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Let's keep breast-feeding a private act

Oh, come on.

I don't want to milk a controversy for more than it is worth. But seriously. Is it so hard for a nursing mother, when the little one wants a snack, to head into a private area, a changing room or a restroom to feed junior?

The issue was bared Wednesday at "Nurse Ins" that took place at Target stores across America. The local Lactation Brigade was reportedly composed of five mothers at the Quaker Crossing Target in Orchard Park. They went to the cafe and, instead of ordering, opted for self-service -- unbuttoning and letting the infants latch on.

The "Nurse In" was part of a 35-state protest. It was in solidarity with a Houston mother who claims she recently was harassed by Target employees and kicked out of the store for openly breast-feeding her kid. Mammary glands, unite!

"I joke that half of Buffalo has seen my breasts," one of the Orchard Park protesters told Channel 4 News. "But I really don't care because it's natural and it's normal and frankly there's other disgusting things in public."

True. But bared breasts in Aisle 9 are, to my mind, no cause for applause. I am not talking about discreetly nursing moms. I am irked by the in-your-face feeders, who act as if anyone offended is anti-nature or hopelessly puritanical.

I know that civility is not America's strong suit these days. Public restraint is suffering an accelerating death at the hands of anything-goes cable-TV, easy-access Internet porn and f-bombing rap music. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a multisyllabic obscenity dropped by people passing in the street, I could have retired years ago. And don't get me started on the Viagra ads on prime time TV. Every time I see one, I picture a nation of little Johnnies and Janeys turning and asking, "Dad, what's erectile dysfunction?"

Against this mountain of assaults against all that Miss Manners stands for, public breast-feeding is admittedly a molehill. But still, do we have to?

I know it is a natural act. But so is urinating. That does not mean it is OK for a guy with a full bladder to empty it against the nearest fence (although, unfortunately, this does not stop some people).

To be clear, I have no problem in general with breast-feeding, which is healthy for babies. Nor am I repelled by the sight of a woman popping out a breast in public and attaching an infant. It's just something I would prefer not to see, thank you, when I'm out shopping for a CD. Or, for that matter, when I am scarfing down scrambled eggs at a diner, or taking a walk in the park or hunkering down at a coffee shop. Call me old-fashioned, but I just think that, when possible, some activities should be done privately.

Stores and restaurants are equipped with restrooms and, in many cases, changing stations. They seem to me like the perfect place for an infant to chow down.

It's the same way I feel when, to cite another not-uncommon occurrence, a parent decides to change a kid's diaper in front of an audience. Unless there is some pressing circumstance, I do not see why folks should be subjected to junior's waste-disposal process.

Having said all of that, this is a battle -- if one can call it that -- that apparently already has been lost. In either a continued concession to reality, or out of fear of alienating potential customers, Target has refused to redraw the breast-feeding line. In a statement, the retailer reinforced its "long-standing corporate policy that supports breast-feeding in our stores. Guests who choose to breast-feed in public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable."

And if it makes other people uncomfortable, well, I guess that's just too bad.

email: desmonde@buffnews.com

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