Unsupportive Support- out in public

Dear family and friends of a breastfeeding mother, strangers that support breastfeeding too, I have more to share with you about ways you are possibly being unintentionally unsupportive in your efforts to help.  What you may not realize is that offering unsupportive support is quite damaging and though I understand that you probably really are just trying to help it’s worth understanding how these efforts can actually cause more harm than good.  This series of posts on unsupportive support  is intended to help you be a better support person and strengthen your relationship with the mother you’re close to.

 

How not to support and how to avoid being unintentionally unsupportive- part 4.

Unsupportive support is…

Saying “You’re going to do THAT here?  Wouldn’t you like some place more private?”

She’s probably too nice to point this out but I’ll go ahead: when people say this and other similar comments what it really communicates is that you think she’s doing something that is shameful and should be hidden or secret.  It says more about what the speaker thinks of breasts, women, and the act of breastfeeding.  What you’re telling her by saying that is that you are uncomfortable with breastfeeding.  Which means you’re uncomfortable with her.  Which is your problem, not hers.  If she’s already started to breastfeed or is getting set up to do so then clearly she’s comfortable doing “THAT” there.  Offering her some place private if she seems anxious or looks uncomfortable could be helpful but it’s probably best to just wait for her to ask because chances are strong that she’d seek it out on her own if that were the case.  It’s not helping to offer another room for her to go to and be ostracized from everyone else and it’s just plain old disgusting to suggest the bathroom as an alternative.  Do you know what people do in there?  Moms can start breastfeeding in bathrooms when restaurants can meet health code and serve diners in the bathrooms.  Unless you’re going to be the first to sign up to eat your dinner in the bathroom, don’t suggest it as a dinning place of choice for an infant.  Since in the majority of the world her right to breastfeed wherever she is happens to be is legally protected what does it matter where she’s going to feed her baby?  The needs and comfort of her baby are her first priority, the comfort of everyone else that has their own issues with how they view breastfeeding and the female body, not so much.  Those individuals just have to deal.  And grow up.  And get over their selfish little selves that put their issues before a small child’s need to eat.  In fact, the more women breastfeed as though it’s a normal part of life and parenting (because, you know, it IS a normal part of life and parenting), the more comfortable society will become and the more women will breastfeed.  She’s actually doing the world a favor by breastfeeding wherever she is.  To really support her look up the laws about breastfeeding in public in your/her area and be informed.  It may take some practice but you’ll get more comfortable with it too.  Just practice whispering to yourself “I’m the one with the problem, not her.”  And start carrying “Thank you for breastfeeding in public” cards with you to hand out when you do see a woman breastfeeding in public (you’ll be shocked at how rare a sight that actually is) as penance.

Encouraging her to “plan ahead and just pump” to take a bottle or suggesting formula when going out so she doesn’t have to breastfeed in public.

Saying this just makes you look really uneducated about breastfeeding.  And maybe you are but it’s also very rude.  Don’t say it.  It’s not always that simple plus, why should she?  Because you are uncomfortable with her breastfeeding in public?  Because others are uncomfortable with breastfeeding in public?  Is there something wrong with breastfeeding in public?  Is there something wrong with feeding a baby in public?  Is there something wrong with taking a baby in public?  No, there’s not anything wrong with any of those things and the law agrees with me.  Not all breasts respond well to breast pumps and it’s far more complicated to “just pump” and take a bottle of breast milk than for her to lift her top and feed her baby perfectly mixed, perfectly heated, perfectly ready breast milk from the tap.  If she wants to pump and take a bottle, I’m sure she is capable of deciding that for herself.  By suggesting it without her seeking your advice you are undermining her feeding choices and suggesting she does yet more work in caring for her baby.  Best not to say anything at all unless you are asked.  Even then you should start with “aren’t you legally allowed to feed your baby anywhere you have the right to be?”

Along with the previous two acts, freaking out “oh my gosh!  You need a blanket, here, let me help shield you from view while you cover up so nobody can see!”

