The Public

Perhaps you wondered what prompted my breastfeeding poll?

There’s a new show on ABC called What Would You Do? On tonight’s episode, they will have actresses pose as breast feeding moms, and managers (also actors) berating or harassing them, to see what the other people in the restaurant or coffee shop will do. You can see a clip of the show here.

Kevin and I had a discussion about it, because he said he is a little uncomfortable knowing someone is breastfeeding, even though he is married to a lactivist. He was trying to make an analogy of, if someone was doing something sexual under the table, and you could tell it was going on, even if you couldn’t see it, you would feel uncomfortable.

While it’s true, I would feel uncomfortable in that situation; the analogy I don’t get.

Breastfeeding is NOT sexual. I think part of the reason people feel “uncomfortable” is because they just aren’t familiar enough with it, don’t see it, and can’t help but think of breasts as sexual entities. This, in my opinion, is due to cultural conditioning.

It’s unfortunate, but we have made bottle feeding the norm in this country, not breastfeeding. And the only way to make breastfeeding normal and natural again, is for more moms to choose breastfeeding as the option for their babies. For that to happen, women need to feel supported by their moms, their peer groups, and by strangers at a cafe.

For the record, I have never once, in my nearly 5 years of breastfeeding, been given any indication someone has been uncomfortable, or been made to feel like I am being rude by nursing my baby. And I have nursed everywhere. Literally. Everywhere. I use a neck to torso cover when babe is tiny and we’re both getting used to the process, so parts don’t show; but once we are both pros at it, latch-on takes place in under five seconds and I skip the blanket part.

And also for the record, if you tried everything to nurse, but couldn’t, this isn’t about you. Please accept my condolences on the loss of your nursing relationship.

14 thoughts on “The Public

  1. I totally agree with you!! The ONLY place someone TRIED to make me feel uncomforable was at my inlaws…they think it's gross and weird and all those other things. But they are…

    I still nursed right there in the living room. You couldn't see anything and most of the time didn't even know it.

    I have too nursed and pumped EVERYWHERE.

  2. I like the saying "If breastfeeding is sexual then a bottle is a dildo"

    I completely agree that there is nothing sexual about it, but people get it confused because our society sees breasts as sexual. For some reason, "we" can't seperate things out. There are many parts of our body that *can* be used sexually, but they also do everyday, non-sexual tasks. Breasts are the same.

  3. I'm an avid supporter of nursing, as well. I think babies need to, and should eat, whenever they need to.

    With that said, it is frustrating that this translates for some (and I think it's a fair minority) as, "I have an opportunity to bare my breasts and cause commotion and have people look at me". It does make some men (like my husband) uncomfortable if women are exposed. We are a modest believing group here.

    However, if you are taking whatever steps to keep yourself as covered as possible, and still be comfortable and maintain the intimacy that comes with breastfeeding, then I really don't think anyone would ever say a thing-they haven't to me, and I've done this everywhere with several kiddos.

    Blessings to you!

  4. Honestly, I do not understand why this is such a huge issue to people. I mean seriously! It is how every single mammal feeds it's young. It is how the human race has survived!!

    I think the only reason this is an issue is because society sees breasts as sexual instead of functional, just like you said. So so sad!

  5. I'm an avid supportor of nursing as well, but this is how I see it…

    My job is to do my best to protect my husband's mind from anything that could "sway," him (just like I like to dress conservatively for other men's sake,) and if a woman is breastfeeding in the same room as us, how do you NOT think about that act? Meaning, how do you not think about her breast and breastfeeding? Though I take it as completely natural, do all of those men think about it just as feeding? Hope that came across like I wanted it to!

  6. I think you should have an option like: YES, and I think more women should breastfeed in public so the public will get used to seeing it.

    My daughter is one and a half. I've nursed her everywhere AND I understand the socially conditioned discomfort response. When trying to get to the root of my discomfort, however embarrassing it is to admit to having had discomfort, I can see there has been wanting to look and not wanting to look for fear of making someone uncomfortable. However, possibly a deeper meaning comes from things that I've heard as a child or an adult, like, "nursing your three-year-old is sick or wrong." Things like that effected me and created a belief system without ever challenging me to ask questions like, why? Do I really feel that way or have I just been socially conditioned to agree? Has that made me predisposed to judge all breastfeeding as somehow inappropriate? Why would I ever be uncomfortable with someone doing something that I think is so natural and important and right? I agree that it is intimate, but it should definitely be done in public all the time so it becomes old hat and we can collectively get over our prejudices. 

    Push through the discomfort and question your triggered responses, I say. That's what I've done. 

