If You Don’t Support Breastfeeding in Public, You Don’t Support Breastfeeding

Katharine McKinney, Huffington Post 1 April 2013

Most people, if you ask them, will say they support breastfeeding, that they believe that it’s the best nutrition for babies, natural and good.

Ask the same people about breastfeeding in public, however, and the responses shift. Some people will be totally on board with the idea, and other people will balk.

To the balkers, I say this. It’s not going to make me popular, but it’s a statement I have come to believe is true through nine years of lactation, even longer study of lactation, and the experience of thousands of other mothers.

If you don’t support breastfeeding in public, you don’t support breastfeeding.

19 thoughts on “If You Don’t Support Breastfeeding in Public, You Don’t Support Breastfeeding

  1. glutenfreepeach

    I don’t mind breastfeeding in public, but it all depends on where you are. For example, when in a nice restaurant (most nice restaurants have a big ladies’ room with an ante-room and baby facilities), there are certain things that are best done in the bathroom, like emitting gases from the front and back of your body, brushing your hair….and taking out one of your boobs! I don’t know why it’s such a big deal to just use the ladies’ ante-room and I don’t understand how women seem to just do it in crowded places without feeling exposed. I would probably use an extractor to be able to carry around my breast milk. Again, this is a simple and elegant solution which does not involve making anyone around you feel uncomfortable.

    1. Laura Post author

      Whilst you are entitled to your opinion, I get the feelilng you’ve never breastfed a child and you probably live in America. I don’t see any problem with, and I do, breastfeed anywhere and everywhere. I’ve breastfed standing up at an exhibition in the Tower of London, on a bus, on a plane, in fancy restaurants, in diners, in the park, literally anywhere and everywhere.

      Thankfully, my right to do that is protected by law in the UK and most US states. How is feeding a baby in a restaurant in any way similar to brushing your hair, farting or burping. I find it highly offensive that anyone should wish to consign me to a place where you would never tolerate being told to eat to feed my child. Not to mention the fact that as babies feed often and take a while it would mean I was away from my friends or family with my food probably going cold for a significant period of time, feeling shameful. I also do not feel the need to “be discreet” as I have no idea what that means. I am not whapping my tits out at every opportunity, and, simply because it’s not something I’m comfortable doing I am not exposing any skin. There are women who go to work with more breast on display than most breastfeeding mothers ever have.

      This is all about the fact that people think its odd because they think that breasts are purely sexual. The window of Victoria’s Secret is frankly offensive to me as its all tits and arse and I would never show that much off in public even on the beach. In the UK our toilets (as that is what they are, somewhere to defecate and urinate) in restaurants and other places do not have “ante-rooms” and we don’t call them restrooms or bathrooms which is frankly ridiculous. They call the British prudes but I find most Americans to be far more prudish, unable to even use the word toilet!

      An “extractor” or breast pump is far more inconvenient, noisy, time consuming and frankly bloody awful to use. How come its ok for junior to suck from a rubber teat cuddled up to mummy? Not to mention having to sterilise and warm to the correct temperature. Mothers milk is always on tap at the right temperature in a conveniently sterile dispenser. Finally, I will never “cover up” or use a cover, talk about drawing attention! Often times when I’ve been feeding people come and chat to me and pat baby’s head and only sometime later do they occassionally realise that actually I was feeding the baby while I did that. It is far more un-noticable than most people imagine. And besides, what would you rather have whilst dining in your fancy restaurant – a screaming baby who doesn’t want a horrible cold rubber teat thrust into his mouth, and frankly can’t want another 5 minutes for it to be warmed up, or peace and quiet. If it offends you, avert your gaze, there is no requirement to look.

      1. madreleche

        Excellent reply! Glutenfreepeach has spectacularly missed the point of this piece.
        He/she is highly ignorant to compare breastfeeding to urinating/defecating.

      2. glutenfreepeach

        I’m actually from Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean sea, which was colonized by the British until 1964. Ante-room is a technical term, not an American one. No need to get so defensive on me, I was only saying what I would do, I said in the first sentence that I don’t mind it at all. πŸ™‚

      3. Laura Post author

        I’ve been to Malta. One of the best holidays I’ve ever had. Lovely place. Maybe just think about the meaning and implications of what you suggest. You may think its a casual observation however many breastfeeding mothers are under constant attack for doing something wholly normal and natural. You either support or not. You can’t attach conditions. That was the point of the article I linked to.

      4. glutenfreepeach

        Yeah I understand that it’s normal and natural, I wasn’t making any strong points though, not attacking anyone. I support it, but I wouldn’t do it myself. In Malta we don’t get much public breast feeders, I only ever saw one and she looked like a tourist. So maybe I’m not exposed to it enough to understand.

      1. M W

        I don’t eat my dinner in the toilets, ever. If it’s not good enough for me, it’s not good enough for a baby. I see lots of things I don’t like on a daily basis, but I take it upon myself and just don’t look. I am not a big fan of dirty long toe-nails in sandals while I am eating, which is why I don’t look at people’s feet. I am not about to ask them to move for MY convenience. It’s all about respect, and who wouldn’t.respect a baby?

