How to Respond to (More) Breastfeeding in Public

How to Respond to (More) Breastfeeding in Public Criticisms

So I wrote a post a while ago about breastfeeding in public. And for whatever reason, this week it went a bit viral. As in doubled-my-all-time-traffic-in-two-days kind of viral. Very exciting.

However, as always happens when discussing how, when, and where we feed babies, lots of people had opinions to share. There were 336 comments on that post last I looked, and well over 100 on the same post shared over at Scary Mommy. And still climbing. Whew! I can’t keep up.

Now, opinions are fine. After all, I was simply sharing my opinions on some common concerns about breastfeeding in public to begin with. But reading through the comments it appears I either missed some or didn’t cover some of those concerns thoroughly enough. And since it would take too long to respond to all of the comments individually, I thought I’d address some of the repeated ones here.

Oh, one thing real quick—could you please, please, pretty please read this post (and the last one) without a voice of someone with a chip on her shoulder? I promise I am not some kind of fanatic. I’m not “that mom.” I’m a breastfeeding advocate in that I think it’s important to support moms who choose to breastfeed, but aggression and bullying are not my thing.

You don’t breastfeed? More power to you. You don’t want to breastfeed in public? Totally your choice. You feel more comfortable finding a private place or using a cover of some sort? Sweet. Go for it. You want moms not to breastfeed in public? Let’s have a civil discussion.

Oh, and one more thing. Please read all the way through before getting torqued and commenting. This is a multi-faceted issue, you might take umbrage with something at the beginning, which I will further address later on. So please take the post as a whole.

With those disclaimers out of the way, (deep breath) here goes:

“Moms who breastfeed in public are selfish/don’t care about anyone else’s comfort/have no respect for the comfort of others.”

See, the problem with those statements is that I could turn them right around and say that if you have a problem with moms breastfeeding in public then you’re selfish/you don’t care about anyone else’s comfort but your own/you have no respect for a mom’s right to feed her baby comfortably.

But I won’t do that. Because it isn’t about you.

The truth is that a mom with a baby has one priority over everything else: Her baby. Her baby’s health. Her baby’s comfort. Her baby’s needs. And biologically speaking, that’s the way it should be. So if a baby is hungry and needs to eat, a mom’s first thought is not—and shouldn’t have to be—what everyone else in the room might be thinking. It should be simply to feed her baby. Unless she’s specifically feeding her baby just to irritate you, she’s not being selfish or disrespectful.

I can hear the argument now: “What about changing a baby’s diaper? We don’t do that in the middle of a restaurant. It would be rude.” Yes, that would be rude. Changing a diaper is unsanitary and smelly. Breastfeeding isn’t.

“But what if a baby is crying loudly? Isn’t it polite to take it to the other room for the comfort of others?” Yes, because noise fills up a room. You can’t not hear something, whereas you do have a choice not to look at something.

Someone made the comparison of breastfeeding in public to smoking in public. But smoke, like noise, isn’t something you can choose not to smell or breathe in without leaving the room. Breastfeeding, again, isn’t smelly or unhealthy, and it isn’t something you’re being forced to see.

Speaking of which . . .

“If you want to breastfeed that’s fine, but I don’t need to have it shoved in my face.”

Between women “whipping it out” and “shoving it” in people’s faces (or “thrusting it,” as one delightful commenter kept saying), breastfeeding in public has apparently become very violent. I can see why it concerns people so much.

Seriously, though. I’ve never had someone shove a breast in my face. If that’s happened to you, then by all means, rant away. But a mom nursing a baby in the same room as you is not the same as shoving it in your face. That phrase, along with “whipping it out,” really need to go. It paints a picture that’s just not accurate 99% of the time. (Plus I can’t get that visual with the whipping sound out of my head. WHHPSHH!)

“Oh yeah? Well I know a mom who [insert some variation of an extreme breastfeeding exposure/fanatical breastfeeder story here].”

Yes. Granted, on occasion, there may be a particularly unpleasant, fanatical, uber-aggressive woman, who also happens to be a breastfeeder, who might use feeding her baby as an excuse to be unpleasant, fanatical, and uber-aggressive. Or there might be a mom who is particularly free with her body who truly isn’t aware that other people are less comfortable with breasts. That is really unfortunate, both for you and for the rest of the breastfeeders who merely want to feed their babies without any drama. Which brings me to:

“Women shouldn’t use their babies as a prop to prove a point/make a statement.”

I promise you, the vast majority of breastfeeders are not trying to prove a point or make a statement. They are merely trying to feed their babies without unnecessary hassle or anxiety. That small percentage of breastfeeders who fully expose more than necessary, and then challenge people to say something to them just to prove that they have a right to breastfeed in public, are immature and annoying. They are not representative of the vast majority of public breastfeeders. End of story.

“Breastfeeding in public is fine. I breastfed in public. But I did so modestly and discreetly.”

I actually really get this. I do. Contrary to the commenter who accused me of parading my nudity around in front of people (snort), I actually was a discreet breastfeeder myself. It was easy for me because I’m rather flat-chested. It would have been pretty hard for me NOT to breastfeed discreetly, since my baby’s head covered my whole breast. And I covered with a blanket sometimes in public anyway, depending on the social situation.

The problem is that modesty and discretion are totally subjective terms. Some people would think I was being totally modest because you couldn’t see any actual breast when I nursed. Some people would think I was being totally inappropriate because I wasn’t covering up and they could tell I was breastfeeding. Is a little bit of skin okay? Does it make a difference how large someone’s breasts are? What if I’m covered but baby pops off for a second? What if baby pops off and pulls the cover off at the same time and a whole breast is exposed for a second? All subjective gray areas.

If it’s reasonable to expect moms not to “let it all hang out” and to at least try to be modest and discreet, then it’s equally reasonable to expect people not to gawk and judge and to try to look away if they don’t want to see it. It’s not fair to put that all of the responsibility on the mom feeding her baby, especially when it’s so easy to look the other way.

How to Respond to MORE Breastfeeding in Public Criticisms

“But breasts ARE sexual. You can’t change the way people—especially men—see them in our society.” 

Actually, I think we can change that, by making breastfeeding a more normal sight. But I’ll get back to that in a minute.

Breasts are used in sex by most people, that’s true. So are mouths and tongues, and no one has a problem seeing those things being used in public for non-sexual purposes. Breasts are not genitalia (more on that in a bit, too). Breastfeeding is an asexual activity. If a woman can have her breasts sucked on by a baby without being sexually aroused, then people should certainly be able to see a baby breastfeeding without being sexually aroused.

I know a lot of men who grew up seeing breastfeeding in their families and social circles. And you know what? They’re not a bunch of perverts. They’re not breast-obsessed. In fact, I’d wager that they’re less breast-obsessed than those who only grew up seeing breasts as sexual objects. They see a woman breastfeeding, and even if some breast shows, it’s not a major deal. It IS possible to differentiate seeing a breast in a breastfeeding context and seeing a breast in any other context. It IS possible to see a woman breastfeeding and not get turned on by it. But breasts have to be seen in that context in order to get to that point, which is why I think people shouldn’t make a big deal out of seeing breastfeeding. Does that make sense?

Also, if I were a man, I think I’d be a bit put out by the notion that I have no control over myself. Mature men are not slaves to their sex drives. Unless we’re talking about actual pervs:

“Women should cover up to breastfeed because there are all kinds of sickos/perverts out there just looking for a peep show.”

There are weirdos out there, yes. There are strange people with all kinds of fetishes that I’m not going to bother myself with. The fact that some guy might have a foot fetish isn’t going to keep me from wearing flip-flops. If a perv sees me breastfeed, I really don’t care. If that’s why you cover up to breastfeed, more power to you, sincerely. But not everyone has that concern.

