The Case Against Breastfeeding in Public

My good friend Kira commented to me a while back about how she wasn’t a fan of public breastfeeding and I was so struck by her perspective that I asked her to write a brief essay for my blog explaining her thinking. Here it is:

Nursing Baby Mannequin in Shop WindowSome years ago, I attended a college reunion and hooked up with some friends for an afternoon of board games. A couple of my friends brought their infant daughter. In the midst of a game of Pandemic, the mother suddenly picked up her baby, opened her shirt and unbuttoned her bra to nurse. Sitting right across from her as I was, I got an unobstructed – and very much unwanted – view. I looked away abruptly, so I didn’t catch the reaction of the others at the gaming table, but later, several of them admitted feeling uncomfortable. We just didn’t know what to say without offending our friend.

In the years since, breastfeeding in public has become an increasingly controversial topic, and I’ve heard many arguments for and against (and participated in several). And in each debate, there seems to be a missing element: the issue of intimacy.

For many of us who object to public breast feeding, the issue is not breasts exposed in public. Walk into any mall or spend five minutes on the Internet and you’ll get your fill of boobs. In fact, most women breast feeding are more discrete than your average Victoria’s Secret ad.

What I and many others don’t want to see is the ACTION of breast feeding. It’s an intimate act. NOT sexual, intimate – a very deep form of connection between two human beings. As an artist, I have seen many, many nude women, and even posed nude myself for figure drawing sessions. If I see a boob in public, it’s not going to shake the foundations of my world. But when my friend exposed herself to feed her baby, I felt suddenly as if I’d intruded on something private, and I couldn’t unsee it. I respect her for giving her baby the best nourishment and a healthy start in life, but had I been in her shoes, I would have excused myself for a few minutes.

In many of the breast feeding in public debates, proponents argue that it’s just eating, and babies need to eat a lot. Well, at that gaming table, nearly all of us were munching on something, but we weren’t sucking our chips or soda out of another human being’s body. Face it, breast feeding is not the same as grabbing a cheeseburger when your stomach is growling. It has another level of connection – a natural, special connection – and it deserves a bit of discretion.

Now before you leap in to the debate, can I ask that you spend a few minutes thinking about what she’s shared here? I have to say that I’m a strong supporter of breast feeding for at least the first year after birth, but concur that I don’t really want to see women’s breasts as they nurse a baby in a restaurant, at a mall, a coffee shop, etc. A quick flip of a baby blanket over the shoulder and it’s all much more discrete. So why the big deal?

But that’s just Kira’s perspective and my own additional two cents. What’s your take?

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  1. Ummm, you hit the problem dead center. You felt it was “an intimate act” to feed an infant with a boob. And upsetting because it was in public. Among friends of many years. Just because it was a boob rather than a bottle does not change the simple fact it is just a mother feeding a kid. In public.

    I hear you say a boob does not bother you. I submit you are lying to us and yourself. The difference of a boob delivering fresh nutrition instead of the Pump-Fill-Chill-Reheat involved in bottle feeding was upsetting. Because you saw it. The act itself is normal

  2. It seems to me that Kira is upset over a negative experience, and not about breast feeding in general. Kira’s friend made a mistake that most people make many times a day. She acted without awareness or consideration of the feelings of the people around her. It most likely would have been a better experience for everyone if she had acted in way that was less startling and/or offensive.

    We live in a diverse world where just about anything we do could be offensive to someone. I don’t think this should stop us from doing what we believe in. Be aware of the others in your environment and do your best to accommodate their feelings by acting as discreetly as possible.

    “Your work is not to drag the world kicking and screaming into a new awareness. Your job is to simply do your work..
    Sacredly, Secretly and Silently…
    and those with ‘eyes to see and ears to hear’, will respond.”
    ~ Unknown

  3. It seems to me that we have one person thinking it is an intimate act and another thinking it isn’t. Kira defines it as an intimate, and thus private, act. The mother who was across the card table very likely did not see it as intimate at all. it was a daily act with no essential intimate emotion attached to it at all times. I am sure there were moments when she did feel intimate in breast feeding, perhaps alone in her bedroom rocking and nursing, but she didn’t feel the act itself was intimate in all circumstances.
    It might be attune to how different people feel about sexual intimacy. One person thinks sex is always intimate, always emotional, always private. Their mate might think it is sometimes that, but other times it might be pure play, pure sexual release or pure titillation. They would have to work that out to be successful in (or out of) bed with each other.

