Why Not Just Breastfeed in Private?

Today’s post comes from Anne Carpenter Van Dyk, a fellow working mom, who I know through my work with faculty.  KTM

After 18 months of uneventfully nursing my daughter Elle as we go about our daily lives, I’d never received so much as a dirty look from anyone, anywhere.  It’s not shocking. Among the highly educated here in New England, baby-wearing and breastfeeding are en vogue.

But I was just told by the director of my daughter’s daycare that, on the rare occasion when I need to nurse Elle at daycare before leaving for the day, it would be appreciated if I not do so in the toddler room. Smack in the middle of World Breastfeeding Week [A], no less.

I was told that they just don’t want other families to feel uncomfortable. Perhaps I could nurse Elle in the car?

Fat chance – she doesn’t fit across my lap and wiggles out of my arms to get to the steering wheel to “drive”, the little squirt! Besides, even if the temperature is by some miracle tolerable, would that be your first choice location to have a meal with someone you love?

According to the director, I could also take my daughter down the hall to nurse in the infant room—more “age appropriate”.  The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until at least age two [B]; how is nursing an 18 month old not age-appropriate?  Besides, Elle would rather coo at the babies in the infant room instead of nursing.

You see, breastfeeding is, well, organic: you can’t predict or plan when your child will beg for milk and ignoring her cries comes at a cost (not just working-mommy guilt but sometimes also wet leak-spots on your shirt).  During the curious toddler years, it rarely works to just snatch a child up and go to a new location to nurse.  At least not within commuter-train time constraints.  I explained this.

The daycare director became agitated: all the other mothers we have asked have stopped nursing in the toddler room. Don’t you care about how you make others feel?  People aren’t used to seeing it. What am I supposed to tell people who are uncomfortable seeing you nurse your daughter.

And that is the moment I realized why breastfeeding in public matters.

My answer to her was a question:  What do you tell people who are uncomfortable seeing someone pray quietly with their child? What do you tell people who are uncomfortable seeing a gay couple, or a bi-racial couple, drop off their child together? What do you tell people who are uncomfortable seeing someone else’s disabled or disfigured child?  Do you ask the ‘offending’ parents to use the back entrance?  Go in another room where no one can see them?

No. You look the ‘offended’ person straight in the eye and say, “I’m sorry to hear that it bothers you, but supporting parents in caring for their children is more important to us than protecting you from discomfort.”

The fact is, I would not have been interrogated if I had given my daughter a cup of milk, or just snuggled her a few minutes upon dropping her off.  I had pointed out that I’m quite discreet – I’m in the far corner of the room, completely covered, with my back to everyone; even if I were facing people, no one could possibly see any body parts they don’t regularly see at the beach or a PG movie.

So really what I was being told was to be respectful of people who are uncomfortable with the idea of breastfeeding.  And on that point I am willing to stand up for all the other nursing mothers – those who are less inclined to take a small-scale conflict and turn it into a war against injustice – and say:

Asking a mother to go elsewhere to nurse her child sends a message to the woman (and everyone else) that nursing a child needs to be hidden from view rather than just being a normal part of everyday life.

Statistics for America have improved but are still well below recommendations: 77% of U.S.-born infants begin life breastfeeding but only 16% are still exclusively breastfed at 6 months [C]. The CDC does not even track breastfeeding in the U.S. at 2 years, the WHO-recommended guideline.

And the lack of mothers nursing in public means that people will continue to think it is not normal and be uncomfortable about it.

Not convinced? Still queasy about mothers nursing in public?  Well, you’re going to have to get over it.

Society has decided that breastfeeding is important enough – as a basic human right and a public health issue – that it overrides your discomfort. Laws in 48 of the 50 states protect a mother’s right to nurse her baby, with or without a cover, whenever and wherever they are otherwise legally allowed to be [D].

Suggest otherwise to a nursing mother and you could be subject to a fine. Not just in restaurants and parks and stores, but also (gasp!) childcare centers, including a room (double gasp!) intended for feeding and nurturing toddlers.

– Anne Carpenter Van Dyk, PhD, is a research scientist and mother.

Links:

[A] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/events/meetings/2013/world_breastfeeding_week/en/

[B] http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/

[C] http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/2013BreastfeedingReportCard.pdf

[D] http://m.ncsl.org/issues-research/health/breastfeeding-state-laws.aspx   West Virginia and Idaho currently lag behind.

  • $21590057

    No. As a former breastfeeding mother, I wish breastfeeding Nazis would understand that it is actually better for you and for the child to show a bit of respect for the wishes of the people who own the businesses where you want to breastfeed. If you can no longer breastfeed with a receiving blanket to cover your parts, don’t you think you’re going to be stared at and questioned by toddlers and create a disruption for the daycare?

    I breastfed both my children until they were around two, but I had sense enough to pump my milk and bring a bottle of it if I thought they’d need it while we were in public. Show some respect for your daycare’s rules. And if you don’t like them, switch daycares. I’m sure they’ll let you out of any contract you’ve signed if you explain that you don’t want to follow the rules you knew about when you signed up.

    • Anne Carpenter Van Dyk

      Please re-read – lack of blanket is not the issue here: “I’m in the far corner of the room, completely covered, with my back to everyone; even if I were facing people, no one could possibly see any body parts they don’t regularly see at the beach or a PG movie.” The daycare had no stated policy on this issue when I signed up, other than stating their general support for breastfeeding, so their response was quite surprising, especially given that breastfeeding is encouraged in the infant room.

      • $21590057

        Hey, if you don’t want to follow their rules, take your business elsewhere. Simple, no need to groan about it.

        • Jenna Boyd

          Um, do you read before you comment? “The daycare had no stated policy on this issue when I signed up” Clearly it’s not a rule.

        • JB

          They don’t have a rule on it, and if they did state law trumps it.

    • cacasey1981

      I’m not sure that you could use a more offensive term than Nazi. I don’t think there is a breastfeeding advocate out there who is looking to kill millions of people due to their race or religion.
      And in my experince toddlers and small children have no questions about what is going on – they understand that it’s just a mother feeding her child, nothing more.

      • Rebekah Luna

        Amen

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711128895 Ali Edgley

        In my experience older children and teenagers don’t have a problem with it either. Why would they?

      • JB

        My 6th grade nephew only had a problem with it the first few months, only because he had never seen someone breastfeed before. His mom had no problem with me nursing in front of him, because she knew a baby has to eat. Now it doesn’t bother him.

    • Casey Baur

      I’m not going to force my daughter to take a bottle just to make people who are uncomfortable happy. I tried a couple times,she hated it,so I just didn’t bother. That is an asinine statement. Pumping is a lot of work and for someone who doesn’t need to do it for work or school and we shouldn’t have to go through the trouble of pumping,keeping bottles cold etc. just to pacify the oversensitive. My 8 year old nephew can walk into a room,see a mom breastfeeding and not even bat an eye. If he can be that mature about it,why can’t adults?

      • $21590057

        Using an electric breast pump to pump an 8 ounce bottle of milk is no work at all. I used to do it every dingle day to donate my excess breast milk to preemies whose mothers were unable to proved breast milk. It took a minute to get started, and then it was all hands-free until I took a minute to clean up. You guys really are not wanting to show anyone respect for THEIR OWN RULES IN THEIR OWN BUSINESSES.

        No comments on the mother continuing to use the daycare, despite disagreeing with their policies, lol. She shouldn’t have to follow THEIR rules, they should accommodate her rules. Typical libtards.

        • Unabashedly Christian

          Libtard? You are certainly entitled to your strong opinion but I find it perplexing to see another mother stoop to name calling. Your use of a pejorative completely diminishes your credibility because the word is the equivalent of a school yard bully’s childish taunt.

        • Karen crombie

          As a neonatal nurse I would like to point out not every woman can express successfully and to be honest God designed us mammals to suckle our young so why should we pump?

        • Resa Brandenburg

          A woman’s breast doesn’t create an unlimited amount of milk constantly. They produce ONLY as much as the baby needs. Supply and demand. Therefore one would have to pump routinely (like you did) in order to pump 8 oz with “no work at all.” However, if you are a full-time breastfeeding mom who does not pump, getting even 2 ounces of milk can be a lot of work indeed.

          Research and educate yourself on this before making such generalized comments.

        • Anne Carpenter Van Dyk

          “No comments on the mother continuing to use the daycare, despite disagreeing with their policies, lol. She shouldn’t have to follow THEIR rules, they should accommodate her rules. Typical libtards.”

          Rosa Parks should have just taken her business elsewhere, too, right?

          I’m not asking the daycare to follow my rules. I’m asking them to follow Massachusetts law.

          And for the record, I have not yet decided whether to keep my child in the daycare or not, pending further discussions with them. I believe in using respectful conversations and persuasion and I’d like to give them an opportunity to change their minds (and yield a more supportive environment for future mothers in the daycare) rather than simply do what serves my own interests.

        • marinewife515

          I nurse my almost 6 month old exclusively. Tried to pump to add milk to the baby food I was making and got 0.5oz. 0.5OZ you mean to tell me my child can live on 0.5 ounces. I think not. Just because you had excess milk does not mean that every mother out there does. I would have to pump 16 times a day just to hope to get 8 ounces, that’s more times a day than a child eats.

        • Jenna Boyd

          Well, maybe “THEIR OWN RULES IN THEIR OWN BUSINESSES” shouldn’t break the law, just sayin’

          And what the heck is a “typical libtard” anyway? Sounds like maybe liberal retard? Please don’t use the term retard, or anything-tard again, it is highly offensive.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711128895 Ali Edgley

          Of course they should. They’re breaking the law.

        • Christina Howker Fullard

          Oh so because YOU could easily pump then everyone can, can they? Because that’s how it works is it? What if someone doesn’t HAVE an electric breast pump? What if they can’t afford one? What if when THEY use one, not enough milk comes out to fill that bottle even after half an hour? You think the pro-breastfeeders here think it’s all about them when really you just think it’s all about YOU! “I expressed milk so why can’t everyone else?” Why SHOULD anyone else? Some of them can’t, some of them don’t want to and legally, NONE OF THEM HAVE TO. We’re not all you (hurrah!) so YOU should accommodate THAT.

        • Billie

          “Using an electric breast pump to pump an 8 ounce bottle of milk is no work at all.” OMG how I wish this was TRUE!!!! I wish, I wish, I wish. As a mom who pumped for 9 months with preemie twins who were unable to breastfeed, and who now pumps at work while breastfeeding a 13-month-old, I can state unequivocally that it is pure rubbish. Pumping is HARD WORK for me!! I do it, but I hate it and wish it was easier.

          • Bridgette Provancha

            The only time I could EVER pump 8 ounces would be if I were to have gone too long between feedings and were so uncomfortably engorged. While EBF I have just enough supply to actually feed my baby on demand, I don’t have a surplus of milk just waiting to be pumped. If I were to pump inbetween feedings there would be no milk for her at the next feeding time then I’d have to give her a bottle… not the end of the world, but why would I? I pump while at work only and am lucky enough to produce enough milk to bring to daycare but when we are at home she nurses, when we go out in public, she nurses… and without a cover (gasp)

        • Casey Baur

          Not everyone responds to a pump genius. You are obviously uneducated about breastfeeding. How about pick up a book and I dunno….read it.

        • pigbot

          The second you use divisive language like ‘libtards’ is the exact moment that anything you say is no longer worth any sort of serious consideration.

        • Chris Harmon

          I was barely able to pump any thing, but produced copious amounts of milk. Next.

        • JB

          No, they should accommodate the LAW, and as a business I would think they would want to comply with it instead of taking a chance on getting sued if anyone were to do so. Business policies do not override state & federal laws.

        • Conuly

          I guess you never heard that the customer is always right.

        • Casey Baur

          Maybe it wasn’t for you but not all moms respond to a pump. It wasn’t hard for me but my daughter never would take a bottle and would just scream relentlessly in hunger. I’m not going to make my baby scream in hunger for hours before she gives up and takes it just because people are so uptight that they are weirded out by breastfeeding. People need to grow up and realize it’s the way nature intended babies to eat. Our country is so backwards.