“If you want to breastfeed that’s fine, but you don’t have the right to infringe on my right to have my kid not see it.” Or something like that.

Okay. But unless you’re complaining to every manager in every grocery store that you take your kids to about the magazines at the checkout counter, there’s not much of an argument here. If you’ve taken them to the store, or to the mall, or to a doctor’s office waiting room, your kids have already been exposed to more indecency than most breastfeeding moms offer.

No, it’s not my job to teach your kid about the basics of human anatomy. It’s yours. I’m not sure why you’d avoid teaching your kid the fact that as mammals, humans drink milk from their mothers, but if you don’t want to, that’s fine. It’s also not my job to shield your child from things that are only subjectively indecent. It’s yours. If you want to tell your child that what a nursing mom is doing is wrong or inappropriate or disgusting or whatever, go ahead. That is your opinion, that’s not fact. Either way, it’s a teaching opportunity.

I will say this, though. If you do support breastfeeding at all, letting your child see it might just be the greatest gift you can give them. If you have a daughter, seeing breastfeeding might help her down the road to feel more confident and informed. If you have a son, seeing breastfeeding might help him support the breastfeeding women in his life.

Speaking from experience, kids who grow up seeing breastfeeding don’t make a big deal of out it, don’t gawk and stare, don’t even notice half the time when it’s happening. It becomes normal. And since discomfort with the idea of breastfeeding in general is a big obstacle to successful breastfeeding, allowing them to get comfortable with it might not be a terrible idea. Not trying to tell you how to parent, just offering some food for thought.

“If women can “whip it out” to breastfeed in public, why can’t men “whip it out” to pee in public? They’re both natural functions, both expel bodily fluids. Isn’t it a double standard?”

Again, breasts are not genitalia. They’re not. And breastmilk is not bodily waste. So it’s not an equal comparison. That being said, of course there’s a double standard when it comes to which natural body functions we allow in public. For example, swallowing. Or crying. Both bodily functions involving bodily fluids. Both totally acceptable to do in public. Or how about sweating? Should people not be allowed to sweat in public?

Feeding a baby is a unique bodily function, and breastmilk is a unique substance. It can’t logically be compared to anything else.

“Seriously, why is this such a big deal?”

It’s a big deal because there are already too many obstacles to women breastfeeding in general. Making it so women feel uncomfortable doing it in public means less women will breastfeed—women who want to breastfeed.

It’s also a big deal because our culture has made it a big deal. It actually shouldn’t be. I’d love to not be writing this post. The whole reason I wrote the first post was because I’d seen those things voiced over and over. In many, many places in the world it’s not a big deal. And it hasn’t always been a big deal here, even.

People act like women breastfeeding in public is some kind of modern phenomenon, brought on by the evil decadence of our society where women have no sense of decency, which is why I found this photo series showing historical breastfeeding absolutely FASCINATING. Check it out. The captions are a riot.

I think that’s all. But I’m sure there’s more. I’m happy to continue discussing, but please keep everyone’s faith in humanity intact and keep it civil. Thanks. 🙂

(Check out this $19 online breastfeeding class from certified lactation educator Stacey Stewart, which tells you everything you need to know about how to successfully breastfeed your baby. Learn more from my affiliate link here.)

(Image via « м Ħ ж »/Flickr)

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

Comments 95

  1. The nipples are a particularly sensitive erogenous zone. And with nipple play, you can bring your partner’s pleasure to new heights. One particular aspect of nipple play is sucking, and that’s exactly what this guide will cover.

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  3. Thank you for this post. I honestly think it’s ridiculous to be offended by women breastfeeding and I am personally a very modest person. Breastfeeding is so natural and its for the baby, people need to get over themselves. Its not about you.

  4. Having read this I thought it was extremely informative.
    I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this article
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    significant amount of time both reading and commenting.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  5. Public breastfeeding should be tolerated. Whether or not women should be allowed to breastfeed their babies in public is one of the most infuriating social issues. If your argument is to have mothers feed their baby formula while in public, you need to mind your own business and look the other way.

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    1. Well said. Being a libertarian I’m all for all boob out all of the time as men get to have their breasts out wherever and whenever. I have big, saggy (due to dramatic weight loss) breasts. The entire breast needs to come out to feed my twins. But because of the stigma, even though they are 20 months old, I’ve still never breastfed in public. I always just rushed home when they were babies. I’m very insecure about the way my breasts look due to the damaged connective tissue from being morbidly obese making my breasts super stretchy and Putty-like and that’s the main reason why I’ve never done it, but I wish I had the guts to. Like you said, it’s up to us to normalize it. Everyone judges me for still nursing. The pediatrician and medical assistant seem offput if not disgusted that they are drinking my milk instead of a cow’s which is quite odd. But great piece.

  7. Then we need to re-evaulate urinating and having sex in public. The distinctions you make (“not genitalia”) are arbitrary. I can understand why defecating would be its own thing — it is smelly and feces is unsanitary. But there is simply no reason peeing or or performing sex acts in a public place is any more unnatural than public breastfeeding or less fundamental a need.

    1. Sex isnt a need. Breastfeeding an infant is. How can you say sex is a need? Do virgins just die after a certain age then? And especially in the first few months it is CRUCIAL to feed on demand for not only baby’s development, but for your supply and many women dry up within the first few months by not following this, meaning baby won’t get the maximum nutrients it needs because formula isn’t breast milk (no shame to formula moms, just stating facts). Why are you equating sex to breastfeeding? This wonderful woman explained at least 3 separate times why it is not the same.

  8. Few ladies don’t feel any falter to give sustain to those baby freely and it’s extraordinary! In any case, a few ladies are feel such a great amount of timidity with this normal and typical thing even it’s affection among them and infant all things considered we can state it’s alright as well.

  9. After I had my second baby I decided to breastfeed, I could breastfeed perfectly! the only problem that I had was that I ended up with droopy breast, so I applied boobpop treatment and started to exercise and now my breast look as pretty as they where.

  10. One of the saddest things observed in pregnant women is that they intend to bottle feed their kid as
    they have been warned about the shapelessness of their breast. Every women knows the importance of breastfeeding but somehow refrains from doing so,to avoid shapeless boobs after breastfeeding.

  11. Breastfeeding in public can be terrorizing for some mothers as they fear being judged. What’s more important is that the benefits that are available if one does breastfeed should out shine the fear of being judged. All of the health benefits, the growth and development benefits, and the financial and environmental benefits are much more important then another person’s annoyance at the sight of a breast feeding a baby. The only way to make breasts seem less of a sexual thing and more as what they are meant to be (feed our young) is by women paving the way by breastfeeding in public.

  12. What was embarrassing was u as a woman telling her to cover up while she’s breastfeeding. U should b ashamed for making that lady uncomfortable. Pornography would b your husband having a go at her breasts. It’s a baby eating. I cover up for me, not for others, but for those that can’t or won’t, it is their choice. It’s people like you that have a new mother question whether she should bother breastfeeding. Here’s a thought, respect her by simply not looking. It is legal for women to breastfeed how we choose where we choose. It’s funny how men, no matter what, stick together, but women have to always put each other down. What a shame.

  13. ““But breasts ARE sexual. You can’t change the way people—especially men—see them in our society.”

    Actually, I think we can change that, by making breastfeeding a more normal sight.”

    Amen!! I publicly breastfed back in the early ’80s and didn’t care what anyone else thought; my baby was hungry. The first time was in the middle of Dulles airport. I covered because I chose to. When I was nursing my breasts got huge!