    Here is an interesting question. If, in the middle of the nursing, all the other women stopped playing cards and started asking personal and intimate questions about the nursing, wanting to feel how full the breast was, wondering what temperature the milk was, how hard it was on her nipples, etc. How would the nursing mother respond? If she is free to get into the nitty gritty in public then she is being consistent when she says it’s not a private, intimate act. But if she gets offended by the questions and attention, the probing and curiosity, perhaps she is being a bit of a hypocrite, right?

    I don’t know the answer but to me I would err on the side of liberality, that the benefits of having the freedom to nurse wherever and whenever outweigh the possible discomfort to others.

    • i don’t know if i agree with your analogy about her being a hypocrite by not allowing other women to touch her breast while she’s feeding her child because it’s “not intimate right”?

      That’s like saying…well it’s not intimate to feed my face food, so it’s ok if somebody comes over and touches my face while i’m eating.

      There are personal body boundaries you are overlooking here.

  4. The first time I encountered public breast feeding was on a bus in Central America. It was an event. Over time I got used to the culture and it got to the point where I hardly noticed it.

    Saying that, I still find it surprising when I see it in other countries where it is not generally accepted, and it does make me feel uncomfortable.

    I think in countries where public exposures like this are not the norm, the mother should be aware that they will be making people uncomfortable.

  5. The thought that one would have to worry about the tender feelings of adults over the needs of a hungry baby is fundamentally offensive.

  6. And the thought of taking BOTH into consideration? That’s unacceptable? As soon as the baby is hungry, everything else, every social nicety, every cultural expectation, everyone’s beliefs are automatically irrelevant? Kira’s not suggesting one OR the other. She’s just suggesting a modicum of modesty would be appreciated in certain situations.

    • No but she is suggesting that the mother AND child be made to feel as though they are doing something wrong and should hide away or be covered like that isn’t a breathing human being, merely because she finds it slightly uncomfortable to watch. She forgets the ‘watching her feed’ is her own choice. She doesn’t have to look – try looking at the person’s eyes when they speak instead.
      What Kira is suggesting is that this mother totally take into account Kira’s feelings over the feelings and comfort of her own child AND herself. I’m sorry but if Kira really is the friend of this woman she should know all the other demands and pressures placed on this woman as a new mother and not feel the need to add Kira being ‘uncomfortable’ to the mix.

  7. Yeah – I think this is an excuse. I am TOTALLY uncomfortable looking at other women’s breasts but that’s because I DO sexualize them. I’m also uncomfortable in locker rooms. I have a really hard time having a conversation with someone with their boobs hanging out.

    Seems like a cop-out to say the “intimate experience” made her uncomfortable. There is a connection when a mom breastfeeds her baby (most of the time), but also when she looks at them sleeping, gets a smile, and interacts with her baby skin to skin. Do these things make you uncomfortable?

    As a recent breastfeeding mom who had difficulty being discreet (my son was particular), I would have been “stepping away” ALL THE TIME. As a new mom, you already feel isolated so to have to step out of the room every time your child needs to eat is just even more isolating.

    I think everyone is free to have a feeling about breastfeeding, but to put it out there that the mom should have been thinking about your discomfort level is insane.

    Feel free to have private moments with your own child in private, but if this is the only reason you can state, it seems just as selfish and sexist as the other excuses people make.

  8. Marty, interesting point. I tried to avoid the comparisons to sexual intimacy because that discussion tends to veer off in the wrong direction. But if I saw a couple having sex in public, I’d feel the same sense of wrongness, of intrusion on something private. Breast feeding is one of many natural things humans do, and not all of them are appropriate for a public setting. Thankfully, I do think most mothers are more discrete than my friend was in that particular situation.

