Breastfeeding and nudity

Breastfeeding is a natural way of feeding a baby.  It is the way it has been done since the beginning of time.  It is not uncommon in Zambia for several people eating together to urge a nursing mother to breastfeed her baby when it starts crying.  The reasoning is that it is wrong for others to be eating while the baby is not -it should also have its meal along with others.

You can imagine my surprise when I moved to the west and  learnt that breastfeeding is considered “gross”, “private”, etc when done in the company of others.  Why?  My naive conclusion is that people automatically connect that part of a woman with one’s sexuality.  Am I correct?

Another thing that shocked me was how some Americans seem to view nudity.  In Zambia, and as I have come to learn, in Europe as well, one is free to be naked among people of the same sex but my American friends would not as much as change even their blouses in others’  presence.  I found this interesting as Americans seem to be ‘liberal’, but apparently not in this area.

A funny story – a colleague used to live in the US and his Austrian friend visited him.  They went for a sauna in the apartment’s basement but my colleague left earlier as the Austrian wanted to be in the sauna longer.  A young boy came into the sauna, looked at the Austrian and ran straight out.  A short while later some policemen came in and wanted to arrest him on indecent exposure charges.  The Austrian tried explaining that one can not be in a sauna while dressed but the policemen handcuffed him.  Fortunately, my colleague happened to be outside so he was shocked to see his friend in handcuffs.  He also explained to the policemen that being naked in the sauna was a normal thing in Austria.  The friend was let off with a serious warning.  The Austrian never stepped foot in that sauna again, with or without clothes.

28 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. livelytwist
    Apr 08, 2015 @ 22:27:41

    @Sauna, lol. It’s wise to know the customs of the country you visit. 🙂
    In The Netherlands it isn’t uncommon to find saunas where men and women sit naked.


    • Zambian Lady
      Apr 09, 2015 @ 18:08:50

      I can imagine how the American apartment dwellers would react if they found a naked bunch of people in the sauna. I think a SWAT team would be deployed. You are right – it is important to learn other people’s customs.


  2. Marko
    Apr 04, 2015 @ 12:33:36

    Wiosenne pozdrowienia z Warszawy


  3. thatssojacob
    Apr 03, 2015 @ 19:30:19

    There’s one thing about a woman breastfeeding on a hillside in rural Ecuador (which I’ve seen) and in the frozen foods section of a supermarket in Houston (which I’ve unfortunately seen, and ouch).


    • Zambian Lady
      Apr 03, 2015 @ 19:42:39

      The Ecuadorian ‘scenery’ is straightforward but the supermarket nursing issue is something else. It is not uncommon in Zambia to see a mother feeding a baby as she is walking shopping, etc. However, personally, I do not like seeing a woman handling her boobies when she is interacting with others outside her home. I just have an impression that she may touch her milk and then touch items that I will touch.


      • thatssojacob
        Apr 03, 2015 @ 21:06:53

        But seriously, this fat, breast-feeding lady was blocking the whole aisle with her motorized wheelchair, and doing it over a cooler of frozen chicken. Can you get freezer burn on your nipples and areolas?

      • Zambian Lady
        Apr 03, 2015 @ 21:11:57

        OK, now I understand – that was inconsiderate and unhealthy even for a ‘hardened’ Zambian like me. There is a place and time for everything even if we have the freedom to do something. I don’t know if there is frozen boobie syndrome, but I think that this was one time when someone would have definitely caught it.

  4. anotherday2paradise
    Apr 03, 2015 @ 16:02:53

    I think breastfeeding is a wonderful and natural thing, but unfortunately women’s breasts have been so over- sexualised in the media etc, that I’d be worried to do it in public, unless I was covered.


    • Zambian Lady
      Apr 03, 2015 @ 17:00:14

      I think I would also feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, though only in the west because of what boobs represent. However, I would not feel inhibited in Zambia because nobody thinks anything about nursing a baby.