    That was the first time I flew with a young infant. In the seat across the aisle a harried mother with two active toddlers and a wailing infant was desperately trying to mix powered formula. The stewardess made several trips trying to get the water temp right. By the time the formula was mixed the baby was screaming. In the meantime I’d nursed my baby, which helped keep his ears from popping during take off, burped him and he was sound asleep. I’m not placing a judgement on women who choose to use formula. I just appreciated how easy breastfeeding made my life and my son’s.

  14. I breastfeed all of my 5 kids in public. And i always covered up with a light blanket for our own privacy and due to respect to other: lets face it: not everyone want to be exposed to breast and nipple! The other day me and my husband were walking out of the clinic and woman her breast out. Its like free pornography show. It mad me so mad, i told het to cover up. Breastfeeding is a natural process, but you have to respect people around you!

    1. It is not disrespectful to feed your baby without a cover. How is a naked breast disrespectful? I was raised by my mom and my Italian grandmother. While I wasn’t breastfed, it is common in Italian culture to be naked in front of family members. I saw pubic hair, breasts, butts, etc. And guess what? I’m not scarred! My mom and I still occasionally are undressed around one another. It’s called normalizing the human body. If you’re afraid of flesh, you must truly love a prilvileged life to experience no real issues to worry about. I have twin toddlers. Covering up is literally impossible. They rip it RIGHT off. I’m not disrespectful if I don’t cover up (which I don’t Bf in public anyway because of judgemental people like you and never have).

  15. Hi Annie, my name is Savannah. I am a 21-year-old girl and I was raised my entire life that showing cleavage is wrong. You can imagine the kind of issues I have now in today’s society where you can’t even watch nickelodeon or walk through the grocery store without seeing what I believe is completely innapropriate. This breast feeding issue has become a hot topic. My stance on the issue was that it is ok to do in public but women should be considerate and simply cover up. Your post, however, really made me see it in a different and more realistic way. I think you are right that if more men, children, and even other women are exposed to it more casually it will help end this taboo America has with boobs. Thank you for helping me feel more comfortable with my body (even though I’m not a mother yet) and for sharing your opinions so respectfully.

  16. Being a stripper means nothing!!! I can’t believe you even HAD to mention she was stripper!!!! I was a stripper until I was 3 months pregnant with BOTH my children!!! I have tremendous respect for my body, and I actually COVER UP while nursing in public! Striping is an art form, and a woman’s body is a beautiful thing. People think just because I am a stripper I should be / would be more comfortable showing off my body in public…. Not at all! Quite the contrary! This woman being a stripper has nothing to do with your story!!! Trying to make her look like a bad mother because she stripped till she was 4 months pregnant & that because she is a stripper she has a ” different” understanding of proper exposure!!!!! PAH!!!!

  17. Also important to remember is that skipping a breastfeeding hurts the mother. Going too long between feedings can cause pain, decrease supply, and may even cause duct blocks and infection. A mother shouldn’t have to put her own health at risk because she may “offend” someone.

  18. Hi- I live in a small (pop. 25k) town. I have always been a proponent of breast feeding, and have publicly fed my two children without any issues ever. However, I have also been the witness to one of those instances where a woman intentionally used her baby as a prop to generate attention. This woman was a stripper until she was four months pregnant with her baby. I only say this to illustrate that she has a “different” understanding of proper exposure, not to incriminate her. We were recently in a private establishment that caters to children and teens, hosts birthday parties, special events, etc. This woman positioned herself in the middle of a six year old boy’s birthday celebration, LAID DOWN on a bean bag (yes laid, not sat), opened her shirt down to her navel, was not wearing a bra, laid her baby next to her, and pretended to feed her baby. Yes, pretended. I know she was pretending because I observed her feeding her baby 20 mins earlier, and now her baby was sleeping. She was laying flat on her back with her entire chest, one entire right breast, left breast over to the nipple ( I think the shirt actually caught on her left nipple), and her stomach down to the navel. She laid there, not ten feet from a pair of teen boys who were suppose to be playing a game, but raging hormones kicked in and they stopped the game to stare. Many other parents were uncomfortable, and kids were obviously interested and confused. Let me add here that a lot of kids and teens are in this place without their parents. This is a safe place with well respected and decent owners who have a genuine desire to be an asset to the community. Parents feel comfortable dropping their kids off here for a birthday party or fun time. The owners received several complaints about the situation and were obviously torn about what the “right” thing to do was. When they realized the child had been sleeping and not eating, the woman owner quietly approached the mom and asked her to cover her breasts. The mom of the baby immediately exploded at her and yelled that the woman was breaking the law by even discussing anything to do with breast feeding. The owners (fully realizing and absolutely certain she was NOT feeding her child) contacted the security guard (off-duty officer) to ask for his guidance. The security guard came in, saw what was happening and contacted the police. As soon as the police approached the woman, she announced that she was leaving. Soon after, she broadcast her story- only saying that she was breast feeding and had a minor amount of cleavage showing, said she was banned from the place, and started an all out hate campaign against this business. The business was hit hard by negative reviews on Facebook, and Google, they fielded hundreds of phone calls, and the newspaper and news from the closest metroplex ran HER story- without even approaching the business for their version. All of this was perpetrated by people from outside of our community.
    Now this woman and I attended the same child birthing classes, and I have known her socially a bit. During the nursing portion of our class, she was vocal about daring any business to tell her not to breast feed. She also posted on FB that she “couldn’t wait for a business to tell her to cover up or leave”. She was looking for the attention. She was looking for the scandal. And she made sure she got it. Now… This business has suffered because they were forced into a situation and had no control over any part of it. The locals know how this woman is, know her history, and understand the truth, but they have still kept their kids from the establishment due to not wanting to get caught up in the negative attacks on the business- most recently a protest nurse-in.
    The consequences of this careless woman’s search for attention may very well put this place out of business. The community will loose athe only safe place the kids have to go, and other businesses around town are desperate to distance themselves from anything to do with breast feeding whatsoever.

    I decided to tell this story because I think we ALL should understand that some businesses literally fear anything related to breast feeding, and for just cause. Perhaps if we (breast feeding mothers) treated others with the same courtesy we are demanding, breast feeding would be more accepted.

    I have personally breastfed in this establishment many times, uncovered, and without even a hint of discontent from anyone. These owners are not prude or oppressive. But they are victims of this movement. And it greatly saddens me.

  19. So, I’m a teenager, I have no kids, I’ve been around very few people who have little kids, you could easily say I know nothing about breast feeding and or the mother’s rights (because I don’t) But I do know that if I told one of my friends the shirt she is wearing is too revealing, and that I wouldn’t be comfortable with her wearing that around my brother or boyfriend… well… it would start world war 3. “I have every right to wear whatever I want! And if you don’t like it leave!” Again, I’m kinda new to this whole being a grown woman thing, so could someone please explain to me why it’s ok for someone to wear whatever they want, and at the same time expect a baby to go hungry because breast feeding might become a problem? (Or is a problem..) I have one more question if that’s ok? Of all the things to be offended about, who has the time to be offended at a woman feeding her baby? (That’s an honest question)

    1. Delaney, I am going to take your post for what I hope and believe it is- an honest and open search for discussion rather than trolling, and I am-for one- very happy you were brave enough to ask.

      You are right- people have been latched onto the perpetuating “right” to wear whatever they want. Women have gone from having to wear layers upon layers of clothing covering them from head to toe, to being able to wear shorts tiny enough to be underwear and bikini tops. The problem is that both men and women have “taken charge of their sexuality” and decided it should go from being private and intimate to being a freedom for “all the world to see”. The other problem is that as this trend grew, so did the resistance to public indecency and somehow people decided to mix something as simple and natural as (breast) feeding a child in with public displays of (sexual) affection.