    • Rebekah Luna

      “Sense enough” that’s hilarious. I have sense enough to use my breasts for what they were intended for. My common sense tells me that breast pumps are man-made and un-natural. I’ll feed my baby anywhere, any time, and any way. Just like I’m supposed to :)

    • Karen crombie

      Depends where you are . In the UK I can breastfed anywhere I can legally be with my child and I did.

      I never managed to feed I under a blanket made my daughter scream and I don’t blame her, I hate drinking under a blanket how on earth can you interact with those around you with a blanket on your head?

    • onetinkerbell

      1) This has NOTHING AT ALL to do with rules. It has EVERYTHING to do with someone being uncomfortable with nursing at all. The daycare doesn’t say that she may not nurse in that room, the director is saying that one individual’s legally allowed behavior is potentially making other people feel ‘uncomfortable’. Also, they cannot legally make her nurse elsewhere, since she’s probably protected by law from having to do so.

      2) Children/toddlers are not at all bothered by seeing a mom breast feed. My aunt asked my mom not to breast feed me in front of her husband (my mom’s brother) and her son – in my parents’ own home! – back when I was an infant. My cousin came looking for my mom because he was concerned that she wasn’t feeding me. He found my mom nursing me and asked her what she was doing. She explained in terms he could understand and he was fine with it and never asked again. My own son (age 4) understands that nursing is how his brother (age 2 weeks) eats. He doesn’t question it. Nursing is natural and hiding it from kids only produces more questions and, further, prevents children from learning that it is the normal way that mammals feed their young. In case you didn’t get the memo, that’s what makes us mammals.

      3) Allowing society to dictate when and how you breastfeed your child only serves to perpetrate archaic, misogynistic ideas about breasts and sexuality. It also perpetuates the idea that breastfeeding is something taboo or dirty that shouldn’t be done in public.

      4) Your argument about respecting the wishes of others holds no water. That’s like saying that you respect all religions/faiths but then insist on using your faith as the basis for laws and regulations within the nation, despite the fact that not all citizens believe the same thing, then trying to cry foul when people remind you that your beliefs are not the only ones held by the public. It doesn’t work with religion and it doesn’t work with breast feeding in public. A parent’s right to feed her child is just that. If you don’t want to see her do it, don’t stare at her. After all, she’s not holding you hostage and making you watch her do it. Or you can choose to sit elsewhere. Or move. I love how people get all high and mighty about “having to look at it/see it” when they ought to just have better manners and stop staring. It’s not like breastfeeding moms WANT you to stare at them. Cripes!

      • Gaby San

        I breastfed for two years. But I can’t remember ONE time I ever nursed in public for the last six or eight months. Why? Because by then the kid was eating like a horse, so I started offering some other form of nourishment instead of just offering the breast every time he asked. I told him nursing was something we did at home, in peace, to be together. I never actually denied him, I just offered alternatives. He always took them! It irks me when mothers imply that their 28 month old will go hungry if not nursed right on the spot. Offer water and fruit, woman! or…. is it just that you want to boast that you’re still breastfeeding, and other people can suck it? Guess what, many people find it uncomfortable. Yes it sucks. No, YOU CAN’T change how other people feel. it’s kind of one of the basics of living in society, really.

        • Jessica Shaham

          Perhaps she just wants a few more minutes of closeness and reassurance before dropping off her daughter at daycare. Perhaps that one time in the morning is the only time for the rest of the day that she’ll have a chance to nurse. I also didn’t often nurse my toddlers in public, but that was because THEY weren’t interested – there was too much else to be doing. My 2-year-old will still ask to nurse when he’s sleepy, in public or not, and it’s not because he’s hungry – my milk has dried up due to pregnancy – it’s because he wants the comfort that only nursing brings him. Offering him water or fruit simply isn’t a substitute for nursing. It’s not about boasting at all.

          • Gaby San

            OK. I can understand the moment of closeness. But then, why not move to the infant’s room? Why must everyone be OK with your nursing in public?
            If you really can’t be bothered with moving, you can always tell them to stick it. that is, if it’s really a ‘once in a while’ thing instead of ‘I must offer reassurance in the form of my milk until the very second I drop her off.’ Otherwise, if you do it every day, again, you’re boasting. There are other ways of reassuring your child beyond the tit, specially as they grow older. You better try to explore them, as you will eventually have to wean him, sad as that might sound right now. You will need the tools eventually. ;)

            I have friends who have done extended and tandem breastfeeding and none of them ever had a problem. They also all talked to their children as they grew up and found ways to negotiate so as it is not a MUST that they should unbutton and breastfeed just everywhere.

          • Jessica Shaham

            She does say it’s a rare occasion, not daily. And I still don’t understand why it would be boasting to nurse your 18-month-old where someone else might see you do it?

          • Gaby San

            I don’t know. I have nothing against it or in favor; it’s a non-issue for me. Maybe I just refuse to believe she would have been asked if it was just on a ‘rare’ occasion. Also, I think, who the hell cares? They can’t make her leave on the grounds of breastfeeding, and I doubt it would become much of an issue if she just told them to sod off, in a more or less polite way as she felt inclined. The law is on her side, so why make a big deal out of it?
            That’s why I say, it sometimes seems to me they don’t only want to normalize it, they want to make everyone be okay with it. and that’s not going to happen.

          • Anne Carpenter Van Dyk

            I nursed my daughter in the toddler room exactly three times prior to being asked to stop, during a week when she was feeling under the weather due to bad sleeping.

            The daycare director told me I am not allowed to do it and has not yet relented despite our conversations on the matter. Even if the law is on my side, I don’t want to create a confrontational situation with the people who are caring for my daughter. I am attempting to resolve the situation with persuasion and discussion in the hopes of them changing their policy.

            I am not asking everyone to be okay with breastfeeding in public. I am asking the center to comply with the law and allow me to nurse my child when needed.

          • Chris Harmon

            Maybe because it is a daycare center- where nursing a child should not ever be an issue?!!!

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711128895 Ali Edgley

            Boasting?? Come on.

          • onetinkerbell

            Boasting? Really? So what you’re saying is that if she wants to nurse her child for a few minutes every day that she drops her off at daycare, she’s doing it to brag about her ability to make milk? Are you serious? We don’t nurse because we want praise and gold medals and recognition for being a good mom. We nurse because it is what we were meant to do as mammals and because it’s the best way to feed, as well as an excellent way to comfort and bond with your child.

            In this case, it’s not about reassuring the child, or boasting or anything like that. It’s about being allowed to comfort your child in the way s/he prefers with a method that is legal and which is also healthy for the child and mom. It’s really that simple. And quite frankly, nursing for comfort hasn’t been shown to have negative effects on children. In fact it’s actually the opposite.

            I’m glad your friends had such success with discussing appropriate nursing times with their kids. However, we’re talking about a child who is younger than 2, and she probably doesn’t grasp the idea that some people are uncomfortable with her nursing. And she shouldn’t have to. She’s a child. It is the adults who have a problem with it that need to get over themselves.

          • satinswan

            Maybe her kid is better at this than mine, but with my daughter, it is difficult enough to get her to the toddler room at her daycare in the first place. She’s got separation anxiety going on and cries when I drop her off (why, I don’t know, she’s been at the same daycare since she was three months old and she’s been there almost two years). She only gets hugs and kisses when I leave, but I can imagine the scenario of getting warm and snuggly in the infant room to breastfeed, then taking her over to the toddler room where she’d get fussy at me leaving her there…I think that would only make it worse.

            But what the director is asking, and you and others are asking, is for this mother to do her original goodbye ritual (nursing) in one room, followed by a second goodbye ritual of some sort in another room, which has the large potential of stressing the child. So that others won’t be uncomfortable.

            Yeah, that makes sense…

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711128895 Ali Edgley

          I don’t really care if people find it uncomfortable tbh. Their problem, not mine. Of course a 2 yr old won’t starve without breastmilk on demand, but so what? She won’t starve without a Mars Bar either, and I find toddlers eating junk way more uncomfortable. But I wouldn’t dream of humiliating the mother in public.

        • jim.vandyk@yahoo.com

          Gaby – I disagree with your comment that you can’t change how other people feel. Societal change is rarely a comfortable process but it can and does happen. Civil rights are a great example of that.

        • Vanessa Luna

          Why should other mothers have to offer their children something else just because that’s what you chose to do? I fail to see how woman who prefer to breastfeed in public past a certain age are “boasting” about it. Guess what, feeling uncomfortable sometimes is a fact of life and “one of the basics of living in society.” Yes it sucks and you can’t change it.

        • JB

          And yet the AAP & WHO says that breastmilk or formula is their primary source until at least 1 year of age. It’s great that your child took to food, not all do. Breastfeeding is not just about food, but offers comfort as well. If my son wants breastmilk, no amount of food is going to change that and just teaches him to use food in place of feelings (sort of like eating when you’re bored, depressed, etc). But that last bit is just my opinion, not all children do that, just like not all people do that.

          As to you can’t change society, it changes all the time. What do you think they did before formula? Before disposable diapers? So much has changed just with raising children. I could go farther and list things outside of parenthood, but frankly I don’t think I need to.

        • Conuly

          Many people, even today, find it really uncomfortable to see an interracial couple or a same-sex couple. That doesn’t mean people in these relationships should just pretend they aren’t in order to make the haters happy.

          Some people are uncomfortable seeing other people wearing their religious symbols. They don’t get to enforce their discomfort on others either.

      • pigbot

        Hah, indeed re: kids finding it perfectly normal. If my son (8 months) starts crying, my daughter (4 years) gets frustrated and comes to me all huffy, saying, “Ugh. Mommy. Brudder’s cryin’ again. Will you just give him boobie so he’ll be quiet? He’s hungry.”

    • MaudedelMar

      Nazis were cold and methodical, a mother nursing a child on demand is the antithesis of this.

      Being a warm loving mother means putting your child’s very basic needs above any accidental onlooker’s discomfort or ridiculous sense of entitlement for an emotionally void and superficial sense of social decorum. Societies are not perfect and it is up to us to help it progress along with the best that humanity has to offer, if that is respecting the needs of the most vulnerable,emotionally and physically needy among us then where is the harm? Babies brain growth and immune health also depend on us being sensitive to their needs, they won’t stay babies forever so howabout we agree that babies should be ” babied” and everyone else can just use their superior maturity and intellect to get a flippin’ grip.

    • Chris Harmon

      It is a daycare- where they care for children- who should be breastfed if they want to- ON DEMAND which is their right!

    • Joan

      And what is wrong with explaining to a toddler what the mother is doing? My little girls would breast feed their baby dolls in public….gasp….

    • bearing

      “don’t you think you’re going to be stared at and questioned by toddlers and create a disruption for the daycare?”

      By that logic, people with visible disabilities should also make themselves scarce.

      “Your parts?” Really?

      Let the toddlers question me. The answers are probably easy.

      “What is he doing?” “He’s eating.” Gee, that was so hard and offensive.

    • satinswan

      Conversation I had with my niece (not breastfed) when she was two and my daughter was 1-3mos old:

      Niece: What [baby] doing?
      Me: She’s eating.
      Niece: Oh. [Baby] is biting you!
      Me: No, she’s not biting, she’s just drinking.

      That was the extent of it. She was curious, I answered her questions in an age-appropriate manner, and she went on playing. Occasionally she would pick up a doll, hold it to her chest, and put a blanket over it – oh, the horror, the horror… Not.

      Now, my niece is four and my daughter is a little over two. The last conversation I had with her when my daughter was nursing:

      Niece: Is [baby] eating?
      Me: Yes she is.
      Niece: Oh. … [Baby], are you ready to come play?

      Then she went off when my daughter shook her head no.

      I know, totally terrible, my niece was absolutely traumatized. … Not.

      Furthermore, you don’t know if this daycare initially had a policy against this. If they did, they should have been up front about it with every nursing mother at the facility. I’m guessing they didn’t/weren’t since the author was taken aback by it. I would think this would be especially important if they pass themselves off as a “breast-feeding friendly” daycare.

      You also don’t know how many of the toddlers in attendance were or are still being breastfed and would even be curious about it.