It’s not always that dramatic.  Sometimes it’s much more subtle like “You can breastfeed in public, I just want you to be covered.”  Which really isn’t subtle at all.  Perhaps most discouraging is when this comes from her partner.  I can’t tell you the number of times women have expressed to me how hurt they are when their partner tells them this and how unsupported they feel.  When it comes from someone else, a mom, a friend, a sister, etc., the message that comes with it is “I’m embarrassed, what if someone sees?  I don’t like you doing this because breasts are for sex and people might get the wrong idea.”  It wraps up the idea that women are responsible for when men think sexual thoughts about them, that the idea of a baby on a breast is possibly giving the mom sexual pleasure and should be “private,” and that there is something “gross” about breastfeeding and throws a blanket on all of it.  Mostly though it communicates that the individual is ashamed of the mother breastfeeding.  This attitude clearly puts what others might think before supporting the mother in breastfeeding.  Coming from a partner it’s even more loaded, beyond what is already present.  Jealousy and protective ownership are heavily implied.  A conversation where both parties express their feelings and thoughts is warranted with both actively listening to the other and an agreement coming from that discussion.  If a couple can agree on a way that makes them both comfortable with a mother breastfeeding in public after listening to each other, great.  What’s not called for is the partner laying down some kind of law or giving her permission to breastfeed in public but with stipulations.  If my husband tried to give me permission as to what I could do with my body I can assure you it would not go over well.  It’s something a couple can come to together but it’s her body and her mothering the partner is trying to control with reactions like this.  A woman’s breasts belong to her, she shares them with whom she likes.  If she is more comfortable covered, fine, her choice, but insisting she hide is full of misplaced responsibility and concern that only adds stress.  And making it an issue of modesty, a subjective social construct at best, is even more controlling by trying to add shame.  I could point out that when she’s feeding a baby her bare breast is actually covered by the baby’s head, at least more than many bathing suits and tops.  But that’s not actually the point.  She is not responsible for what others think and the truth is nobody can control what people think anyway.  No matter how covered and “protected” one may be, the individuals that would use others with their mind will do so regardless.  Instead of being concerned about what they are thinking, ask yourself  “am I more concerned about what she needs or the issues of others?”  Support her, worry about her comfort, and let others deal with their own issue without saddling her with the responsibility of taking care of them too.

 

If a woman wants to cover or go somewhere private to breastfeed, she can probably figure out how to do so, right?’

If she starts breastfeeding where she is, why assume that she needs a cover or to be encouraged to go some place private (like a bathroom? Yuck.) to breastfeed?  I don’t see that as support, I see it as projecting one’s own discomfort as a way of offering support.  Sure, they may think they are helping but it’s not really helpful.  A better way would be to simply ask “can I get you anything?” and if she wants a blanket or a private room she can ask for one.  But maybe that’s just me.

To really support her, have her back.  Even if it makes you a little uncomfortable because you’re just not used to seeing breastfeeding as a normal part of life.  If you can let go of the internal dialogue in your own head that buys into the objectification of women as sex objects you’ll be able to see her breastfeeding in public for exactly what it is: a woman feeding her child.  It may take you time to get comfortable with it, that’s ok, bucking years of societal program is hard work.  Just remember that she’s bucking it too and together you’ll bond over the experience if you let yourselves.  Take a deep breath and decide that the adorable small person that is nourished and comforted by her breast has no clue why anyone would think there was anything wrong with them having their supper in public.

________________________________

How are you most comfortable breastfeeding in public?  

Does it bother you to get negative reactions to you feeding your child?

What would you say to those that would give a mom a hard time about breastfeeding in public?

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Comments

  1. Have you been hanging out with my family?!?!? This is exactly what happened to us!! All of these scenarios!! And my LO had latching issues so the “bottle of formula or even breastmilk as a plan ahead option” was the worst idea ever! He took even linger to learn how to latch! It really and truly affected our breastfeeding relationship and it definitely delayed the success of the learning process!! It’s really unasked advice and unsupportive support!! Up to this date (LO will be 7 months next Tuesday) they still do it, even if we are at their house. They make me go to the spare room, or bring pumped milk, or cover if staying in living room (which is not really an option for them).

    • Send them this link, I’ll tell them! Hang in there, it must be so hard without real support from family and friends. (((hugs))) ~Jessica

    • When we’re at my parents’ house, my sister wears a nursing cover and announces, “I’m going to feed X now.” Does she expect us to clap, or what? (I think she’s concerned that my dad will be uncomfortable, but he’s got 3 kids and has seen my mother nurse many times, and he smoked around us throughout our childhoods despite the health problems it caused us, so if he’s uncomfortable with us nursing babies in his living room, that’s just tough.)

