Our little family has recently returned from California. We had such a wonderful time. On perhaps the second day we found ourselves outside. Boy was playing in the park with daddy. I was lounging with a fretful baby girl. I wanted to feed her. I was aware that by law I was OK, but I wasn't sure what the culture here was. I faltered.
There were two ladies and their kids sat near to me. One of them started calling over her toddler (I would guess about 18 months).
'Baby, you want Doh-Dots?'
(Toddler ignores her)
"Doh-Dots? Come here baby, Doh-Dots"
I think to myself, 'she's got to mean breastfeeding'. I couldn't think of anything else. I start spying secretly. Eventually toddler loses interest in whatever it was she was playing with and wanders over to mummy. She promptly lifts her shirt snuggles up with toddler and they start nursing. Mummy continues directing her other children and holding a conversation with a friend.
I smiled secretly. At that exact moment where I felt unsure the solidarity of another mum had given me the confidence I needed to feed my baby - which I promptly did. That just goes to show how important it can be! On walking over to husband to tell him about my experience I spotted another woman nursing by the park, this time under a nursing cover. I couldn't believe it. 2 in one park? Plus me makes 3, that must be some new record!! (Having taken part in the Big Latch On I know that's not true).
Seriously, though, I have never seen so much open breastfeeding as I did in California. It was awesome (said in an American accent, in case you are unsure). Breastfeeding is protected by the Civil Code § 43-53 in California. In fact in America breastfeeding in public is protected by law in most states in some form.
The following link shows the difference in perceptions of breastfeeding between the UK, the USA and France.
I find these cutural differences fascinating. I wander where it comes from, rates? Law? Health systems? Overriding political or religious sentiments? But when travelling abroad a breastfeeding mother may feel unsure, even if she is aware of her legal status - yet another reason to breastfeed openly whenever possible, just in case a foreigner is feeling unsure :)