      Lastly, as a working mother (necessity, not choice), I had a damnably hard time pumping enough milk for my daughter for while she was at daycare, let alone for every trip out of the house we ever made. I certainly was not willing to put up with the frustration of maybe pumping a single ounce (which would not have been nearly enough) to take out with us just to spare other people’s comfort levels, nor was I going to resort to formula to spare other people’s comfort levels. Congrats on being a milk-making wunderkind who responded well to a pump, but not all of us are capable of that.

      All in all, I have to tell you that you’re being awfully self-righteous for a situation you know almost zilch about and should really just be quiet now.

  • Jada Nicks Edwards

    99.9% of places I went with my babies did NOT have a place to nurse. So I nursed as discreetly as I could, covered with a blankie and my baby’s sweet body blocking the view. You could definitely figure out what I was doing…it ain’t rocket science, after all, but it was NECESSARY to FEED my child. I didn’t apologize to anyone…and fortunately no one ever asked me to! :) What kind of world do we live in where breastfeeding is odd or “nuts”? It’s THE most natural thing in the world! I would ask Jonathan above to reconsider his position: There are bathrooms to whip out his man tackle everywhere he goes. Would he have me sit in a nasty public bathroom to feed? Would Jonathan like to eat his meal sitting on a toilet in a public bathroom? I didn’t think so!

  • mrssmileyd

    Great more laws!!!!! I did breastfeed my kids, but always in privacy!!! Go ahead and force more laws on us, that will make your cause more acceptable!

    • Dena

      Its sad that you got to comment first.

    • Guest

      Laws do drive social change and acceptance: Consider for example the civil rights movement and anti-discrimination laws. They were extremely unpopular in some areas of our country when they were first implemented. Although there are still prejudiced people in our country 50 years later, there are far thankfully far fewer now than there were in the 1960′s.

  • Dianne Carpenter

    It is sad that some of the commenters don’t seem to get the point. Anne’s body part is not ‘out’ Mr. Zip Your Pants. CricketBug misses the point, too; the onus of acceptance for all the examples Anne gave is on the observer, not the object of ‘discomfort’. Don’t you remember ‘go to the back of the bus’?

    Thanks, Jada! And, yes, I am Anne’s mom and Elle’s Grammie…. I and my generation fought for Daddies in the delivery room and also for breastfeeding in public. It looks like I am passing the mantle to Anne and her generation.

  • Anne Carpenter Van Dyk

    The question, “How is public breastfeeding different from public urination?” is a fair one to ask. The type of public breastfeeding specifically defended in this article is where no private body parts are shown. The fact is, if you are able to urinate with your body parts completely covered and without causing odor or sanitation issues, then you absolutely ARE already permitted by our society to do so in public – diapers can accomplish this goal, for example.

    Clearly, eating in public is even more socially acceptable than urination. So at the very least, mothers should be supported in feeding their children in public under the same, discreet conditions. Some would go further and argue that mothers should not have to be discreet about nursing; that is a separate, more controversial issue and is not addressed specifically here.

    • Marisol

      Eating in public does not pose risks to anyone’s health, Urinating does. When we urinate we expel many toxins, can also spread disease, and produces a foul smell. Tell me, how many diseases or foul smells of amonia does breastfeeding produce? exacty!

  • Guest

    BrotherWill, having your penis out in public to urinate is completely different than breast feeding and is a public health issue. If you want to compare having a penis out to urinate or a vagina out, that would be a logical comparison. Also, fortunately for you and your penis, there are public restrooms everywhere for you to urinate in so you you aren’t forced to expose yourself. There are no where near as many designated nursing areas in the public world as there are rest rooms to urinate in. Also, a penis is used for urinating and having sex which makes it much more of a sexual object then breasts whose sole purpose is to produce milk to feed a child. So you are trying to compare apples to oranges. I’m sorry that you have sexualized breasts instead of seeing what they are for. Maybe you should try walking around for one day with a doll and in advance writing down random intervals that you will have to feed it and set a timer for all of these intervals, you will find that at completely random and unplanned for moments the timer will go off, and this is what happens with a child. You can plan to be finished at the bank and be in your car (if you even have a car) or be back to your house by a certain time so you can feed in private but unfortunately your errand may take longer or your baby may get hungry sooner and then what are you supposed to do? Let them go hungry because people like you think seeing a breast feeding mother is offensive because you have overly sexualized her breasts which are intended for feeding a child?

  • Peter

    Good for you Anne. The breastfeeding in public taboo has always puzzled me. Of course a mother should not need to hide what is a natural and expected part of motherhood. The more that people like you take a stand, the more consciousness will be raised on the subject. I hope that eventually people will lose their baseless prejudice and odd attitude toward breastfeeding women.

  • Peter

    You actually tried to compare public urination to breastfeeding a child? The analogy is ridiculous on its face.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711128895 Ali Edgley

      Do you feed babies with your penis, BrotherWill?

  • Amy

    This post offers a great chart comparing breastfeeding to other bodily functions. Sadly, I doubt BrotherWill will read it. http://theleakyboob.com/2012/01/exploring-the-body-fluids-debate-about-breastfeeding-in-public/

    • BabyMilk

      Anyone who compares something he is doing with his penis to breastfeeding is not worth educating. Thankfully there are laws in place to protect mothers and their children from people who won’t evolve.

  • BabyMilk

    Looks like the whiners are on this one today. You know the body-phobic, anti-progressive misogynists? Yeah those types. Ignore them folks. The world is passing them by. They’re on here because they’ve lost and now they just want to whine. Don’t even respond to them. Enjoyed the article. Thanks!

  • excampuskiddo

    @BrotherWill, are you drinking your own urine? Or having somebody else drink it?
    Because THAT would be a better analogy, and since urine is waste and not
    designed to nourish a human being, it wouldn’t be appropriate in
    public. Besides that, the penis IS a primary sex organ, like the vagina
    – a person with a penis is biologically classified as a male, and the
    penis’ primary functions are to eliminate waste and to allow the male to
    reproduce. However, if penises were primarily made to nourish, rather
    than create, a human being, then there wouldn’t be a problem. :D

    Speaking
    of “dangerous to hold it too long,” did you know that women who
    breastfeed who go too long between feedings (as can happen when they are
    made uncomfortable with nursing while they are out and about and so
    “hold it” until they get home) can become engorged (where the breasts
    become so full that they are rock hard), which can lead to painful
    blocked ducts and a breast infection called mastitis? Symptoms of
    mastitis include fever, chills, painful breasts, a burning feeling in
    the breast (either constantly or when breastfeeding), and can lead to
    abscesses on/in the breast that must be surgically drained. Mastitis
    must be treated with antibiotics. It can develop far more rapidly than a
    bladder infection (especially since you’re a male, and less prone to
    UTIs than females are, to begin with). One of the primary ways to
    prevent mastitis is feeding on demand, which will prevent or relieve
    engorgement. Although I, like probably most mothers, have a love/hate
    relationship with breastfeeding, I am immensely thankful that my baby is
    more than happy to relieve that awful pain, wherever we happen to be.

  • Brad

    I’ve no opinion on the matter, but I do feel the author has misrepresented one of her citations. According to the WHO website provided, the recommended time to nurse a child is up to two years. However, the author states that the WHO recommends at least two years. I’ve no comment on what is the actual optimal nursing age should be, but the facts should stand for themselves.

    • Karen crombie

      Think it is you who has misread the WHO guidelines say 2 years “and” beyond

      • Brad

        Actually is says “or beyond”, but that still doesn’t change the fact that the author has misrepresented the information.

        “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”

    • Isabelle Shankar

      The recommendation is “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.” Note the “or beyond”> So basically: at least 6 months, 2 years if possible, more if you can/want…

  • Sue Jacoby

    @Brad. Fascinating that you have no opinion after reading the citations! But you know, Itis just my opinion that you may just havebeen looking to find fault…. since what it says and I quote : “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond”
    What does OR BEYOND mean to you?

  • Cotswoldsrose

    I find it both odd and ironic that people are offended by mothers breastfeeding their babies–which is a natural, beautiful thing and which is usually covered by a blanket–but not by the great number of women and girls wearing low-cut blouses that show ridiculous cleavage and very short shorts and mini-skirts. Talk about nonsensical.

  • Maria

    I don’t know why this is an issue. I can’t imagine why anyone would have a problem with a woman breastfeeding in public as long as she is wearing a cover and I can’t understand why women who breastfeed can’t understand that in our society, naked breasts in public is not something we’re comfortable with. A light cover up seems a very reasonable compromise that both sides should agree to.

    • marinewife515

      Sorry I have a baby that will refuse to eat if she is covered. My son was the same way. Should I be penalized because my children will not eat with a cover? I make sure that my nipple is not visible which is exactly as much as a swim suit covers so what makes visible breast tissue with a baby head different than visible breast tissue with a skimpy piece of cloth? Oh, right the baby is the difference. Therefore it must not be a problem with seeing the breast tissue but a problem with seeing a baby’s head blocking it.

      • Phoenix Blue

        The problem is that all of a sudden people are forced to understand that a breast is a functional organ, not just a sex toy.

        • Danielle

          so true. i am so glad for women here that support breastfeeding because having my first child if no one supported breastfeeding or talked about not being ashamed or conforming to societies views I would never want to breastfeed.

    • muse2323

      My daughter, also, wouldn’t eat under a cover. And mostly naked breasts are something just about everyone *is* comfortable with, or at least used to, as ads, movies and TV shows have shown time & again. I live in a place (thank God) where people are very accepting of a woman having her whole breast out to nurse if she wants, but most nursing wear shows less breast flesh than a bikini top, and when you stick a nursing baby in front of the exposed flesh, you’re not going to see anything unless you’re really craning for a look. And you know what–the first time I saw a woman nursing with her whole boob hanging out, I wasn’t exactly comfortable with it, but more, I was amazed that she was totally comfortable with it. And she didn’t seem to mind that I was watching, fascinated by the whole scene. (Little did I know, I was probably about 3 weeks pregnant at the time.) I think that was when I decided to breastfeed any baby I had.

      The more women nurse in public, the more normalized it becomes–and the better for everyone. Everyone.

    • Heather

      “In our society, naked breasts in public is not something we’re comfortable with…” Been to a beach? You see more on beach than with a woman breastfeeding.

      • Jodi Rives Meier

        Been to a beach or watched television or seen a magazine or seen a billboard or seen a movie or read a comic book or walked past a school or…or…or…

    • Chris Harmon

      Even as a small infant my first child would whip any cover off, unlatch and crane her head around to make sure she hadn’t missed anything!! Which always created far more of a spectacle than us sitting quietly in a corner while she nursed and people watched.

    • Lea Neilsen-Payne

      Naked breast aren’t something our society is comfortable with……………………….. unless you are at a beach, lake or pool……….. unless they are on a 19 year old skinny at the mall, unless it’s in a movie, magazine, tv show or on a poster……unless they are on a store underwear display in a window or a live model on a runway…….unless they are on a man (yep theirs are called breast and nipples to)…………unless they are on a t-shirt, CD cover, book cover…………………unless they are on someone in the grocery store, school, or Walmart…………………unless they are on the lady mowing her yard in the string top with 2 inch triangles covering her nipples.

      So really what you are saying is that in our culture we aren’t comfortable with parts of breasts being exposed (or the thought of the possibility of part of them being exposed) while breast feeding. You might wanna go check yourself because that kind of thinking just isn’t right.

      Just because our society is fundamentally screwed up and has their sense of right and wrong all quacked out doesn’t mean it is in any way wrong breastfeed, uncovered. It is not a breastfeeding moms job to cater to other peoples comfort levels simply because they have a screwed up sense of right and wrong.

      Go stick a blanket over a eight month or 20 month old babes head the next time they are eating or drinking anything…..let us all know how that works out. While you’re at it stick one over yours for the next dozen or so meals and see how you’re feeling.

