In the Philippines, most people are quite supportive of mothers who nurse in public. A mother has the right to breastfeed anywhere and in any manner she chooses. Our law safeguards this right. One of the objectives of RA 10028 is “to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in the Philippines as the normal, natural and preferred method of feeding infants and young children.” The most natural way to breastfeed a child is actually without any cloth obstructing or covering the breast. For those who have never breastfed, using a cover may not seem like a difficult thing to do, but often, the cloth of nursing blouses inhibits a baby’s access to milk, while nursing covers make babies sweat profusely (actually, even without a cover, they usually tend to sweat more while nursing, and that’s why I need to always have a fan on hand when I’m with Wolf). Older babies usually will not tolerate being covered.
Wolf always takes off the cover, and so I have done away with using one. I bought several nursing blouses and dresses, which ensure that when I breastfeed in public, there is little to no flesh revealed. I use nursing wear not because I’m conservative (I’m actually quite the opposite), but because I want to avoid unwanted attention and possible conflict. The point is, when I breastfeed in public, it’s pretty discreet. And for one whole year, I received zero negative comments. That changed last Friday, when I had my first unpleasant experience breastfeeding in public.
We were having early dinner at Venice Piazza in BGC. It was our first time in this mall, and we went there because it was right across where we had our gig earlier that day. We were with our fellow musician friends at the food court.
We had just sat down at our table, and I decided to nurse Wolf. I was wearing a maxi nursing dress. The little flesh that was revealed while nursing was mostly blocked by Wolf’s head. Honestly, you’d have to be really looking closely to notice that I was feeding Wolf (most of the time people think he’s just asleep in my arms). So I was surprised when a guard approached me to tell me off for nursing in the food court. He told me that there’s a nursing room in the mall. I said that I’m fine nursing where I am. He told me that I have to go to the nursing room and that “bawal dito” (nursing isn’t allowed in the food court). I said, I am allowed to nurse anywhere. It’s my right. It’s in our law. He refused to back down, and Casey and our other friends stepped in. They said that there’s nothing wrong or indecent with what I’m doing. The guard insisted that I need to leave as it is their policy, and so Casey told the guard to call his supervisor. The guard was hesitant, but the supervisor had already spotted the altercation and approached us. The supervisor apologized to Casey, saying that the guard was new and didn’t know the protocol. However, the supervisor said, “baka pwedeng takpan” (perhaps she can use a cover). Casey then said, “Eh paano kung ayaw niya? Choice niya yun. Okay lang sa’min. Kung hindi okay sa inyo, huwag na lang kayo tumingin” (What if she doesn’t want to use a cover? That’s her choice. It’s fine with us. If it isn’t fine with you, just don’t look). The two men still looked like they wanted to disagree, but at this point, Wolf ended his nursing session. I don’t know if he was really full already, or if he was just annoyed at the nosy guards. Haha. The guards finally left us to order and eat in peace.
You may wonder, why didn’t I just go to the nursing room? Well, that would have been highly inconvenient and stressful. I was already hungry. I hadn’t eaten a proper meal all day and it was already 5 pm. It would have taken longer for me to be able to eat if I left the food court. If I forced Wolf to unlatch so we could transfer, he would have cried. Also, I wanted to be with my friends. Nursing takes up a lot of time, and if I were to always nurse in isolation, I would miss a lot of the rare opportunities I have these days to interact with fellow adults. Given this line of thought, you can see how forcing mothers to nurse away from the community can trigger postpartum depression and other negative emotions.
The guards had no right to tell me where and how I should feed my child. It’s truly deplorable how the sexualization of women’s breasts has made breastfeeding in public seem unnatural, when it is actually one of the most natural and instinctive human behaviors. I hope never to experience such closed-mindedness again. And if you are a nursing mom who nurses in public and you find yourself in the area of BGC, I suggest that you steer clear of Venice Piazza to avoid possible unnecessary stress!