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?

77 comments on “The Case Against Breastfeeding in Public

  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.

    • If a mother wants to think of herself as not much more than an automatic milk vending machine, and drop everything she’s doing to rip open her shirt to feed the whiny baby, then so be it. I personally think most of these women today just want an excuse to flash their breasts and have five seconds of “fame” on social media. If they truly care about their children, they could carry a bottle of pre-pumped milk, or God forbid a bit of some natural formula, and not give in to the child’s every whim. These same parents probably carry that attitude into all aspects of their child’s lives, and end up with a bunch of spoiled brats. There’s reasonable balance in this and all situations in life !

      • That is seriously the stupidest response I have ever read Dona. Most of the time you can’t even see the breast because it’s obstructed by a tiny human head. Small babies don’t have “whims” they are growing and need food, and sometimes they need it right away. In babies hunger = pain.

        It seems like you are projecting some deep seated issues on breastfeeding mothers.

  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.

      • I think lazy and inconsiderate are certainly true, but “classless” goes a bit too far.

        It’s as if these women thing having a baby excludes them from having to recognize and abide by cultural norms. It is not normal or accepted to have an exposed breast in public in the US, regardless of context. The majority of people don’t want to see some random woman’s breast while in public because it is an uncomfortable situation. That doesn’t make the passerby a pervert or mean there is something wrong with them, it is just shocking and unexpected to see a breast in public. While in public, one should behave in such a way as to not offend others or bait a conflict. Just cover up and you’re all good to feed in public.

  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?

      • Tired of seeing being attacked because they are not comfortable seeing someone nursing or having a boob pulled out on a stranger or friend. Nursing moms seem to think that the only thing that matters in the entire world is there feeling, their needs, and their child’s. The rest of the world just bow down and check your feeling at the door. This person should NOT feel ashamed or be SHAMED for feeling uncomfortable. She has a RIGHT to her feelings and you can’t shame or force her to be what you deem politically correct. Older people have a hard time with this too. It’s a generational thing. The believe in Modesty. People didn’t just pull a breast out publically in their day – and there is no reason on this EARTH that they should be forced to change there feelings. Now, that doesn’t stop nursing Moms from going ahead and nursing. However, you pro-nursing advocates seem to want a form of mind control NO ONE, I mean no one is allowed to oppose you. No one is allowed to feel uncomfortable or they are a perv or an uncaring cad. It’s beyond ridiculous. It is not the norm in the US for people to whip out breasts – as someone else pointed out. This is not a culture where this generally done. Other cultures, as mentioned, such as Central America this is more commonly practiced. To just expect the entire culture to shift overnight to accommodate your nursing needs is crazy. I do not confront people nursing. However, even if a friend had done this I too would have looked away and been quite uncomfortable and guess what? I AM entitled to my own feelings without putting them through some politically correct peer pressure filter.

    • If you have ever had to struggle to breastfeed an infant, you’d know that it’s not an intimate act in and of itself – especially in public.

  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.

    • I am a happy mother of too and I am NOT comfortable with other women plopping their boobs out whenever they feel like. And NO, baby’s needs do not out weight mine or those of my family. Baby is not the God, stop treating it as such.

      • Stacy you are one of the most considerate people here. As a sexual assault victim breasts make me uncomfortable, even seeing my own in the
        Mirror hurts me mentally sometimes, but it pisses me off when mom’s think they can just flop it out and have the right to trigger someone. That’s just awful. I don’t have issues with breastfeeding in public, but for god sakes cover up.

        • FFS please tell me you’re kidding. Women aren’t supposed to feed their kids because it might trigger you? We should continue perpetuating the idea that breasts are purely sexual objects?

  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
      nice.
      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.

    • I have two sons and feel as you do. I don’t think that baby’s needs trump everyone else. Nor do I feel childless people are less worthy than those with children. Very often those with babies, and especially many nursing Moms, walk around with a very entitled attitude that the entire world is to bow down to their them and their infant’s needs. It’s very off putting. There is a way to feed baby and still be considerate of other people. The world is not your living room where you just plop breasts out at random – to feed or not.

  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.

    • Breasts are private. And for some of us, they are sexual. Some of us orgasm through nipple stimulation, including the sucking of our nipples. There is nothing perverse about that. I agree that women should try to cover up for modesty sake. If I can’t take my shirt and bra off in public then a woman shouldn’t be allowed to expose her breast in public while breast feeding. And when I have been with my friends who breastfeed I turn my head while they get situated because their breasts are private. I don’t want to see my best friend’s boobs. Keep in mind, in a single sex setting where it’s just women the rules about modesty kind of go away and the woman shouldn’t worry about covering up as much. But with mixed company covering up is a must.

  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.

      • So, according to your logic, if my child wants to pee or poop, I’ll just pull his pants down, take a paper and tuck it underneath, and let him do it?

  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.

