Breastfeeding is a human rights issue, says Dr Sarah Hooper. The air hostess who reprimanded the doctor for breast-feeding her baby on board a Kulula flight from Lanseria to Durban in 2016 probably had no idea of the media storm that would erupt thereafter.
In recent times, the pendulum has swung in favour of breast-feeding, with many a modern mom having begun to appreciate its virtues and therefore doing it with pride.
As it turns out, Hooper is a proudly breast-feeding mom in the know. She is a doctor with a diploma in child health, and experience in working in a breast milk bank at a government-run paediatric unit.
“I am fully aware of all laws and government policy regarding breast-feeding, and my right to breast-feed my baby wherever I am. I am aware that any airline policy or an individual air hostess’ targeting that right is unacceptable discrimination.
In an interview with the Daily News, sister newspaper of the The Star, she said she had experienced more subtle discrimination in the past. “I have breast-fed in lots of places. At a restaurant, I tend to look for a table that’s quiet or move my body in a way it’s not visible. Most moms do try and cover themselves but learn that a baby can pull that cloth and it’s doesn't stay in place.
“I try to be discreet, because I don’t like people looking at me. However, a mother doesn’t have to be discreet – it’s a baby’s human right to be fed.
“In a lot of countries it is in their bill of rights as an accepted norm.
“I think people are offended because they just see it as an exposed body part, one that is sexually provocative. But we see men’s nipples in the public domain regularly – the difference is that women’s bodies have been objectified.
“Western society is uncomfortable to see mothers breastfeeding. In South Africa we must give credit to the government for acknowledging and encouraging breastfeeding.
Hooper said this was a conversation about women’s empowerment, maternal and child rights. “The World Health Organisation promotes breastfeeding as the best nourishment for infants and young children.