    • well- when i was breastfeeding i had a few iseuss- i wouldnt make enough milk, or one breast would contribute more than the other. I was told by my lactation nurse to take Fenugreek- its an herb sold in health food places. Also, she told me to pump in between feedings I was supposed to pump at least 10x a day and put baby to breast more often during the day. Also dont forget to drink LOTS of water! some people think drinking milk will increase supply- not so that will just make the baby gassy. good luck!

  2. I’ve had this happen to me too!! My MIL always gives me the “why don’t you pump” line and everyone insisted that my FIL would have a problem with me BFing in front of him. I finally said stay or go, I’m feeding my kids! (yes, twins!) My husband, as supportive as he tries to be, will say things like “it would be so much easier to go to the store if we just had bottles to shove in their mouths” to which I just give him a dumbfounded look and tell him to shut up if he ever wants to see my nipples again. Then my mom, who is totally pro BFing, will always tell me to throw a blanket over us!! Seriously, that’s why they make nursing shirts! If you can see my nipple in the two seconds it takes the kid to latch on, STOP LOOKING! It’s not my problem, it’s yours! Oh and my FIL doesn’t have a problem with me feeding in front of him, everyone else has a problem with me feeding in front of him. He actually told me he’s so proud of me for doing this and wishes his daughter would try harder at BFing with her kids 🙂

  3. When I told my father that I was working on developing a website about breastfeeding in public, he shook his head and said, “I can’t believe this is still an issue. This was an issue when your mom was nursing you guys thirty years ago. Unbelievable.”

    Some people, like my father, *do* get it.

    But so many others don’t. I have patience for those for whom it’s innocent ignorance, particularly if they are open to a gentle education. I am saddened and frustrated by those people and entities that should know better, often do know better, legally speaking, yet still choose to make moms feel uncomfortable.

    On the topic of partners’ support, I’ll share this: The developer to do the coding of our site is a man, and I never had the nerve–nor did I really feel it my business–to ask his personal view of the content, and mission. A week or so after our site launch, he submitted a location, Bob Hall Pier in Corpus Christi, TX, along with this anecdote:
    “My wife and I took our 3 kids and 2 nieces to the beach this past weekend. Our 4 month old was hungry, and my wife started to feed him, and at I looked around just to see if there was anyone in the near vicinity (there wasn’t). She saw me and said ‘Hey, it’s legal in Texas!’”

    I think the fact that he shared this moment with the site shows that his wife’s swift response effectively established the agreed upon way in which she’d nurse their child: anywhere and anytime he needed to nurse.

    Thanks for another great post, TLB.

  4. So funny. My friend and I were at a neighborhood halloween party at the park with our kids. I started nursing and she was like “so you’ve just got your boob all out here like that, huh?” Later on she stood in front of me and held a blanket up in front of me to shield onlookers. It was really quite the scene and uncalled for and made me feel more embarassed than ever. Later on she said she had no problem with me breastfeeding in public, but that she was just trying to protect me. I tried to tell her I’d prefer if she didn’t try to protect me but she pretty much insisted she needed to protect me (really I think she was “protecting” the little boys that were around).

  5. What bothered me was when a friend wanted all men banned from the room whenever I started breastfeeding. I was comfortable, the men were comfortable (or totally oblivious until she brought it to their attention), but she had to make a big to-do over it. One very dear (male) friend is a photographer and was taking shots of me and others at a holiday gathering. My friend was especially upset over this–that this man would dare take pics of me breastfeeding. I told her it was fine. She said, “No, it isn’t! It is totally inappropriate!”

    • I heard someone tell my husband’s uncle (who was clueless that I was even nursing the baby until someone told him) that the pictures he had just taken of my son and me were “pornography.” Sigh.