    Patty, do you think the needs of babies are more important than those of adults? All of us have needs – physical, emotional, social. I maintain that all of them are worth respecting. Asking for a little discretion in public is not the same as demanding that a mother force her baby to go hungry.

    • There are so many good responses that I would just be duplicating if I went into great detail. Simply, I am pro breastfeeding wherever/whenever. That is not to mean that I would or did flop it out wherever. You can be discreet without leaving the room and I would have been completely insulted had any of my friends reacted as you did Kira. I don’t remember who said it, but your ‘friend’ who fed her baby certainly must have felt that she would not have been judged by her own ‘friends’ just for feeding her baby. It seems you are the one with the issue and if you didn’t feel comfortable you should have been the one to get up and leave. Oh, and the idea of covering up with a blanket is ridiculous. Would you cover your baby’s head with a blanket any other time?

      • i am not necessarily for or against breastfeeding i breastfed my daughter she is a very opinionated little thing and it was a horrible experience so i dont think it’s for everyone however i never breastfed in public. i agree and understand completely how isolated new mothers feel. i live way out in the middle of nowhere and like i say my daughter is rather opinionated and difficult so we didnt go anywhere for a while she just didnt handle trips to anywhere well. but even when we did i left the room to nurse her before anyone gets irritated about this no i would not force that on someone else yes that was my own choice I personally am uncomfortable showing my boobs off to whoever would happen to be in the room. yes boobs are designed to feed your child but i hate to break it to all you out there in denial but boobs have been and are sexual they just are its just a fact. i would be uncomfortable if one of my friends popped out their boobs in public. or even with just the two of us. yes i would look away and try to look them in the eye instead but ignoring the preverbal elephant in the room does not in fact remove it. my mother had and nursed 6 kids she covered every one of us with a blanket it didnt hurt any of us if anything i would guess it probably made us feel comforted and safe the bright lights being blocked out and everything. most babies fall asleep when nursed so it stands to reason they probly would be happier under a light blanket. also its not like if you were to cover them with a blanket laying in their crib or something when you throw a blanket over a nursing baby you create like a tent for them so that argument is irrelevant. people should be allowed to nurse in public because its a horrible chore to try to find a spot to nurse when your out and about but even if you have no sense of modisty yourself you should consider others and use some sort of cover. the moms who insist on showing everyone their business, in my opinion, are doing so because “they have to feed their children they have every right to do so and are going to show you they can do what they want”. seems to me alot of them are purposely causing more controversy than is necessary its not inconvenient or uncomfortable to cover up when nursing so if you arent doing so it’s either because you are determined to do what you want regardless of other peoples feelings (in which case if SHE were the friend to kira she should be she would have thought of her supposed friends feelings) or your just not thinking things through

        • also as an afterthought she said she hooked up with some friends after a college reunion which implies to me that they were estranged college friends who were attempting to reconnect in which case do you think the friendship itself is close enough to be popping your boob out without a thought to the friends they haven’t seen and may not know well any longer?

  9. This topic underscores another malady of our society which is the idea that every opinion or position has moral parity with its opposite. Breastfeeding is something that should be supported and embraced. Condemning a person because you can’t handle the sight of their boob is just dumb.

  10. Kira – Yes I do think the physical needs of a baby come before the emotional needs of an adult. It as easy to overt your eyes as it is for the woman to cover up. That you had to write a whole thing about this tells me that you are probably not a mom and probably not very comfortable with your own female body. This is not your fault. This is the fault of a society that has nurtured you with sad, warped values that you have not gotten around to questioning.

  11. Kara- You view breastfeeding as an intimate moment. Have you breastfeed a baby before? Nothing says intimacy like a tiny person clawing at your body looking for food. Sometimes it can be a touching moment, but most often it is just something that has to be done. Babies don’t care if adults around them are uncomfortable and they don’t particularly care to have their heads covered while they eat.

    You were uncomfortable and you looked away, which is a fine thing to do. That mom was doing what she needed to for her baby and she was probably enjoying the time she was spending with you and didn’t want to leave. If you were uncomfortable, you should have spoken up. I’m sure she didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. If your issue is truly intimacy, talk to your friend about breastfeeding and get some more accurate information about the experience.