      In response to your other question- people who apparently have “no time” to read a book, go for leisure walks in a park, spend time cooking different types of food simply for a joyful experience, or read up on reliable information (not tabloids) to get informed for voting will almost always be the same people who can make time to be offended by something said, something done, or some other ‘trend’ that has little or nothing to do with them. It is the way the things, sadly, work.

      I am a mother- I tried to breastfeed but could not physically (despite all efforts with doctors and lactation consultants) produce enough milk for my child, so by 2 months I had to supplement with formula- by 4 months I got a jaw infection and took major anti-biotics and even with doing the “pump-and-dump” method I could not keep up my supply so she went to full-formula and we were never able to switch back. When I was still trying to feed I tried blankets and covers- but Maryland in the summer is balmy and she would not stay under- I even tried the “bathroom bit” once at a restaurant, but the room was smelly and we were both so uncomfortable (me trying to balance her in the corner and us trying to ignore the smell and loud people traffic) that I gave up and went back to the table- I tried a cover and she pulled it off so I went for the bottle as with it being so hard to keep latched she kept “popping off”. I have friends who only use covers, I have friends who sometimes do, and friends who never do. Most of the time it just looks like a lady holding a baby- though as my one friend’s son got bigger he kept letting go and my daughter (2 at the time) who she used to babysit got curious and came home a few times and tried to suckle because “Miloh does it to his mommy”…. Her dad and I got a teachable moment and a few laughs outta that!
      Anyway, I am glad you are looking into all this and trying to be better informed- someday if/when you have children hopefully it will be less of a strain for you to make your own choices.

      Best wishes,

  20. I have loved reading these two posts and the comments. I am from the Uk, where public breastfeeding has recently been in the media due to a woman being asked to cover up with a large napkin whilst in the restaurant of Claridges Hotel. It has sparked a debate, and as a breastfeeding first timer I have found it incredibly interesting reading about this issue from all angles and opinions. I admit I was nervous to breastfeed in public for the first time (so took hubby alot for support!) but all it took was that one time and then I thought, who cares what people think! I found myself wanting someone to come and ask me to stop/cover up/move elsewhere to relish in the chance for a bit of a comeback! I have only ever had positive comments from strangers. I struggled to start breastfeeding (oho the pain!) but now I absolutely love it and although I utterly respect a woman’s right to do what feels right for them I always feel a little sad when I see women using/struggling with the cover ups you can buy. Just today I was in a coffee shop, was one of three breastfeeding mums and the only one not using one. Part of me always wants to say to them “don’t feel you have to! It’s so natural and what your boobs are for!”

    1. PatchworkTru, I’m glad you didn’t- at least, not being there I think I am. While I fully support the option to cover up or not, I got so tired of being “shamed” for being “ashamed” when I really wasn’t. I was not ashamed of feeding, I am-however- a shy and conservative person. Unfortunately, this whole “bare the breasts” uprising was starting up and I felt like I was caught in the middle. Some people prefer to keep things on the down-low- others are okay with being “out there”. While I can say that the days I wore those special camisoles with a loose over-shirt were easier to be discreet than any blanket or cover up (especially since my daughter hated them), I got very tired of the “open” moms telling me that I was what is wrong with the world and that I am the reason they are judged.

      I am not implying that you meant anything more than support, but it still comes across as disapproval. I am sure that if they were trying to decide whether the cover up is worth it or not, just seeing you sit freely and confidently is all the support and “approval” (not really the word I want) they will need. Maybe next time (if they sit first), try sitting closer and just having the “Oh how old?…..” discussion, make it a REAL conversation, not about feeding?

    2. “It’s so natural and what your boobs are for!”

      Ok as a non-mom who get a lot of sexual pleasure from her boobs, these sorts of comments bother me. Boobs are for lots of things. I don’t like the idea that they belong to someone else and I’m just carrying them around until he’s hungry. They are mine!

      1. Well actually, God created our breast to feed our children. That is why women have breast. Just like other mammals. Cows, cats, dogs, etc. The females have breast to hold the milk to feed their young. So, yes, they are yours. However, you only have them for one purpose and that is to feed your child. Humans have made them into something sexual. Their is nothing wrong with that but God only creating women to have breast to hold the milk to feed their young. If you want to use them for sex, then so be it. But don’t get bothered by someone wanting to use them for what they were actually created for.

        1. “God created” is an opinion and your belief, not a fact. While I agree with your sentiment, breasts are for feeding babies, I just wanted to point this out. “Maggue” is also the one who said if we allow breastfeeding in public, we may as well allow peeing and fornicating in public too.

          I fully support breastfeeding whenever/wherever/however mom and baby feel comfortable. If I didn’t like it, it would simply be none of my business. I also support people’s right to wear revealing clothing if they want.

  21. When on earth will we realise that mother nature gave us the tools to breastfeed our babies? I luckily can and chose to, to give my babies the most natural form of food. My babies have the right to sit in a food court or in public to have their meal, just like anyone else. And for the record, I barely have a nipple exposed. Most of the time, I feed in private because it’s a bond between my baby and I and also she can be distracted by noise. However, when I’m out and about, I sometimes don’t have a choice with meal timings. This article is brilliant to points out to those people who can’t see two sides to a story. I am glad the author clarified all of the ridiculous comments but unfortunately, your message probably will only hit the ears of those that agree with you. The other day I walked past a poster of a Cosmo magazine and I thought, wow, here we are in 2014 still debating about breastfeeding rights and yet, the lady on the cover was virtually exposed except for her nipples and we then say that this is acceptable and doing something (whether it be in public or private) that mother nature gave us is still debatable?? We are a shameful society to have this way of thinking and it makes me angry when most of us as adults are looking for miracle medical cures and trying to eat naturally. Well breastfeeding is that natural start for our babies in life and we should stop debating it whether or not to do it in public. I do not approve of women who flaunt themselves at say a motor race, where there is no advantage in them wearing material that would barely cover a barbie doll, but yet I have to accept that this is the society we live in. It makes me wonder when a lady wearing virtually nothing is pinned up on billboards, magazine covers and at sporting events, IS IT THE EXPOSURE OF THE NIPPLE THAT THE PROBLEM? Because that is all that some of these women flaunting aren’t showing and all I am doing in public is just showing my nipple when my baby gets on and off.

    1. One more thing I’ll like to add. I hope that in a few generations to come, breastfeeding in public will be a normal thing amongst us, unless the formula companies have a way of moving the generation away from breastfeeding, like they have done in third world countries.

  22. I hearthfully agree. But, as a man, they only part that bug me is the part about how we should change our culture to not see breast as sexual. I’d say “not ONLY as sexual”. I love breasts so much and I’d be sad if I ever stopped hearing an angels chorus every time my wife removes her bra. Doesn’t mean I get aroused when I see a woman breastfeeding.

    Maybe I’m not normal, but my mind really separate “breastfeeding” and “sexy time” when it comes to breasts.

    1. I agree with you, sir, but I think the blogger pretty much meant what you’re saying. Breasts are awesome during sex. But they’re also used for other things. Like hands. Mouths. I love breasts. My wife has lovely ones. They’re great…and they’re also great for feeding babies. I can appreciate both purposes, and separate them. 🙂

    2. As a woman who is not a mother and does not want to be a mother, I really appreciate this. My own, personal breasts are not baby bottles.

  23. When I breastfed my daughters, I covered them with a blanket or went to another room. But I didn’t do it out of respect for others. I did it because I wasn’t comfortable nursing in public. I had no problems with others nursing their babies in front of me. In fact, I was jealous of an acquaintance who nursed her three girls with ease, even in public and uncovered.

