Saturday, April 4, 2009

Breastfeeding in Public

I received an e-mail from a friend about breastfeeding. She asked me several questions, among them, were you a breastfed baby, did you breastfeed and if so for how long, and, did you have trouble with comments when you breastfed in public? One other question she asked was, “What do you think about mothers’ breastfeeding babies in public, as long as they are covered up?”

That last question is the one I want to discuss here, but first, this part of my answer. "I was breastfed as a baby, and I breastfed all 3 of my kids, it never hurt with any of them. As for breastfeeding in public, I'm all for it, and no a woman shouldn't have to cover up. Do you cover up your face when eating in public? Does anyone you know do that? If the answer is no to both questions, why on earth should a woman cover up to feed her child?"

That part of my answer pretty much sums up where I want this post to go. What I would really like to know, is why something so natural as breastfeeding is so frowned upon in public by society? Women have breasts so they can feed their children just like every other mammal on the planet it's natural. Do you hide your face when you see your pet cat feeding her kittens? Or your pet dog feeding her pups? What do you do, when you're driving down the road and pass a farm where a cow is feeding her calf or a mare her foal? Do you get all ashamed, and say "That's not right, they should go hide somewhere to feed their young!" No you don't, and why don't you? Because breastfeeding is natural, that's why! So why do so many say that women have to be covered up, that it's not right for humans to feed or be fed in public? Do people not realize just how hot and uncomfortable it is to have a child tucked up to your breast under a blanket? I don't care how light the blanket is, babies generate an awful lot of heat. Besides that, when you have your head under a blanket, would you be comfortable eating? No, you wouldn't be, nor would I!

I've seen women breastfeeding in public without being covered up, and I wanted to cheer. It really hurt me, when I'd hear other people walking past her saying she should go home to feed the kid. There was one time that I heard that when I did get on my soapbox as I'm doing right now. This couple walked past a woman feeding her child in the mall while she was sitting at a table having her own lunch. The husband (of said couple) took one look at the woman eating and feeding her babe, and said "What the hell do you think you're doing? This is a public place and children can see you! You should be ashamed of yourself showing your breast off to everyone who walks by! And if you aren't, you must be a slut to not care!"

I was absolutely horrified by that mans behavior! I couldn't believe my ears, that someone should be so vile as to say such things! Damn rights I got on my soap box that day! Most of what I said to him, I said here already, but I also asked him what he would do if his wife had a newborn babe, and needed to feed the child while shopping. Before I let him say anything, I also asked him what gave him the right to call this total stranger a slut, for doing the most natural thing in the world? All of this, I said loudly enough so that most of the people in the food court could hear me. The man turned beat red, I don't know if it was from embarrassment or anger, and turned around to leave. He never offered an apology to the woman though, and that is a sad thing. He could have at least done that. His wife certainly looked completely mortified from the moment her husband opened his mouth, at least someone in that couple had some brains, sheesh!

There was a smattering of applause for the tongue-lashing I gave the man, and the woman feeding her babe looked up at me with tears in her eyes and said thank you. I was about 4 months pregnant with my son at the time, and let me tell you, you don't want to mess with a pregnant, overly hormonal woman! 

I'll never forget that day, it was a couple of weeks before Christmas, and I just couldn't believe the uncharitable attitude that some people have. I know that, for all the people who think like I do, there are that many more that think like the man who criticized the woman. 

Society needs to change.

*shakes head sadly while climbing off the soapbox*


  1. YES- society does need to change. I think being mindful of where we come from helps us understand why we are HERE, so-to-speak.

    Where we come from- specifically as Americans- is a past largely influenced and colored by religious, political and educational institutions.

    Schools, churches and governments spend a lot of time preaching (directly or through implication) deep shame and guilt for some of the basic, natural functions of our bodies and spirits.

    It is no coincidence that indigenous cultures who are comfortable with public nudity as well as public loving sexual activity, have NO cases of sexual violence or for that matter, violent crime whatsoever. There is a TON of research on this. One great book is called "Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight" by Thom Hartmann.

    Even though it's mostly about the destruction of our natural environment, there is a lot of research and data based analysis of indigenous tribes and their lifestyles in this book.

    I really like you sass regarding this topic. Society DOES need to change.

  2. hey skye:

    there is nothing wrong with women breastfeeding babies in public. Most women I see doing it cover up there breast, but sit out in the open.

    I do think most women would cover up, but there is no reason for them to have to "go home" or hide somewhere for feeding their infant.

    I think men are more hung up on this then women because men sexualize breasts more so then women do.

    This man sounds like a total a-hole

  3. Ah Brazen, I couldn't have said that better, thank you! I'll have to go and check out that book, sounds really interesting, thanks for mentioning it :) As for sass, well, sometimes I get out of my pram a bit when someone else is acting well out of theirs. Some day's there is just nothing for it, but to be an outspoken ole bat :D

    You're right about that Penny! Although my ex wasn't much better, he always made me go to the bathroom to feed our babies when we were out in public. And if we were at a family members or friends house, I'd have to go and hide in an empty bedroom or something. Couldn't have my brothers seeing me feed a child, now could we!?! Even when my sister was feeding her daughter at the table, I was told to go elsewhere, hense my total anger over this topic!

  4. Absolutely. And it's not just the public aspect of it. It's the totality. The milk formulas aren't there for emergency use. They're pushed as being every bit as good as real breast milk, if not better. Particularly in the third world.

    The wickedness never ends does it?

    Ha! The verification word is 'dipsy' and I certainly am.

  5. You said a mouthful there Nobody, I couldn't agree more!

    You dipsy!?! I think we all can be at times ;)

  6. hey skye did you catch the news story about the woman in edmonton breastfeeding her baby and getting hate mail etc??
    hang on, I'll post the link.....

    sorry to lazy to do the link thing, just check that out.

  7. Actually Penny, I hadn't caught it, but Silv asked me when I had put this post up, why I had. He had caught it on the news, and thought that was perhaps my reasoning for the post.

    Thanks for the copy/paste, thingy, I'll go check it out a little later! :)

  8. The only time a woman should have to cover up while breastfeeding is if it's cold and windy and exposing her sensitives to the elements is too uncomfortable. But on a nice, sunny day? I see enough young men walking about shirtless for no better reason than 'it's hot' (and yeah, some days I'm one of them) that it's sheerest hypocrisy for society to demand a shroud for a far more necessary activity.

    The connection to the formula industry (up there with vaccines almost in terms of its pernicious effect) is of course a factor but I think the sexual prurience goes quite a bit deeper in our cultural history than baby formula does. And how disturbed is that? Bringing sexual prurience into anything at all to do with babies.

    Almost says it all right there.

  9. Actually Psychegram, I believe that does say it all!

    By the way, welcome to my blogging home, it's always nice to see new faces come by for a visit!


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