Breastfeed in Public or Respect the Culture?

Breastfeed in Public or Respect the Culture?


I am all for nursing in public without a cover here in the United States. It took me a few times to truly muster up the courage to do it with confidence, but I eventually got it. I was so ready to continue normalizing breastfeeding in public on my trip abroad to the Philippines. Besides, it’s a global movement anyways, right?

A little background information about myself: I was born here in the United States, but both of my parents immigrated here in their 20’s from the Philippines. I’ve only visited their homeland twice, including this recent trip. I’m a lover of traveling the world and experiencing different cultures. Although my heritage is Filipino, my culture is American.

I breastfed openly at the LAX International Airport, on the plane, and in my cousin’s car who picked us up from the airport. I attempted to breastfeed openly in public on the first day without a cover while we were waiting in the lobby. That was when my parents told me I should cover up because “that’s how it is here”. I was both curious and shocked, but I didn’t ask questions. In that moment I felt like breastfeeding in public was disrespectful to their culture.

I’m not too familiar with the breastfeeding culture in the Philippines. I only know what I know from what I saw when I was out there and the stories I heard from my family. The most important thing to me while traveling is respecting the culture of the place I am visiting. That is why for the rest of the trip I covered up or went into one of the many accessible breastfeeding stations or rooms.

Although I never saw a baby breastfeeding in public, I was happy to see many breastfeeding areas available. These are some photos of the ones I saw at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Mall of Asia in Metro Manila, and Puerto Princesa Airport in Palawan.

I didn’t use the one in the Mall of Asia, but I did use the ones in the airports. The one at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is in the domestic departures area and has a staff member on duty asking for your name and flight information. I didn’t inquire as to why they wanted that information, but I assumed it was for research and data purposes. There were three stalls that looked like bathroom stalls. Each of the stalls had one airport chair, a changing table, trash can, and a sign that said, “A nursing mother and her child can only stay up to a maximum of thirty (30) minutes in the station. Other matters not pertaining to feeding like washing and cleaning of materials should be done outside the station. Thank you for your cooperation.”

To be honest, I felt like a caged animal when I was feeding my daughter in the stall. We were in this small enclosed space, sitting on a very uncomfortable metal airport seat–but at least we could nurse openly, I guess, right? I do, however, think the space is ideal for mothers who need a space to pump because they actually have a fridge and sterilizing equipment which was a positive. The other breastfeeding room in an airport was one big room with a couch. There wasn’t an attendant, fridge, or sterilizing equipment, but there was a sign-in book filled with entries.

All in all, it was a great experience immersing ourselves into a completely different culture and experiencing breastfeeding in another country. This trip has inspired me to learn about breastfeeding culture around the world and hopefully visit many cultures in the future. Maraming salamat, Philippines!

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