    • She is indictated some mode of discretion either or – leave the room or cover up in some manner. Just don’t flip the boob out without any warning. While you may be used to it as a nursing mom, many of your friends may not. If in public – you are in public so some people are not going to feel comfortable. There are many people who are not comfortable and no it’s not their problem. You cannot expect people who oppose or are uncomfortable with what you are doing to just change their minds because you say so. Who is behaving the child? The self-entitled nursing Moms. The entire world MUST change for them… at all costs. No one should have oppose or feel slight uncomfortable or they are a perv or an awful person. Allow people to feel what they feel. Contrary to popular believes popping out a child does not make you Queen of the World – able to dictate to others or exercise mind-control. I am a mom of two sons. I am not in opposition to breastfeeding. But I am opposed to self-entitled twits who feel their rights trump everyone elses and make no attempt to consider anyone elses feelings or comfort level – even their own friends. Because it’s all about THEM an their baby. I feel sorry for these kids. Based on parental attitudes these little darlings are going to grow up to be self-entitled little brats who also think the world revolve around them.

  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?

      • Exactly. Because the pro-breastfeeding set want to dictate mind control. You are not even to disagree or feel uncomfortable and if you do you certainly cannot EVER voice it or you will be summarily blasted verbally and told you are awful, unfeeling, a pervert, to just deal with it and all other sorts of verbal abuse. So basically just conform and let them surround you boobs out and tell them how you think they are such role-models and how courageous they are. Not. I have tons more respect for a women who breastfeeds and is modest in doing so and also takes into consideration of her surrounding and people she is with. There is someone who should be respect. She is not a self-entitled person proclaiming her RIGHTS to whip a boob out at random and you better just deal with it.

  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.

    • Well, if it is isolating, it is your problem, isn’t it? Just as it is my problem if I don’t like to see your boobs out?

    • Because again it’s all about YOU… as is everything with many nursing moms. I don’t know if there is a hormone that shuts off the ability to consider others feeling and become totally self-absorbed when you breastfeed, but starting to believe its so with all these comments by the nursing moms and their public breastfeeding supporters

      • Elaine, even though this is an old thread, I can’t tell you how much I want to stand up and applaud you for your comments. I feel the exact same way, but can’t work up the courage to say it because of the harsh reaction I’ll receive. I’m not a horrible person just because I’d prefer nursing be done discreetly. Nothing aggravates me more than people with a sense of entitlement. Funny how they always manage to make anyone who disagrees with them look like a villain.

  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 http://www.ryanao.com. 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. 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?

  27. 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.

  28. Visiting a friend at her house she started to breast feed her baby. Perfectly natural. This was her own home. I wasn’t paying attention but the conversation faltered. I was puzzled by that and she saw my confusion. She explained that breast feeding was sexually arousing and it distracted her from thinking so she couldn’t carry on the conversation.

    • That would have been my cue to get the hell out of there. I have never heard it was sexually arousing and at least no one that would admit it. She has a problem.

  29. It sounds like Kira hasn’t been a breast feeding mother herself. I timed my daughter’s feedings carefully for a day when she was 3.5 months old. She was nursing for over 8 hours and gave me no more than about a 45 minute break during the day. At that age, before she became quicker & more efficient, she would nurse on average for more than 20 minutes. What would be the point of leaving the house if I needed to “excuse myself” so frequently and for so long?

    Furthermore, as you can guess from the duration and frequency, it doesn’t particularly feel like anything more intimate than her sucking on my thumb or teething on my knuckle. If Kira feels it’s too intimate, then I think she may be uninformed about how breastfeeding really works in real life. No offence to her, just that she doesn’t seem to understand the commitment, the logistics, or the nature or breastfeeding.

  30. I am a mom and I don’t think it is wrong or unreasonable for people to ask for someone to cover up when breastfeeding in public. A public place is a shared space, and it is a simple compromise to cover up when breastfeeding. We all have to share the same space and should be respectful of each other’s feelings and not put one person’s above the other. A great compromise is covering up. No harm done. I’m not sure why moms get so upset about this. There is a lot of this “it’s all about me” in my generation (I’m 34) where other people don’t matter. It’s really weird. I wish more moms could speak up about this view, but so many get jumped all over for speaking out against uncovered breastfeeding. It’s never a debate-it’s always trash talking and attacking someone’s character and who they are if they speak up about how they prefer covered breastfeeding.

    • I think it’s an issue because there is no reason at all anyone should have to cover it up. The fact that it makes someone feel uncomfortable is a them problem, not a me being rude problem. I don’t think it’s selfish or “me me me” to say so either. Just as people also have weird hangups about who other people choose to mate with (gay couples, interracial couples) or what they wear / do with their bodies (tattoos, short skirts, etc) some people have weird and unjustified hangups about breastfeeding. There is no need to compromise for those people, they just need to work on their personal issues or not be in public / raise an issue if they are. I wouldn’t be rude and do something that actually affected other people and expect that to be ok. I won’t play my music too loudly, I won’t leave my trash laying around, I won’t squirt you with my breastmilk or sit on your lap while I feed. I will, however, feed my kid and you do need to get over it because it’s not affecting you even the tiniest bit for me to do so.