  7. I nursed my boys whenever and wherever we were when they needed to eat! In the beginning my husband was hoping I would have been more "modest" about it. I was once nursing Ian and was in the middle of a conversation (about five minutes in) talking to my brother-in-law when Ian popped off the breast and sat up and my BIL flew out of the room! My husbands family has always been that way….like breastfeeding is weird. I had to convince me mother that nursing my baby was the best thing too. When Eli was born, he had jaundice and my mother was talking to one of the nurses and the nurse explained that breast fed babies have a more difficult time breaking down the bilirubin in their system than bottle fed babies. Mom just couldn't believe that I wasn't going to give my baby formula if breastfeeding was "hurting" him! She has now seen my boys both be healthy, happy, smart little boys (and my nieces and nephew too) and she doesn't see why anyone would ever choose to bottle feed now! 😉

  8. Go Jessica! Breastfeeding is not an intimate act…it is feeding your baby! I'm so glad I don't live in ID, NE or WV. I breastfed in public, only had a few people ask me to do it else where (once while walking around Lowe's with my husband, yes I nursed while shopping). I liked that video clip…and wanted to hear what was said in response to the black woman…

  9. I'm right with you on this. And Matt would prefer that I cover up a bit more – I tend not to use a blanket, but I do wear tank tops under everything I wear so that only a small part of my breast is ever exposed when I BF. I'm not into having my breast hanging out for the world to see, and while I recognize that people have a right to breastfeed as they see fit, I won't be sitting somewhere with my shirt hanging open to BF. I have BF everywhere and while I've gotten my share of dirty looks, I'm only had one really irritating comment. A woman started talking to others about my BFing in the ER (I could hear her, I think she meant for me to hear as we were only 6' apart) saying, "OH MY G#D and there's even a MOTHERS room!" (There wasn't, there was a children's play area with children's size chairs – so that wouldn't have helped). My daughter was in the ER, we'd been there all day, I had no food left for her, so BFing was my only option.

    I'm right with you re: sexual vs functional. I think men in general have fallen prey to the societal change. I know that to some extent its a hard-wired thing, but I refuse to accept that my baby BFing is turning people on. It's just not not logical to me.

  10. i agree with you, jessica…and know that my husband also feels the same about breastfeeding. but…my husband is a boob guy. Some men are butt guys, some men are leg guys, some are eye guys…and some are boob guys. I think that's the only time I feel a little uncomfortable, is when I feel that I may be in the presence of a boob guy (other than my husband, of course!). then, the blankie makes an appearance. and i think it's natural for some men to be boob men…as natural as it is for us to breastfeed. So, we should be sensitive to them. Not stop feeding, just use some grace and understanding for them poor boob men that are trying to stay pure (or not pure, perverts!!) :O)

  11. I didn't breast feed my son, but I know it is perfectly natural. I agree that it is cultural conditioning that make the whole process seem unnatural.

  12. To the PP who commented about being so glad they don't live in ID..then listed the remaining states, I'd like to say that I live in ID. Interestingly, where I live there is a huge settlement of Eastern Orth. Catholics (no b/c crowd) lots of Mormon's and many Quiverfull Christians.

    Most of the Quiver minded folk, and the Catholics, are more naturally minded. I went to an outdoor grad party last year, where there were no less than 25 women breastfeeding at once!

    With that said, no one bats an eye. Men don't ogle, and women don't bottle feed because of that. However, none of them (myself included) thought that this meant that men should pretend to see a bare breast and not look or focus on it. Since these same women believe in modesty, they covered-either with clothing that's acceptable or a shawl or light coverup.

    Breastfeeding is beautiful, but as a Christian, we are supposed to be modest for modesty sake-not show ourselves to make some statement, "See me bf'ing? Don't tell ME that I can't show my boob to you…it's YOUR problem to not see that as sexual." I don't show my navel to men, my upper thigh…I don't show lots of cleavage when I'm bf'ing or not…

    Anyway, I've got nothing but smiles from strangers from nursing throughout public places in ID, where they are supposedly not "pro-bf'ing". I don't buy a lot of left media garbage..we may not be pro "keeping both breasts naked for all to see", but I've seen and heard and felt nothing but positivity via nursing all my kids whenever and wherever…

    Oh, and we also have a law that says you can take your baby out of the moving vehicle (when not driving) to nurse when absolutely necessary…one of 3 in the nation who allows it. Legislation to "allow" things generally isn't the most productive or supportive of the issue-it's just bureaucratic fluff to make people feel good.

    Nurse where you want! It's best! Nurse for as many years as baby wants…just don't expect others to see you naked outside the home and not stare.

  13. people can be so funny about nursing can't they! I got sooooooooo much heartache when I was still nursing my son at 14 months that I was pretty much forced to stop (I really wish I had not) I stopped my daughter at 16 months again b/c everyone told me she was too big and too old.(I really wish I had not). I didn't listen to one single prattle in my ear for the 3rd baby and I am happy to say that she decided right at her 3rd bday that shew as done – simply saying – "no more momma". I was sad, but she was done and I was content with that.

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