  6. Wow is all I can say! I get furious at this topic of moms getting harrased when they want to feed their. Child. No one says a word when an artificially feeding mother gives her child a bottle. I have 5 children, ages 19 years-8 months, whom all have BF for yrs. each. I practice child led weaning. As for. nursing in public, I do it whenever, wherever! I have never ever covered up as I have found it draws more attention to the nursing couple than just discretely nursing at first sign of hunger. I have never had negative situations but ppl actually encouraging me. I want to change societys acceptance of BF one baby at a time. 🙂

  7. I’m usually 100% behind you but this seems a bit much this morning…
    I think there can be many other perspective that prompt a friend to offer you a blanket other than “I find this disgusting/embarrassing and it needs to be covered”.
    I was out with a friend the other day and my baby girl was getting restless and hungry, so we turned a required stop at the library into a nursing break. After helping me juggle my baby in her car seat, the diaper bag, my wallet and the day’s purchase, she distracted the baby while I setted myself up and she then asked me if I had a blanket to cover up with.
    Now I could have taken it the wrong way, or I could have chosen to see the following things:
    – her sisters and sister-in-law have always covered up when breastfeeding, she just expects everyone to do the same without judging it one way or the other;
    – I’m obviously struggling to carry a lot of stuff and hurrying because I’m fretting about a loud baby in a silent place; she may have genuinely thought I usually use a blanket, but now I am stuck with a latched on baby and the blanket is still in the bag;
    – in our hurry (again, loud baby in silent place), we picked the first place that looked convenient, namely the empty kid’s section with tables and chairs. Once settled though, we looked around and realised it was a room where 2 sides are windows looking outside, and a third one is completely open to the rest of the library; the understatement in her question might well have been “are *you* comfortable here? Because I can totally fetch you a blanket to make *you* more comfortable” – nothing to do with her finding it gross or inapropriate;
    – and maybe, just maybe, she thinks no further than the fact that _she_ would be more comfortable to breastfeed in public under a blanket, so she offers one to me.

    • You’re right and your friend knows you well so it’s fine, but as a general rule a simple “Can I get you anything?” is a safer approach especially when you don’t know someone. This offer, even if it’s a true concern for your comfort, *does* suggest that you’re doing something unusual and that there might be cause for someone’s discomfort.

    • I definitely agree with all of this! I think that the TONE of the person asking if you need a blanket/cover is to be taken into consideration. DH will very casually ask if I *want* not *need* a blanket if we’re at his parents house and I’ve forgotten the cover. I prefer to cover for myself, because I like to keep covered. He knows this. But at my in laws, I don’t always cover.

      He asks int he same tone that he would ask me at home if I want the boppy. It all depends on tone, to me.

  8. Ughhh, I HATE that “wouldn’t you like to go somewhere more private/comfortable?” line. The couch is just fine, thanks, and NO, I don’t need a blanket over my head or my baby’s head either!

    • “More comfortable” might make sense if your friend is sat in a hard plastic chair and you see that there’s a padded chair or a couch nearby. “Can I get you something” or “do you have everything you need or “is there anything I can do to help” would probably be better, but unless someone is clearly trying to snub me, I tend to give him/her the benefit of the doubt. And I always feel comfortable declining the offer of another place or a blanket.

  9. Amy Corbet-Elsbree says:

    My mother has always been very supportive of breastfeeding… except when she insisted on putting a blanket over my son’s head! I took it off every time stating that he didn’t like things on his head (not entirely a lie), but more so because I didn’t feel it necessary… at all! I understand there are some women out there who aren’t comfortable nursing in public without a cover, and that is their right, just as it is mine to not use a cover. I always thought that I nursed very discretely… but if I don’t, who cares? It’s natural!

  10. I got some of the nervousness with dh and #1 when in public. I told him, not so nicely, to shut his trap cause nobody even knew what I was doing. Once he looked nobody did notice. Now my mom is a blanket wielder. Dives me nuts. I would appease her but if dd took the cover off, she did every time lol, of left it off. With ds, dh is totally fine and my mom bitches but I ignore her. Sometimes I cover if he’s too distracted to latch but not much.

  11. You must have written this for my husband. Luckily I’m no shrinking violet when it comes to breastfeeding. I will just calmly & discreetly start feeding the baby & *he* brings attention to it by flipping out. I am making him read this.