    2. Ali

      If was taking out one of my boobs to play with it, I would agree with you. However, when I am feeding my child, I am, oddly enough, not waving it around in a sexual manner – I am feeding my child. I’d love to know in what way giving food to my child is the same as eliminating waste from my body and in what other ways you would consider a baby eating to be the same as defecating? Is it the same when they’re drinking formula, or BM from a bottle, or eating baby food, or eating finger food? No? You know why, because a baby eating, whatever the format, is not close to the same as defecating.

      You don’t get to discriminate against my baby because she doesn’t feed from a plastic replica, which I guess you would not find inappropriate in any setting. Breastfeeding is the physiologically NORMAL way to feed a child, it is in fact what breasts were designed to do and I will not ‘extract’ my milk in order to be ‘appropriate’ when I can feed in the NORMAL way. Many women cannot pump, many babies will not take a bottle, many babies will not suffer being covered up when eating. Nor should I be required to do any of these things in order for my baby to eat just because people like you cannot tell the difference between that and going to the toilet.

      You are indeed entitled to an opinion, what you are not entitled to is ignorance. You have now been educated, make use of your new knowledge.

    3. katese11

      I would never normally feed in a toilet, but I went to Addington Palace near Croydon and they had a fricking throne in there. Couldn’t resist a bit of feeding on the golden armchair, next to the radiator in a sweet-smelling, carpeted “ladies room”. Any other time, no way!

  2. Social Bub

    I am very keen to know if Glutenfreepeach has ever breastfed a child…I’m guessing not! The first sentence of your statement is a bit of a joke, when you then go on to tell breastfeeding mothers to hide in a bathroom out of sight. Maybe you should be less concerned about how uncomfortable you are feeling and show a little more concern for how the baby is feeling. We aren’t ‘taking out our boobs’ to put them on show to make you feel uncomfortable – we are fulfilling one of the most basic acts of nature, feeding a hungry child.

    1. glutenfreepeach

      Wow there are a lot of angry bloggers out there.Chill guys, I was just saying what I would do. No need to get so defensive. No I have never breastfed. I would just choose for myself to be discreet about it because I’m a discreet person, and I’m explaining what I would do to accomodate myself from not feeling exposed and any people who I could possibly discomfort. I live in a small island and I’ve only once seen a woman breastfeed in public, maybe that’s why I think this way. Don’t need to demonise me.

      1. Laura Post author

        I don’t think anyone is demonising you. You do raise a good point though… You’ve never really been exposed to it which is why you feel uncomfortable about it. One of the main reasons I feel it is important for women to be able to breastfeed in public is so that more women see it realise it’s natural, it’s naturally discreet and it’s okay and therefore feel comfortable themselves breastfeeding public. Finally no-one has a right to not be offended so you should never feel uncomfortable doing something just because it might offend somebody else.

  3. angelicashell

    I totally agree, I don’t understand those who think everyone should “cover up” there isn’t anything to cover up! And glutenfreepeach, once you breastfeed a child you will realise it is completely impossible to go somewhere private every single time you feed! You would never see outside! I would rather sit eating with friends than sat on a horrible plastic chair on my own in a little room. It’s just not practical.

  4. ourbreastfeedingexperiences

    To be fair to GFP before I had a baby/breastfed I too couldn’t understand it/would think it was best done in private. Now I’ve breastfed I think it’s crazy to think like that. Breastfeeding is a world away from defecating.In fact it’s the exact opposite.I agree that if you’ve not seen it much,you might think it’s odd. However what about in places where women traditionally through cultural/religious reasons cover up more. Is it ever acceptable to concede that BFing in private is better? For example I was BFing in a middle-eastern restaurant in the UK. No one said anything but I did feel more aware that I was doing something unexpected. I wondered if it would have been more respectful to their culture to have fed in private/under cover. But that was my choice. i know that opens a whole can of warms about religious repression of women etc, but my question is genuine. Would you feel comfortable BFing in a place/country where people are more covered up? I mean if it’s recommended to cover shoulders/our heads people generally do it. Am I making any sense LOL?

    1. Laura Post author

      You raise an interesting point, however, there is a wonderful picture in The Politics of Breastfeeding by Gabrielle Palmer showing a woman on a bus in Egypt. She is wearing full head and body covering (I’m not sure of the correct technical terms) in black and she is feeding her baby, her milky white breast is the only part of her which is exposed. This is normal, this is ok, this is what I wish were ok in our Western cultures. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever shown as much breast as was shown in that image, there was no fear, and this in a culture where women are considered to be opressed generally, and held responsible for offences like adultery or tempting men, but breastfeeding your child is OK. Maybe in the middle eastern restaurant you visited they were confused why you felt awkward feeding your child? You can’t know what they were thinking.

  5. ourbreastfeedingexperiences

    Ah, my copy of The Politics of Breastfeeding is on my kindle 😦 So no pictures. That’s very interesting though. I really would love to have someone with a different experience like that tell their story on my website. Because if that is the norm, that would be amazing and something to use over here in support of women feeding in public.


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