    • I am a little older and I totally agree about the the “all about me” younger generation. They often complain the older ladies will tell them to cover up and get offended. Older folks did not live in a generation where one just pulled a breast out freely. They aren’t going to change their beliefs, nor should they have to. It’s about modesty and being considerate to the fact you are in a public space. There are men around – complete strangers – young teen. Yes, I know your baby needs to eat, but how did women of an older generation handle it. They left the room or they covered discretely. Modest actually meant something. Nowdays everyone expects the world to bow down to the nursing Moms. Their rights trump everyone else and rightfully so many people get angry about that. They are not begruding the child an opportunity to eat, but they do resent being told their own comfort or discomfort doesn’t matter and they must watch an exposed breast while trying to eat their food in restaurant.

  31. What about the people who just don’t want to see it. Don’t they have a right – whether you agree with it or not – to not want to see it, or feel disturbed by it. As much as people say “you shouldn’t feel that way” some people just do, and have a right not to watch you breast feed your child. I understand new mothers have a lot on their plate however the rest of the world does not stop turning and people’s feelings/rights need to be respected.

  32. So I have not read the other comments, but here is my thoughts on this. Yes, breastfeeding is often intimate, but there are *times* where I would argue that it’s not, especially after the first several months, once there is already a very strong bond. There are many times now (with my 9 months old) and with my first that is was only about the eating and then back to daddy or whatever they were playing with. In our house, the joke is that I’m just ‘the milk cow’.

    However, as a nursing mother, I have always tried to gauge the feel of the room before nursing, so when my in-laws are around, I go to another room or cover up, but when I’m with my mom friends, they don’t care and I don’t cover up. We continue our conversation as if I don’t have a large tumor hanging of my chest, and when the baby is done, she’ll go back to playing or sleep.

    However, when it is quiet, and we’re both awake, and there’s nothing else really going on (like the last feeding of the night), we have that intimate type of nursing.

    For those that argue that others shouldn’t have to see it, well, you have a couple choices. Either you can calmly and politely say “I’m sorry to ask, but you’re just right in my line of vision from where I’m sitting; could you please cover a little bit for both our sakes?” If the answer is no, then respect the answer and do your best to look another direction. You can politely avert your eyes (such as to your phone), or you can tell the mother you would rather hear the child cry instead of see her nurse.

  33. I have read both sides to this discussion on many fronts. Personally I don’t see what pro breast feeders find wrong with the fact that some people would prefer not to see it in public? Tolerance is a double-edge sword. Yes, a woman has the right to breast-feed in public, and Yes, people can express their objections to women breast feeding in public. End of discussion.

    Please don’t disguise your intolerance as tolerance. Everyone can have an opinion and that’s OK. If you don’t like a woman breast feeding in public then don’t look at it. and for crying out loud, mothers, if you can and have the opportunity to make those around you more comfortable, breast feed somewhere else. Breast feeding should not be used to “prove a point”.

    And that is my opinion. 🙂

  34. I think that, they people are totally narrow minded and stupid, who hate to see a mom, feeding her breast to her baby in public. This is a natural phenomenon and every mother has right to feed her baby, hating this is represents the mental sickness of society.

    Freya, Uk

  35. I’m not a mother but I’m planning on starting a family. Therefore, I have been reading up on parenting and infant care etc. And what I’ve noticed that bothers me, is that mothers are highly encouraged to breastfeed to promote the physical, emotional, and cognitive health of their children. Yet, it seems at the same time, they are told where, how, and when it is”acceptable” to do what is almost demanded of them.

    How is it fair to put restrictions mother’s who are simply trying to get through their day and live their lives because there may be one or two people who come in contact with them, who are uncomfortable with how she is feeding her baby?

    When I was younger and working at a restaraunt, I saw mothers who would breastfeed uncovered, and yes, at first it was a little awkward. But what I did that worked wonders for me was to simply get over it and realize that it wasn’t about ME.

    And Elaine, maybe you should listen to your own advice, take a step back and realize that these SELFISH mothers aren’t doing this to YOU. When you said that the world shouldn’t revolve around women who breastfeed, well the world doesn’t revolve around you either.

    Try putting yourself in a new mother’s position and think about the lack of sleep, the changing of diapers, and the nearly non existent social life and try to find even a little bit of empathy. Maybe a new mom shouldn’t have to shut herself away if she has to perform a normal act like breastfeeding, something which society almost demands of her. Maybe she should be aloud to have an adult conversation, or have have a meal out without worrying that someone’s going to be silently or not silently judging her. After all, what is she doing that is so disruptive to your life? Most women, even when they are not hiding under a blanket, aren’t revealing anymore skin than the average woman you see in public. As a society, why is it okay for women to wear bikinis at the beach, show cleavage, or have langerie models in t.v. ads and in magazines, but not okay to see a mother use her body/breasts for what they are actually intended for? How does that make sense to anyone?

    Maybe we should try growing up, getting over ourselves and realize that part of being an adult is learning to cope with things that might make us a little uncomfortable.

  36. No. Pee is waste and it’s not gonna feed anyone. Breastfeeding is not a political statement, it’s literally tending to your child’s most basic need.

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