  12. As Anie said, sometimes the breastfeeding mom may just be more comfortable with a cover.

    I breastfed my four kids in the 80s – not very often in public (would be much more brave today) – but I remember visiting with a new mom who was breastfeeding many years ago. Only me in the room. And I had breastfed a kid or two by then. She was covering with a large blanket. It looked more trouble that it was worth – but as a new mom, it seemed to make her feel more comfortable with what she was doing. This was her first child -and she went on to have six more – so maybe she got more at ease with it.

    I work as an IBCLC now (hospital) and I always find myself wanting to go up to publicly nursing moms and say something positive – but feel like it would just be intrusive. Can’t win at times, it seems. But I love to see them nursing when they actually have learned how to do this! (There are days at work when it seems so complicated on Day 1 and 2….)

    • I’ve had people make eye contact with me and smile supportively and it does feel nice without being intrusive. Also when I was BFing a toddler I had two different women give me a verbal “way to go” for sticking with nursing so long and that was very affirming since nursing a toddler in public can be a little uncomfortable as it’s even more unusual and likely to be frowned on (plus their antics show off your boob even more!).

  13. My husband initially had an issue with me breastfeeding in front of people (well, still does, but not as much), but I don’t think it’s a case of jealousy or possessive behavior, because when it comes right down to it, when I say, “Listen, he’s hungry and I’m feeding him right now,” he doesn’t argue. He was surprised the first time that he saw me BF right in front of my mom and grandmother while they were visiting and later said about how open I was, “Well, I guess they’ve seen that sort of thing before, but it’s just kind of weird.” I think it’s just such a new and foreign thing to him and he assumed it was supposed to be done in private. He later asked that I at least not BF in front of his brothers or friends, but that’s a non-issue because I don’t think they would stay in the room if I did. My whole family is comfortable with it, except for my brother who always quickly and quietly ducks out of the room. I’m guessing he may have similar issues as my husband when he becomes a first-time father. Not that he’s controlling or possessive, just that it’s not something he’s used to and he’s struggling with getting more comfortable with it.

  14. I totally relate to this, oddly more with my second child than with my first. The fact that it seems a worse environment here in Seattle now than a couple of years ago is puzzling to me. We recently did a nurse-in to respons to a mom being asked to cover up in Starbucks here. Another mom was told not to breastfeed in QFC. I get more subtle “do you want to go to the back room?” comments myself (and I say “no thanks*).

    I took a photography class recently where we photographed mom and baby pairs and when the moms took breaks to nurse I’d politely ask if they’d like pictures while they’re breastfeeding. All of them said yes. I wish I had more BFing pics of me with my first child but it felt weird to me then so I only have iPhone pics I took of myself.

    I recently went to a Halloween party as my first date with my husband since the birth of baby #2. Even though I left my baby at home someone else did not and ironically, right after I arrived, a young childless woman took it upon herself to go on a rant about people breastfeeding in public. She said while she was supportive of NIP in theory she just couldn’t look away when people “whip out their whole boob” and was lamenting why people can’t just cover themselves. She really went off. Despite participating in a nurse-in that very week I chose not to engage this woman since I didn’t feel like being a lactivist at that particular moment. It was disheartening though and made me feel even more out of place among these childless folks. Luckily I don’t think most of the crowd’s sentiments were with her.

    • Yes, this is something I ran into in my early years of breastfeeding. When you’re breastfeeding, you are more likely to take baby with you wherever you go. People just could not understand why I wouldn’t leave baby and a bottle with a sitter. The idea was that breastfeeding ties you down so that you can’t get a sitter, and you can’t go anywhere. The implication was that breastfeeding moms should stay home or go to a back room so that the rest of the crowd (all adults, of course) would not be made uncomfortable by my nursing presence. Pretty soon we were getting fewer and fewer invites, and what invites we got we were more likely to turn down. If I wasn’t willing to leave my nursing baby at home, I wasn’t welcome.

  15. You don’t need to go up and say something to women publicly nursing, but a huge smile will do wonders for their confidence and a smile cheers everyone up.

    I had a lovely, very elderly, lady come and chat to me one day to say how wonderful it was to see me breastfeeding an older child (she was 1) and doing it in public. She then told me all about her days as a midwife in Korea about 60 years ago and what they used to do to support breastfeeding back then.

