Portland recently launched a campaign to promote the acceptance of public breastfeeding ”“ an effort we hope will have a meaningful effect on the general public’s attitude on this matter.

A mother breastfeeding her infant is a basic, natural activity that has health benefits for both of them. Those health advantages help all of us in the big picture of society, hence the campaign’s name, “Whenever Wherever ”“ We All Benefit.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “breastfeeding protects babies from infections and illnesses that include diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia; breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma; children who are breastfed for six months are less likely to become obese; breastfeeding also reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome; and mothers who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.”

On top of these health benefits, the CDC also notes that families can save between $1,200 to $1,500 on infant formula in the first year alone if the baby is breastfed.

Unfortunately, breastfeeding is not a popular option in this county, according to CDC statistics, which show that three out of four mothers ”“ 75 percent ”“ in the U.S. start out breastfeeding, but at the end of six months, breastfeeding rates fall to 43 percent, and only 13 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed.

It’s understandable, considering all the work and home demands made on women in today’s world, as well as discomfort issues, but those who choose to breastfeed ”“ or at least give it a try because they know it’s best for their baby ”“ shouldn’t have to put up with any level of contempt from society.

Americans seem to have an overly Puritan stance against any sight of women’s breasts, which is particularly mind-boggling when those breasts are being used for their intended biological purpose. The Janet Jackson nipple slip during the Super Bowl in 2004 caused such an uproar that you would have thought she purposefully performed some sort of pornographic act on live television, rather than what really happened: A piece of clothing “malfunctioned,” causing her to show a bit more skin for a split second. But it was that particular piece of skin ”“ the nipple! Oh, the horrors! ”“ that set conservative Americans into a tizzy.

Outrage was also the reaction from many readers when Time Magazine ran a cover photo the week of May 10 of a mother breastfeeding her son. In this case, the ever-objectionable nipple was in the child’s mouth, but the rest of the breast was right out there for all to see. Some letter writers even went as far as to refer to the photo as “borderline pornography.” While we can understand some discomfort with women breastfeeding children who are well into their toddler years ”“ the focus of Time’s “attachment parenting” article ”“ referring to any child breastfeeding as “pornography” is just ridiculous.

As a culture, it’s time to grow up. Breastfeeding is not sexual in any way ”“ it’s a mother feeding her child. And while we certainly shouldn’t be staring, we shouldn’t be horrified either.

Businesses participating in Portland’s campaign will be helping in the effort to normalize breastfeeding, with “Whenever Wherever ”“ We Welcome Nursing Moms” decals at their entrances, and will train employees on how to handle issues like complaints about a woman who is breastfeeding in public, according to the Associated Press report.

Mothers who have made the commitment to breastfeed should always have the choice and never be made to feel awkward or feel they must hide away in a private area to feed their child. Responsible parenting is hard enough without women being forced to “leave the party” whenever the baby’s hungry.

And at the workplace, women should have the option of a private space where they can express milk during a break without having to use a bathroom stall or go out to their car.

The community must make a better effort to support breastfeeding mothers, which will help encourage others to give it a try as well, and reap the health benefits.

Portland is taking a step in the right direction with its campaign, and we hope the city’s efforts to spread acceptance will help people understand that breastfeeding a child in public is not an offensive act.

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Today’s editorial was written by Managing Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski, representing the majority opinion of the Journal Tribune Editorial Board. Questions? Comments? Contact Kristen by calling 282-1535, Ext. 322, or via email at [email protected].