Why I Personally Choose To Breastfeed In Public
For many people, uncovered public breastfeeding is still considered “taboo”. I’ve debated whether or not I wanted to address this, as I’m sure I’ll hear some less than positive opinions. But ya know what? I feel very strongly about it. And everyone is welcome to their own opinion; I understand that. What I don’t understand, however, is why people feel the need to actually walk up to a breastfeeding mom and tell her to “go do that somewhere else”, or “you should really cover up”, or God forbid: “you know you can go to the bathroom and do that”. Now, none of these comments have been directed at me, but a few of my friends have heard these types of comments and it just boggles my mind.
Ok so here’s the thing. I know when I’m breastfeeding my son in public (or when I breastfed my daughter), I was never “doing it for attention”. Or because I was “too lazy to feed my baby before I left the house”. Or because “You’re doing this for yourself”. (all of these are comments said to breastfeeding mom friends of mine). I’m breastfeeding my baby because he is hungry! Or because he got scared and wanted comfort. Or because he is sleepy and just needs to get settled really fast. Ok, and really? I’m breastfeeding my son for MYSELF? Yes, I worked through cracked nipples, bad latches, bites, blebs, and engorgement all for ME. Because that sounds fun, right? Crazy notion, I know, but I worked through all of that for my children! And you know what? At the end of the day, I’m not going to sleep at night feeling grateful that I was able to make a complete stranger feel “comfortable” or whatever odd reason they come up with for confronting a breastfeeding mom. No. I want to go to sleep at night feeling glad that I was able to comfort my crying baby. His feelings will always trump a stranger’s feelings. Every. Single. Day.
And then there’s the argument of “Why don’t you just use a cover?” Well that’s because my baby doesn’t like being under a cover. It’s hot under there, he thrashes about and won’t latch, and neither of us are comfortable. Again, please refer to “my baby will always trump a random stranger”. Or the: “Why don’t you bottle feed him?” Not that it’s any of your business, but he won’t take a bottle. And that’s what works for OUR family. He doesn’t take a bottle and I’m fine with that. Let’s address “Why don’t you feed him before you leave?” I did. He’s a baby. And I’m not an idiot. You aren’t suggesting anything novel to me. But the thing with babies is that they don’t understand these “rules” about breakfast, lunch and dinner times. They eat when they want to eat.
A new one that I’ve heard lately is “Well I breastfed my kids and I wasn’t as blatant as these new moms are”. Do you want a high five? Because if you do, you aren’t getting one from me. Who cares?! How is this relevant to what is going on with ME and MY baby? That worked for you and your kids? Great! Good job on breastfeeding how YOU felt comfortable. But it’s not like I’m streaking naked through the mall, squirting my breastmilk at anyone who happens to glance my way. No. Instead, I’m simply sitting down at whatever convenient spot is available, lifting my shirt up (or down, depending on the shirt) and feeding my baby. And yes, you might see, for the quickest seconds, a nip slip. But I promise you’ll survive. Literally everyone walking around has nipples. Men have nipples. Women have nipples. I promise I don’t have anything special that you haven’t seen before. And also, pretty sure you get the message that I’m about to breastfeed my baby when I lay him down and start lifting up my shirt. In my book? That’s your warning to look away if you feel so inclined.
Then there’s the whole “my husband, sons, daughters, grandma, uncles, great aunt twice removed, cousin’s dog whatever, doesn’t need to see that.” Well first of all, I’m just feeding my baby here; I’m not shaking my breasts up and down singing “My Milkshake Brings All the Boys To the Yard” at the top of my lungs. Secondly, it’s a damn good thing they have eyelids because they can certainly feel free to close them at any time. Or necks! They also have necks, right? So they can just…look away? I mean come on people! I suggest rewiring your way of thinking, because it seems like you’re sexualizing a nonsexual act. Yes, breasts CAN be sexual, but they also have mammary glands! Which proves what they were originally intended for, right? Bottom line, I see PLENTY of things I might not want to see when I’m out in public, but I choose to simply look away. I choose not to confront people, as I am not the moral arbiter of America (or whichever country you live in)- and neither are you!
Lastly, I’ll leave you with this. 1) There are literally LAWS protecting breastfeeding women from being discriminated against, allowing them to breastfeed uncovered or covered in public. Google it. Educate yourself. And while you’re at it, Google: “historical women breastfeeding in public”. You will see pictures and paintings of women from the Depression, the Renaissance, the Dust Bowl, the Victorian era and more. And guess what? None of these women are using a cover! Or looking like they’re doing anything wrong. Instead, they are smiling and just breastfeeding their child! And you know what really resonates for me personally? That the POPE has said “If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking, because they are the most important people here”. So for the people who feel so inclined to walk up to a woman breastfeeding her child (who might already feel pretty damn vulnerable) take ONE second to think about what your comment will do. Are you going to change that woman’s way of thinking? Maybe; hopefully not. And if so, how sad that you have SHAMED someone into possibly not breastfeeding her child in public anymore; or even worse, possibly ceasing breastfeeding in general. So for you breastfeeding mamas, keep on doing what YOU feel comfortable with. If you don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding in public? Then don’t. If you want to use a cover? Do it. Do what works best for YOU and your child. Because that is the ONLY thing that matters.