      • Joan

        God made women’s breast for the sole purpose of feeding our children. It is the western civilization who has sexualized it. That’s what makes people uncomfortable, they just can’t stand to see a breast being used for what it was intended. Everything else is just the fringe benefits between a husband and wife. :)

      • Maria

        What a self-righteous, self-important and narrow-minded group. Essentially, what you are all saying is, “You don’t agree with exactly what I think so I will insult you and berate you for having drawn a different conclusion.” Each person keeps yelling that breasts are all over our society and we accept that. We do not accept women walking around with their nipples out and many people would appreciate if women covered up the enormous cleavage a little bit more. The notion that breasts are only for feeding? Mine certainly aren’t, they are also part of my sexuality. Why should I be ok with you exposing your breasts to my 15-year-old nephew? I am more than ok with women breastfeeding in public. However, it is not everyone else’s responsibility to work out the inconveniences of being discreet about it; it it the mother’s. I assume that responsibility as well. When I went to Peru, women were breastfeeding everywhere, leaving their breasts out while their babies took a break. People weren’t gawking or staring because this is common practice over there; it isn’t here. Maybe it will be one day but you should have respect for people other than yourself.

        • onetinkerbell

          because you act as though we’re holding your nephew or anyone else at nipple point, forcing you to watch us. We’re not. We’d rather you not be rude and stare. How about teaching your nephew and all of your other male relatives to respect women by not ogling them in public and calling them on it when they do? Hiding breasts which are performing their natural function only serves to further objectify women and to perpetuate the belief that breasts serve only a sexual purpose and the ignorant notion that breastfeeding is somehow sexual.

          Put it this way: would you cover the eyes of your nephew/son/uncle/brother etc. if you were at the zoo with them and there was a gorilla nursing her baby? How about a cow nursing her calf? Or a dog nursing her puppies? No? Why not? Because it’s not sexual. There’s nothing to get excited over.

          Your comparison to women in Peru is ridiculous. We’re not talking about the right to go around with our breasts hanging out. We’re talking about the right to sit in McDonald’s or at the playground and watch our other kids while we quietly feed our babies. This is what pisses me off about this issue – people who think women shouldn’t nurse in public act as though we’re ripping off our shirts and shoving our breasts in others’ faces or running around deliberately showing people that we’re nursing when that’s not the case at all. Of all the women I’ve seen nursing in public, the ones I noticed least were the ones who weren’t covered up and who didn’t act like nursing was a big deal. The ones who call attention to themselves are the ones who make the big production of getting out a blanket or a stupid-looking nursing cover to drape over themselves, as though it’s not obvious that you’re nursing under there. And FYI – about women walking around with their nipples showing, apparently you haven’t seen some of the sheer shirts that people wear these days. Also, it is legal in NY for women to go topless. They don’t do it often, but it’s legal.

          I challenge you to find women who are nursing in public that aren’t covered and who are deliberately calling attention to themselves. Then you can complain about nursing in public as though it’s a free show for your nephew.

          For the record, most people here aren’t berating you for having a different opinion. They’re challenging the idea that you’ve presented – the stereotype that we’re all showing too much and that we should be covered up. We’re trying to make you understand that your ‘standards’ are not those of everyone in the country and that you cannot apply your personal preference to all. We want you to understand that it’s not acceptable to ask us to feed our children in bathrooms and cars, simply because you feel uncomfortable. That’s you forcing your standards on all of us. Put yourself in the shoes of a mom whose toddler is having a meltdown and who knows that she can make it better by nursing him/her. Are you suggesting that she make everyone in the immediate area, including herself, miserable because her child is crying and she cannot console him/her? Wouldn’t it be better if she just nursed the child where she was and was able to complete her errands for the day? Or think about how you would feel if you were in a restaurant and then were asked to give your child his/her bottle of pumped milk in the bathroom because it offended all of the nursing moms in the restaurant. Because that’s exactly what you’re saying to us.

          • Maria

            I can promise you that a person like you will never convince anyone of anything that the person doesn’t already believe. You are rude, offensive and incredibly self-interested with your diatribes. I’m not even on the opposition who believes women shouldn’t be breast feeding in public but rather that if they do, they should be discreet and use a cover. I believe that for this country, not necessarily for others. Your lack of capability to understand the point I made about Peru lead you to hurl yet another insult by calling the point ridiculous. I was citing the example to show that even when women are not trying to be discreet in that country, I don’t take issue with it because it is the cultural norm. As for your example with the gorillas? Now that’s ridiculous. I would hope that none of my male relatives would feel aroused even if the gorillas were fornicating right there. These are animals versus humans. You say that I should simply teach all of my male relatives to “respect women by not ogling them.” Where do you draw the line? A woman wants to have a beautiful, natural birth in Central Park; the fact that a baby will be coming out of her vagina should make it ok for her to expose her vagina? But this goes too far, you might say. Well, then that would be your line in the sand. This country has drawn a more conservative line in the sand, for the most part, and rather than caring or respecting how others feel, you would rather simply hurl anger and insults. You all talk about how young men should be raised to only see breasts as feeding tools and that this would keep breasts from being sexualized. There are countries like this. Perhaps you could find one of them and move there.

          • onetinkerbell

            Hmm… I could say that I find your implication that I want to show off my breasts to people while I nurse rude. Or that I think it’s rude that you feel that I should adhere to your definition of what is ‘discreet’ or that I should cover my child and myself, rather than allow him to eat without a blanket on his head like any other person. So if I’m rude I guess I’m not the only one, since I’m only giving you different iterations of what others here have said. And I’m fine with that.

            I didn’t misunderstand your comment on women nursing in Peru, because it’s a perfect example of what I was saying, but since you clearly didn’t understand what I was getting at, let me illustrate with a different example: In many countries where women are required to cover themselves in public (so that men do not find them desirable and so that they are seen as chaste) the women do not nurse under the garments that cover them. They expose the breast while the rest of them remains hidden and the men there do not have a problem with that. Why? Because it’s not sexual. And that was my point. Nursing is not sexual, it’s eating. Why is it that your nephew shouldn’t be exposed to someone eating? Clearly you wouldn’t be ashamed for him to see an animal feeding its young. So why are human breasts different? We’re mammals, just like cows and dogs and gorillas. Nursing our young is part of the definition of being a mammal. Because we are not animals? How is the desire to nurse one’s child different from the desire for an animal to nurse hers? It’s not – we have an animal instinct to care for and feed our young that is no different in humans than it is in any other mammal. That’s fact. It’s science. You cannot get away from that. Maybe we’d all like to think of ourselves as better than animals, but in many ways we are not. The way we are meant to feed our children is one of those ways. So back to my original examples, we are no different than a gorilla or a dog or a cow. If a child walked up to you as you nursed in public and asked what you were doing, what would you say in answer? You’d say the same thing you would if your own child asked what the mother gorilla in the zoo was doing. You’d say, “Feeding a baby.” Now tell me, why is it so important that such a thing be done ‘discreetly’ or covered up?

            FWIW, I didn’t hurl insults at you or express anger, other than to say that it pisses me off that people say things that make it seem as though women who don’t cover themselves in public while nursing are doing so deliberately to show off. Then I made an effort to try to explain how it feels when we are harassed in public for not covering up. I asked you to put yourself in the shoes of a nursing mom who needed to nurse at a time/situation that may not have been so discreet and consider that. And I tried to show you how important it is for women who choose to cover up to support those who don’t because it is just that: a personal choice. I’m sorry if you don’t understand the general use of the pronoun ‘you’ when people make an argument for or against something; it doesn’t mean that I am making any personal statements about you. Anything that you take personally is due to your misinterpretation. You’ve accused another person who responded to your original post of insulting you when she did no such thing, so obviously you are very sensitive to this subject and I can only assume that you’ve either been harassed by others for nursing in public regardless of your use of a cover, or that you have some other personal issue going on here. Frankly, I don’t understand it since one would think that if you’ve been harassed while nursing in public, you’d be standing up for someone’s right to nurse anywhere. So I’m confused about your reaction to the article as a whole.

            As for ridiculous examples, your example of giving birth in Central Park is clearly only because of my reference to the law that allows women to go shirtless in NYC. The idea that this country is so conservative that nursing in public goes back to its founding is hogwash. First, if that’s the case then why do so many states have laws that specify that it is not illegal to nurse in public and that nursing in public does not constitute public nudity, the way some people would have you believe? And if you don’t think that people believe it, remember that you yourself said that you don’t want me to expose my breasts to your 15 year-old nephew and yet don’t acknowledge that I’m not doing any such thing. Second, nursing in public was far more common than you realize. See this article about nursing photographs in the Victorian age: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/17/victorian-breastfeeding-photo_n_3442872.html

            Then understand that nursing was the primary means of feeding infants until formula was introduced, at which point nursing was seen as something that poor people did because they couldn’t afford formula. Formula (Similac) was first introduced to the public in 1920, coincidentally the same year that women got the right to vote in the US. Not long after, in the 1930′s and 1940′s more and more women began to work outside the home and formula quickly became the more common method of feeding infants. At that same time, nursing in public would have become a rare thing, since few women nursed if they could afford formula. So don’t tell me that for years and years we’ve been conservative about nursing in public – we haven’t. It’s only been a few generations that this has existed and it is linked fairly clearly to the rate of formula feeding in this country. It’s a new issue now because breastfeeding rates continue to rise. So while you may think that this country is conservative about what it sees, it’s obviously going to change again – it already has. Just please, stop acting like nursing in public without covering yourself is akin to flashing your breasts at a Mardi Gras parade. THAT is exposing your breasts to someone. Nursing a baby/toddler is feeding your child. The two are distinctly different.

            I think I’ll stay here and continue to raise the consciousness of the men in this country until they at least rise to whatever minimum that exists in those countries where the collective male consciousness is already accepting of breasts as a method of feeding. It can only help this country to evolve from its inability to see that personal freedoms include freedom to bare your breast to nurse in public, without harassment and not just freedom of speech or the right to bear arms.

          • Maria

            Ah, so your position is that if a person has a different opinion than yours, it is rude to share it. Will you teach your child that same philosophy? Son, if you believe something, but you might possibly offend another, keep it to yourself. Or will you teach him that he should stand up for what he believes in but in a respectful manner. If your initial responses had been in response to my subsequent responses, I would have been more understanding. But I respectfully disagreed with the position of cover-less breastfeeding and you responded with rudeness, condescension and a tone as if I had personally wronged you. I don’t particularly agree with the author of the post but as far as I can tell (and I haven’t read all of her posts) she has been very courteous in her responses. For instance, her response to one reader: “Grace, I see that you do not agree with the basic premise of the article’s argument – that a woman’s right to feed her child overrides the right of onlookers to not be uncomfortable. I can certainly respect that people have different opinions on this.” Far cry from your initial responses.

            I have not been harassed in public for breastfeeding but I’m sure that I will but I will be wearing a cover. The difference is, if a person has a problem with covered public breastfeeding, they have a problem with the concept of breasts. If they take issue with uncovered breastfeeding, they likely take issue with actual breasts being uncovered in public. Why would this make me more likely to support your opinions? Because it would make things more convenient for me? I support what I think is right and not what is simply convenient for me.

            “Your comparison to women in Peru is ridiculous. We’re not talking about the right to go around with our breasts hanging out. We’re talking about the right to sit in McDonald’s or at the playground and watch our other kids while we quietly feed our babies.” This is what you said to me. It’s ok that you didn’t understand my point but you can’t back track on why you attacked what I said because your words are in writing. You were implying that I was comparing the women in Peru who leave their “breasts hanging out” ((with what seemed like more than a hint of disdain for their cultural norms) with the women in the States. In fact, I was citing an example where women are even less conservative than public, uncovered breastfeeders here in the States and why, based on the cultural acceptance in their country, I do not have a problem with it.

            And really with the comparison to animals, again? A woman taking a shower is not being sexual. She is being functional but that is still not something that should be done publicly. No person without a mental disorder is ever attracted to animals, no matter what they are doing. As much as you want women to only attract male attention when they flip their sexuality switch on, that is not reality and it is not “science” as you put it, to expect men to turn their hormones off and on based on when they should and shouldn’t be aroused. It is simply something that happens. So men become aroused with much less than a nipple, so what you say! And I agree, so what. No one draws lines about wearing makeup and getting in shape and doing other things that makes us more attractive. But the line has been drawn about nipples in public. Not legally, in some states, but culturally. You can explain away why people here shouldn’t be that way but they are.

