Sunday, December 10, 2006


There's been a lot of hoopla, lately, about a mother being expelled from a flight for refusing the flight attendant's demand to cover her baby's head with an airline blanket while she nursed her baby. There's been a lot of talk about breastfeeding in public. Most agree that "It's fine, as long as the mother is discreet."

1. judicious in one's conduct or speech, esp. with regard to respecting privacy or maintaining silence about something of a delicate nature; prudent; circumspect.

A mother, in the far back of the airplane, between her husband and the window, is quietly feeding her baby. A flight attendant angrily insists she cover the baby's head with a blanket. Who was indiscreet? By this part of the definition, it was the flight attendant who was indiscreet.

2. showing prudence and circumspection; decorous: a discreet silence.
Prudence means wisdom. Given that human milk substitutes contribute to a plethora of health problems for mother and baby, the wise choice is to breastfeed. Decorous means characterized by dignified propriety in conduct, manners, appearance, character, etc, The mother who calmly and politely refused to cover her child's head with a blanket acted in a dignified manner. The flight attendant, who abused her authority by using it to expel the family from the airplane because she was personally repulsed by the idea of a baby sucking on a breast, was indiscreet.

I believe what people are actually trying to say it that breastfeeding in public is fine as long as the mother is "decent." So, let's explore that, shall we?

1. conforming to the recognized standard of propriety, good taste, modesty, etc., as in behavior or speech.
The recognized standard is to feed a hungry baby. Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed a baby.

2. respectable; worthy: a decent family.
That is such a matter of opinion from one person to another. Therefore, it’s unfair to ask any given individual to conform to the standards of each and every other individual in a public place.

3. adequate; fair; passable: a decent wage.
Fair? Women who feed their baby an inferior human-milk substitute can do so without reproach. A mother who feeds her baby the normal human way is harassed. The flight attendant was indecent, not the mother.

4. kind; obliging; generous: It was very decent of him to lend me his watch.
Again, the flight attendant failed to be decent in that she was neither kind, nor obliging, nor generous.

5. suitable; appropriate: She did not have a decent coat for the cold winter.
Breasts are made for breastfeeding babies. Breastfeeding a hungry baby? Always appropriate.

6. of fairly attractive appearance: a decent face.
If the flight attendant didn’t find the nursing couple to be visually pleasing, she should have used her neck, not her mouth, and turned her head!

7. Informal usage: wearing enough clothing to appear in public.
Well, this is were we get down to it, don’t we? Next time we have a nurse-in and the news crew wants to zoom in on our breasts to show how much breast is visible, we ought to insist that they promise in writing to also do close-ups of several other women walking around the airport, and then show them on the screen side-by-side. I guarantee there’s more breast showing on the average non-nursing mom.

8. Slang: great, wonderful.
Refusing to increase your child’s risk for diabetes, cancer, ear infection, diarrhea, death, by giving him artificial human-milk substitutes in a plastic bottle with a fake nipple just because some bigot might be repulsed by the normal way human babies eat? Pretty decent, if you ask me.

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