I really feel silly writing about this “issue.” With all the pain and suffering in the world, moms breastfeeding in public should be a non-issue, no matter what side you are on.
My first thought was to refuse to address the right to bare breasts, until the right to life was won. Yet some how, breastfeeding in public has become a hot controversy that won’t go away. It was just yesterday, when I saw a national ad campaign with pictures of women breastfeeding in public toilets, that I finally decided to throw my two cents into the arena.
Last summer, Janine and I took our kids to the Boise Aquarium, where we saw sting rays, sharks, turtles, snakes, and one pair of boobs. In fact, I practically walked into them before I realized what was happening.
A young mother sat down with her baby, pulled her boob out, let it hang as she readied her hungry baby before beginning to feed him, which she eventually did, but without a cover. I blushed a little, but survived, and my kids were too young to notice or care. I thought, “That’s it, I have just witnessed firsthand the focal of a national controversy,”
and to be honest it was little anticlimactic.
We all did what any polite person would do, we averted our eyes and pretended not to notice. And while I am a huge fan of modesty, I realize that a hungry baby is the greater of the two evils. It may inconvenience people or make them feel a little uncomfortable, but manners is about putting petty comforts aside for the sake of others. So, I am also a fan of breastfeeding in public when it can’t be avoided.
The problem is, the pro-public-breast-feeding crowd seems to have forgotten that manners is a too way street.
Take the breastfeeding mother in the aquarium for instance. She might have had the courtesy to be a little more discreet. I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt; perhaps she didn’t see our family standing in front of her, was too shy to warn us, forgot her cover, didn’t think to turn the other way, had to feed then and there, didn’t see the benches 10 feet away in a less-public area, forgot to put her boob away, or didn’t know that exposing herself makes others feel uncomfortable.
But what I really think is that she didn’t care. She had the attitude that it is her right to breastfeed and too heck with everybody else. I agree that it is her right, and more importantly, her baby’s right to be fed, but she also has the right to be considerate of others whenever possible.
But how old fashion, right?
The new way is to take our rights and smash people in the face with them. We have a right to bare arms, and that means we’ve got to take our AR-15 in crowded malls and to hell with those anti-second-Amender’s who dare to feel uneasy.
And if a mom’s got a right to breastfeed, that means that instead of offering a polite explanation to a concerned business manager, or even agreeing to cover up a little, she’s got to teach that prude a lesson. She’s got to rant on facebook against the business and organize a mob of breast-baring mommies who, in the name of freedom, will proudly march outside that business flashing customers!
People need to be tolerant of mothers and mothers need to be considerate. Of course, for the most part we already are. In fact, I still consider this a non-issue – a molehill made into a media mountain!
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I agree with your sentiment, and I think you’ve explained both sides of the dilemma quite well. I nursed for a long time, but NEVER exposed myself in public – it is such a simple thing to either go somewhere private or to cover up.
But . . . I’m not angry, nor am I trying to be argumentative, only trying to encourage you to re-think your word choice:
I am disturbed by your use of the word “b**bs” – I see it as disrespectful to women and the way God made us. I don’t want my little girl (who reads quite well and is often near me when I am on the computer) to learn such words. I want her to learn to view her body with respect – as God intended.
I know that such words are sensationalist, and get more hits, but is that worth the damage caused by using them?
Overall, it is a great article & I applaud your balanced discussion of the issue, just hoping you’ll change the use of this word.
Anna, I’m sorry if my word choice seems offensive. I used the word “b**bs” because I thought it was a nicer, less serious word. I didn’t mean to be disrespectful, as this was already a little awkward of a subject to post about anyway. Thank you for sharing how you feel.
As one who had three kids who would never nurse under a cover or take a bottle no matter how much I practiced at home I always still tried to cover up with the right clothing and layers when nursing in public. I felt less conspicuous without covers anyway. I can also honestly say there has only been one time in breast feeding 3 kids where I accidentally might have flashed someone. It was my fault, the dress I had chosen to wear wasn’t a good choice for public breast feeding and now I avoid similar dresses in public. Hopefully for the others sakes they weren’t paying attention to where I was sitting but if someone looked at that second they would have gotten an eye full. An incident like that is exactly why breastfeeding is exempt from nudity laws, because accidental flashing happens. What you described sounds nothing like my experience however I have found myself at home before with the girls completely exposed and I had completely forgotten about it.
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Aden Falcon says
A nice explanation and a good sharing too. Your experiences might help a lot of mom out there.
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Ok I see what you are saying. Now let me ask do you blush when you see a lingerie ad? Swimsuit ad? Cleavage? If you do then your old fashioned sentiment can stay. If you don’t then that’s a problem. You have seen boobs in this sexualized way that it doesn’t phase you. But see them in the way mother nature intended them to be used and we have blushing. I was educated about breasts when my sister nursed her first. I no longer saw breasts as sex objects after that. Her kids don’t bat an eye or giggle when they see someone else nursing in public, because they have been educated that that’s what they are for. My girls are the same way. If we take the time and educate our kids especially when they ask “what’s that lady doing?” We could go along way about making this a non issue. Another thing is when you go to a family inviting place you need to expect to see this thing going on. A bar not so much. So be prepared. I HATED nursing in the car in the freaking summer because my child would not let me cover her and I had trouble finding and layering clothes to be “modest.” So I would go to my car and sweat and sometimes cry while my food got cold so others wouldn’t blush. Please just teach your children what breasts are for. Boys and girls.
Yes, I have way more of a problem with lingerie ad and swim suit ads, and cleavage, than I do public breastfeeding. They are meant to stir up sexual thoughts, while breastfeeding is merely feeding a hungry baby. And yes, all of our kids know what breasts are really for.
Rach D says
I agree! I nurse in public, and sometimes the baby does pull my cover off (embarrassing!) but of course if babe is hungry, then that is what’s important.
But thinking of others, and being discreet, is my motto. Having a bunch of kids, and ones that are teen boys (who find it highly, highly awkward to see a friend do it very openly and abruptly) I understand from the other side as well.