The following article is written by a French breastfeeding mother.  It has been originally published at the website Allaiter des jumeaux et plus

It illustrates the difficulties and fears that French women encounter in breastfeeding in public, and how the bare breast is seen in that society.  The situation is similar to United States in that bottle-feeding is perceived as the norm and that public breastfeeding is not common.  But differently from North America, in France topless (and even nude) beaches are much more common and accepted.

To nurse in public is your right!

In the summer 2000, my Breastfeeding chronicle of the magazine Twins-Infos had the theme nursing in public; I present you here a compilation of thoughts.

Among the difficulties that the mother-to-be weighs before choosing to breastfeed, putting the baby at the breast in public assumes the top. Some future mothers give up breastfeeding because they "know" that they will have to nurse in front of a third person, because they "know" that they will not be able to nurse in public, because they are afraid to nurse in public.

A mom who has chosen breastfeeding to nourish her babies still has to cross the course of putting the baby to the breast in front of a third person.

Is it really the fear of breastfeeding in the sight of others, and giving a nourishing and non-erotic notion to the breast? Is it really the embarrassment to show a small piece of breast (whereas the naked breasts on a beach appear normal)? Or is it the fear that it won't go well, and that the others say: "Well, you go about it badly";" Well, are you sure that you have enough milk?", "Oh well, you don't hold him well!";  "Me, I held the baby like this"; Or is it the fear of pain; or fear of being discouraged "Oh my, it was too painful", "Oh my, I didn't have milk", "Oh my, I just wasn't able"; (from this point of view, in any case, you hear some such comments!!); or is it the fear of losing one's femininity?

In front of the dad, the mother has already lost some of her physical attraction, her eroticism, her sensual femininity; finally, the mother BELIEVES it.
The father is to know how to reassure his partner.  The couple is to speak; to express their fears, their scares, their "silly thoughts" (Tell me, do you still like me? Tell me, am I disgusting now that I am pregnant?).

The mother shouldn't feel embarrassed in front of her companion; breast-feeding is natural.
Why is it made to be an unordinary act?

The physical attraction about the breasts is not new. If you look at certain pictorial works (Venus protecting Mars or paintings of Raphaél), the woman is beautiful, almost daring, sensual AND breastfeeds (or sends a milky squirt).

The natural act of nursing diminished with the appearance of decency AND the generalization of industrial milk, and curiously, the rarity of the breast-feeding itself and the thought that nursing in public is unimaginable is amplified with this artificial mode of infantile food.
Instead of respecting the breast-feeding and proposing an alternative to those who wish for that, breastfeeding was "killed", and one pays the price.  One doesn't anymore know how to nurse, neither alone nor in public, one doesn't anymore want to educate on the benefits of breastfeeding, on the possibility of nursing while working, in the name of the sacro-saint: don't make them feel guilty...  In short, one doesn't know much about breastfeeding and one continues to misinform, with the result that there are even more women not to make feel guilty in their choice of bottle-feeding.... etc. etc....

The society has lost sight of the one of the two roles of the breast: to nourish.
Appearance of the topless swimsuit and new weapons of beauty: slim, slender, up to being androgenic.   It astonishes me how one has forgotten that in the past, the women were losing their pregnancy pounds - while nursing; I recently heard it in television (June 2000) in a special diet report.  What is more, this weight loss is harmonious and is spread out over several months, therefore it is durable.

For the woman to feel at ease in breastfeeding, it seems necessary that the role of breastfeeding would be better known and understood (which does not call into question the choice to nurse or not). Those who really know me know that my wish is to help those who want to nurse, and to inform all the women; their choice is personal. I respect it, as I expect to be respected.

Françoise Coudray, Association ADJ+ ("Breastfeeding twins and more")

The original article in French starts out:

Allaiter en public, c'est votre droit!

Ma chronique Allaitement du magazine Jumeaux-Infos a eu pour thème l'été 2000: allaiter en public; je vous propose ici un complément de réflexions.

Parmi les difficultés que la future maman pèse avant de choisir l'allaitement maternel, figure le cap de la mise au sein en public. Certaines futures mères renoncent à l'allaitement au sein parce qu'elles "savent" qu'elles devront donner le sein devant une tierce personne, parce qu'elles "savent" qu'elles ne pourront donner le sein en public, parce qu'elles ont peur d'allaiter en public.

Le cap de la mise au sein devant une tierce personne devra encore être franchi par la maman qui a choisi l'allaitement maternel pour nourrir ses bébés.

Est-ce vraiment une peur de l'allaitement face au regard des autres qui donne au sein une relation nourricière et non érotique? une gêne à montrer une petite parcelle de sein (alors que les seins nus sur une plage apparaissent normal) ou la crainte que ça se passe mal, et que les autres disent: "mais enfin, tu t'y prends mal";" mais enfin, t'es sre qu'il a assez de lait?" "oh mais tu ne le tiens pas bien!";"oh moi, je le tenais comme ça "; ou la crainte d'avoir mal; ou la crainte d'être découragée "oh moi j'ai eu trop mal" "oh moi je n'avais pas de lait" "oh moi je ne pourrais pas"; (sur ce plan-là de toutes façons, vous en entendrez!!); ou la crainte de perdre sa féminité?