    I’m not sure I buy the intimacy argument. Does it bother you to see a couple in love staring into each others eyes? Neither breastfeeding or sex are are exclusively intimate.. I’m guess that I could like of several intimate moments you wouldn’t mind watching.

  12. Does a baby really care where he or she is being fed, as long as the hunger is satisfied? I’ve never heard of anyone complaining that their mother only breastfed them in private.

    But I am hearing mothers complain that they don’t want to be inconvenienced or feel isolated, which is the emotional need of an adult. Are Gigi’s needs more important than mine because she has a baby? As a woman who has chosen not to have children, I have often been made to feel that my life is not as meaningful or marriage not as valuable because I am childfree.

    In a society that romanticizes and idolizes babies and glosses over many of the more frustrating, isolating aspects of parenthood, I know I will always be in the minority in this debate, but I am proud to express that opinion and to provide a measure of validation and solidarity for those who feel as I do.

    • Kira I really think you missed the point
      when I hold hands with my husband it’s intimate there have been times in the early days where we held hands stroked and touched one another and kissed softly
      it was not “sex” it was us getting to know one another – when we ae our first meal as a couple barekly able to stop talking strolng laughing enjoying it was INTIMATE
      it is YOUR problem not mine that you don’t want to see a baby breastfed
      society tells us a mum should dive out – really?
      how would that work exactly ?I’m mid meal babe is hungry so do I whatsit in the toilet let babe have his meal eat mine cold? what abot my 4 year old all of us in a different room shut away hungry
      How do other mums find support? behaviour is modelled if we see couples showing love and affection the world becomes a loving place if we seebabies breastfed that is what becomes normal – attitudes such as this is how artificial feeding has become normal practise and that is avery sad situation.

  13. I do agree with you that our society romanticizes parenthood incorrectly. And that chosing not to have children is marginalizing for some people. That is another aspect of the sad, warped values I was mentioning earlier. People spend so much time judging what others do instead of worrying about themselves. You have been a victim of that but here you are doing exactly that in this article.

    The fact that you don’t have children means that you really don’t understand the whole breastfeeding issue outside of your projections of what you think nursing is.

    Ultimately you want your feelings considered and you don’t think people should get some special privilege that you don’t have just because you don’t have kids. It is really all about you.

  14. Hmm, I think this perspective was caused because you were shocked at one time with a new experience you weren’t used to. This is an entirely cultural issue, a fashion if you will. Non-westernised cultures feel completely differently. Breastfeeding mothers need support, not judgement. It is very difficult to successfully fit breastfeeding into modern life and the ability to BF whenever wherever is pretty essential to make it work. I’m sure your friend thought that one place she could BF without judgement would be among her friends.
    And BTW please don’t recommend anyone to BF under a blanket, the heat and especially the lack of circulated air is dangerous for a tiny baby. As for an older baby or toddler they would not tolerate it for a second, you try eating under a blanket!

  15. All I can say is God forbid the breast be used for what it was intended for!
    Breasts are used everyday by men and women to get attention, sell something, get somewhere or as the only thing of a female worthy of attention. Everywhere I look breasts are being shoved in your face – but then you want to get ‘uncomfortable’ when they are finally used for the true purpose they were intended?
    I must admit the first time a woman breast fed in front of me, I did not know where to look, I quickly looked around to see who else noticed she had her boob out, I wanted the ground to swallow me whole. But I also knew that this was MY reaction. This wasn’t something I had been exposed to so blatantly before. Now I thank this woman, because she taught me it is OK and it is actually very normal.. When her child is hungry, she feeds her. There is no ‘excusing her self for a few minutes’ – if she did that she might as well not bother going out in the first place.
    Because of this woman I feel more confident in my ability to breast feed when I have children. I feel more confident that I will be supported to do something so very important to the development of my baby. I also got a boost of self confidence that finally my breasts have a real purpose other than being sexualised for other people’s eyes.

