Just think for one moment, how many more women would breastfeed, or for how much longer, if only we rid society of the harmful practice of over-sexualizing women's breasts! And how much this, in turn, could benefit the BABIES. For whose voice do the most vulnerable members of society have, if not ours? Interestingly, we find cultures around the world where women's breasts are seen *only* in their functioning capacity, i.e., that of nourishing and comforting their young. I believe that we can get there, too (or at least try to find some balance), but we have to start somewhere, and I truly feel that there is never any harm to come from challenging the status quo (you're not surprised, I know ;-) ).
I've said this before, and I'll say it again: as a childbirth professional, but also as a woman, in general, it is absolutely crucial that one support ALL women to breastfeed their young. While you, personally, may have your own code of "decency" for how much skin YOU are comfortable showing while breastfeeding, it is important that you do not impose your own, completely arbitrary line drawn in the sand regarding "modesty" or "discreetness", onto any other breastfeeding mother. Period. Just like a woman who wants to cover up should be supported (and generally IS in our society....), we need to support those women who struggle --or those women who do not want, or care-- to cover their baby and their breast, and make life simpler for these women to, first and foremost, feed and comfort the baby!
Quite simply, this is about normalizing breastfeeding. The more we hide it away, classify it as obscene, shame mothers into covering up while feeding, and encourage women to retire to "private" rooms in order to breastfeed the baby, the less we see of it in public, and the less and less people are comfortable with the very idea of nursing in public. This is the sad reality of this pathologically hyper-sexualized (yet sexually repressed...) North American culture of ours. The solution, however, seems quite simple to me; breastfeeding (and/or images of breastfeeding) need to be seen every day, and I am convinced that SEEING more breastfeeding, wherever possible, is what will change our breastfeeding culture. Re-normalize it. Everywhere in North America (in all provinces in Canada, and in every state in the USA but two) women have the right to breastfeed in public, wherever they have the legal right to be. So women should do it. And they should feel completely free to do it. Lots of it. As much as possible.
If you want to be a part of the solution, here is one, simple thing you can do, each and every time you see a mother breastfeeding her baby in public : yes, give her a great, big smile, but don't stop there --go right *up* to her, and tell her what a wonderful thing she is doing for her child. I guarantee you, that if we all did even this simple gesture every time we saw a woman nursing in public, the tides would begin to turn.
I would also like to suggest in your daily life (outside the 'net), that you get out there and nurse your children in public. And do so with a huge smile across your face. Pretty hard for onlookers to say, feel, or do something negative in the face of a beaming, breastfeeding mother --n'est-ce pas?
Breastfeeding is normal. Normal. NORMAL. Say it, do it, show it.
Will you start by doing these simple acts right today? Indeed, I challenge you.