Some Thoughts About Breastfeeding in Public

Dedicated to my "cool aunt", Mary Moses, for her inspiration many years ago (see more about that below)

This page will be updated and expanded as I gather more thoughts on breastfeeding in public. If you have a funny or poignant story to tell about your own experience breastfeeding in public or if you just want to borrow my soapbox to expound upon breastfeeding in public, please email me.


*What Did Jesus Do?

I absolutely LOVE this letter I got from a father of three breastfed children!


An online friend's daughter, Carissa A, had a brilliant response to one of her friends recently when the friend said, with disgust, "My mom used to nurse us in PUBLIC!"

Carissa, not missing a beat, replied, "So what? I eat in public all the time..."

Borgman cartoon
Click on the thumbnail to see a larger image of this Borgman cartoon about parenting behavior in public.

"Here's a poem I wrote several years ago when I was in a situation where I asked myself:
Should I nurse here and shock those nearby who will see me...
or make the baby wait - fussing and crying - until everyone in the building is staring at me?"
-- Sheila Stubbs, La Leche League Leader and Author of Birthing the Easy Way

Who Should Be Hiding in the Dressing Room?
Another email exchange

JANE: I was in a baby and maternity shop recently when my baby started fussing to be fed. I sat down on a bench in the middle of the store and started nursing her. The salesperson, a woman about 50 or so, asked if I'd be more comfortable in one of their large dressing rooms. I said that I was fine, but she even went so far as to go over and unlock one of the dressing rooms for me! I just smiled and stayed where I was, but I know she would have been a lot more comfortable if I had gone into the dressing room to nurse my baby.

CEE: Perhaps the next time someone, well-meaning or not, unlocks a dressing room for you to hide in while breastfeeding, you could say, "Oh, no, thanks. I'm perfectly comfortable right here; but, if it disturbs you to see me feeding my baby in the manner nature intended, perhaps you'd like to just duck in the dressing room yourself and shut the door behind you. I shouldn't be more than another 30 minutes or so."

One could apply similar logic if anyone ever suggests that you should cover yourself and your breastfeeding baby with a blanket or other ridiculous contraption...

Hathor Buttinski

Nursing at Jacob's FieldThis smiling woman and her child are engaging in an activity that many misguided people find objectionable. Can you tell what she's doing that is so *awful*? This is a friend of mine and her three year old daughter. They were sitting at Jacob's Field in Cleveland, waiting for an Indians game to begin, when the little one decided to have a little nip of Mommy Milk to pass the time. Isn't this disgusting? NOT!!!!! Click on the little picture to see a bigger image of the same thing... you *STILL* won't see anything offensive!

Should We Nurse Discreetly?
An email exchange between my friend Dale and me

ME: I wasn't paranoid about flashing a little nipple now and then, and I have to admit that it galls me when I hear people talking about it being "possible" to nurse discreetly. Huh? Why the heck should nursing mothers feel the need to hide the most natural, most beautiful thing in the world from the peering eyes of the curious, leering or perverted... or even from the admiring?

DALE: I totally agree. Although I do think that for many women learning to breastfeed discreetly is important because of personal hang-ups, I really think what most of us need is to learn to breastfeed *indiscreetly*, or at least to learn to stop worrying about how discreet we are. The one that *really* bothers me is when women say they are so discreet that no one even knows what they are doing. That just seems so self-hating, as if the very fact that they are nursing their babies is something shameful and as if it's a mark of pride that one can hide it.

ME: I never see anyone trying to hide pacifiers or bottles of formula, and I bet those offend me just as much as seeing me nursing my child offends anyone! My only choice is to look away, though, when I can't stand it any more... and I expect anyone who is disturbed by seeing a bit of Mama flesh to do the same. Actually, I think what they should do is skulk away and be totally ashamed of themselves for having such ridiculously sick thoughts... but I realize that doesn't happen very often. ;-)

Hathor Feeding Babies

Here's some advice from Karen White of Montreal about nursing in public.

The Lactating Feminist - "I'm not a porn star. I'm not burning my bra. I'm just feeding my baby in public." says Roxanne Beckford Hoge in this article from Salon Magazine.

My Own Thoughts on Public Nursing
and Why It Is Important To Me - 1996

I would never think of putting a blanket over myself and baby to nurse, and no reasonable baby would put up with that for long either. I liked looking at my baby's face while he or she was breastfeeding. The intimate communion that takes place during nursing cannot be duplicated!

I remember my dad watching me nurse Trevor and saying, "You always hold his hand and kiss it, rub it on your cheek or hold it against your heart while you're nursing him." I hadn't even been doing it consciously; that was just part of the communion. My son still pats my chest and face and rubs his hand on my cheeks and puts his hand to my mouth for a kiss, even though he's no longer breastfeeding. It's so sweet and special, and I think it's partly because of the bond that formed between us while he was drawing nourishment from my body and I was growing to love him more than I ever thought it was possible to love another human being.

It is my firm belief that attitudes about public breastfeeding will not change dramatically until women really get committed about nursing everywhere so that it will no longer be such a remarkable thing to see a woman nurturing her child in this best possible way! I have a personal anecdote that reinforces this.

A day or two after I found out I was pregnant with my oldest child, my aunt came to visit from New Mexico with her seven month old son. She nursed him in front of everyone and was so natural and comfortable about it. It had a profound effect on me. When I told everyone that I was pregnant, she said,"You're going to breastfeed, right?" I said, "Well, I'm going to try." She said,"What do you mean, try? You're going to do it! That trying crap is for people who have given up before they started!"

Up until that point, I hadn't realized how much my attitude about nursing had been affected by hearing my own mother's stories about nursing each of us for only 6 weeks before her milk dried up or how she didn't make enough milk for us. Now I know why - the 4 hour schedules, the 10-15 minutes on the breast, the supplementing with evaporated milk, etc. Yuck. My aunt's words and actions motivated me to read all I could get my hands on about breastfeeding. It's amazing that the timing of certain events probably made the difference between me breastfeeding for 6 weeks or 3+ years. How fortuitous it was that my aunt came to visit right after I found out I was pregnant! I am eternally grateful to her for educating me with word and deed. I feel obligated to do the same for as many women as I can possibly reach.

Here are some stories submitted by visitors to this site:

Parenting Resources

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