by Jessica Martin-Weber, illustrated by Jennie Bernstein
BOOBS IN PUBLIC! WATCH OUT!
Ok, that never happens. Breasts are never out in public, they are always put away in a containing device that doesn’t bring any attention to them whatsoever.
Except for beer ads.
And car ads.
And lingerie ads.
And gun show ads.
And vacation ads.
And watch ads.
And jewelry ads.
And mall ads.
And liquor ads
And that’s just what I saw today on my train ride. The lingerie ad was on the side of a bus and each breast was bigger than my head.
But otherwise breasts are totally hidden from view.
Which is good because can you imagine what would happen if we saw breasts? Specially breasts feeding babies.
Breasts are particularly always hidden from children because seeing breasts will
leave them thinking breasts are a normal body part for women scar them for life. Even more so if the manner in which they see breasts doesn’t involve lacy bras or pasties or provocative poses.
We can’t have that now, can we? I mean, how would we explain to kids what is going on if they see a mother breastfeeding? The horrors! The mountain of therapy bills! The child that will think maybe women have bodily autonomy! (Here, if this nightmare should happen to you or someone you know, here’s what to tell a child should they see a mother breastfeeding. We can hold your hand through this, don’t worry, it will be ok.)
Thankfully, most of the time breastfeeding moms aren’t going to encounter any issue when they feed their babies in public. Given how often it is in the news and social media you would think it happens every single time a woman feeds her baby but alas, no. (Does anyone else wonder how all these shop owners and managers have missed the gigantic social media memo DON’T BOTHER BREASTFEEDING MOTHERS OR YOU WILL BE TORCHED ON THE INTERNET IN A HUGE PR NIGHTMARE!) Though the stories of women being harassed are what make the news, millions of mothers around the world feed their babies every day without interference. Shocking, I know. The most negative response the majority of women will ever receive may be a dirty look.
But what if you’re one of those unfortunate women who ends up with an ignorant and pushy individual demanding you leave an area or cover your baby and yourself while you feed your little one? How do you handle it? How do you handle it and keep your sanity intact? How do you handle it and keep your sanity intact and not end up going to jail?
We have a few suggestions. Take them or leave them. They’re not all going to apply to every situation and they may not be the best in the moment but hopefully they’ll provide some levity to the situation and keep you from losing your mind. What’s left of it from baby brain anyway. (You guys, that’s a thing. For real. Science says so. Maybe not quite what you think but it is a thing.)
How to handle negative reactions about feeding your baby in public.
- Smile. And think whatever you want in your head. You seem nice and approachable and it isn’t going to scare your kids but you could be thinking a string of profanity and they would never know. You could even start composing your Facebook status and tweets now to share the incident with your closest 2,000 friends.
- Practice. In the mirror or with a friend get an idea of what you would like to say should you ever experience someone offended by babies eating telling you to leave or cover. Knowing what you want to say could help. Whether you practice your “EFF YOU” to be sure it has the right amount of conviction or elect for a more diplomatic response (to tone it down you can try “go away” for starters followed by “you’re joking right?” and then if necessary “have you ever seen the news or been on social media? Don’t you know this isn’t going to end well?”), being prepared can help you resist the knee-jerk reaction of kicking them in the crotch.
- Be sympathetic. That they are a repressed and confused individual regarding women’s bodies and how babies are fed isn’t entirely all their fault. They are a product of their culture that prioritizes the over emphasis on the sexual nature of the female breast and regularly objectifies women. Being offended by seeing a baby being fed may be something they haven’t yet developed the skills to accept personal responsibility for and figure out how to handle themselves. From your deep well of sympathy for their condition, you could even offer them the name of a therapist that you would recommend to help them with their issues. That would be so nice of you.
- Find a blanket. True, they could and probably should do this for themselves but as mentioned above, their condition may impair their ability to take personal responsibility. So you could find a blanket, a jacket, sweater, towel, dish rag, even a paper napkin for them to put over their head so as to block the feeding baby from their view. Do warn them that it may get hot under there, they may miss other aspects of life going on around them, and it could be cumbersome in general which could actually be dangerous, but let them know you’ll yell loudly which direction to step if something is coming toward them. Might they be uncomfortable? Sure, but at least they won’t be offended.
- Have the law handy. Is it reasonable to expect people to know the law? Of course not! Specially if they are a business, they have so much to keep track of and can’t be expected to properly train their employees on costumer service or what the law actually says. Your local breastfeeding coalition may have nifty little cards you can print on their website with the actual legal code and everything. But there are a LOT of laws out there, too many to keep up with for even the most law abiding citizen. So help them out by knowing which laws pertain to you and having it ready. They may even thank you for helping them avoid a law suit! Wouldn’t that be nice.
We could go on, there are as many ways to handle such an experience as there are people willing to make those experiences happen. We’d love to hear your ideas, comment below with your suggestions.