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Purpose of breasts is to provide milk

As a mother of five children who were all breast-fed, I have to respond to Donn Esmonde's column on breast-feeding. He compared public breast-feeding to public urination or changing a dirty diaper for everyone to see, and placed breast-feeding in the category of "needing restraint." This is very unfair because public urination and diaper changing are uncouth and done without regard for others.

How does a mother publicly restrain a baby's appetite? Unfortunately, babies cannot control when they want to eat, and nursing mothers must feed their babies wherever they are at the time, no matter how inconvenient. Suggesting that these mothers feed their babies in bathrooms is just wrong and very unhygienic. I have never been in a public bathroom and thought, "What a great place to have a meal!" Maybe Esmonde should dine in the restaurant's bathroom the next time he goes out to dinner. And what about women who have older children with them? Taking them and a baby to the bathroom is impractical. Esmonde is under the impression that women's public bathrooms are luxurious lounges.

Nursing a baby is not always a modest skill, and a little indiscretion is unavoidable sometimes. The "problem" with public breast-feeding is that seeing a mother nurse her infant is a reminder of what breasts are for: feeding babies. The sexualization of breasts has made many people in America erroneously think that nursing a baby in public is wrong, but a woman walking around the same store with her breasts hanging out for fashion's sake is perfectly acceptable. There are many things that are not fit for public consumption, however, mother's milk is not one of them.

Melissa Albert

Orchard Park

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Breast-feeding gives babies a healthy start

Research shows that breast-fed babies have fewer infections; are less likely to suffer from chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and childhood obesity; and are less likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Breast-feeding also helps protect women from conditions ranging from diabetes to breast cancer and ovarian cancer. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, if 90 percent of mothers breast-fed exclusively for six months, the United States would save $13 billion per year and prevent nearly 1,000 infant deaths.

Nevertheless, Donn Esmonde compares breast-feeding with urinating in public or watching pornography, and suggests that sitting on a toilet in a public restroom is the "perfect place" to feed one's baby. Shame on him for making mothers feel ashamed of doing what is best for their babies. Shame on him for advocating a position that deprives our children of a healthy start.

Beth Olearczyk, M.D.

Cooperstown

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Most see breast-feeding as a natural, public act

As a Community Health Worker and a mother of two small children, I was extremely dismayed to read Donn Esmonde's Dec. 30 column, "Let's keep breast-feeding a private affair." There is an excess of research that supports breast-feeding as vital to infant and maternal health -- from the nutritional and life-sustaining aspects for children, to the establishment of mother/baby bonding, to the prevention of postpartum depression for new mothers. The benefits of breast-feeding cannot be overstated.

It is well-documented that rates of breast-feeding are much lower in the United States than other countries due to policies and social norms that treat breast-feeding and breasts as sexual and/or private. It is also a fact that rates of breast-feeding are lowest in communities experiencing the highest rates of poverty and, in turn, child mortality. Throughout history and in most of the modern world, breast-feeding has been seen as a normal, natural and public act. Most people in the world would believe it to be cruel to suggest that a hungry child be denied his only source of food until someplace "private" can be secured to nurse him.

Breast-feeding is a civil rights and public health issue for women and children. Women should be able to breast-feed whenever and wherever they need to in order to promote and protect the physical and emotional well-being of their children. New York and most states have laws to ensure this. I urge The News to do a follow-up story on breast-feeding to present a more fair, balanced and informed exploration of this subject.

Jessica Bauer Walker

Director, Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo

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Let's show a little sensitivity, modesty

After reading letters admonishing Donn Esmonde for his recent article about breast-feeding in public, I feel I must bring another view to this forum.

I am a middle-aged female with grown children, and frankly appalled by the growing lack of modesty in our society. Fourteen-year-old girls walk around with exposed cleavage, bare midriffs and skin-tight pants. Television is filled with sex and sexual messages. We need to send young women (and men) a clear message that some things are private and personal, since the media and parents don't seem to be doing such a great job of it.

For those people who would say that breast-feeding is natural, I would say, so are sex, defecation and urination. All three of these are against the law if done in public. I, however, have no problem with a woman discreetly feeding her infant in public, meaning a blanket covering the chest while the breast is exposed. The breast may be a source of nutrition but it is still viewed as a sexual appendage and, as such, understandably makes some people uncomfortable.

Sensitivity and modesty -- we could all use reminders now and then.

Wynne Elizabeth Trinca, R.N.

East Amherst

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Moms who breast-feed doing nothing wrong

This is in regard to Donn Esmonde's column, "Let's keep breast-feeding a private act." As a mother who has breast-fed her three children in many public places when they were hungry, I found his article offensive. To answer Esmonde's question: "Is it so hard for a nursing mother to head into a private area, changing room or a restroom to feed junior?" Yes, it is.

Would Esmonde like to eat his lunch in a dirty bathroom with germs flying everywhere from flushing toilets? (Bon appetit!) How many public places have separate changing rooms or "private areas"? Most mothers are not "in-your-face-feeders," as he calls them. The greater majority are very discreet.

Mothers should not be made to feel as if they are doing something wrong and herded into disgusting bathrooms. To equate urinating in public with breast-feeding a baby in public is simply ridiculous. Target's statement, "Guests who choose to breast-feed in public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable" is an admirable one. Esmonde stated, "And if it makes other people feel uncomfortable, well, I guess that's just too bad." Yes, it is. Welcome to 2012.

Elizabeth Long

Buffalo