Breastfeeding is a controversial topic here in the U.S. Whether it's about breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, or breastfeeding in public, or breastfeeding without a cover, or breastfeeding past 12 months, people get super up in arms about it. It's a big deal, even though it shouldn't be.
In Iceland, though, it doesn't seem like it's a huge deal at all. Iceland, overall, has excellent breastfeeding rates, with 98 percent of moms giving it a go when their babies are born. By contrast, breastfeeding rates at birth, while on the rise, remain in the 70 to 80 percent range in the U.S.
This may be part of the reason parliament member Unnur Bra Konradsdottir felt comfortable breastfeeding in front of the whole country. She was hanging out during a session with her 6-week-old baby girl, who was quietly nursing (babies in the workplace is another topic that is pretty unusual and equally awesome here in the U.S.). Konradsdottir was unexpectedly called up to defend a bill she had put forward, so instead of leaving her infant behind to squall in distress, she brought her along and nursed her as she made her remarks.
News flash: It was a totally normal thing to do.
While this is reportedly the first time a member of the Icelandic government has breastfed her baby while speaking during a session, nobody really seemed to care. Konradsdottir seemed completely relaxed, only glancing down at her little one a few times, and her fellow lawmakers carried on like it was no big deal.
In other words, nobody burst into flames. The television cameras didn't melt. The viewers from home didn't riot. The other members of parliament didn't rush around and offer her a towel to cover up with.
Instead, in a completely refreshing non-incident, she simply got up, walked to the podium and fed her baby while delivering her remarks … like it was a normal thing to do. News flash: It was a totally normal thing to do. This is how we should react when we see moms breastfeeding in the U.S. Instead of ordering a mom to leave the premises, to retire to the bathroom, or to cover up, we should simply do nothing out of the ordinary except function as normal human beings because she's just feeding her child.
Nursing moms aren't freak shows. You don't need to shelter older children or your husbands from the sight. It's not only completely unnecessary, but it also continues the attitude that breastfeeding is weird and something to do out of sight. The general public, as a whole, benefits when a mother breastfeeds because it helps normalize it—more moms feel comfortable doing the same when their babies are hungry, and kids don't grow up completely sheltered, thinking that boobs are just for sex.
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So, bravo Iceland, for braving the sight of a breastfeeding infant with complete comfort and nonchalance. Here's hoping that the coming years will see more acceptance for moms of babies here in the U.S.