Thursday, August 1, 2013

Breastfeeding (in public)


Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

 DAY 11 : Breastfeeding in Public

  This post was written as part of the Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is about breastfeeding in public. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 22nd through August 4th!  

I guess you could say I've had my share of public scorn for breastfeeding. From relatives throwing blankets over me, to enduring harassment from the management of a natural foods store. Sometimes I feel like I've done it all, but every week I hear another story of a mother being humiliated for breastfeeding her child in public. It happens everywhere. I know people who haven't experienced this humiliation and claim that it is rare. Really nobody knows how often it actually happens.

In my experience it happens a lot.

Almost every single time I feed my children in a crowd I notice a look, a giggle, or a scowl, and a few times each year one of these people becomes courageous enough to actually make some gesture or comment to ME personally.

I know, I know I'm asking for it right? I mean how dare I tandem feed out of a double Costco shopping cart? Well I'll tell you.

Because I have to.

I am a breastfeeding mother with two kids. Sometimes this is literally how we roll.

I've never used a cover, and I find the idea of using one offensive and degrading.  I'm not saying that I'm immune to the embarrassment when breastfeeding gets awkward, or some stranger comes up to you and makes a rude comment. Its just not something I would hide or that I think needs to be hidden. Please don't mistake me though I'm not about to go ripping Hooter Hiders® off of other women and demand they join me. Just don't expect me to feel obliged to live under one of those tents either.

When these stories of humiliation circulate many people who claim to support breastfeeding take issue not with 'breastfeeding in public' but with the details. With the manner in which this particular mother of the week was breastfeeding; She wasn't using a cover, she should have gone somewhere less crowded, she was exposing too much, etc.  

ALL of this talk. Discrete, covered, open, exposed, belongs nowhere near the topic of breastfeeding, and has absolutely NOTHING to do breastfeeding.

If I hear the phrase "respect the modesty of others" one more time I swear I'm going to write it on my underwear and wear only those next time I go out.

I find it especially disappointing when breastfeeding support organizations actually use and promote this rhetoric in the information they distribute to breastfeeding mothers.

From LLLI in their FAQ " How do I respond to and avoid criticism about breastfeeding? "

Ways to prevent Criticism:

1: Be discreet if at all possible

The first suggestion for mothers on ways to prevent criticism is to alter their own behavior. OK got it. Thanks. I'm doing something wrong.
This kind of victim blaming is so common sometimes its hard to recognize but it is real and it really fails to address the problem. Which is not the mother and child.

It is cultural. 

It is the cultural barriers we have that prevent people from seeing breastfeeding as NORMAL.

One of the simplest ways to break down these barriers and normalize breastfeeding is to do it whenever, and wherever you need to. 

This is why breastfeeding in public is so important to me, even though it's not always easy.

Here are more post by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

1 comment:

Krystyna said...

I agree!! Just left the same comment on Momzelle's blog post: we can only normalize breastfeeding when we stop hiding and apologizing. Feeding our babies is just that - feeding them!