    It’s been a long time since I last breastfed a child…my girls are 36 and 26 now and I’m not the same timid person I was back then. Today I would feel more comfortable breastfeeding in public and I wouldn’t care what others think because I’m comfortable in my skin and I would more successful as a nursing mother than I was.

    At 61, I know darn well that no matter what we do, someone somewhere is going to be offended. so as long as we’re not committing a crime or intentionally hurting someone, we must do what is best for us and our children. Just as some people are uncomfortable by the uncovered nursing breast, there are those who are uncomfortable at the sight of my uncovered, naked head. Do I bow down to those who are uncomfortable with my bald head by covering it, or do I do what is best and most comfortable for me?
    Just like there is no one right answer for women like me who have lost their hair to chemo, there is no one right answer for breastfeeding mothers. To cover or not, is a personal choice and should not be dictated by the discomfort of others.

  24. It is sad that women can’t go out with out feeling so much anxiety over feeding their baby. I was a nervous wreck when nursing my son. I would feed him before going out in public and hope that I could make it back before he was hungry again…. and the reason I worried so much was because I didn’t want the stink eye from anyone for nursing my son. It was way more stressful than it should be. No one would be upset if someone flashed them at a concert. But don’t you dare feed your newborn around me!

  25. What I’m not getting is what arguments about “it makes me uncomfortable” have to do with anything. Public discomfort is not equivalent to public threat or disturbance.

    Public discomfort happens all the time, to every person, pretty much every day he or she is out in public. We live surrounded by people who are not exactly like us, and that means we all have to compromise, every day. When we go out in public, we see things we don’t like. Many people are uncomfortable when they see people laughing loudly. When they see people picketing. See people panhandling. When they hear a boss berating an employee. When they hear people swearing. See teenagers flirting. See people chatting too long at the checkout counter.

    Count your own pet peeves. They make you unhappy, don’t they? None of these are actual public disturbances, but they do cause discomfort. So why is there no outcry against them?

    Easy. Because simply making people unhappy is not the same as oppression. When we’re living in crowded conditions, we sure feel oppressed, and maybe stricter laws about behavior are in line for the future, but right now, it’s not illegal to show public exuberance or any of the rest, and in fact if we do start saying “nobody should make anyone else feel social discomfort” then we effectively freeze up the rights we do have, to free speech and many more.

    Breastfeeding is one of those things that hurts nobody but makes some folks uncomfortable. Too bad – we all have to deal with seeing things we don’t like when we go out. The right not to have to deal with any behavior that bothers us is not currently classified as one of our basic human rights. Suffering discomfort is not suffering discrimination. We only classify behaviour as discriminatory when that behaviour systematically threatens our human rights.

    Breastfeeding does not threaten anybody’s human rights. Or does it? Is it obscene? Maybe you live in a country that says you have a legal right not to be exposed to obscenity. Not sure where everybody lives, but in most Western countries, there are legal definitions of obscenity, and in fact breastfeeding is not actually obscene according to those definitions. (Alas, it’s not enough just to say “it’s obscene to me.”)

    On the other hand, public disapprobation of breastfeeding could be seen as threatening parents’ human rights, because it creates a culture of shame about feeding kids and can inhibit moms from breastfeeding.

    So, whatever else it is, public breastfeeding is not a threat to the public. Yes, it makes some folks go “ew,” for whatever reason. I go “ew” about lots of things, but I have to deal with ’em. If you cite going “ew” as a reason to stop the behaviour, then think deeply about your own behaviours – what kinds of behaviour would you have to cease because it makes others go “ew.” You’d be surprised…

  26. To the point of why men can’t just “whip it out” to pee if women can “whip it out” to feed their babies – a much more apt comparison would be men’s breasts and women’s breasts. Who hasn’t seen bare-chested men with “breasts” of all shapes and sizes – ripped and tone, saggy, sweaty, hairy, etc. If men can roam around completely topless in public without it being an issue, I think it should be totally reasonable and acceptable – even expected – for mamas to expose a little skin to feed their babies.

    I’m really sorry for anyone who compares breastmilk with pee. Apart from that association being absolutely disgusting and inappropriate, It is just sad to think anyone could have that distorted of an idea about what and how humans feed their babies.

  27. It has been stated throughout these comments that “sex” is often the reason people why people feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding. I think it is truly the basic reason and all of us should stop dancing around this. Why else would you feel uncomfortable? The breasts are sexual and the breasts are intended to also feed our babies. When breasts are used for sexual arousal, keep it private. When they are used to feed our babies, “keep it as private as you can.” Exceptions can be made but most of the time nursing mothers could do a better job of feeding their babies in a quieter less public environment. Just saying.

    1. They don’t have to, and they shouldn’t have to. When I’m feeding my baby, I’m feeding my baby. Period. I’m also watching a 5 year-old play at the park, or rushing to finish grocery shopping before I have to go to work. Nursing mothers have things to do, like anyone else. There’s not enough time in the day to leave the environment you need to be in, in order to find a less public place to feed a child, especially when often the only “less public place” is a bathroom. Sure, breasts are used during sex, but that doesn’t make sex their primary purpose–feeding is. It’s a lot easier for you to look away than it is for me to drop what I’m doing, find a place to stash my grocery cart, take my 5 year-old and walk all the way back out to my car, feed the baby, and then walk back into the store and hope my cart is still there, groceries and all.

  28. Thank you so much for your articles. I found them to be very well written and share a lot of my viewpoints on the subject. I am a mother of two and have breastfed both of them, in public or not. Neither one of my kids took well to a proper cover while nursing. I am large chested and even then, I typically didn’t have a problem with my breasts being exposed while nursing, although possibly some of my belly was showing on whatever side my child nursed and so I tried to have some sort of cardigan on. I don’t ever really remember having many comments about my nursing, other than when I was around family nursing my toddler while I was wearing a bathing suit (which made discretion a little harder, but I still didn’t show any more than wearing the bathing suit in general).

    I have been in public where women did just lift their breast over the top of their shirt and feed their baby. It’s not how I would nurse, but honestly, it doesn’t bother me much either. I understand that some might find it objectionable, but I don’t understand the expectation of being in public and having the world tailored to you. I see LOTS of things on a daily basis that I think are offensive- some of it I think is mal-intentioned (sexist, racist, hateful things) and other things are my issue.

    In all of this I try to remember that my life experience is actually not represented by what I see in a lot of internet comments. People who loudly fuss about breastfeeding in the anonymity of the internet either aren’t saying anything in public (thank goodness!) or they are much more in the minority in the wild than they are in cyberspace.

  29. I may be the only man reading this post (actually I did see a guy’s comment in the last blog), … and I just wanted to insert a small comment anonymously. As a man, I have a very high respect for moms (especially my wife) who can stop an angry baby by a whip of their breasts. I morally support public feeding and I believe that we as a society should make it easier for moms to do what needs to be done. After all, we don’t curse at the men who serve this nation for their violence with guns. If moms are not whipping out their body parts at restaurants and shopping malls, the rest of us will be tormented with a number of very angry babies simultaneously.

    I do mean to insert something new to this conversation though, hopefully without making anyone uncomfortable. In the blog, Annie mentioned very briefly that there are “weirdos” and people with strange “fetishes” out there. Well, let’s hope that I’m not one of those people. … … am I? Would you classify men who are interested in women’s breasts a weirdo? It’s really not a moral decision on my part, but a natural inclination as men that is trying to take a peek. Okay, have I said too much? Let me make a statement here while I am still anonymous. We, men, like breasts no matter the purpose. We like to look at them, and if it is uncovered, we will see them. Most definitely, few “lucky” seconds of the nipple shows, if captured, will remain in our memory for a good length of time.