  16. I’m still fascinated by how everyone misreads what Kira wrote in her original post. She never said “don’t feed the baby’ and she never said nursing mothers should “hide in another room”, she just asked for a modicum of modesty when a nursing mother is going to feed her infant when within her view.

    As she explained: “the mother suddenly picked up her baby, opened her shirt and unbuttoned her bra to nurse. Sitting right across from her as I was, I got an unobstructed – and very much unwanted – view.”

    The entire situation could have been different if the Mom had even simply spun her body away from everyone until the baby latched on, then turned back to the game with her shirt buttoned back up other than as needed for the baby to nurse. Is that such a radical request?

    Apparently so, based on the dramatic statements about the baby comes first, the horror of someone who doesn’t completely and without reservation support women nursing in public, other adults being irrelevant to the equation, etc. Even the ultimate trump card “the fact that you don’t have children means that you really don’t understand the whole breastfeeding issue” which is clear nonsense, because everyone in our society is involved in something like this, whether they’re male, female, a parent or not. It’s the holier-than-thou tone that makes this a difficult conversation to have in the first place. Do something in public and the public’s involved. Seems straightforward to me, whether it’s a gay couple kissing, a mixed-race couple holding hands, or a woman breastfeeding.

    Further, statements like “it’s YOUR problem not mine that you don’t want to see a baby breastfed” is impossible to fit into the basic structure of civilized society. It’s ME ME ME and to heck with everyone else. Not every nursing mother (or father of a nursing baby) views it this way but personally I would prefer not to be around people who feel their needs are all that matter, whether they’re nursing or not.

    And for the record, the mother of my three children did extended breast feeding with my complete support and encouragement, though she did approach it with an awareness of her surroundings and a desire for some modesty, even with our closest friends.

    • This may help you understand why so many have ‘misread’ Kira

      ‘What I and many others don’t want to see is the ACTION of breast feeding’- Kira
      Translation: I’m not asking for modesty, I don’t want to see breast feeding.

      ‘If I see a boob in public, it’s not going to shake the foundations of my world.’ closely followed by ‘But when my friend exposed herself to feed her baby, I felt suddenly as if I’d intruded on something private’ – Kira
      Translation: I have no problem with the boobs of the general public, it is just my friend’s boobs I have issues with and boobs being used as mammary glands.

      ‘I would have excused myself for a few minutes.’ – Kira
      Translation: I have no idea about breast feeding – babies only feed for 5 minutes tops, don’t they?

      ‘Face it, breast feeding is not the same as grabbing a cheeseburger when your stomach is growling. It has another level of connection – a natural, special connection – and it deserves a bit of discretion.’ – Kira.
      Translation: I have no idea about breast feeding hence why I compare it to an adult sucking on a boob and not the young of a mammal attaching itself to a nipple for nourishment and then go and attribute ‘special connection’ to EVERY feed.

      ‘But if I saw a couple having sex in public, I’d feel the same sense of wrongness, of intrusion on something private.’ – Kira
      Translation: I see breast feeding in public as wrong, Im not asking for ‘modicum of discretion’, its just plain wrong.

      ‘Do you think the needs of babies are more important than those of adults? ‘ – Kira
      Translation: I’m a supposedly rational adult but I will stamp my foot and demand that my slight discomfort comes before the very basic needs of a baby who is completely dependant for it’s survival on the ‘adults’ around it.

      Well that’s how I misread Kira ;)

      I have no issue with Kira having no children, but with the experience comes a deeper tolerance and understanding of issues. I think she has shown in her comments that she doesn’t get what breast feeding is really about, how difficult it is for many women, how much time it takes, how each individual babies needs and personality effects how it can be done, frequency of feeds, emotional state of Mum and bub, new Mum’s who just want adult company and not have that ‘special connection’ for the 15th time today.

      After all, we are talking about her feeling ‘suddenly as if I’d intruded on something private, and I couldn’t unsee it.’ So I take it she felt uncomfortable? Uncomfortable is an uncomfortable emotion but it isn’t exactly an extreme form of torture.
      Sometimes in a civilised society we do need to not be reactionary and think ‘why does this make me feel this way?’, as an adult do some self analysis. it is not so much her having a problem with breast feeding in public, it is the reason’s she has given – it’s all very ME, ME, ME.

