It’s Just a Boob, People. Get the F#©% Over It!

Really. That’s all it is. A breast. A breast that biologically, mind you, was designed to feed a baby. Not designed for you to ogle at and drool over. Humans are mammals, are we not? Mammals are so named due to the fact that we have these things called mammary glands. What do mammary glands do, you ask?  Why, they make milk to feed babies/young offspring! 

Yet, in the U.S. at least, nursing moms are constantly told that nursing in public is “gross,” “immodest,” “indecent,” and “inappropriate.” Everyday, nursing moms are shamed by strangers, friends, and family. The most recent incident to make headlines was the Target Nurse-In at over 250 locations nationwide. I was glad to be a part of this act, even if only a handful of women showed up at my particular location. Soon after, NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne publicly bashed a mom for nursing in the grocery store. Several news outlets covered each of these stories, and the comments underneath them are horrific. Commenter upon commenter continuing to belittle nursing mothers. Telling them to “leave their tits in their shirts and use a pump, that’s what they are for.” 

WHEN WILL THIS END?!?!?!

To play Devil’s Advocate here, let’s just say that a woman sat down with her baby in the corner of a store department of your local “K-Wal-Get.” She began feeding her baby a bottle of formula. She was then approached by 2 K-Wal-Get employees who asked her to move to a fitting room or bathroom to feed her baby, because what she was doing was “making other customers uncomfortable.” The mom notices that no one seems to be complaining about her. Her baby is quiet, and she is out of the way of other customers navigating the aisles. She tells the employees that she and her baby are fine right where they are, and she continues feeding her baby the bottle. Suddenly, several more K-Wal-Get employees surround the mother and baby and again, tell her she really should move to the fitting room or bathroom. Other customers start to see the crowd around her and begin to become curious. Finally, the mom leaves upset, angry, and humiliated. The mom goes home, and contacts the corporate offices of K-Wal-Get. She is told by the corporate employee that K-Wal-Get is a “family-friendly establishment” and that employees are told to direct bottle feeding mothers to fitting rooms or bathrooms because their actions could make other shoppers uncomfortable. 
Miranda Kerr, nursing on the job. 
This sounds insane, doesn’t it?! Well, almost this exact scenario played out in a Houston-area Target store when a mother was nursing her baby. If a mom who is feeding her baby with a bottle would never in a million bagillion years be told to feed her baby in the bathroom, then neither should a nursing mom. Yet, it happens all the time. When Sawyer was about a year old, I was at my local Victoria’s Secret store. He was in the carrier, and I was nursing him while I shopped for some underwear that didn’t come out of a 5-pack. About 5 minutes into his feeding, a middle-aged woman (not an employee, but a fellow shopper) told me that I should ask for a fitting room right away, because what I was doing was “so inappropriate. You’re in a public place!” I quickly asked her if she thought the girls coming out of the fitting rooms in their bra and panties to show their boyfriends/husbands their lingerie choices were inappropriate. Of course she said “No. This is a lingerie store! That’s why we’re here.” I then pointed to one of the  many bra ads. I asked her which was showing more skin: the models, or me? She turned about 30 shades of red and walked away. I felt extremely flustered, but also extremely proud of myself. From that day forward, I vowed to NEVER let anyone make me feel like feeding my baby the way nature intended was dirty or inappropriate. 
Who is showing more skin? Miranda while nursing, or her co-worker whilst “working?” 
I had another incident with a “friend” just recently over my participation in the Target Nurse-In. This was the first and only time I have ever gotten a negative reaction from a male over my nursing/nursing in public. He told me that if he had been at his local Target that day, he would have heckled the women participating. He told me that it was disgusting, that I should be respectful of others, and that my child was too old to be breastfed anyway. Needless to say, we aren’t friends anymore. 
To all the naysayers who have all of these “answers” for why you shouldn’t have to nurse in public, or be uncovered, here is my rebuttal. 
THEY SAY: Fine. Nurse in public, but at least cover those things up!
I have a cover. In fact, I have two. Sawyer never let me use them, so I never pushed the issue. Honestly, I found that I got more stares WITH the cover, as it is like wearing a giant flashing billboard that says, “BREASTFEEDING IN PROGRESS!!!!!!!! THERE’S A BABY ON MY BOOB!!!!!” Uncovered, most people thought I was just snuggling him or that he was sleeping. I take absolutely no issue with moms who choose to use one. It just never worked for me. However, I believe that it should be a mom’s choice to cover, not a pressure that she feels from others to do so. All but 5 states have laws protecting nursing moms. In 45 states we can legally feed our babies whenever, wherever. Covered or uncovered. So, no, in those states, a mom can’t be charged with indecent exposure. 
THEY SAY: Well, that’s what pumps are for. Pump a bottle before you leave the house. Give that to your baby.

First of all, pumps are meant to be used for when mom is away from baby. Like when mom is at work, or out with friends, or her partner. When mom and baby are together, baby should eat from the source whenever possible. Also, not all babies take bottles. I have one of them. I spent probably over $100 on various brands of bottles, and Sawyer never took any. Luckily, when I started attending births, he was able to drink expressed breastmilk from a cup using a straw, but even that was hit or miss. Some babies want the boob, and nothing else will do. Would you rather a screaming baby provide the soundtrack to your shopping experience, meal, flight, etc? 
THEY SAY: Breasts are sexual. 

