Breastfeeding in Argentina

Mother and Child by naturemandala, on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license]With Daniel's cousin Mery expecting her first child in September, there's been a lot of talk about babies around these parts. The other day at a family get-together, the discussion turned specifically to the topic of breastfeeding and Argentine attitudes toward the practice, particularly in public settings.

For the record, let me just state that I support women's right to breastfeed in public. I view breastfeeding as a normal, natural activity that women shouldn't be made to feel ashamed of. Since I consider it a time of bonding for mother and baby, a distraction-free environment seems ideal, yet I recognize that mothers on the go with hungry infants need to meet the needs of their children. And frankly, I don't think women should have to hole themselves up in a filthy public bathroom in order to feed their babies.

However, I do feel that a measure of discretion should be involved when a woman is breastfeeding in public. I understand that a certain amount of a woman's chest will be visible while the baby nurses, but it's perfectly feasible for a mother to comfortably feed her baby without exposing her entire breast.

With that said, I've been taken aback on numerous occasions by the complete lack of modesty or discretion by some breastfeeding mothers here in Argentina. The most jolting example of this was when a woman passed me in downtown Necochea, her top pulled down to her navel, with her child clinging precariously to her fully exposed bosom as she strode down the street. I couldn't help but imagine that both mother and babe would be better off seated, and I know I would have preferred that the woman cover up a bit more.

I commented to Mery that I never saw breastfeeding mothers in the United States reveal as much skin as an appreciable number of Argentine mothers seem to, and honestly, I haven't quite gotten used to it. Perhaps it's some puritanical American hang-up that I have…¿qué se yo?

Normal daytime, casual attire – at least in the part of Argentina where I live – doesn't include plunging necklines, and topless bathing is prohibited. In other words, the average Argentine woman doesn't generally let it all hang out, so why nursing mothers feel comfortable baring everything in public while feeding their babies is beyond me. For a woman to nonchalantly "whip it out" for the whole world to see (and yes, gawk at) just strikes me as unnecessary.

What's your impression of Argentine attitudes toward breastfeeding? If you live in Argentina, do you think nursing mothers here show too much skin?

[Photo credit: naturemandala]

Update: I just happened to read that August is World Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Who knew!?

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