    Now the true reason I wanted to be anonymous, other than flat out making everybody here feel uncomfortable, is because of what I am about to confess here. I saw a nipple of my sister-in-law accidentally while she was breast-feeding, and that image is stuck in my head… … Now, I am not saying that she shouldn’t have been feeding in my dining room while I was looking at her, … but maybe I am?

    Okay, I guess my comment turned out to be a little length, … and creepy. I know that women should not be regarded for their body parts and it’s not fair for women to care about the mentally-deficient counterpart of a men. I don’t know how women feel about that. I mean being objectified. But if you think that average men in this world are ethical enough to play by that rule, you are mistaken. When you take out your breasts in public for the greater good (which, believe it or not, I am supporting still), I just want you to know the mental state of men, including your related family members. Once again, I will say this: I support public feeding! It is for the greater good. Men are retarded. Just don’t over-simplify the matter and get carried away in a movement. When in face-to-face with a brother-in-law, maybe consider a warning?

    1. Sir, I took you comment more as amusingly honest than offensive. I have many male friends, family members, and having served in both the military and civilian emergency response sectors- I have heard almost everything. There is even a meme out there on Facebook that reads “I don’t care how big or small your boobs are, or how many I have seen- I still want to see yours”. This is simply true of most men. It is simply a fact. And as far aw how do women feel about being “objectified”- if being honest, that’s what more than half of them go for- they may say- “No I’m not”- but when you spend 45 minutes and 18 clothing changes getting ready to go shopping so you can “look damn sexy”, honey- you are more than okay with being objectified- and that’s okay.

      Many moms want to know their bodies are still attractive- especially just after having a baby- so a man sneaking a quick peak or glancing over and looking away smiling doesn’t really hurt anything- now staring- that’s different. I was once sitting with my friend and she does not use covers- and the man across the restaurant actually changed tables twice for a better view. It was creepy- I moved to block her once, she moved stuff around on the table the second time- when he moved again we called over an employee to get the manager. She was not being overly obvious, but he was definitely a gawker. On the other hand, we have also been out and she was sitting under a tree at the park feeding the baby while our bigger kids played and another child came over to ask what she was doing- his dad started to scold him for asking personal questions and she said “just feeding my baby” the boy said, “Oh, I thought bottles do that” and ran off. The dad apologized and kept shielding his eyes, she assured him there was no offense and nothing to see, truly. (Quite frankly, the lady that jogged past wearing booty shorts and a tank made for a “Bs” over her “Ds” showed far more……but hey, that’s her choice.)

  30. I didn’t even know that there was any concern with breastfeeding in public until I had my first child. I grew up in a home that was very comfortable with this sort of thing. I was shocked to learn people had issues with it! It blows my mind, I feel like it’s the same people who freak out when there is a baby naked at the beach. I just couldn’t imagine being that uncomforable with bodies in general. It’s sad and just another way to shame women.

  31. I totally agree with you, Kristi. I do pretty much the same when I’m nursing my baby in public. Sometimes she tries to pull the cover off (I have one of those nifty ones where I can see her) but I try to keep it on as best as I can. For me, I see my breasts as private parts and don’t want them to be seen if I can help it. I wouldn’t force anyone else to follow my standards but it does bother me when I see a whole lot of boob (that goes for non-breastfeeding women too), not because they are “sexual objects” but because I see them as private parts. If I forget my cover or if my daughter is just going crazy with the cover, I have no problem giving up my standards for the moment and just feed her because that’s the most important thing. But breastfeeding in public and being modest don’t have to be mutually exclusive concepts!

    1. You’re right, you can absolutely be modest while breastfeeding. But, as she points out in her post, modesty is in the eye of the beholder. I feel like I am a modest breastfeeder. I wear a t-shirt over a tank top, the t comes up and the tank comes down and only the necessary parts are exposed (I’ll admit, this is also a way to protect my breasts from those sharp little baby fingernails!) But not everyone would consider that as modest. And there are plenty of women who’s breasts are too large for this to work. I would guess that most moms are trying to be modest (that’s why you don’t see too many women take their whole top off in public…) but we all have a different idea of what that means. And don’t forget that nursing is not a solitary activity. Babies play a big role in what nursing looks like. My daughter absolutely will not put up with a blanket over her head so I don’t bother with one, but sometimes I will excuse myself to a quiet private place if she is getting distracted or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us because it’s more important for her to eat her fill than for me to not miss out on what’s going on.

    1. This!!!! Yes! I do agree! I sometimes cover, sometimes it’s pointless as my children always yank the cover off until they are really close to passing out from their breastmilk coma. Just today while feeding my son (covered in a hot hot restaurant) I could feel the heat radiating through the top of my cover. Poor hot baby.

    2. I’m the same about the belly. I hate wearing two shirts (it’s HOT down here, so I don’t even use a light cover…baby overheats easily), so I always wear the pregnancy belly band that held my maternity pants up under my shirt. Don’t need it to hold my pants up anymore, but it covers my belly when I’m feeding the baby.

  32. I don’t think the issue is about whether or not it’s culturally acceptable to nurse in public. I see so many of the above comments, and comments on the previous article, dealing with the comfort or acceptability of public nursing. The “issue’ seems to be the appropriateness of nursing in public uncovered. As a mother of 3 small children I have run the gamete of public nursing situations, including the normal, which is while my 8 month-old is in the Ergo and I’ve got my 4 yr old and 2.5 yr old holding either hand while we navigate the busy streets of NYC. But I have also lived and nursed in the heat and humidity of southern summers, nursed a very finicky preemie in a foreign land … and on planes, trains and in automobiles … and first, I feel bad for people who’ve had rude comments directed at them for public nursing. But second, and thankfully, that has not ever been a situation in which I have found myself. And like I said, my life in NYC necessitates public nursing; it’s not just a situation I find myself in every now and then. Yet, I still manage to cover up (or at least dress appropriately foreseeing some feeding action). I am PRO NURSING. And I agree wholeheartedly with so many previous statements and comments about exposing our other children and teaching them and so on. Though I will say, I do not cover at home, and my 4-y-o is obsessed at the moment with boobs and feeding babies and so on. I live and work among internationals. I have been a nursing mom in international fields. And while we seem to want to hate on America for some of these cultural issues, we are not alone. Other countries, while bf may be encouraged, doing so uncovered in public is not. I don’t have a problem with that. I think it IS in fact disrespectful to my husband, to the husband of my friend, or sister, etc, to remain uncovered in a social situation for the very reason that my son may be distracted by his surroundings and decided to disengage off and on throughout a feeding, leaving one exposed for various amounts of time regardless of nursing attire or the size of a baby’s head in relation to boob/nipple … I think it’s the respect of those around us as we nurse in public that will be the key to changing how our society views and accepts nursing. Yes, my baby’s needs are first and foremost, but the lightweight covers available today allow for relative comfort while nursing in the heat, or with inserts around the neck to allow the cover to not be right up on your child, or even to be positioned to allow you and baby to bond visually. I think we need to support nursing and support one another. But I don’t see why there is so much discord with those who feel we ought to cover up while in public for various reasons and those who think it’s appropriate to do otherwise.

    1. Thank you for your calm and thoughtful and respectful comment. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the various responses to these posts the past couple of days, and trying to decide where I land on the issue of modesty and respect. Personally, I did cover up in various situations, depending on who I was in the room with. I actually am a fan of modesty and respect when it comes to breastfeeding in public, despite what it may sound like But one of my babies in particular absolutely hated being covered. I was still able to be discreet because of my breast size, and the fact that I was very quick about pulling my shirt back down if he popped off. But I feel like my ability to easily be discreet whether I was covered completely or not is a privilege that not all women have, and I’m not ready to tell women who are not as able to easily be discreet that they aren’t being respectful nursing in public. There’s a lot to be said for intention, I think.