  17. Here’s the thing, Kira did a very poor job at indicating if she was against ALL public breastfeeding or just seeing the act. What IS “a bit of discretion”? She says that the friend who was feeding her baby should have “excused herself for a few minutes” implying that the woman should have left the room, but the end of the blog you add “the quick flip of a blanket” makes it more discrete. These are two different opinions! So which is it? Should mothers with infants walk out, or cover up?

    Walking out – clearly Kira has never breastfed, or she would recognize that “a few minutes” is a ridiculous statement. My first child took nearly 45 minutes to eat every time I nursed her. Would everyone have been willing to wait that long? Yeah right. Also, why should a mother be confined to solitude when she is merely doing what is best for her baby? She is being polite to everyone else by not stopping the game, AND not driving everyone nuts with her poor baby wailing for food. I am offended when people compare breast milk to urine and feces. We don’t EAT urine and feces – that’s disgusting. Milk is FOOD. Why is it more disgusting to drink milk that came from a human than it is to drink milk that came from a cow? Because we have NORMALIZED drinking milk from a cow. In most of the world, breastfeeding is normalized, too. (Yes, I know it would be pretty crazy to see a person sucking on a cow’s udder, but that’s more because it doesn’t work, and a cow’s udder is much more dirty than a woman’s breast.)

    Covering-up — I personally try to cover up as much as I can. I know that breastfeeding makes people uncomfortable. I can’t help when my baby becomes hungry and it is very impractical to expect for me to lock myself away from the public for hours on end just so that my child can eat. If it were from a bottle, I wouldn’t have to, so why should I have to be punished for providing my child with something that is medically proven to be better for them than the bottle?

    Unfortunately, my second child refuses to keep a blanket on. He just won’t have it. I’ve tried! I do manage to keep the latch-on out of sight, but once he’s on, he throws that blanket off, and … well, like I said – why should I lose literally hours in a day because someone feels they need to turn their head?

    I skimmed through the comments. Kira makes a good point that it is the MOTHER’S need that is the big argument for feeding in public, since where they eat is of no consequence to the baby. Here’s the deal – Yes, Kira a new mother’s needs are more important than yours because they are, in essence, a type of invalid. The physical and emotional trauma of having a child requires that their feelings and needs be placed ahead of those of us who are not new mothers (new as in recently delivered, not just first child). Post-partum depression is no joke, and feeling isolated and alone is a very serious problem for women who have given birth, and it can last for a very long time. Sp. yes, her needs are more important because her mental health could truly be on the line.

    Also, Kira needs to recognize that negative views of breastfeeding are discouraging mothers all over the nation from breastfeeding AT ALL (because if they have to be alone/isolated, it makes them feel awful, and that’s just not worth it etc) which is depriving babies of very important nourishment. We can go on all day about “I was a bottle baby and I’m just fine” but research really does support that breast is best. It reduces illnesses, and they’re even starting to link it to lowering the chances of childhood obesity.

    Now, this is not to say that Kira should not share her opinion, but it goes back to my first comment – hide away, or cover up? Feel free to ask women to try not to just “whip it out” because that is a reasonable request. They might not be completely successful at staying covered up, but everyone appreciates effort. But asking a woman to hide herself away is just not practical or polite.

    • I know this is an old thread, but I am so appalled and shocked at your comment that I had to respond.

      You need to seriously reevaluate what you wrote. New mothers are more important than anyone else because they’re “invalids” and they “might” develop post partum depression? This is truly warped and sick thinking. No, new mothers are NOT one ounce more important than any other member of society and before you even try to discount me, I am a mother. I have a child and not for one minute did I ever think my needs or my wants or my status as a new mom trumped other people’s rights.

      I’m just so disgusted.

  18. I think what’s interesting about this discussion is not so much the pros and cons of breastfeeding in public, but how people react/respond about their feelings to anything they feel strongly about, good or bad.

