Is breastfeeding shaming a form of sexual abuse?

A mum has said breastfeeding shaming is a form of sexual abuse [Photo: Getty]
A mum has said breastfeeding shaming is a form of sexual abuse [Photo: Getty]

Another day, another mum being shamed for breastfeeding her baby in public.

From restaurants and pubs to shopping centres, breastfeeding mums are constantly being told to cover up by men, women, fellow mums (and in one instance by an actual policeman!) and left feeling embarrassed and humiliated for merely just trying to feed their babies.

But one mum believes that breastfeeding shaming is much more than an unpleasant experience, it’s actually a form of sexual harassment.

Taking to Instagram, Diana Channing addressed the topic of public breastfeeding using the viral hashtag #MeToo.

ICYMI the movement was originally set up in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal as a way of encouraging people to share their own experiences of sexual abuse on social media and give an idea of the magnitude of the problem.

So far more than 12 million people have opened up, but Channing feels that there is one form of harassment that’s being overlooked by the hashtag – breastfeeding shaming.

“Speaking of sexual violence, how is telling a woman and child to cover up not sexual violence?” she wrote alongside an image of ‘Breastfeeding Welcome Here’ sign.

“Stop sexualising breastfeeding. Motherhood is so f*cking fierce. What could be more perverse than asking a woman to feel shame for nurturing an innocent life in the in the way she was biologically designed to do?”

She goes on to say that the #MeToo movement should encourage people to “go deeper”, pushing past the “norms” of clear sexual violence like inappropriate workplace behaviour to consider things like breastfeeding as being on a similar level.

Whether they are breastfeeding in public or not, nursing mothers should never be made to feel unsafe or uncomfortable about their bodies and that’s the point Channing’s post is trying to make.

“When we speak up we make the world a safer place,” she concludes her post.

Channing’s post is the latest in a long line of mums, bloggers and celebrities calling out the act of breastfeeding shaming.

Back in September popstar Pink became the latest high profile celebrity to throw her weight behind the cause.

Appearing on ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ the ‘What About Us’ singer hit back at those who shame mums for nursing their babies in public.

The host was expressing her confusion about people who were offended by women who breastfeed in public.

“It’s such a weird thing that people have such strong opinions about breastfeeding. It’s a child, and it needs to eat,” DeGeneres said.

To which Pink replied: “Strong opinions about things that don’t affect their life at all. I’m feeding my kid. Would you rather him scream? Because he’s very capable of that, too.”

Is breastfeeding shaming a type of sexual harassment? [Photo: Getty]
Is breastfeeding shaming a type of sexual harassment? [Photo: Getty]

But despite mums fighting back against the shame, it seems to be having a knock-on effect on breastfeeding rates.

A recent survey revealed that six out of 10 women who breastfeed take steps to hide it in public and a third feel embarrassed or uncomfortable nursing outside the home.

The poll, carried out by Public Health England’s (PHE’s) parenting advice service, Start4Life, found that one in five believed people did not want them to breastfeed in public and one in 10 who chose not to nurse their baby were influenced by the worry of doing so outside the home.

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