            If you want to address legality, by all means, let’s go there. I hope you don’t think that the values of this country should be solely reflected in its laws. As an extreme example for purposes of illustration, is it legal to watch a handicapped elderly woman fall and drop all of her groceries, and rather than rush to help her, point and laugh instead? Sure, it’s legal. Is it considerate? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. That is part of what living in a society, a community, is. It is not simply taking into account what you CAN do, but also what you SHOULD do. We are all tasked with finding our own lines but the right thing to do is take other people’s feelings into consideration. It may be that you determine the benefit to society is outweighed by your needs. This will inevitably be the case at some point for all of us. But this is not a given and it is certainly not license to bully those who don’t draw your same conclusion. You talk about wanting to “raise consciousness” in the men of this country. Do you think that your attitude is really an effective means of helping to change the minds of people who do not see things as you do? Perhaps you should take some cues from some of your like-minded counterparts who are capable of engaging in respectful dialogue, such as the author.

        • Marisol

          If young children were introduced to the natural nature of breasts as a tool for feeding, maybe young men wouldn’t be so hypersexual (uncontrolled nervousness, erections, premature ejaculation, arousal) at the mere sight of a “sideboob”. Perhaps, these young boys and men would see nothing new or exciting about a pair of breasts being used for feeding and see nothing more to it than that. just perhaps, we would also teach them-in a very indirect, but highly effective manner-that a woman’s body serves other -more important roles- than just sex and pleasure givers. Perhaps, we would start raising men that respect and appreciate women for their abilities in life and NOT just IN BED. Additionally, we might just breed men that encourage and motivate their spouses to breastfeed and nurture their children because they won’t be jealous of having to share “their boobies”. Just sayin’!

          • Depressivedarking

            Yes! I love your post and you are spot on.

        • satinswan

          So… you think your nephew hasn’t seen breasts before? Or that he’d get aroused watching somebody breastfeed? The first is naive, the second is kind of insulting to your nephew.

          My daughter stopped wanting to be covered up when she was four months old. She’d pull the cover away so she could see, and there I went, being exposed whether I wanted to be or not. I certainly wasn’t going to stop feeding her in public at that point – or should I have been telling her no, no, I know you’re hungry, but we have to wait until we get home with you wailing all the way so that we don’t have to sit in the bathroom or in an overly hot/cold car? Um, no, don’t think so.

          Sorry reality makes you uncomfortable, but this isn’t an argument you are going to win.

          • Maria

            How could one possibly “win” an argument against a gaggle of opponents whose sole focus is their own needs, wants and desires without care or consideration for the society in which they have chosen to live? I don’t have an issue with the woman who, with the same set of facts as me, has drawn a different conclusion yet is capable of engaging in respectful dialogue. You all feel quite confortable voicing your opinions on this insular site and I certainly had no problem respectfully voicing mine. The initial responses were hardly respectful and that is the major issue I have with people like you. Your total lack of regard for the interests of those around you. It may still be that you conclude otherwise, but are nevertheless respectful of the differences in opinion. As an added bonus, you’d get to pass that invaluable quality down to your children.

        • JoAnn LP

          Frankly, it might do your nephew (or any 15 yr old) good to recognize that breasts do serve purposes other than sex. That’s how we reshape society’s way of thinking – you talk about how society in Peru is much more open about this and remark that perhaps someday it may be like that here. Well, it doesn’t magically change – it has to be changed, bit by bit. Or, in this case, boob by boob. Breasts are definitely great for sexuality but a healthy appreciation of the human body appreciates all of the functions of breasts. There’s a difference between appreciating that breasts are good for sex and living in a hypersexualized society (the kind that apparently and irrationally might not be able to appropriately handle that breasts can serve other purposes as well).

          • Maria

            There is a difference between a natural evolution of a society and certain groups forcing their beliefs on the general public. Further, my nephew knows very well that breasts serve the very important function of feeding a baby. I was one of the ones who told him after he had some questions after he watched a program on Animal Planet when he was five, for starters. However, that is not their sole function. I plan on breastfeeding my child in a few months but that certainly does not erase their sexuality, nor do I want it to. I am a functioning woman as well as a sexual being, and I do not think that my husband is “hypersexual” because he is aroused by my breasts. In fact, he has been even more sexually attentive than usual since my breasts have gotten bigger in pregnancy, and I am very much enjoying that side effect! (I apologize for the TMI but it lends itself to my point.) A man, woman, boy or girl can appreciate that breasts serve multiple functions without being welcomed in to that private aspect of random women’s lives.

          • Gillian Bergh

            I agree. I went to a La Leche League meeting where there were several nursing mothers. The hostess’s teenage sons came in, spoke to their mum, then left without batting an eye lid. They did not smirk or show signs of embarrassment at seeing women breastfeed.

        • Lea Neilsen-Payne

          There was zero insults in my reply. I simply clarified all the areas our society has deemed that naked breasts are acceptable, welcomed and desired. The vast majority of our society is perfectly happy with breasts being exposed for sexual purposes and sexuality. Breasts are a billion dollar ticket for the advertising industry. They are used to sell everything from underwear to vacations to cookware….because our society is not only OK with them exposed for that, they like it that way, it makes people happy.

          If you prefer breasts covered and neatly tucked away you are free to do that with yours. You can wear a turtleneck and cover with a quilt when you nurse a baby. Nobody else has to subscribe to your brand of discretion.

          Discretion is not needed at all when breast feeding. it isn’t a requirement, it isn’t illegal to breast feed without discretion (yours or anyone’s ideas of it).

          Your entire premiss that it is up to the breastfeeding mother to work out the inconveniences of being discrete falls flat because there is no prerequisite to be discrete…much less your definition of it!

          Nobody has a duty to meet your idea or anyones idea of discretion while preforming the perfectly legal and acceptable act of breast feeding.

          Breast may be a part of your sexuality but that isn’t their primary purpose. That’s the difference. Any part of your body can become sexualized that doesn’t make it the body parts purpose though. Breasts are primarily and biologically meant for providing milk to babies and young. What anyone does with them beyond that is their business.

          Why shouldn’t your 15 year old nephew see a women using her breasts for breast feeding? it isn’t sexual, obscene or illegal. It’s normal, natural and if he sees it he is much more likely to support it as an adult. Are you squimish at the thought of him commenting on it or you having to discuss it? I hope you aren’t afraid he’s never seen breasts before. I guarantee he has in magazine, movies, TV, billboards, store windows, the pool, the beach, the mall and at school.

          You are certainly under some odd impressions about breast feeding. Breastfeeding women don’t walk around with nipples hanging out. They don’t strip to the waist to nurse. They don’t leave the breast hanging out, shout out to people to look and then attempt to latch baby on. In fact pretty much the only way to be successful at breast feeding is too have the nipple in the babies mouth, when it really can’t be seen.

          If you or anyone happens to catch a half second blur or the nipple while the baby is latching then you either have fabulous powers of sight and timing, you are in close enough proximity to the person that they aren’t likely to be a stranger (in fact you probably know them quite well to be that kind of close to them and if you are that kind of close friend you won’t be shocked or upset that they are nursing a baby) or you are staring and looking to try and see that nipple (and shame on you for being so rude in that case).

          Most people who get upset about the scary nipple exposure are people who are afraid of the thought of it being exposed. They haven’t actually encountered hordes of nursing moms flashing nipples around. They just can’t help but worry themselves about the what if possibility.

          If people spent more time worrying about supporting breast feeding mothers and being happy that babies are successfully nursing they wouldn’t have any time left for the what if or prudish thoughts of scary nipple exposure.

          • Maria

            Insults come only in the form of name-calling? The entire tone of your response was rude and condescending. “You might wanna go check yourself because that kind of thinking just isn’t right.” Rude. “Nobody else has to subscribe to your brand of discretion.” You’re right, they don’t have to but, in this country, they do subscribe to that type of discretion. “Why shouldn’t your 15-year-old nephew see a woman breastfeeding?” Whether or not he should, a child who is not yours, is not your decision to make. And I am not a prude, I am well aware that he has seen breasts and I have no problems discussing it. That doesn’t mean that I support nudity in whatever form it may come. This society has drawn a different line in the sand that you. If we lived in a society that was accepting of cover-less public breastfeeding, I wouldn’t care either. And I am under no odd impressions about breastfeeding. When I mentioned women leaving their breasts out to take a break, I was not speaking about this country. I FULLY support breastfeeding and I fully support many other healthy, natural processes. This does not mean that I have to support them under any and all conditions. There are plenty of women who manage to breastfeed their babies without doing so out in the open and while wearing a cover.

    • Trin

      Why on earth would I spend money on a nursing cover, when you have a perfectly good (and free!) neck that will allow you to turn your head and not see me nursing?

      I wore nursing tanks and shirts. The only way people knew I was nursing is if they came and got all up in my business. Most people walked up and said, “Awww! He’s having a nap!”

      • Maria

        Regardless of whether you believe breast feeding should occur in public with or without a cover, this logic makes no sense. By that logic, why should I spend money on summer clothes when nudity is free and you can turn your neck for free?

        • Trin

          Breastfeeding is protected in almost all states. Total nudity is not allowed in any. If you were in New York, and wanted to go topless, hey cool by me. Totally legal. If I don’t like it, I’ll look away.

    • Danielle

      I feel you should cover your head while you eat.

      • Maria

        A number of your self-absorbed cohorts have already made that rude retort. You are unoriginal with your childish insults.

  • $21590057

    You people are ALL OF YOU what is wrong with America today. It’s the entitlement mindset of an entire generation. If I don’t get my way, I’ll complain and scream until I do get my way. Get over yourselves.

    I was more committed to breastfeeding than anyone. I chose to pump exclusively for 6 months with my first child, because she couldn’t latch correctly. That meant pumping every 2 hours, day and night. Don’t even tell me it’s not possible to pump a few ounces to feed a baby who is eating solid food, or even to switch to only nursing at home. It happens. I did it, and I have friends who did it. You’re NOT SPECIAL.

    • andrea

      Pumping does not work for all women. Bottles create dental problems. Why should we have yo put our child’s health at risk or be secluded? Babies are entitled to their mothers milk.

    • tiph

      Not “If I don’t get my way” If people do not obey the law. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE!

      And not every mother CAN pump. Thats a fact. Besides that, why would I want to pump? I have rights. I do not have to inconvenience my self with bottles or pump parts or blankets or dealing with heat while siting in my car or the stench while nursing in the bathroom. Laws protect me for a reason. Because there is nothing wrong with what I am doing.

    • MaudedelMar

      Of all the things going on in this world right now, why do you work yourself into a froth over this? You would better serve yourself, your children, and your beloved country by channeling your rage and fight into a nobler cause than chasing after and belittling happy mothers and their children. Open your eyes and don’t blind yourself with this irrational hate.

    • jim.vandyk@yahoo.com

      Breastfeeding isn’t about “getting our way.” It’s about doing what numerous studies and medical organizations say is BEST for our children. Children who have been breastfed are healthier, happier, and smarter. Don’t take my word for it, read the scientific studies yourself. Those same studies also found the benefits are greater for children who breastfeed longer. How is wanting what is best for our children un-American? As a parent, I can think of few things MORE American than being willing to stand up and fight for my child’s health and well being.

    • Christina Howker Fullard

      Oh my goodness no! YOU who made this comment are what is wrong with America (and the world) today! No, breasfeeding isn’t special, THAT’S ENTIRELY THE POINT! It’s just NORMAL! And THAT is why is shouldn’t be hidden away!

    • pigbot

      Look, lady, I’m not much of a lactivist and I despise the Generation Me, entitlement lot that seem to be my peers in childrearing. However, feeding a baby when they are hungry isn’t ‘entitlement.’ Rather, it is, but it’s JUSTIFIED entitlement – in that the baby is legitimately entitled to be fed on demand when it is hungry. From a boob.

      My first was bottlefed by about 6 months, but my son is 8 months and still boobin’ away; and absolutely will not take a bottle. Do I like nursing in public? Not really. But if I find a quiet spot and go about feeding him, it hurts nobody. He is indeed entitled to that meal. Even in public.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=711128895 Ali Edgley

      No, I’m not special, just normal. Don’t look if you don’t like it.

