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September 26, 2017

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No room for debate over public breast-feeding

A mother who was asked recently to leave the National Palace Museum (NPM, 故宮博物院) because she was breast-feeding her 7-month-old baby should receive all our support in her Facebook campaign to remove the stigma attached to nursing in public spaces.

The young mom, surnamed Tseng, was outraged when a female employee told her that such "inelegant" behavior was making other visitors uncomfortable. Although some people might argue that the employee was not aware of the laws governing breast-feeding — she was not even exposing her breast — Ms. Tseng is right to stress that breast-feeding is not only legal in the Republic of China, but also in public spaces such as museums, which often have a number of nude paintings and sculptures on display.

We have to admit that she has a point there. Pharmaceutical companies can advertise Viagra online. Victoria Secret can show sexy women in string bikinis, lingerie or bras, bearing most of their breasts on TV or in print media. But, why should a woman get negative comments for doing the most natural thing in the world — feeding her baby?

What a ridiculous, hypocritical and insane attitude. Some people need to wake up and face reality: a child should be breast-fed for as long as he or she wants. Breast milk is the most nutritious food for a growing child who should never have to satisfy his or her hunger in a restroom.

Breast-feeding is part of evolution. Women shouldn't have to ask for anyone's permission to do what is normal, natural and best for their children. Just because some people are sadly out of touch with the realities of life and human nature does not mean others need to cover up or feel ashamed.

Some might think that breast-feeding moms should do their business in private or use a breast pump and fill a few bottles for use while in public. But, why should they want to carry milk around in a bottle, when it needs to be kept cool, bottles need to be washed, etc.? One of the big advantages of breast-feeding is not having to carry so much stuff with you, and not having to decide before you leave the house how long you'll be away from home. It's not even as though there's much exposed — you usually can't see much breast, because there's a baby in the way. And you shouldn't be putting a blanket over a baby's head — it's hot under a blanket, and baby wants to see Mom.

For sure, breast-feeding is awkward for some moms and dads. Showing some skin isn't necessarily the issue, though accommodating your little one's moveable feast can sometimes turn into a game of Twister. This shouldn't be either an excuse to decried as "attachment parenting" as outlined by 1992's "The Baby Book" by Dr. Bill Sears.

In Time's provocative cover for its May 21 issue, which asked, "Are You Mom Enough?," the magazine wondered if Sears' recommendations of extended breast-feeding, co-sleeping and "baby wearing" is still a legitimate debate. The cover, featuring Jamie Lynne Grumet, a 26-year-old woman breast-feeding her 3-year-old son while standing on a chair, raised some eyebrows in the U.S. and Taiwan.

On the contrary, the magazine sent a beautiful message by promoting the acceptance of public breast-feeding. Mothers should be encouraged to nurture their babies anywhere, while men should learn to look the other way when a woman breast-feeds her child.

In some countries, there's often a bit of a controversy over whether or not breast-feeding is healthier than feeding a baby formula after it's born. But, in Taiwan, breast-feeding should always be the winner.

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