    2. I live in those southern summers you’re talking about. 95 degrees and humid. My baby overheats easily, even with a LIGHT covering. So it’s just not an option. I’m also one of those large breasted women mentioned. 42 i. The reason breastfeeding uncovered is legally protected is because it’s just not an option for everyone. You make it sound neat…black and white. And it isn’t. Babies are all different. Bodies are all different. What works for one person just doesn’t work for another. I’m not stripping my top off and tossing it into the air, but there is a part of me that’s exposed while I get ready and my child latches on. And there is a bit exposed around his head regardless of what I’m wearing. I’m a rather shy person. I wear jeans and baggy t-shirts, not short shorts and bikini tops. More of me is covered while breastfeeding than just about any other woman out there on just a regular day, and I don’t think I should be condemned for a lack of modesty just for the manner in which I need to feed my child while I’m out and about.

  33. As a breastfeeding mother of 9, I completely sympathize with your position. I felt completely ostracized when asked to leave the room to nurse (which is what I call it). However, I would never nurse my baby with the entire top of my breast exposed. Sometimes I used a cover (which they make now that allow you to see what you are doing) but if I had a nursing shirt that lifted up from below so the top of the breast is covered, then I considered that good enough. If, I was in my own home then all bets are off and I would do it however I darn well pleased. But I do think there should be a level of modesty when nursing in public and that doesn’t need to be that tricky to figure out. I am offended by women overly exposing themselves in revealing clothes whether or not there is a baby attached to them. Our society seems to have lost all sense of decorum and modesty which is revealed by the likes of Miley Cyrus. I would never dare ask someone to slink off to feed, however, I would ask them to do so with modesty. And it isn’t that difficult to do. The mother nursing in the photo on your scary mommy article was modest enough for me. However the nursing graduate that made the rounds recently offended me the same way any woman exposing herself publicly would.

    1. You will get roasted here for discussing modesty. But I greatly appreciate your thoughts. Modesty is subjective, and we live in a subjective society; not all who believe in modesty are antiquated or square.

    2. As Bradley said, modesty is subjective. I saw no problems with the nursing graduate whatsoever. You did. Some people even see using a cover as not modest enough. And that’s the problem–everyone has a different idea of what’s modest and what’s appropriate. I lift my shirt from the bottom, like you…but when I do, my breasts are so large that no matter how I arrange the shirt after baby is latched, some skin will still be showing. It’s the nature of nursing for me, and I imagine it wouldn’t be modest enough for you. I see no problem with a woman lifting her breast out to feed the baby because I don’t think a woman should be constrained to a certain type of attire just because she happens to nurse. *shrug* As another person said, there will always be something that makes you uncomfortable in public, but just because you’re uncomfortable doesn’t mean the person should change. “Uncomfortable” isn’t a danger to anyone.

  34. The problem is social. And I blame it on the fact that as a culture, we have moved away from the agricultural life. This wasn’t an issue years ago (or in the pictures in the link at the bottom of the post) because by the time a child was old enough to start processing these things, (s)he had already seen mom breastfeed other kids, calves be fed by their mama cow, ponies fed by their mama horse, probably seen several animals be born after they had seen the animal’s parents have sex. Prudish yester-year was, in a way, FAR more exposed to things like sex, mother–baby feeding, and all such facets of life because it was apart of their lives and the lives of their livestock. Consequently, human mothers didn’t need to worry about covering up or hiding because everybody (literally) knew exactly what she was doing, why/how it worked, and just didn’t find it noteworthy. It was a part of life. The end.

    Now, kids think food comes from grocery stores and have no concept of a farm. And even if they’ve managed to visit one, typically no one bothers to explain WHY the dairy cows started producing milk in the first place. Just that they do it. No wonder people freak when someone breastfeeds! Why should they have any point of reference for a nursing human mom and the female breast?

    It’s all very sad really.

  35. I am nursing my 3rd baby, and I nurse the little one in the car if he needs to eat and we won’t make it home before he really freaks out. And truthfully, it’s because I can put my older two in their carseats instead of having to keep them behaving while I try to sit and nurse out in the store or elsewhere, plus it’s heated or air conditioned. But that is totally my personal preference. When I am visiting someone, I always warn them by stating that “I’m going to feed the baby, feel free to look if you want to see an ugly nipple!”

    1. I nurse mine in the car sometimes. My older child is pretty well-behaved, so she’s never a problem, but whenever we’re out, I’ll usually try to nurse him very well in the car before we head back home or to the next location. I feed him out too, in grocery stores and parks and things, but he’ll eat more fully if he’s in a quiet environment without the distractions. So I guess I do a little of everything. Plus, it’s hot down here, so when we leave the park or something like that, I like to pull him into the front seat, turn on the air and nurse him so he gets cooled off and has a nice drink to make him comfortable.

  36. There is an advert on public television not to mention it was on during a tV showing of the movie Babe: A Pig in the City so children probably saw it * GASP* in the UK of a women breast feeding her baby (its for a follow on formula) The UK is just as “evolved”, if that’s even the right word, as the United States. Just thought I’d share.

  37. I breastfed my babies in the 70s; I admit I have sort of a rebel personality, but it was about feeding my babies, not exhibitionism or rebellion. My mother breastfed her babies in the 50s when it was more fashionable to bottle feed. Believe me, my mother is as far from a rebel as one can get. It was about feeding her babies in the healthiest food she could. I am completely amazed that people can get so worked up about it. Thanks for writing about it.

  38. Teehee, I had that ‘whipping it out’ image in my head, but in order to make the appropriate ‘whipping’ noise, the boob would have to be incredibly long and saggy – so much so that you could pass the baby and the breast to the person sitting next to you 😛

    As to covering up – my baby #4 refuses to eat unless my entire breast is exposed! Drives me nuts! He just pushes my top up over and over and over again. So the idea I need to use a blanket is ridiculous. It would be impossible. I always use a breastfeeding top, and then use my hand to cover up all the boob my son has exposed.

    My baby needs to eat, and I always try to find a private spot, but you know, I’d prefer people to see a tiny bit of flesh compared to having my baby screaming. I also can’t pump very successfully and my last 2 have refused to take a bottle, so that is not an alternative.

  39. I hate to sat it, but I pretty much disagree on every point you have made. I have 4 kids, have breastfed, and totally think it is wrong to do it in public, without covering up.There are those(women), who think it is gross, looks sexual and who worry about what other people see and how they may make others feel uncomfortable. And, I didn’t need to make eye contact with my kids to feel like I was bonding. As you said, they are eating, not trying to have some type of moment with you. Just statin my opinion.

    1. How sad to think a woman’s primary concern when out and about with a hungry baby is “but what will people think?!” This is the fundamental problem we’re having. As the author mentioned above – modesty is subjective. Some people are offended by magazine covers, commercials, TV shows, billboards. Some people are offended by men in Speedo swimsuits. Does that mean we need to check with everyone, everywhere, always before we do/wear/say something? I’m not going to walk into a conservative church, sit at the alter and nurse my child, but if need be, I wouldn’t hesitate to nurse in the back in a quiet and empty pew. In fact, I’ve nursed many times at the same Catholic church where I was married. And if the priests and nuns didn’t have a problem with it (in fact they normally would stop to visit with me while nursing after Mass, to see how the baby and we were doing) then I’d be concerned why a rare public breastfeeding sighting irks your average person.

    2. How sad that you found it so disgusting and sexual that you couldn’t even enjoy or appreciate eye contact with your baby. Maybe that’s why you feel the way you do.

