Against Nursing in Public

Dear Stranger,

You are doing something that makes many people very sad, very angry, very uncomfortable, very defensive. Please consider the impact that your actions have on others.

We share this public space of ours. Some of us choose to smoke cigarettes. Some of us have dogs. Some of us listen to loud music that blares from behind our cellphones. Some of us wear clothing that is suggestive. Some of us wear clothing that has vulgar phrases. Some of us have tattoos. Some of us have piercings. Some of us wear religious symbols. Some of us speak loudly and enthusiastically. Some of us have cell phones. Some of us have cell phones that ring loudly.

And some of us feed our children quietly. Some of us cover up our babies and our bodies with a lightweight nursing cover. Others do not, because experience tells us that our child will scream. Some of us cover our breast with our shirt even as we latch our baby on. Others cannot because of how the baby latches on. Some of us are able to walk into the other room to latch the baby on before we return to where we were. Some of us cannot. I will not explain the reasons to you because I do not believe that you care.

I have had three children, and with each child my awareness of public offense with breastfeeding has become more painful.

I understand that you don’t want to see it. I understand this deeply. I am a person who refused to wear shorts for the longest of times because I found my knees to be too knobbly and “didn’t want to make anyone else look at them.” I am the person that wore long heavy jeans in the middle of the summer in August even though they plastered themselves to my legs. I understand every possible part of my body that you could find disgusting and offensive and ugly. From my too-tallness to my too-thinness, from my knobbly knees to my wobbly postpartum belly. I understand how deeply disgusting and ugly people can find a body that has had a baby. Don’t worry, I feel the shame. I feel your anger. I feel your disgust. Calm down. I know every single part of my body that is not presentable for the public.

I no longer wear jeans in the middle of August. I no longer shy from wearing flip flops in the heat, even though I cannot afford the time or money for a pedicure that would render my feet more appropriate in the views of people that hate the human body and all of its imperfections. And I no longer feel deeply ashamed when I feed my babies in public while covering up as best as I can.

I no longer get angry when I inhale the smoke of someone else’s cigarette in a shared public space. (Even though often this happens in a public space where the smokers are smoking illegally.) Instead I choose compassion. I understand that they are addicted. I understand how difficult an addiction is.

I no longer get angry when I am forced to listen to the too-loud music blaring from another’s headphones. Instead I choose to view this as the consequences of being in a public space.

I no longer get angry when someone’s loud ringtone blares from their cellphone in their purse. Even if I question their choice to make that particular sound or song into a ringtone, knowing that they would receive phone calls while out in public. And I no longer wonder why they don’t just wear pants so that they can put it in their pocket and keep it on vibrate the way I do.

I understand that everyone is guilty of living their own life with their own set of flaws and failings. I understand that everyone is guilty of doing things that make other people uncomfortable.

I understand all of the things that you do in public that get on my nerves.

I understand why you are glaring at me while I feed my baby. I no longer feel that I have the right to not be glared at in public. I do not ask you to conceal your emotions. I do not ask you to leave the area. I do not rant at you for being selfish and rude and disgusting and self-centered. I do not make you ashamed of your feelings or your clothing or your body or your location or your existence.

I do not ask you to have the same understanding and tolerance towards me that I have towards you. I do not need your acceptance. I understand that I will not have it, and I choose to not live my life in sorrow over this fact. I understand that for every one of you there are countless people that simply don’t give a damn either way. And that on top of that there are many people that feel as I do- that celebrate when they see a mother feeding her baby, that feel it is beautiful, that feel that every mother should feed her baby this way and in public, and openly so that other young women can see how it’s done. I wish I had the self confidence to feed without hiding. I don’t. I fear a person like you making me feel more ugly and disgusting and terrible than I have ever been made to feel before. I know how powerful your judgement is, and I recognize my own fragility. I do not ask you “please do not make me cry by being a bully.” I simply avoid the situations that could make me feel that sad.

When I see you judge other nursing mothers, though.. I can’t stand that. It makes me so deeply sad to see and hear you pass judgement on them. You push so many mothers to feed their babies in ways that make life so difficult and full of guilt. You push so many babies into eating something that is not the best that their mothers can offer. You make so many women feel so afraid to be out in public where they need to be. I talk to women every day that are suffering postpartum depression and loneliness because their babies won’t take a bottle and they “can’t” go out in public because they are afraid of your judgement on them for feeding their babies.

You don’t understand how breastfeeding works for babies and mothers. Maybe you’ve been gifted with a baby that does not need to comfort nurse, that doesn’t suffer from nipple confusion. Maybe you’ve never breastfed at all and feel that formula is “just fine”. Maybe you’re angry because someone else has judged you harshly for doing something that no one ever had the right to make you ashamed of. I don’t know. I don’t know your reasons for being cruel and judgmental towards breastfeeding mothers. I only know that when I see you look at another mother that way… I find it deeply offensive and it is not something that I wish to learn how to tolerate. I wish that you would stop. I wish that you would cover your face, stifle your feelings, and leave the public area if you’re not able to show common decency to someone who may be very fragile.

I do, however, recognize that this is a public space and you are entitled to your feelings even if they seep bitterness and angry judgement into a world that I wish was peaceful.

So instead of acting on the anger that you make me feel, I’ll step between you and the woman that you are judging harshly so that instead of your bitter ugly feelings she can see my smile and know nothing other than that she is doing the best that she can. I move my body so that you need not move either your eyes or your ugly feelings, and so that she does not have to suffer because of your selfishness and utter lack of self control.

Understand, though, your judgement of her is selfish and controlling and ugly and there are people that recognize this ugliness in you. Even if the mother that you are judging cannot. Even if the mother that you are making feel terrible and ugly and ashamed cannot feel anything but the guilt that you choose to make her feel.. It is you that are ugly. It is you that are doing something socially inappropriate and disgusting.