  5. Grannymar
    Apr 03, 2015 @ 15:26:05

    I find this all very interesting. I was unable to breast feed, but since I went into it with an open mind, I was glad to get my daughter feeding properly, even if it had to be a bottle.


    • Zambian Lady
      Apr 03, 2015 @ 16:56:11

      I think the main thing is to have a baby feed one way or another – whichever works for both mom and baby. One of my cousins has five children, but she never breastfed any of them because. She could not produce any milk even with intervention from the hospital. All her children were bottle fed and they have all done well.


      • Grannymar
        Apr 03, 2015 @ 18:41:09

        I agree. My daughter drew blood and not milk, it was not a healthey situation. Once introduced to bottle feeds, she never looked back and brought and brings great joy to our lives!

      • Zambian Lady
        Apr 03, 2015 @ 18:48:07

        Oh my goodness! That must have been a scary thing for you. I am glad that you baby had no problem with a bottle.

      • Grannymar
        Apr 03, 2015 @ 20:55:15

        my daughter will be 37 next month and I still tease her about biting me before she was a week old!! We had a wonderful summer the year she was born and she was outdoors drom 07:30 each morning until bedtime, it certainly stood to her she has been healthy and happy ever since.

      • Zambian Lady
        Apr 03, 2015 @ 20:58:44

        I hope she is making atonement for the toothless bites she inflicted on you 🙂

      • Grannymar
        Apr 03, 2015 @ 21:07:09

        She sure does!

  6. Gallivanta
    Apr 03, 2015 @ 08:38:26

    I breastfed my first baby in Lusaka and I loved the way it was so natural. I could breastfeed her anywhere, anytime. When my son was born in the US, I mistakenly thought I could do the same with breastfeeding anywhere. I was so shocked when I was sitting in a waiting room one day and I was told off, rudely, by the receptionist and asked to leave. He was only a few months old and my breasts were well-covered.


  7. Girl Gone Expat
    Apr 03, 2015 @ 02:04:38

    I have made the same observations. In Norway breastfeeding is normal and done everywhere, in public as well. I haven’t seen that a single time here in Canada. They do breastfeed in public, but use a type of ‘blanket’ to cover themselves with. Had not seen that before I moved over here:)
    Back home people would probably look at you as if you were crazy if you went into the sauna with clothes on! You might wear a towel, but that’s it.


    • Zambian Lady
      Apr 03, 2015 @ 10:48:44

      I am surprised that it is normal for mothers to nurse anywhere in Norway. Interesting to learn. I just thought that every western country frowned on public breastfeeding.


  8. Elizabeth Melton Parsons
    Apr 03, 2015 @ 01:33:29

    I have never understood the western notion concerning breastfeeding. It is a natural thing.


  9. BeeHappee
    Apr 03, 2015 @ 00:48:34

    Yes. Absolutely you are right. Nursing thing is crazy. I nursed both of mine well into toddler hood and my 4 year old still nurses although mostly in private now. I had gotten some strange looks. When my 2 year old was running around in a water park in her undies they told us to leave because they said this was indecent and she has to wear a swimsuit… this is in america.


    • Zambian Lady
      Apr 03, 2015 @ 08:23:35

      A two year old was indecently dressed in her panties?!! Interesting, I must say. I was visiting friends in another European country and a two year old girl was swimming and running around in her birthday suit and no one batted an eye.


  10. Lori D
    Apr 02, 2015 @ 23:55:50

    This is so interesting to read about the different cultures. Being completely ignorant of each others’ customs could be dangerous! Yes, if that was a young boy in the sauna, Americans will automatically be concerned about the child’s safety.

    I don’t know why we don’t breast feed in public. I think your assumption may be correct about breasts being considered a part of a woman’s sexuality. They make such a big deal of breasts here.

    It’s also true that we are uncomfortable being nude even in front of the same gender. I can only guess as to why on this account, too. My guess is, that Americans make such a huge deal about body image, and people are self-conscious. “Perfect” bodies are portrayed all over television and in magazines. No one can live up to that in real life and end up being conscious about their body image.

    Thanks for the thought provoking and interesting post.


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