PUBLIC BREASTFEEDING, BETWEEN SOCIAL PERCEPTION AND PRACTICE Breastfeeding is universally recognized because it provides health benefits to both mothers and infants, reducing infant mortality and morbidity. Despite the recommendations of the World Health Organization and a large number of national health bodies in the Western world, breastfeeding rates, especially those up to six months, remain lower in Romania than those recommended and may vary across cultures and communities. The discomfort caused by the idea of breastfeeding in public was mentioned in the present study as a reason why some women choose not to practice breastfeeding or they choose to shorten the duration of this process. When they choose not to breastfeed their baby while in public is because the female breast is frequently associated with a sexual organ and, therefore, it designates a private part of the body, which must remain invisible to the public (Newman, 2009). The research focused on the gender and education level differences in the social perception of public breastfeeding. Recently, this topic has generated many debates in the online environment, and especially on social networks, which led me to conduct a sociological survey in order to discover the essence of these controversies, while testing the validity of the arguments on which my research was based. The sociological survey has been applied on a sample of 100 Romanian women and 100 Romanian men, aged between 20 and 60, and the data collected were analyzed based on the interpretive model, which enabled us to formulate observations and conclusions on this topic. Among the recurring reasons discovered during the analysis were the following: physical and task management related difficulties, specific to the modern woman who is forced to integrate the process of breastfeeding and raising the child within her daily activities; the factors conventionally called ‛activators’, which represent the set of elements that contribute psychologically to this process, thus influencing the mother's perception of breastfeeding in general and breastfeeding in public in particular; the involvment of the family and, last but not least, the public health system in Romania. To these, socio-cultural factors are added, such as society’s perspective on breastfeeding in general and the perception of individuals who witness the act of breastfeeding in public spaces in particular, which directly influence women’s self-image from a dual perspective: the position of a woman as an independent entity, engaged in a socio-professional dynamic and that of a mother, often in this position for the first time.
Keywords: public breastfeeding, sociological survey, sexualization, breasts, society.