Motherly matters & teaching duties

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A woman breastfeeding her child shouldn’t be a shocking sight — except when it’s a professor doing it in the middle of their lecture.

Recently, a professor teaching Sex, Gender and Culture at Washington D.C.’s American University caused significant uproar in the media for breastfeeding her sick infant daughter while teaching.

The media ultimately has made far too big of a deal of this issue. Most women with children breastfeed — many even do so in public. It’s a perfectly natural action, especially for women with newborns and infants.

There’s nothing wrong with breastfeeding in public, but in certain situations, it’s an act that could raise alarm.

This professor was admittedly in a tough spot. She had two roles to fulfill — being a mother and teaching her students.

As a mother, she needs to take care of her sick child.

As an educator, it’s her job to make sure that her students are retaining the information she’s teaching.

This professor placed one role above the other by failing to recognize that some of her students might be uncomfortable with her breastfeeding in public. It’s rare that students see their professors with a revealed breast while teaching them.

By breastfeeding in front of them, she could’ve easily predicted that they might express some alarm.

The ensuing uproar after the incident clearly shows that the students were distracted from the material that they were supposed to be learning. Ultimately, in attempting to fulfill her role as a mother, she failed in her role as a professor.

There were many other ways that she could’ve accommodated her sick child. She could’ve easily cancelled her class. She also could’ve had a family member or friend take care of her daughter while she taught the class or asked the class’s teaching assistant to take over as she breastfed her daughter in private. While the professor was undeniably in a hard position, she should have recognized that her actions in lecture weren’t professional and could have distracted her students from learning the course material. — Journal Editorial Board

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