Women are meant to feed their babies at their breast. We evolved to do so. We were designed to do so. Passing judgement on another member of our species for feeding their offspring is not natural, it’s not healthy. It’s not wholesome. It’s not polite. It’s nothing but an abomination. An ugly disgusting abomination that has no business in a shared public space where that mother’s actions are protected by law.

She may not know and understand that. But the people watching you do.

I  could care less about the ugliness inside of your head, keep it there. I care when it takes up residence in the heads of innocent others.

12 thoughts on “Against Nursing in Public

  1. I am proudly exclusively breastfeeding my baby for 7weeks now, iv tried expressing into a bottle but she refused it…I feed my baby wherever I am, I choose to cover up for my own reasons but still get stared at…but I stare right back until they look away. I’m blessed to have a very supportive husband and family so it makes my choice to bf much easier. I too choose to be deeply offended by the comments iv been seeing lately on social sites and I can only hope and pray that one day ppl will see bf what it is…FEEDING!

  2. I doubt many women and men from say France or Italy would even relate to this craziness. America surely has odd feelings about breastfeeding and breasts in general. it is fine to have a large breasted woman flop them around in a dance bar for grown little boys… but not fine for baby boys.

  3. I’m french, still breastfeeding my 8 mths baby (and breastfed my 1st son too) and believe me when I say that France is no different than America.
    We may have topless women on beaches, but people are no more comfortable with the human body than anywhere else. (I hope my grammar is not too bad and that you understand what I’m saying !!)
    I tried to convince friends and family members to breastfeed but failed. They would say “I’m not a cow” or “I don’t want my boob to serve like that”.
    In France breasts are highly objectified as sex objects : we can show them to sell yogurts, sunglasses etc. but breastfeeding is not the norm, just as in America.
    You see, we are all the same 😉

  4. I nurse my little one wherever he needs it. If this happens to be in the grocery section of Target or at the table at Olive Garden, so be it. Why should I be stuck at home to feed my baby because I chose to breastfeed instead of using formula? I use a cover and always have a tank top on under my shirt to cover my skin. I do this because I don’t choose to be exposed. And I dare anyone to let me overhear their negative remarks about me breastfeeding my precious child in public. I tried once bringing a bottle of breastmilk… but I found it too inconvenient. Why pump and feed my child from a bottle (that I have to keep cool then find a place to warm up) when the source of his milk is always ready and waiting? I look for the day when nursing your child is more common and accepted than formula.

  5. As a modest woman “blessed” with an full bosom I have grown accustomed to strangers ogling at my breasts since age thirteen. At least now my baby blocks their view, and if my nursing makes them uncomfortable it is payback for the years of unwanted attention my directed at my chest.

  6. Hi there, well i have to say that germany, where i live is different… First of all, one can notice reading texts more or less related to nursing in books or on the internet. A good example is the well known site “baby center”. On the german one, the default is that women breastfeed, they write stuff like “if however you feed your baby formula…” whereas on the american one, they write “if you happen to be nursing”…
    People are quite opened to breastfeeding in public too, at least in the city i live in (which is known for being kid-friendly) though more in parks and other green spaces, also in cafes it’s not really frowned upon (at least in the one i visit), but i eally wouldn’t know what to do at the supermarket!!! The city has organized many spots downtown where one can go to feed the baby and change diapers too… Those places are behind closed doors, so it might not be relevant to the subject, but i find it GREAT!!! Some privacy and calm still makes a big difference!
    I am a new mom, my boy is eight weeks old! I read your blog on my phone when i nurse durong the night! It’s a great read, i learn a lot, and recognize myself (and my son) in what you write!

  7. I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding my 3 month old baby girl and it makes me fulfilled to nurse her. Here in the Philippines, breastfeeding in public is not an issue. People are even amazed when they see moms nursing their babies because here, it’s a symbol of love in motherhood.I hope it’s the same thing there..

    1. Wow! Now that is a beautiful thought in my mind. A symbol of Motherly love and blessing. I still struggle with feeling ashamed of breastfeeding. I am now pregnant with my third and I do plan on breastfeeding again. Thanks for the inspiration

  8. I breast feed my four month old anywhere and everywhere, If he’s hungry, I’ll happily feed him. I was in a shopping mall the other day, and a young lady came up to me and said “I don’t mean to interupt, but, Well Done!” pior to her remark I’d, sadly, been met with scowls. Unfortunately my in-laws don’t agree with my choice to nurse, so if little one is hungry at the dinner table and I want to feed him we’re banished to the kitchen, or living room. It annoys both my husband and I and where we used to go for a meal at their house twice a week, it’s now more like twice a month. Our relationship with them is so strained, and why? Because I choose to feed our child as nature intended…go figure!!!

    1. That is so crazy! I will never forget the first time I actually had the courage to go ahead and feed my child publicly at a family gathering at my inlaws…I was basically pushed out of the room. And then when I went in the basement the people down there scattered like flies too. Thankfully my Sister in Law came down and ate with me and the kids. But yeah, needless to say for a girl who has struggled with two kids and the confidence to nurse in front of anyone, that was not a very fun experience. I just don’t get the hang up.

  9. Awesome post – thank you! Living in Montreal (Canada), I pretty much take for granted that I can openly nurse in public,though I have had my issues here and there with ignorant people saying ignorant things to or about me. Never stopped me from nursing in public though. Today I ordered dinner at a stand at the market while nursing my 19 month old, the 5 guys working at the stand didn’t bat an eyelash. I hope the US will catch up to the rest of the world soon! Keep standing up for your children’s rights!

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