    I didn’t find it intrusive at all and loved hearing her story. I’m always up for a chat while breastfeeding – especially with a younger baby. It used to take me a full hour to feed my little girl when she was a newborn, so I was glad of any company. Unfortunately if anyone talks to me now she is likely to join in the conversation!

  16. A superb post in every way.

    Breastfeeding in this country will not be normalized until women are granted control over their own bodies and are not subject to laws made by unthinking men for unthinking men. If women want to cover, fine. If they don’t, fine. They must be free from any harassment whatever.

    Most state laws now exempt breastfeeding women from obscenity charges and the like. While that may seem good, it’s really another example of laws made by men to tell women what they can and can’t do. It means only that men have been forced to give women a right that they will ensure is based on a very narrow circumstance. Beyond that circumstance, i.e. almost all the time, it’s the same old story: women’s breasts are indecent, obscene, etc., i.e. they belong to someone else.

    http://www.tera.ca — if anyone’s interested.

  17. I prefer to cover up in publuc because my child doesn’t pay enough attention to eat without one. I wouldn’t mind just slipping my shirt up discreetly when I go out I’d rather my boob not hang out (as she is distractable), and both sides of my family are ignoranton the subject of BF

  18. I tried covering up when I first had my son, but it was 2 much work. It was quicker 2 just pull my nipple out & shove it in his mouth then 2 “find a comfy spot, sit down & grab the wrap or blanket, put it on, unhook the bra while juggling 2 stay under the cover & then (if I had help) have someone hand me the baby…” I never bought nursing tops, just a nursing bra & a regular t-shirt & most people didnt even notice what I was doing. I breastfed my son while walking around a greenhouse picking out flowers 4 my SIL’s yard & she didnt notice until I said “ok, buddy, all done!”. She thought it was hilarious that I could multitask like that, lol.
    A couple years ago when I 1st had my son, my bestie & her business partner opened up a gaming center @ the mall & whenever I went there with my son I tried 2 make sure that he was already fed & that we didnt stay too long b/c I understood that her business partner (who is my hubby’s bestie) might b uncomfortable or at least concerned that the costumers might be uncomfortable with me baring my boobs in the store. But one day we were there longer than expected & the baby started fussing, my bestie was gone for the day so I went up to her partner & asked him if he minded if I bf in the corner or if he thought it would b better 4 me 2 go in the office & he said “For all I care u guys can do it right here, as long as ur ok with a bunch of teenagers gawking @ ur jugs & taking mental pictures for later!”. I shouldve known he wouldnt mind, lol, I had fed the baby @ his house b4 & nobody offered me “a more comfy place 2 do THAT”, him, his wife & four children (including 2 teenage boys) didnt seem phased by it, but being silly & new @ bf in public I thought I had 2 ask for permission or leave the room. My mother never covered herself when she breastfed my sister (im 10 years older than her, so I remember it all clearly), but she was never very modest about anything, lol, so i assumed it was just a quirky thing about her, my brother & I used 2 joke about how my mom’s breasts had more viewers than a pornstar’s. After I got over my initial shyness & gave way to practicality & comfort, I can now understand why she did what she did & im happy I was exposed to that when growing up as it made me not even consider formula as an option until I got asked @ the hospital “U gonna bf or ff?” It just never occurred to me that there was other options for feeding my baby than breastmilk 😀 Bottles, i thought, were 4 baby dolls & juice once ur baby was old enough 4 it, lol.
    So Thanks Mom 4 ur great example & Thanks TLB 4 giving me more confidence in my parenting choices!
    Now I go by “My Baby, My Boobs, My Choice” & “If my exposed jugs offend u, ur free 2 walk out of the room”

  19. I appreciate this post. I’ll just share a a funny story about NIP.
    When my baby was a few weeks old, we had what I call a “new parent moment”. We took baby to the ER because she had been crying inconsolably and hadn’t breastfed for a long time. While in the waiting room, my baby (of course) decided she wanted to eat. So, I start nursing her. My partner was reading a paper he had found and he slowly started leaning over with it, trying to block the view of my breasts. I barked “STOP THAT!” at him. Looking back at this moment makes me laugh. He is still sometimes uncomfortable with my nursing in public uncovered, but we’ve come a long way.

