Much ado about nursing

No matter how a woman chooses to nurse, let’s not forget that breast milk is best

Breast milk is the most healthful, nutrient-rich source of food a mother can give to her baby. We hope that message isn’t lost in the recent flap about the young mother who was asked if she would cover her bare breast while feeding her baby at a local restaurant (See “Baby-food fight,” Newslines, page 9).

That woman, as California civil code stipulates, had every right to nurse her infant while eating at the restaurant. But the reality of doing so with an exposed breast is that some people may feel very uncomfortable. In this particular case, at the Pour House restaurant, several people complained.

That put the restaurant manager in a predicament. Understandably, he asked the woman if she wouldn’t mind covering her breast. Also understandably, the nursing mom chose instead to leave the eatery. The legalities of asking someone to cover themselves is a gray area, because the civil code has never been tested in a court of law.

What’s clear is that breastfeeding in public remains somewhat taboo, particularly in cases where a woman chooses to bare her breast rather than nurse more discreetly.

Americans have a hard time remembering that breasts have a function. They are seen largely as sexual objects, even when they are being used to nourish a child. A demonstration at the Pour House by nursing mothers is admirable, and we hope it does encourage women to nurse.

Medical experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, note the many benefits breastfeeding, both for mother and infant. Women who breastfeed have a lower risk of developing breast cancer and high blood pressure, among other benefits. More important, for children, breast milk has been linked to a reduction in respiratory illnesses and allergies, ear infections, and a number of other childhood ailments.