    Kira very clearly stated her feelings: discomfort and distraction with viewing an intimate physical exchange between a mother and baby.

    What happens in our “discussions” is that instead of simply stating our feelings, we start to defend our feelings with arguments — to make a “case” of why we feel the way we do.

    Having grown up in the 70s, I spent a lot of time watching Mr. Rogers. What I love about Mr. Rogers is that he taught us all how to be sensitive to other people, that the better we take the time to know one another and each other’s individual sensitivities and needs that the more likely we are to respond compassionately to each other.

    In this situation, rather than making a “case against” breastfeeding in public, which Dave cleverly uses as the title of this post to create a more argumentative “debate” like atmosphere, we could start to communicate with each other our needs and sensitivities in a more authentic, vulnerable way.

    For Kira, this was clearly a situation that made her uncomfortable and sounds like also several other people at the table. For the mom, her priorities were clearly focused on providing comfort to her baby regardless of those around her. Both women had feelings that are neither good nor bad.

    If Kira could have a vulnerable heart to heart with her friend and talk to her about her discomfort and if the woman could respond to her not defensively but with her vulnerability about taking care of her baby, perhaps each would be more sensitive to the other — perhaps the mom would be willing to add some discretion using a blanket or full blouse and maybe Kira would be willing “sit” with her discomfort if the baby thwarted this effort with kicking feet and restless hands.

    I had babies in the 80s. Almost 30 years later, this so-called “debate” over breastfeeding in public continues, and it’s the same old same old back and forth with arguments over “breastfeeding is best” vs.”public exposure.”

    Breastfeeding in public is not a debate over whether to bottle or breastfeed. There’s nothing here to argue about. It’s about people’s personal feelings. And when it comes to expressions of personal feeling, we could all learn a lot from Mr. Rogers.

    As the 13th century mystical poet Rumi once wrote, “Out beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

    • Best response yet. Not sure why folks here were reduced to snide remarks and hostile tones directed at Kira. Kira, on the other hand, did not respond in kind, and I appreciate that. I come from a country where open breastfeeding is the norm, and so we do not have Kira’s sensitivities. But, wow, when did we get to the place where one cannot voice how he/she feels about or sees a particular thing, without it causing an uproar and contempt?

    • It’s funny you should bring that up. I agree, we could all learn a lot from Mr. Rogers, who clearly felt that there was nothing wrong with public exposure to breastfeeding.

  19. as a woman who is currently breastfeeding, i just feel for the friend who she expects to ‘excuse herself for a few minutes’. it takes more than a few minutes, and it is so incredibly isolating and lonely to breastfeed alone in another room.
    poor woman, finally getting some social time out, and her ‘friends’ are talking behind her back about how uncomfortable her boob made them.

  20. I’d rather see someone breastfeeding than hear a baby screaming at full throttle. I have breastfed in public (with a blanket over my son) a few times, and sometimes I get uncomfortable looks. However, I also get hostile looks if the baby is screaming. So you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

  21. I’m almost embarrassed to admit I had no idea how contentious an issue this was, and I’m currently breastfeeding my third child, merrily fulfilling her needs where ever and when ever!
    Having said that, I do be very discreet, on a number of occasions strangers have come over trying to see the baby and I’ve had to say sorry I’m feeding her as they’ve tried to get a good look!
    I feel no shame what so ever in feeding my baby when she wants to be fed, and as ‘mumzilla’ as it might sound, yes my baby’s needs (in my humble opinion) will beat any needs of any adult in any given situation! (She was even feeding during the standing up bits when she was christened, and the vicar only realised the third time he asked us to stand when he then hinted i could stay sitting ‘if that would be easier’, luckily we were stood in the front row so no one else realised!)
    Having said that, I don’t want to cause anyone any embarrassment and am always mindful of where I sit in a cafe, what sort of seat, what angle to the rest of the room etc, so if my daughter needs a feed I know I can swiftly sort it all out hopefully without anyone noticing. But obviously if the last table to be had was right in the middle of the cafe and my daughter was hungry, I’d still sit down and get on with it!
    I have also experienced mothers who are more blasse, and I too felt embarrassed and averted my eyes, not really sure why…
    One person I’m very careful about feeding extremely discreetly in front off… My father-in-law! In fact I’ll even leave the room for him (without letting on why) as it turns the poor guy into beetroot :)
    I agree with an earlier post tho, does Kira feel offended by people breastfeeding in public as a whole or just when its done for all to see? (For the lady whose son won’t allow a blanket, I really feel for you. But what can you do? If he needs a drink he needs a drink! And once they’re latched on as long as you havn”t got your top up round your neck I’m not too sure what other people could see anyway..! I’m told I look like I’m just holding a sleeping baby! In all probability Kira comes across breastfeeding in public much more regularly then she even realises!