  20. Last weekend I was at a family gathering. They are all generally comfortable with breastfeeding;they all assumed that was how I fed my baby (it is). But then when I needed to feed the baby and everyone was all gathered together, my husband told me to go in the back room. 🙁 He doesn’t usually. But this time he did. I was fine sitting on a couch and continuing to participate, but apparently he felt I shouldn’t. It was a comfortable room, and I did go…. Funny enough, most of the kids followed me and asked what was going on, they were very curious! (Most were breastfed themselves for about a year but they don’t remember now.)

    A couple years ago, when I was nursing my older son in public (he was then maybe 4 – 5 months old) at a small church gathering, no one said anything initially. It was a mixed group of men and women. After a few weeks (and I did use a blanket across my lap, but not over baby’s head), one of the women pulled me aside and said something like this: “I’m a big supporter of breastfeeding, you know I am, but this isn’t appropriate. You need to leave the room to feed your baby. Even though no one can see, the men might get ideas and we need to protect them. It’s fine to breastfeed in front of the women.” Seeing as it was a private residence I didn’t really have a choice, but surprise, I no longer felt comfortable feeding even just in front of the women! Seriously, they acknowledged I was being discreet and you could not see anything, but they were concerned about the men thinking sexual thoughts at the idea of knowing I was breastfeeding? REALLY?

    Sigh. Get over it! Breastfeeding is normal and natural! (And I generally do it anywhere, any time, no matter what, and don’t have problems. I’m on my third baby now and have a pretty “don’t mess with me” attitude!) Imagine if I started breastfeeding my almost 4-year-old in public (she does still breastfeed but not in public). HAHAHAHA…. Sometimes when I see ignorance I want to do that!

    • Why can’t people just say what they mean, like “Really, I’m supportive of breastfeeding because I think I’m supposed to be… BUT I’m actually not.”

    • Ooohhh…
      I visited a Sunday school class one week with my infant child. I nursed her of course. Nobody could see anything unless they had X-ray vision. I got a call later in the week saying that I was welcome, but my baby wasn’t. I asked the pastor in charge of Sunday schools if there were any classes I could attend with my baby, and he said no, she had to go to the nursery. Even the female pastor said it was probably my breastfeeding in class that upset the others. Finally someone from my current class said that’s nonsense, of course I can bring the baby to class. I nursed her there too, and the leader told me everybody in that class had been there at one time or another. That was 9 years ago. If not for that invitation to Sunday school, we would have left the church. Still makes me mad as a wet hen to think about it. Even madder, really…

  21. I’ve gotten that several times from various store clerks and other strangers, but I was really surprised when after 9 months of nursing our daughter, my husband asked me if I was really just gonna whip it out and feed her in the mall and wouldn’t I rather go sit in the bathroom. I looked at him in utter disbelief and then asked him, “are you gonna go eat that pretzel on the toilet?” He didn’t say another word.

  22. When I BF’d I usually wore and under shirt, so I could peak a boob out without anyone noticing… but w/o suffocating my baby!!

    When I was BFing at church, I ALWAYS covered in a way that was comfortable with me and my baby, but blocked us from the speakers view. There is nothing wrong with BFing, anywhere and everywhere… but there is a way to do it without drawing attention to yourself and being a flasher!

    When I was a new mom, my SIL and I took our kids (we both had 1) to get their pictures taken for grandma… the lady that was there before us had yet to leave (fine) and we all started talking (fine) and then she TAKES OFF HER SHIRT and starts nursing her screaming three year old. THATS when I decided that I will be respectful, modest and firm in my public breastfeeding. You can be assured that NO ONE will ever ask me to go somewhere else and if they did, it would be wasted air… I will also not be the woman baring all to make a statement. Its tacky and rude.

    • What a load of hogwash. You’re a liar. Flasher my culo. If you’re using the word flasher in connection to breastfeeding, you’re not supportive of breastfeeding, period.

    • Really? You are EXACTLY WHAT THIS POST IS REFERRING TO. And honestly? How inconspicuous is it when you’ve got a GIANT UDDER COVER OVER YOUR ENTIRE TORSO? Calling nursing mothers that could care less what ignorant people think about seeing a boob feeding a baby, a flasher? You are the reason so many nursing mothers are at war, when we should be loving and supporting one another. BOOBS WERE MADE FOR FEEDING BABIES, NOT SEXUALIZED PLAY-THINGS.