    • onetinkerbell

      No, it’s not about entitlement. It’s about equal treatment and equal protection under the law. We’re not asking for special accommodations – if we were, your argument would be valid. But we’re not. We want to be able to feed our children in public and in peace without being harassed, just the way that anyone who feeds with a bottle is able to. However, it is apparent that YOU and anyone else who doesn’t support a mom’s right to nurse in public whenever her child needs her to are the ones who want to be special. YOU are the ones who want to make the rules, based on what your own comfort levels with nursing are. That makes YOU the ones who want to be entitled, not those of us who want to nurse in peace.

      Saying that it’s it’s totally possible for anyone to pump shows your privileged mindset: there are many women out there who choose to breast feed for financial reasons as well as the health benefits for mom and baby. Are you suggesting that these women should have to invest in a breast pump when they cannot afford one or simply stay at home because they don’t have one to use? What you are most certainly suggesting is that it is okay to segregate nursing women from the general population when they are nursing – whether by saying they should stay at home or by implying that nursing shouldn’t be done in public.

      Here’s a thought: if you were to travel to a country where it was the norm for women to leave their breasts uncovered and to nurse their children in public all the time, would you ask them to cover up or would you just get over yourself? I think we know the answer to that one, so why don’t you just do us all a favor and get over yourself and your personal issues? Don’t project them on the rest of us.

    • Anne Carpenter Van Dyk

      “Don’t even tell me it’s not possible to pump a few ounces to feed a baby”

      Sorry, it’s not possible to pump a few extra ounces to feed my baby.

      Not everyone has the apparently amazing milk supply you had. That is wonderful for you and your babies, but it is quite hurtful to assume that everyone has the time, finances, and milk supply to pump milk in advance of their baby wanting it. Even if I had the inclination, I don’t have time before work every day to tether myself to an electrical outlet for a half hour on the off chance it is a day when my daughter is going to want extra milk. And that I can carry a cooler with the milk around with us all day when running errands in case she needs it and I can’t find a non-bathroom private place to nurse.

      And what shall I do if I take my daughter to the zoo? Nurse her before we leave, and then… pump milk in a zoo bathroom every 3-4 hours so I can then feed her possibly contaminated milk from a bottle? Except it doesn’t work because my baby is able to get much more milk straight from the source than a pump can. So then I have a toddler who wants 5 ounces begging for milk because I could only pump 1 ounce, and me dragging around a heavy pump on my back all day. And who watches my toddler as I’m pumping milk in a bathroom stall, or do I just let her crawl around unattended on a zoo bathroom floor? Whereas me sitting on a park bench nursing her takes 10 minutes, is perfectly sanitary, and exposes no one to any body parts (my sympathies to those whose toddlers refuse to be covered!) I am grateful that my state’s law protects my right to do so, because the alternative is beyond absurd.

      I had no idea that all of these toddler-nursing issues would be so challenging before I did it myself, so I cannot blame anyone for not understanding why it is so hard to just pump before leaving the house or nurse only in private, but in reality it is extremely difficult.

    • Nicole

      Actually, I think you should take a second look at who the “entitled” you speak of are… it is the people that think it is their right to demand women hide out to BF that are suffering from entitlement mentality. Deal with your own issues – do you write letters and feel the need to comment regarding movies that show a hint of breast? Remember what breasts are really for… YOU are what is WRONG with America today.

    • MW

      Here’s one mother who could NOT pump, much less pump away from home (for example, at work). Every time I tried to pump, I got very sore very quickly, and most of the time, ended up with a clogged milk duct and mastitis. Yes, seriously. I could (and did) hand express of an evening at home, because I wanted my baby (and toddler!) to be able to have mommy milk when I was not around because I had actually (*gasp*) gotten out on my own. Even then, unless my baby had not eaten in 3-4 hours, I could express about two ounces without it costing me huge amounts of extra effort.
      So, no, don’t YOU go telling me that “anyone” can pump and it’s no big deal. For some of us it’s a huge deal, and for a few who work full-time, it has meant that we could not continue to breastfeed, even though it was best for us and our baby.

    • http://www.thepottershandacademy.com/ Kristi

      I couldn’t pump. I tried DESPERATELY to pump, when my tongue tied babies wouldn’t latch, and I had crappy medical personal telling me nothing was wrong. (By the time I actually got my youngest diagnosed and clipped, we were far past the breastfeeding window.) Do NOT tell me that anyone can pump. Good for you, you could. My body sees a breast pump and dries up. HAD I been blessed enough to have been able to breastfeed, you can bet your sweet patootie I would’ve stood up for my rights and my children’s rights in a HEARTBEAT. YOU people don’t have the RIGHT to be offended by what a child does NATURALLY. THAT’S what’s wrong with America today, from our politics to our school system. Get over YOURSELF.

  • Guest

    Really? Comparing breastfeeding to sexuality, race, disability or disfiguration hardly seems appropriate, as you’re being asked to modify your chosen routine rather than hide something you have absolutely no control over. Your article offers a great perspective and thoughts, but “breastfeeding rights” are quite menial in a culture still plagued by discrimination of minorities in so many respects, and to compare the plight of the two is disrespectful.

    I’m a huge advocate of breastfeeding, but the WHO recommendation of 2 years old is an international standard encompassing many countries, including those where often no other means of feeding a child are available. I question why so many Americans fall back on this recommendation…it seems to me more of a health suggestion for regions of the globe without other nutritional options. The American Academy of Pediatrics states a “recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.” Let’s call it what it is – a preference for you and your child, rather than a health necessity.

    • Jess Pape

      Your not an advocate of breastfeeding, why because you added a BUT to that sentence. Let your toddler self wean when they are ready, there is NOTHING wrong with breast milk passed six months. The 2 year who recommendation is not an “internation standard” its recommended because the first two years offers MANY benefits to the child and the mother, science has proven that. I think maybe you should go back and re-educate urself on breastfeeding before you claim to be an “advocate, with buts”

    • onetinkerbell

      While the WHO recommendations are primarily for nutrition purposes and it’s true that these are more important for babies in countries where water sources are often contaminated and there is no refrigeration for liquid formula, it’s also true that the WHO is not an organization which occupies itself only with the health of people in developing countries. The recommendations apply to children EVERYWHERE. Why? Because breastfeeding isn’t solely about nutrition, as anyone who has breastfed can tell you. It’s about antibodies, it’s about attachment, it’s about muscle development. Wait, you say! Muscle development? Yes. Nursing helps develop the jaw muscles which allow children to chew food properly, according to several studies done in the past couple of years. Children who are breastfed longer don’t have to slurp down watery baby food purées because their jaw muscles are more developed. Delaying solid foods ensures that babies have well-developed jaws and can actually chew and swallow better. This is not the case with infants who are only bottle-fed, as bottle nipples don’t require the use of the jaw in order to deliver the milk to the baby’s mouth, unlike nursing at the breast. The longer you nurse, the easier it is to transition your child to regular food. That’s just science.

    • Anne Carpenter Van Dyk

      I apologize – I did not mean any disrespect to those who are discriminated against for other and clearly more serious attributes over which they have no control. I am an advocate against discrimination in general. I merely meant to point out that even asking someone to change their habits in order to protect others from discomfort can be damaging and hurtful.

      You will note that I did not call breastfeeding a health necessity. I merely point out that it is recommended, and not discouraged at age 18 months. I see no evidence from WHO that their recommendation is based on locally available alternative forms of nutrition rather than on ideal nutrition regardless of alternatives. Please let us know if you find any such information.

    • Palamarie

      “you’re being asked to modify your chosen routine rather than hide something you have absolutely no control over”… Even if I had control over sexuality, race, disability, or a disfiguration I should have the same rights as any other individual. Control over the difference you might have has nothing to do with equal rights. After all sexual orientation might be

      ‘just a preference” and not because you choose a certain path it means you can be discriminated upon. Toddlers at the childcare have equal rights to feed/cuddle/say goodbyes by any means they choose, even by breastfeeding. Its not a matter of nutrition only. It is a toddler separating from the mother for the whole day and saying her goodbyes as comfortably as possible. It is the child’s rights.

    • Depressivedarking

      IT should be compared because there is so much unneeded controversy around all the issues. Breast milk has all the antioxidants an infant and toddler needs to fight infection and disease, as well as all the nutrition they need. Yes, at six months you can start introducing solids, but its a Proven fact breastfed children are healthier, happier, and more confident then bottle fed formula children, as well as have higher IQ’s overall. Besides, Formula in no way compares to the natural ingredients found in breast milk.

    • Danielle

      Some mothers can’t afford formula, so in some cases maybe they can’t control it so much.

  • Jess Pape

    Breastfeeding is normal, formula feeding is not normal and was made as a recourse for mothers that medically could not nurse there child. Over the last 80 years formula has turned in to what it is today. 100 years ago, none of us would be alive if it wasn’t because of breastfeeding. You owe a thank you to someone, some where down ur family line for breastfeeding someone. because you would not be alive today.

  • Sara Steinmetz

    I am 56 years old and my youngest child weaned at 3 years old 17 years ago. I am so sad that we are still having this conversation.

  • Vanessa Brundidge

    I am still breastfeeding my 22 month old son. We relocated to a new town about 10 months ago, and since moving here I have not seen ONE mother nursing her child in public. I’m so sad about this!

    Any recommendations on what we can do to encourage more moms to nurse in public??

    I am so happy to know so many people (online) who are supportive, respectful and encouraging when it comes to nursing in public! Especially nursing toddlers!

  • Vanessa Brundidge

    I would like to nurse my son anytime, anywhere. How wonderful it would be for us breastfeeding moms if it didn’t bother or offend anyone!!

  • Guest

    I fed my near 3 year old boy in public at a children’s water park a few days ago. I placed a white towel over his head and my body, leaving him an air hole. I tried to pretend I was just giving him a quiet cuddle. An older woman near by was looking at me and she knew what I was doing. I felt like a criminal breaking the rules and that I had to hide what I was doing, but my son was so clear that’s what he wanted and he was so comforted and so happy sitting with Mummy and taking his milk. I felt bliss and the strong appreciation of holding my treasure and being treasured. No one can take that away from us. I trust that when he is ready he will wean. I trust in nature.

  • hentrain

    i can’t get over the fact that a room full of toddlers is the place this woman is bound and determined to nurse. I mean, you go, girl with the public nursing. But I have an 18 month old who is in daycare and I can’t imagine anything less convenient or less efficient than trying to nurse him in a room with 6-10 other active, curious little ones.

    • Anne Carpenter Van Dyk

      So true! But in this case it was in the mornings when only 1-2 other little ones were there, quietly eating their breakfast and drinking their formula at the table on the other side of the room, not even coming over to visit us. So not as chaotic an environment as occurs later in the day!

    • Gillian Bergh

      In her case it worked better than trying to breastfeed in the baby room.

  • Mari Dempsey

    I’m with Sara Steinmetz. I breastfed my children until they were 3 over 30 years ago. I was asked by my m-i-l what I was going to tell their kindergarten teachers. I was told by my “enlightened” cousin to go to the restroom in a restaurant. I was even asked by another family member to go into a bedroom IN MY OWN HOUSE! Being the rabble-rouser I am, I kept nursing, anywhere, anytime. My attitude has always been, Don’t like it? Don’t watch!

  • http://www.obsessionsottw.com/ The Trophy Wife

    I just wanted to let you know that this was a wonderfully written article, but your info on the state laws is wrong. There are far less than 48 states with that wonderful law. Nebraska joined the ranks in 2011, but South Dakota has yet to have a fully encompassing breastfeeding law like that. South Dakota says that they will not charge a mother nursing with indecent exposure, but there are no laws protecting a nursing mother from being asked to leave an establishment for nursing in public. But I agree, we need to nurse in public and stand up for the right to do so because it needs to be normal and we need to let other’s who may be too nervous about confrontation feel more at ease by allowing it to be normal.

    • Anne Carpenter Van Dyk

      Thank you – You are absolutely right that not every state has as protective a law as Massachusetts does. Most offer some protection but not the complete statements and enforcement provisions as Massachusetts does. Link [D] has up to date information on each state’s precise law for those interested in learning more.