    3. Wow. Well, covering isn’t an option where I live. It’s too hot. And it makes my kid scream. Pumping also isn’t an option. I work hard to pump enough for him to eat while I’m at work…I do NOT have enough for him to have pumped milk while I’m with him. If you don’t want to nurse in public, then don’t nurse in public. I have a small baby who is a frequent eater, and I have things I need to go out and do. He goes with me…he needs his mother. And when he needs to eat, I feed him. It’s as simple as that. I can’t afford to worry about what makes other people uncomfortable, because it’s my responsibility to make sure my kid has enough to eat. It’s other people’s responsibility to take care of themselves. That being said, I totally support a woman’s right to cover or to NOT breastfeed in public, if that’s what she wants to do. There’s no way it would work for me. Try to look at something from someone else’s point of view.

  40. Thank you. This is so well articulated. Being a mom of a little baby is difficult. Breastfeeding doesn’t always come easily. Unkindness towards nursing moms is crushing to women who are often in a vulnerable place doing their best. Thank you.

  41. It’s funny…I breastfeed in public and don’t usually wear a cover because my baby yanks it away. I’m not flashy about it, just takin’ care of business, so to speak. The other day, I was nursing my daughter in the food court at Costco and a woman went out of her way to approach me and praise me at length for breastfeeding my baby. She went on for so long that it was actually as uncomfortable as I would imagine being told to cover up would be – an experience which, thankfully, I’ve never had. I…just…want…to…feed…my…baby.

    1. Haha! Funny how that can work both ways, isn’t it. 🙂 I agree. It really would be nice if moms could just feed their babies without anyone—themselves or anyone else—making a big deal out of it.

  42. These 2 posts about babyfeeding were a pleasure to read…Thank you. I had one of my babies in summer so having a cover over him while feeding was too hot for both of us. I am all for the statement that if you don’t want to see then don’t look. Do not presume that you have the right to stop a mother feeding her child the way that nature intended…whenever and wherever it is needed.

  43. I’ve only had a comment once, in 5 months (and counting) of breastfeeding. I was wearing a nursing shirt that it so discreet you can’t really tell that I’m feeding, but a friend of a friend asked, and I said “Yes, I’m feeding him.” The man looked shocked and said “Is that allowed?”
    My wonderful husband piped up and said, “Yes, in fact, it’s encouraged! Healthiest way for baby to eat!”

  44. Thank you for this post and showing how important it is to be compassionate and understanding! I tandem nursed my twins at home, and they hated having a blanket over them so any visitors had to be prepared to see that. I did try to be discreet out in public, and because I normally only nursed one at a time when we were out, it was easier – but they still would fight if I tried to use a nursing cover. I eventually grew to be comfortable with public nursing, but it would have been hugely helpful to have a community of people who treated breastfeeding as something natural, that you don’t have to be ashamed or overly self-conscious about.

  45. Excellent posts–both of them. Thank you. I no longer have any young children but I always felt uncomfortable when I had to (breast)feed my babies in public. I hope there soon comes a day when woman no longer feel uncomfortable about feeding their children in public.

  46. Thank you! My husband had issues with the idea of breastfeeding in public before we had our son, but pretty much AS SOON AS the kid was around, it became about meeting the baby’s needs rather than about what other people would think, and he came around immediately and is now one of my biggest advocates/encouragers when it comes to public breastfeeding.

    Thank you again for this – I shared both posts with my Mama group and I appreciate you putting into words what the rest of us are feeling!

  47. Thank you so much for writing this. In both of these articles you have said everything I have ever wanted to say to the critics.

  48. Thank you for your clear explanation about men and breasts! My husband grew up seeing his mother breastfeed his 4 younger siblings. He never had an issue seeing my breasts as sexual AND for nourishment for our baby. He was my biggest support when we had latch challenges which essentially required me to have my entire breast exposed for long periods of time. Without his support, I would have given up and dealt with feelings of failure and resentment. He also knew when it was appropriate to touch my breasts in a sexual way and when they were solely for nourishing my baby. There was no gray area. He is a mature man who has sexual desires like most men have…but having grown up seeing breastfeeding as nothing more than feeding, there is no sexual vs. function struggle for him when it comes to my breasts. My teenage stepson has been around numerous breastfeeding mothers and it is not something which makes him uncomfortable because it has been a normal sight all his life. In fact, the majority of men in my family have seen more breastfeeding than bottle feeding, and fully support women nursing in any situation, with or without a cover in public. So for those torn about men viewing breasts as sexual, please consider that the more exposure to nursing men have, the more capable they will be to easily differentiate between sex and function. Most men are not perverts who view breastfeeding as sexual.

    1. My husband was the same way. He was such a wonderful help in keeping my spirits up about breast feeding and helping me through latch issues.. he’d even stare down those people that would raise a fuss about me nursing in public.

  49. Well written Annie. I particularly liked the part where it is the parents responsibility to educate their children in regards to nursing as well as everything else we do to educate them.

    1. Amen. mine too. there are too many entitled people in the world who think that just because they’re mothers they can tell everyone else how to live. two people are responsible for creating that child and bringing him/her into the world. those two people are responsible for raising that child. if they can’t handle taking responsibility for the result of their choices and actions, raising the child, they aren’t mature enough to have been having sex and creating a child in the first place. i have my own priorities; my own family.

    2. Perhaps ALL parents would like NOT to educate their toddler or any other child on breast feeding just because you aren’t respectful enough to cover your breast while feeding and your argument about magazines at check out lines don’t fly. Every parent has the right to decide the appropriate time to educate their children on such matters! NOT just breast feeding mothers! The argument IS NO longer about feeding your baby, if it were you wouldn’t mind covering yourself! I am a mother and a grandmother and personally find it sad that women use their children to make a point!

    3. So, Anonymous, the thing is that when you take your child out in public, you are always running the risk of exposing them to things you don’t want to see. Whether it’s bikinis, public breastfeeding, two men holding hands, sagging pants, interracial couples, protesters protesting something, a fight on the sidewalk, a domestic dispute–there will always be something you have to explain to your child if you take them out in public. If you aren’t comfortable explaining things your child has never been exposed to to them, then I suggest not taking them out in public. A breastfeeding mother has the right and the need to feed her child, and the breastfed child has the right to eat. And that right trumps your desire to not have to explain things your child. That’s just the nature of the world–there will always be new things, some good and some bad, and you can’t always control when your child will be exposed to them.

  50. Annie, I love these breastfeeding posts! Thank you soooo much for supporting breastfeeding Moms with such wisdom! Maybe if more of the public only new on the incredibly massive benefits that breastfeeding do for our babies as well, then they’d start to be more open to public breastfeeding too. I have hopes for future breastfeeding Mom’s to not have to be so stressed by societal conditioning when breastfeeding. I know I sure was pulled down by glares when I breastfed/breastfeed, even covered. 🙁

  51. I’m a 62-year-old mother who breastfed all four of her children. The only time I worried about breastfeeding in public was with toddlers That I was even doing that was controversial enough, and when I realized they could wait until we found a more private place, I was more comfortable with that. But babies? I breastfed in stores, restaurants, campgrounds, movies, parks, and church; on buses and hiking trails. I am so glad I did.

  52. Thanks for writing these two posts. I’m a breastfeeding mom and will feed anywhere. If my baby needs to eat, I will provide. My oldest did not mind being covered but my baby now hates it. I’m not trying to make a statement or draw attention to myself. I’m just a mother nourishing my child. I do try to be as discreet and modest as I can but her needs will always come before the comfort of others. Our breasts produce colostrum in preparation for baby and milk soon after giving birth. Babies learn to suck while still in the womb. That in itself shows how natural breastfeeding is.

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