Breastfeeding in public induces social anxiety in mothers

“I support every woman’s choice in what she wants to do and whatever makes them happy, but for me, I did nurse my child and I literally breastfed everywhere.”- Mila Kunis

This is what Mila Kunis had to say in an interview with Vanity Fair in 2016 when news of her being shamed for breastfeeding in public hit the news last year. The fact that breastfeeding in public is not so widely accepted in certain countries including the United States is sad since, nutritionally, a mother’s milk is best for the baby. Loaded with nutrients that are essential for fighting different diseases, breast milk plays a pivotal role in protecting the baby from all kinds of infections and maladies. It also strengthens the bond between a mother and a child. Simultaneously, breast milk reduces the risk of developing uterine cancer among women. Considering the multiple benefits of a mother’s milk, there has been a great emphasis on encouraging the practice of breastfeeding.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that mothers should nurse their infants exclusively on breast milk for the first six months and continue doing so at least up to a year alongside semisolid food. Despite all benefits, many women are wary of indulging in breastfeeding in the public.

This is because many such women who breastfeed in public spaces fear being ridiculed or criticized by others. The criticisms can extend to complaints regarding exposing private parts in front of others to embarrassing such mothers to undermine their motivation to feed their babies the way they want. Such an increased intolerance toward breastfeeding could be attributed to the sexual connotation of breasts among the common masses.

Such shaming by others often turns a breastfeeding mother cranky by triggering stress and anxiety. She might also be suffering from feelings of guilt while breastfeeding her baby in the public. Such feelings tend to exacerbate the symptoms of postpartum anxiety among women. She stands to worsen her condition due to the mind-boggling responsibilities of rearing a child.

Contemptible social attitude seriously affects both mother and child

In the U.S., reportedly, the general view is that bottle feeding is the “normal” way to feed infants. The negative attitudes of not only family and friends but also total strangers further compound the problem by posing a barrier to an otherwise natural and healthy practice.

Due to social anxiety regarding breastfeeding, women increasingly restrict their lifestyles in dread of having to breastfeed in the public places and face public ire. Therefore, they often switch to feeding supplementary formula while giving up breastfeeding altogether. In the American culture, the breasts as an organ for nurturing and nourishing has often been downplayed and have been primarily viewed as sexual objects. Due to this trend of over-sexualization, many women face discomfort while breastfeeding in public and tend to develop social anxiety disorder (SAD) because of it.

In addition to the public apathy toward breastfeeding, hospital practices in the first hours and days after childbirth play a decisive role in determining the length of breastfeeding. Therefore, hospitals influence the pattern of feeding in the case of newly born babies. In order to encourage the practice of breastfeeding, hospitals need to implement the 10 steps of the WHO/UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.

Unfortunately, only 289 maternity hospitals out of 3,300 in the U.S. have stood a fair chance of being declared as Baby-Friendly in adherence to the WHO/UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only a small percentage of babies in America are being breastfed, i.e., only 22 percent are being breastfed for the first six months and out of that, only 29 percent continue to be breastfed for a full year.

Combat social anxiety disorder

The key to combating SAD that mothers may experience is to seek support from family, friends and an expert to share their innate fears and inhibitions. They need to muster the courage to bring up such feelings on the table for discussion with their doctors if they impact their lives negatively. It’s essential for mothers to take care of their needs so that they can take care of their children, and that means also seeking help for their SAD.

If you or your loved one is suffering from anxiety, contact the Anxiety Disorder Treatment Arizona to learn about the latest progress being made in anxiety disorder treatment in Arizona. You can also locate the best anxiety disorder treatment centers in Arizona by calling at our 24/7 helpline 866-425-9317 or chatting online with our representatives.