Culturally, yes. Biologically, not so much. Breasts are designed to produce milk for babies and young children. In our society, yes, they also function as a means of sexual arousal (although, usually for the opposite sex!). This doesn’t negate their primary purpose as feeding mechanisms. Also, lots of things have more than one purpose. Are we not supposed to use anything that can also be used in a sexual way? I can use my hands and mouth sexually, so to that end, am I not supposed to touch or kiss my baby? 
Luckily, not everyone hates on nursing moms.  The Stir posted an awesome article on how nursing moms need to be respected just like formula feeding moms. Even Facebook apologized for deleting photos of moms breastfeeding.USA Today ran a great article on the subject. We really DO need to just get over it! It’s a baby eating. It’s not a sexual display, it’s not indecent exposure. It’s lunch. 
Maggie Gyllenhaal nurses in public!

And so do I. Although, this picture was taken in my bedroom. But I did share it on Twitter, so I guess that’s technically nursing in public, then? 
This isn’t about breastfeeding versus formula feeding. It isn’t about female sexuality. It isn’t about modesty versus immodesty. It’s about babies. Hungry babies who want (and deserve to be!) fed. Whenever, however, wherever. End of story. 



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12 comments
Kelly
Kelly

Also, I tried to use a cover ONCE. poor baby was so hot she was sweating :( I could see her, she couldnt see me, it was awful. and a massive 'OMG TITS HERE DONT LOOK AT MEEEEEEE' sign

Kelly
Kelly

I have a baby who refuses bottles, I'd like her to take one so I can go out with friends but no joy! People who think a baby can suck a bottle like a boob are just being very ignorant. We need to teach them! By getting the baps out :D

Celishia
Celishia

Awesome! My son latched like a champ and never let anyone see anything because he was totally engaged until he passed out! My daughter on the other hand, is a nibbler and a gazer, who puts a blanket over a babies head when they are trying to make eye contact?? We recently took a train to NY from Pittsburgh and my husband was told while walking around with our 2.5 year old son that I should cover up more. By the conductor. She was less than 3 months and was having trouble getting comfortable and I probably showed a bit, but really? Train full of mammals...I was horrified, especially in front of my son who is highly verbal and talked about it later. When I called Amtrak to complain the operator who filed our complaint was horrified that he said something, but so far nothing from Amtrak on the incident yet. And my daughter will take no artificial nipple at all. My son also had a terrible looking latch but it worked and we were both comfortable, and he was a bruiser. I love your blog, it's nice to know that other people prefer indie rock to Rafi :)!

delightfulpregnancy
delightfulpregnancy

Wonderful. I wanted to point out a quite hysterical typo though. In your story about the woman at victoria's secret, you have the obnoxious woman saying "this is a *pubic* place!" The irony in the typo really cracked me up!! My daughter also did not take a bottle. Regarding covers, i didn't like them early on bc i found to be very busy. I was irritated with this extra thing on me, even with the hoop my vision was often obscured from babys latch, plus it added extra time to start nursing. Then later i literally couldn't have used a cover bc there's no way my daughter would've let me!

jen
jen

Completely agree with you. Though I have to wonder about that Maggie Gylenhaal pic...awesome that she's nursing, and doing so in public, but what's up with that terrible latch? :)

Jessi
Jessi

Yes. And amen!

Crystal - Prenatal Coach
Crystal - Prenatal Coach

Awesome post! I look forward to feeding my 1st baby whenever, wherever and however he/she wants to be fed :-)

Kristi
Kristi

Thank you for visiting my blog! This is a great post! I have never had anyone bother me for nursing in public thank goodness. I have had a few women, usually older, come up to me and say, "You're doing such a wonderful job! Thank you for breastfeeding in public. You really don't see that anymore. Do women even breastfeed much anymore?" Yes, one woman had to ask me if women still breastfeed. But anyway, I love this post and I am thankful that I've had good nursing in public experiences up until now because I don't know if I could have been strong.

cheflittle15
cheflittle15

Finally: another mom whose baby wouldn't take a bottle AND wouldn't stand for a cover up! My daughter never took a bottle (and I spent so much money on pumps that never worked for me) AND always pushed my shirt all the way up/open to cuddle/stroke my skin. Therefore, initially, I was uncomfortable with nursing in public, but I got over it. The idea, also, that there is an age which the baby is too old is another issue people have. Worldwide, the average age for weaning is about FOUR years old. FOUR. After my daughter turned 18 months, I felt like I had to not mention to people that she still nursed at nap time. Americans need to get over our Puritanical roots and move forward. It's a baby eating. Any issues someone has with a mother feeding her baby are their issues alone to be dealt with under care of a qualified therapist.

LoopyKat
LoopyKat

Great post!! Silliest thing I read when I had my son 14 years ago was "open front button shirts for nursing" hello I'm not dressing like an old lady at 19 lol, I found it much easier to wear my normal clothing and just pull up my shirt and noone could see a thing! I fully fed all 3 kids and can honestly say once you get past all the initial pain, positioning and latching problems it's the most amazing act of love you will ever do!

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