  22. You’ve gotta be kidding me…some people get offended by interracial dating does that me you shouldn’t do it in public? WAKE UP!! No ones “feelings” are more important than that child’s heath and nutrition.

  23. I don’t see anything wrong on a mom breast feeding a baby, I just look the other way and let her go on with her duty.

  24. I’m a photographer. You can see my baby’s and bumps portfolio at I have specifically taken off any exposed breasts…to my dismay…because of this debate. I was asked in about 2007 to do a portrait of a mother breastfeeding…and I as a 27 year old adult, had never seen uncovered breastfeeding. I was so blown away by the beauty of the INTIMACY of the act. I cried. I wished our society had more of this intimacy shared in public. It’s not sexual…so why don’t we see more of this? it invoked in me deep feelings of joy in seeing another tiny human being so nourished by another human being. It was so beautiful to see the bliss on that baby’s face and brought me back to a spiritual place of what life can be all about…true love and bliss. Why is this something that we shun in our society? in my opinion…that’s exactly what we need to see more of. Less violence on tv. less people walking down the streets or sitting in public spaces, staring blankly at their iphones…and more scenes of mothers being intimate with their babies, nourishing life and selflessly loving another human. That is an inspiring sight I want to see every day, and remember why we are here on earth…to love, and to selflessly serve another human.

  25. We should be more concerned about breasts being in almost every single ad than what they should really be used for. These ads don’t make me feel uncomfortable because I am an adult, but are, for sure, giving our children the wrong idea about what our bodies are made to do.

    Furthermore, I get uncomfortable when I see an guy in a speedo or a fat woman in a bikini. But you know what? I look away! Sooooo simple. I don’t write articles about awkward it is! If everyone had to hide their features that made people uncomfortable, barely anyone would be outta the house!

  26. Pingback: Ditch the Cover: A Dad's Feelings on Public Breastfeeding

  27. Pingback: Ditch the Cover: A Dad’s Feelings on Open-Air Breastfeeding -

  28. Public breastfeeding is such a delicate topic to discuss, but its something that has been put on debate for far too long. The fact is, breastfeeding is the same as bottle feeding if not, more beneficial for the mother and especially for the baby. The media portrays woman’s breast to be something for adult entertainment but it’s true purpose believe it or not is to nourish the child. I think that the act should not be done for all the world to see but if its done discreetly then what’s the problem?

  29. The baby won’t f**ing die. Just go into another room or cover up. It’s that simple. No one wants to see a floppy tit with a baby latched onto it. So you say look away, well I shouldn’t have to, being in public. Would you want your man looking at the woman’s breast because if she’s flashing it off then it seems it’s okay for anyone to stare.

    • So this is about your jealousy, or your immaturity? Give it a break, you not being able to deal with it is YOUR problem, don’t assume everyone is that ridiculous, and don’t assume your feelings somehow trump biology and human rights. GET OVER IT.

      • Trust me andrea, most people do not want to see your lactating tit. Is it really so hard to nurse without me being exposed to your breast itself? You aren’t clever enough to find a way to satisfy the needs of the baby without forcing me to be a part of it?

        • You aren’t clever enough to… turn your head in the other direction to avoid seeing something no grown person with any level of maturity would be uncomfortable with? If you don’t have a problem seeing a baby eating a bottle, then you are simply a hypocrite.