  23. I’ve always thought that using one of those covers, or a blanket, makes it look MORE obvious that you’re nursing! I love my Cantaloop nursing tank under a nice, flowy shirt. Throw Ezra in a sling, and most people have no clue he’s even eating.

  24. When I was a new Mom almost 18 years ago ( yikes!) my Mother was horrified the first time I started to nurse my son in public with her. She actually had to walk away because she couldn’t be seen with me ” doing that”. At the time I told her it was her problem, but the truth is, it changed how I breastfed. I started carrying bottles of expressed milk , convincing myself it was ” easier”. I would have told anyone that I had no problem with NIP, but looking back, I think I did. I was worried about making others uncomfortable.
    The good news is that we are on baby # 4 and these last two have had free and clear access anytime they want. With my Mom’s blessing. She is still worried about ” discretion” but would never suggest I not nurse my baby when she is hungry. She has learned the benefits of breastfeeding by watching my children grow up.

  25. My family knows better than to make any undermining statement regarding when or where I nurse my babies. In fact, my husband flipped on a restaurant employee who suggested that I feed my son in the bathroom. My mother (an LLL leader) even had cards printed up with the Ky laws regarding breastfeeding in public; simply hand the offensive citizen the card and give them the “I dare you to say something NOW” look… Every woman should have the support she deserves for making the right choices for her child.

  26. Ok- off topic, but I LOVE LO’s pants in the pic 🙂

  27. Chani-Claire says:

    Ahhh! My mom who BF me (til I was 6 months b/c I bit & then no more) is constantly anxious & asking me if I want to nurse some where more private. Drives me crazy! “there’s men here!” umm…so?!

  28. We went to the aquarium with my in-laws. When LO needed to eat, I used the auditorium to feed him. My MIL, very obviously while trying to completely not be, stiffly sat next to me to “prevent strangers from sitting by me.” Ummm… I don’t have a problem with NIP and for those that ARE uncomfortable with it, you are just making it more obvious.

  29. I loved this because this is my mother and sister in a nutshell. When we were at a restaurant recently I had to breastfeed my 15 month old daughter, I was hardly exposed because I had two layers on and was able to lift my shirt. It was then that my sister (also an exotic dancer) looked at me with complete horror and disgust and said “you’re going to do that here? Shouldn’t you go to the bathroom or something?”. Seriously? She takes her shirt off for a living, which is fine to her and my mother, yet feeding my child is somehow embarrassing or inappropriate. Good grief.

  30. this topic angers me so much. my bf’s family was very unsupportive, maybe sometimes unintentionally. but either way it was very hard to hear when I am trying to do whats best for my baby, and it`s not EASY to do, nor were we both rofessionals like some mama`s and babies are lucky enough to be. so to hear comments and questions like “maybe he`s still hungry“ and `maybe he`s not getting enough`when I`m holding a 16lb, 4 month old baby in my arms is just irritating, I was lucky enough to have alot of support on my side of the family since my mother nursed me, my 3 sisters and little brother, and all of my sisters have nursed all of theirs, so at least I had some support! and Ièm very happy to say I have turned my bf into a very big BFsupporter, he will tell all of his friends how we are nursing and how much better ist is for them and ask if they are going to be BFing theirs. its very nice to have seen him be such a supporter in the situation and to have to help me through all the rough spots!

  31. I prefer to cover up when my MIL is around. She Pervs.

  32. Thank you so much for writing this. I’m sending it to my husband’s work email RIGHT NOW for him to read. He’s VERY supportive of my breastfeeding relationship with our 6 month old baby girl, but he has issues with NIP. It’s not that he doesn’t want me to, it’s that he worries about the perverts of the world who get off on it. I use a cover for my own modesty’s sake, but he will (very politely) ask me to go somewhere private to nurse her, even with a cover. It frustrates me. I know he’s not ashamed of me BFing, in fact, he educates his male co-workers on it and regularly gives out my cell number to female co-workers that are having BFing issues… but he can’t seem to get what other people may think out of his head. Hopefully this article will help!

    Thanks again TLB! Once again, you make me feel not quite so insane 😉