if they prefer to look the other way, that’s fine too.

There is a serious side to Koch’s comments as well though. By perpetuating the belief that breastfeeding is something smutty, sexual, to be hidden, he influences public opinion. This increases the discrimination mothers face while performing a basic, everyday parenting task. Imagine if a necessary part of your working day was deemed inappropriate and something to be hide.

The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding babies exclusively until the age of six months where possible, then supplementing with solid foods until at least 12 months old. A 2004 study funded by the Australian government found that by one week, only 80% are breastfed, with the number reducing by the month. Only 14% are exclusively breastfed for six months.

While mothers cease breastfeeding for a number of reasons and not solely to avoid offending the likes of Koch, public attitudes are certainly influential. Breastfeeding is often far from easy and is one of those skills that becomes far more difficult when feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable. Having a mainstream media figure promoting such attitudes is shameful.

Perhaps if Koch spent less time concerning himself with what other people’s babies have in their mouths and more time removing his foot from his own, he may be better able to do his own job. Until then, how about letting mothers get on with what they do best – nurturing their babies.