  • Michelle W

    I’m glad there are people willing to stand up and have the small “fights” required to normalise what is a normal function. Thank-you. I breastfed both my girls until they weaned themselves at 15 months (not my choice, but theirs). I was always discreet. One girl needed a quiet room away from the action to actually feed. The other would feed properly anywhere. With both girls, there was never any flagrant flashing of flesh. ;-) Here in Australia, I think breastfeeding rates are slightly better, but I do notice that the young women (10 – 20 years younger than me) are starting to think (and comment loudly) of breastfeeding as distastful, and if you do it, you should not do it in public. It makes me sad. I notice some of the commenters mention toddlers asking questions, as if that is a bad thing. I often had small children jump up beside me while I was feeding, watch the action and ask questions. I always thought it was a good thing that small people learned how human babies get their food.

  • Erin Elizabeth Godleski

    Thank u Anne for the important discussion. Lea, I appreciate u going to heart of the matter. This issue is about the sexualization of woman. For anyone who thinks this does not compare to racial or social injustice, think again. This is about discrimination against women and of feminine nature. I do not have children yet so the breast feeding debacle is new to me-I never really thought about doing it any other way. Breast freedom is natural. (I meant breast feeding but my spell check auto corrected it to breast freedom! Point taken!!). This is about the rights of women and children all over the world. I think most women are so used to being demoralized that it’s hard for those individuals to see what’s REALLY going on here…And sure laying a blanket over our breast may ease the “discomfort” of others but what type of complex are we giving to our children? What is to be ashamed of???

  • John

    Well written article. Here in Australia, it is against the law to discriminate against a nursing mother in any circumstance, workplace or in public. I am male as well as a midwife and I support so much nursing in public. What right to people have to protest. If they don’t like it,don’t look, simple. The ‘sexualisation’ of breast feeding has only been entered to by adults not children. My wife is breast feeding our third child and is 18months and going!! Heaven help anyone who says it is inappropriate.
    The people that are against bf in public, are they male or female? I am finding that a lot of these people who are against this are women. Please correct me if I am wrong. The majority of women are discreet, but, who cares if they do show a little nipple for a short space of time. Why would it offend anyone? If they say children, why do they need protecting from something like this. A breast is for feeding and if a child asks, what harm is it? Just simply say that mother is feeding her milk to her baby.
    Children’s perception of things are only what the adults in their lives lead them to believe.

  • Grace

    I disagree. Why can’t you nurse in the infant room? Why does it have to be in front of other toddlers? You don’t know their backgrounds. Maybe people don’t want their toddlers seeing your breasts? Maybe they don’t want their toddlers insisting THEY be able to breastfeed too. I enjoy breastfeeding my child but I do so discreetly and certainly not in front of a bunch of other peoples children. You feel your rights are more important than the comfort of everyone else. Please do us a favor and stop being so elitist. Consider the viewpoints of others for a moment. Your child will be just as well fed from another room.

    • Tasha

      Wow, people like you really exists? Please do us a favor, and loosen up.

      • Joanna

        Diiiid you miss the part where she explained her breasts were NOT exposed?

    • Candace Cashmore

      its just a part of life…do you think back in the day children didnt see this all the time?? I think I’ve seen waaaaay worse on basic cable.

    • Isabelle Shankar

      Toddlers need to know about breastfeeding, if they did not learn from personal experience then its great that they can learn from seeing others. It is unlikely that they will ask to breastfeed but yes as children do they may challenge their parents: was I breastfed? Why not? is my little brother or sister going to be breastfed? And small things like this can make people stop and think and maybe try to breastfeed next time?
      Toddlers are everywhere and are very curious, they will come across things you don’t want them to come across because it makes YOU feel uncomfortable – well tough, you’re going to have to deal with it!.

      • Maria

        Even if what you were saying is fair, it’s not your decision what another person’s child should or should not be seeing. You perceive the world a certain way but it doesn’t mean that others have to as well. I personally wouldn’t care if my toddler saw another woman breastfeeding, but that doesn’t make it the only conclusion that any other parent is allowed to draw.

        • Anne Carpenter Van Dyk

          Can you extend your argument to people who don’t want their toddlers seeing other toddlers eating pop-tarts and go around telling other parents to stop doing it in front of them? Because that is the logical extension. (Again, limiting ourselves to discreet nursing for the sake of argument)

          • Maria

            There is no comparison. I don’t think a parent should feel as though breasts, nipples, etc. are inappropriate for their toddler to see but that is not my choice to make for them. Movies are not given an R-rating because someone is eating a pop tart but rather because there are topics in the movie that people in this country have decided are not appropriate for people under the age of seventeen, namely excessive violence, language, and yes, nudity, however “natural” everyone seems to claim that it is. There are many natural processes and concepts that should still be private.

          • Anne Carpenter Van Dyk

            Oh, I see. I think our topics are getting a little mixed up.

            I thought you were saying at one point that you think that even if no body parts are showing, parents still have the right to tell mothers not to nurse simply because it might cause their toddlers to ask questions.

            It sounds like we are in agreement on the point that if a woman’s breast is not showing, people should allow her to nurse in peace.

    • Anne Carpenter Van Dyk

      Grace, I see that you do not agree with the basic premise of the article’s argument – that a woman’s right to feed her child overrides the right of onlookers to not be uncomfortable. I can certainly respect that people have different opinions on this. However, I’m not sure how I could have been more clear that my breasts were NOT showing and that people’s discomfort is about the *idea* of nursing and not discomfort about their toddlers being exposed to body parts.

      Stop and listen to yourself. You are saying it would be better if we lived in a world where toddlers never, ever witnessed a baby breastfeeding? That they only ever see babies drinking from plastic bottles? Because it would preserve parents from uncomfortable questions? How strange would it be for a child to grow up with the misconception that milk comes from plastic bottles and that it is the only way that babies can be fed?

      For brevity, I did not describe in full detail why nursing in the infant room doesn’t work but please be assured it did. not. work. My daughter’s sleep schedule was off so she didn’t nurse as much before we left home, and she was genuinely hungry when I dropped her off at daycare. The day after I was told about the policy I gave it an honest try to nurse Elle in the infant room. It was useless. She would latch on for about ten seconds then look around the room and try to crawl down to play with the babies. She refused to nurse there and I had to leave with her hungry and me needing to have expressed more milk prior to work. Not fun for anyone and much less modest than if I had just nursed her in the corner of the toddler room where she is familiar. It seems bizarre that the center feels it is fine for parents to see me nurse in that room but not in the room down the hall?

      I have every sympathy for those who don’t understand what it is like to nurse a toddler because I had no idea the challenges that lie therein. I think people should be more understanding of the plight of mothers trying to make their lives work and trust them to do what they feel is needed rather than assume they could “just” do X Y Z. I can’t just pump an extra 8 ounces whenever I feel like it, I can’t just feed her in another room, and there are times when my own modesty is over-ridden by the needs of myself and my child.

      I would never dream of telling another parent not to feed their children pop-tarts in front of my daughter. I find it disturbing that people feel comfortable telling me not to feed my child, discreetly, when as a parent I feel it is necessary.

    • anonomyous

      You should read before you speak. Sitting in the corner, completely covered up, back to the world is by no means showing a breast to ANYONE. Honestly, if you kid does see someone else breastfeeding and asks about it, all you have to do is tell them the truth–that some kids get their milk that way. If they ask to do it, and you can’t or won’t, be the parent and say you can’t do it. Trust me, the kid will get over it.

      Sure, the conversation may be uncomfortable for mommies or daddies, but that is part of being a parent. If your kid has ever seen you get dressed in the morning they have seen FAR more flesh than the breastfeeding mothers of the world show. And if this question scares you, just wait until they become teenagers.

      Calling someone “elitist” because they breastfeed with their face to the wall and completely covered up just shows how uncomfortable YOU are with the IDEA of breast feeding (regardless of whether you do it or not). So please come down off you high horse and take a good look at what you are teaching the future generation. Is is OK to teach people that what should be joyful and completely natural experience (if accomplished tactfully when in public) is instead uncomfortable, unacceptable, or bad?

      Think about it.

      • StanO360

        Your proposed situation is clearly not what she’s describing or her attitude. Our boys were breastfed and in situations like you describe. My wife didn’t care where it was (that’s half the convenience) car, rooms, whatever and somehow we never had an issue or problem like this.

    • Aria Clements

      So what do you say if a vegan is uncomfortable with you eating a hamburger in public and they don’t want their toddler to see it and get curious about what you’re eating? What do you say is a homophone doesn’t want their child to see a same-sex couple holding hands? The world isn’t going to cater to your sensibilities. The sooner you accept that there are other people who have rights (and you, by no means, have no right to not ever see a breastfeeding child), the sooner you can move on to getting mad about things that matter…like getting mat at people telling gay couples to get back in the closet.

      • StanO360

        You write and read homophones, you can say them and hear them. I’ve never heard anyone offended by them.

      • Danielle

        Well written Aria!!

    • Danielle

      I remember seeing a mom breastfeed her toddler outside once when I was playing. I didn’t see her breast but I asked what is she doing and she told me then I said oh ok and continued to play with my friends. I don’t think it was a big deal and in fact I think it normalized for me what a breast is meant for and when I went through puberty I wasn’t so ashamed of my body.

  • Depressivedarking

    OMG, Grace, get over yourself. You don’t see anything when someone nurses, and Guess what? Toddlers aren’t going to look at a breast and freak out because they are more mature then you are. They may ask what it is, but if we treat it like its taboo, then they’ll worry. If we answer them mater of factually, that’s the end of the conversation. Its not a big deal to them. They are kids, and it is skin, created for the sole purpose of feeding baby and toddler.

    This should NEVER be an issue. Its the best thing in the world you can give your child, unless your a drug addicted mother, but that’s a seperate issue.

  • Tina

    Grace, a breastfeeding mother should never have to move to feed their child. It is illegal to ask her to do so. This fight has been going on for more years than is necessary. You should be able to feed your child where ever and when ever the child needs feeding. I wouldn’t have moved either. It is not my responsibility to ensure your comfort level.

  • Callie

    LOVED your article! Thanks for shedding light on a topic that America is so behind on in our acceptance and encouragement! We allow our kids to watch TV with unlimited sexual content, but become uncomfortable when a mom is nourishing her child. BRAVO!

  • Andrea Stanton

    When my now 40 year old was 4 he went to visit a new born baby , who was nursing at the time. He stood quietly for a few minutes and then asked what are you doing of the Mom. She said this is how the baby gets his milk. The young child said “and the other side is juice. All his siblings were nursed all over the World, in trains , in restaurants, etc. and his children also and without a doubt my Great Grandchildren will be.

  • Joyce

    I have two children. My son is now 14 and my daughter is 10 and I breast fed both of them in public (my son until he was three and my daughter until she was 18 months). I can’t even imagine someone confronting me on the subject. Maybe people were offended but I never noticed and I really wouldn’t have cared if they were. For me, breast feeding was AMAZING for both the nutritional benefits and for the emotional bonding benefits. The point I feel I’d like to focus on in this article however, isn’t so much about the right to breast feed in public…to me, that’s a no-brainer…it’s ludicrous to think a mother, who is offering her child the best possible nutritional option should be restricted in any way, shape or form. That makes absolutely no sense to me. But I live in Canada and we are also able to send our children to schools without vaccinating them and this point, along with the breast feeding point, I’ve noticed, seems to make some American’s intensely irritated and upset. Anyway, the point that I think is most important to focus on in this article is the point about breast feeding being organic and giving in to the demands of a child. And although I would NEVER limit the breast feeding needs of a new born or young infant who isn’t able to ingest solid foods, I certainly didn’t give into the demands of my toddler IF breastfeeding them was inconvenient for me or it wasn’t actually what was needed at the time. It’s not only ok to say ‘no’ to a begging child, it’s necessary. It teaches them self restraint, self discipline, and by helping the child connect to what it is they are actually needing, you are teaching the child how to identify and meet their needs; a skill that is invaluable throughout their entire lives. You see, what I have noticed is that when my older children were begging for milk it was less likely about them being hungry (or if it was I would offer them solid food if breast feeding was inconvenient) and more likely about them having an emotional need or another physical need. Most often the child was getting tired and needed a nap or they were picking up on my stress and needed me to calm down, etc. My point is, I completely support breastfeeding in public but if it isn’t convenient, or if it isn’t what is actually needed, it’s important to say no. Be conscious, know your child, understand what they are REALLY needing and help them meet their need. Teaching them to identify their needs and helping them learn how to meet their need (whether emotional or physical) is one of the most important things you can ever do for your child.

  • Liz

    Seriously what has our world come to? It’s okay for movies and commercials to continually sexualize the female form specifically the breasts and we don’t hear any complaints about that. But when a woman is breastfeeding people get all skirmish and offended. I don’t understand will all the education out there people are still so ignorant. Breasts primary purpose is to provide milk for baby and how ever long the mother chooses to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is not something a mother should ever feel ashamed or embarrassed about.

  • Apryl Nelson McLean

    The image below is the comment from my husband’s step-niece… Just left my stomach upset all night long.

    • JB

      I’m sorry your step-niece doesn’t understand. What isn’t respectable is forcing your baby to be uncomfortable while nursing, and too many places do not make a room for nursing moms. Is she a mom? If not, she may not understand because of that. I know I wasn’t comfortable with breastfeeding until I was prego and read all the benefits. Once I knew that I realized that was everything I wanted for my baby, and all the hard work has paid off. My dad is very conservative, and HE encouraged me to breastfeed, probably because he is also a health nut, but I love the support. He even commends me for nursing in public because he knows a baby has to eat, and we nurse without a cover.

    • Trea

      I’d ask her “do you wear a bikini?” Have you ever been seen with out a shirt on? Have you ever gone to a beach in a bikini? Have you seen girls wear them? Well guess what :you exposed more of your body than ANY BREASTFEEDING MOTHER DOSE when you wear one! and you’ve seen more cleavage than any breastfeeding mother shows. Sure ONE boob may not be fully exposed but you don’t throw a blanket on a cat, dog, or any other mammal while it nurses. So why do you expect us to?

    • Mo86

      I couldn’t agree more with the step-niece. I’m sick and tired of being told I have to accept being exposed to what is usually a private part of the body, just because “it’s natural”.

      So is urinating. So is sexual intercourse. But we don’t see many people advocating for these natural activities to be done in public and for the shaming of those who do not wish to see it, do we?

      • Danielle

        I think you have serious insecurity issues if you are so worried about a woman breasfeeding. It’s feeding a child, it’s not the same thing as sex, or deficating. I don’t know but I suggest yoou change you thinking that boobs are just sexual parts and maybe you won’t feel so uncomfortable.

      • Gillian Bergh

        Breastfeeding is eating. Do you never eat in public, and not in front of members of the opposite sex who are not family? Once you were old enough not to need supervising at meal times, did you develop a sense of modesty about not wanting to do it in front of your opposite sex parent or siblings? Women who breastfeed in public generally manage to do it discretely.

  • polanna

    Forgive m my poor English.. but:
    My baby was never breastfed (she was to weak after birth to do so). But she is 4 now, and she knows how mother gives milk to her baby, as well she knows how cow feeds her baby, and whale mom, and cat mom, and dog mom..
    she knows how food turns to be poo as well.
    I don’t want my child be one of those who are ashamed and uncomfortable with her body and it’s natural functions, and to think that they are “dirty”, “bad” etc.
    I know grown men who discovered in their late 30s that women menstruate and fart as well – because they were protected by their mothers not to see anything.. I know woman (successful architect) who ask me if woman is more likely get pregnant while menstruating..
    Please talk with your children about bodies and their function. They won’t be “sexualized”, because they honestly don’t care about it.

  • JW

    I think this is one of those areas where it is going to be really difficult to change hearts and minds. The overwhelming majority of people seem to be indifferent or supportive of breastfeeding. A small vocal minority are so intractably repressed and misinformed that there is almost no chance that educating them will make a difference. Fortunately, almost everywhere, the law (and corporate official policy) is on the side of a breastfeeding mom. This means that she doesn’t have to engage a stupid person in debate, but rather tell them to leave her alone and take it up with someone else (manager / owner / police).

    I feel a breastfeeding mom should never have to spend her emotional capital or waste her time engaging a person who feels it necessary to harass her. Simply tell the person “No I am not moving. State law entitles me to breastfeed here. Please leave me alone.” They the employee or whoever can feel free to do whatever they think they need to do about it, but hopefully they will leave you alone. If they escalate to authority (manager / owner / police), those people will probably tell the aggressor that they have or right or reason to even approach you about it.

    I hope Anne switched her child to another daycare that doesn’t harass breastfeeding moms.

    JW

  • Trea

    I just tell ask people “do you cover your childs eyes when they go to the zoo or watch an animal nurse it’s babies?” If they say no, then I ask why I should shield my child as I nourish them.
    If they say yes, I ask them to feed their child in that room, with a towl on their head or in the bathroom. Then based on their reactions I’ll go on… But most will WAKE UP and realize why I refuse to.

    • Gillian Bergh

      One of my relatives was a farmer’s wife. One day, her 10 year old twins were showing some ‘townies’ around the farm. A sow was suckling her piglets and a woman complained that it was not right for ‘young boys to see that sort of thing.’

  • Mo86

    “Well, you’re going to have to get over it.”

    What a snotty, superior attitude. This seems to be the norm for those who are in the public breastfeeding cult. I call it a cult because it behaves as one. They want to do this and everyone must agree and anyone who doesn’t wish to be exposed to it is put down and called names and all the rest.

    Guess what? No one needs to see you breastfeeding. You can do it discreetly by using a blanket. Or better yet, doing it in private.

    Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean the whole world needs to see you doing it.

    • Anne Carpenter Van Dyk

      Did you read the article? It is defending discreet breastfeeding, where no body parts are visible.

  • Claire

    I don’t have a lot to say, I live in Scotland, where those that breastfeed, including myself, frequently do so in public without covers, it’s just a non issue. People just go about their lives, they’ve got better things to do than be bothered by a baby eating! But the main thing I notice when reading this type of article is, it’s always in America! Every other country in the world has got it together as far as breastfeeding goes. WHY is America so far behind as far as being comfortable with the human body and its function goes? I’ve breastfed in Dubai, where women in burkhas breastfeed! No one bats an eyelid! I’ve breastfed standing up in the menswear section of a clothes shop in Edinburgh while waiting for my husband. No one gave two hoots! How are American people so concerned about other people’s bodies? I’m not trying to be cheeky, I’m genuinely curious as to why a country that presents itself as a beacon to the world is so screwed up when it comes to breastfeeding! I can’t work it out! X

    • Casey Baur

      I’m an American and I don’t get it either. But it’s totally fine for women to walk around dressed like streetwalkers…..UGH.

    • Anne Carpenter Van Dyk

      Claire, your post made me smile :) I don’t have an answer to your question, but perhaps we could import more Scots?

  • LULU

    Breastfeeding your child is wonderful if you are able to do it! So great for your baby!
    I breastfed all 3 of my children for the first 12-13 months of their life. What a wonderful experience. My children know they were breastfeed and I am not embarrassed that I did it. However, I wouldn’t have wanted my toddler to see that up close in his classroom. And I certainly do not want my husband exposed to other women’s boobs. Even though milk comes from the breast, it is still considered a sexual body part. And I am not a monkey at a zoo. I am a human.
    If your ONLY option is right where you are, like you are stuck on a bus/plane…I get it. Still, we can be respectful by at least covering up. And many places offer options.
    Keep on breastfeeding your BABIES! YAY! But you can still be respectful of others.
    Thanks!

    • Danielle

      I see your point and that’s cool if you were not comfortable feeding in public and never needed to but why are you worried about your husbands exposure to a breastfeeding mother? I have talked to a lot of men and all agreed it’s not a sexualized thing, that would be really weird. I think society has really made us confused about breasts and their functions. The authors point here is that society’s attitude is the problem and does stop some mothers from feeding full term and that’s a shame for the children because in the end they are the ones who matter.

  • lousmom

    I always planned to breastfeed my children. However, after seven years of infertility we were blessed with our wonderful newborn son, through adoption. I vividly remember our first real outing to the store, where I experienced the contempt of one of the breast feeders. As I reached for the can of formula she proclaimed loudly to anyone in earshot how “the store should not sell formula” and how anyone should be ashamed to give their child “poison”. Way to make a new mother feel inadequate! I once went into the lounge of a baby store to feed my son only to have the moms start talking “among themselves” about the joys of breastfeeding and how they just don’t understand why someone wouldn’t. I was even asked to give up my seat for a breastfeeding mom who needed it. Guess I just needed to shove a bottle in my child’s mouth while we shopped.
    May I suggest that while breastfeeding is wonderful, not everyone can or chooses to do so. Perhaps you might look beyond yourself to think about how someone else might feel watching you experience something they never will. I know I am not alone in my experience. A friend of mine went into a coma and nearly died when her child was only a few months old. Thankfully she recovered in a few months but of course her child was by then on formula. She too experienced the evil eye from those who did not know her story. When it got to her and she decided to explain her illness etc, she got not understanding but information on how to induce lactation.
    From my experience breastfeeding mothers are able to dish out as much scorn and contempt as they receive, so maybe it all evens out in the end.
    BTW: my son is ten years old, not obese, developmentally sound, doing well in school and does not have any allergies. Imagine that!

    • Danielle

      That’s terrible people berrated you for not breastfeeding and made those assumptions! But I think that you are talking about a small minority of people. Most mothers just want to feel comfortable to breastfeed without hiding or being talked about by others just like you didn’t want to be harrassed about your choices. There are hypocrites on both sides I just think the authors point is that many mothers choose not to breastfeed because they are told it’s inappropriate and they feel they cannot go out of the house with a child that is still nursing, or their friends and others around them are disgusted by it so they don’t try it. The point is society has a backward view of what is appropriate. It’s totally appropriate to see half naked teens in ads (abercrombrie) but not appropriate to feed your child in public how you see fit.

    • Anne Carpenter Van Dyk

      lousmom, that is just terrible you’ve been treated that way! I’m horrified. Nothing more to say!

  • kat_xk8

    The issue is exposing your breast to everyone else !!!!! This isn’t an indictment on breastfeeding itself but geez cover the breast please . Don’t ignore the elephant in the room

    • Dennis Teel

      elephants have those?

      • Annie

        Actually, they at least have nipples, but I’ve never seen an elephant nurse. And I think the problem is with our society – they only see breasts as sexual objects rather than tools. Sure, I notice and I *guess* I’d feel better if a mother covered herself with a blanket, but I see no reason to make a big deal of it. If a woman were simply walking around with a see-through shirt and nothing under it, THAT would be indecent exposure. Nursing? Not so much

    • Anne Carpenter Van Dyk

      The article is defending discreet breastfeeding, where no body parts are visible.

  • Dennis Teel

    i’m a single male..if you’re attractive and publically breastfeeding and I begin watching closely,don’t feel like you have the right to get all confrontational..after all, I wouldn’t pull my wiener out and expect people to not watch..regardless of the reason..,you sure have no business pulling a breast out with a smug attitude of when you see ,don’t continue to watch”…if it’s hanging i’m looking..period(and i’m not even near the only male that thinks this way).

  • Dennis Teel

    and btw to others here it’s not breastfeeding people have the problem with,it’s exposing yourself in public to do it..it doesn’t have to be done publically..but like I said..you do it and i’ll watch..you wanna get confrontational,then stick it back in your blouse and go home.

  • rachelle

    disgusting. I don’t want to see it, please do it else where.

  • KrisDStar

    Nobody wants to see your tits either. Keep them covered.

  • Jaz Chasity Nicole Williams-Ma

    You go momma! I don’t cover up either! It’s a hassle to do so. Breastfeeding without a coverup is not bad. The breasts were made for that. Nobody says its bad when a lingerie commercial comes on or if you see breast in a movie. That’s because everybody seems to look at it sexually. It’s not sexual to feed your child with the boobs they were intended to eat from. As far as modesty and respect for others, if you don’t like it then don’t look. If you are going to stare then bring it on because I’m doing a natural beautiful thing. Maybe you will learn a thing or two. Otherwise, get over it! Stop bashing uncovered breastfeeding moms!


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