I Am Not Sorry That Nursing in Public Offends You

breastfeeding
Image via Mindi Stavish

I have breastfed all three of my children and am currently nursing my 13-month-old. When I nursed in public as a first-time mom, I regularly used a cover-up. Let's face it—as a first time breastfeeder, I was not confident enough to not use a cover-up. I breastfed my son until he turned a year—when he self weaned. With my second son, I had this breastfeeding-in-public thing mastered, although I still used a cover-up for fear of making someone else feel uncomfortable. I cringe just writing that! Why should I have to fear how other people feel while I'm feeding my child?

{ MORE: Pro Surfer Bethany Hamilton Celebrates the Beauty of Breastfeeding }

Thankfully, when my second child was around a month old, I got over this irrational fear and ditched the cover. It felt liberating and normal. There is nothing nurturing about putting a blanket over your child to feed him or her, yet there are others who don't agree. Last spring, a mom on my son's t-ball team was offended when I breastfed my son in the dugout. She was so offended by this that she blasted me on Facebook but did not have the courage to confront me personally.  The even more shocking part of the situation is that the t-ball mom breastfed her son when he was a baby. The whole situation still makes my blood boil.

Moms all over the country are told to breastfeed in less-than-public places all the time. Other moms shared with me their personal experiences with comments received about breastfeeding in public.

“My most ridiculous situation was in Mt. Vernon Estate (you know, George's house) in the CHILDREN'S room. A staff member asked me to move to a side room (it was like a meeting room/library). I told her I couldn't because I was watching my toddler. She said I may make other guests uncomfortable. I ended up speaking with someone ‘in charge,' and they were totally nice and apologetic. But it was ridiculous nonetheless.” — Amy

“I parked my car super far away from everyone else and was breastfeeding in my own car when someone managed to stroll by and ‘get offended.' They pounded on my window to tell me to cover up. I can only assume they were wandering through a mostly vacant parking lot looking for boobs?” — Zarina

“Well, I was told at CHURCH—one we don't go to any longer. I asked to use the rocker in the nursery to rock and nurse my daughter and was told to breastfeed her in the bathroom! I was so mad! My dad was a minister there at the time under the preacher, and actually, my mother got in a little tiff with the woman telling her, ‘You wouldn't eat in the bathroom, so why should my grandchild?' ” — Tara

“At my sons christening, he was 3 months old and still nursing every two hours like clockwork. I tried so hard to time it right, but the pastor ran way over, and it was unavoidable. I went into the lobby and found a chair tucked in the corner to feed him with a cover on. Five minutes later, a woman who obviously didn't agree with whoever sent her to do their dirty work, came over and asked if I wanted to go somewhere more comfortable. I told her I was quite comfortable, but asked if she was uncomfortable? She said, ‘No, I think it's a wonderful thing you are doing.' 

But, about 30 seconds after she walked away, she came back mortified. Older members of the parish have decided it was going to make others uncomfortable and service was letting out. She apologized but asked if she could move me to some place more comfortable, but [I was] not in a position to argue in church on the day we christened my sweet baby boy. It was then she moved me and my chair into the ladies room. We haven’t been back to church since. Makes me sad that people can be so ignorant.” — Lynn

Nursing is one of the most natural and normal acts a mother can do for her baby. Isn't it about time we accept this fact and make it easier for moms? I will not be bullied to nurse my baby somewhere out of sight. I hope other moms will stand up for their rights, too. Let's not be sorry together!

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Has anyone ever spoken rudely to  you about nursing your baby in public? What about the reverse – have you had positive experiences nursing in public?

What do you think?

I Am Not Sorry That Nursing in Public Offends You

Mindi is a working mom with three boys ages 4, 2, and an infant (born June 2013). She spent her first 8 years of her career in Speech-Language Pathology at a Children's Hospital. She currently works with adults and children in home health. The real fun for her happens when she is at home with her boys, chasing them around and pretending to be a super hero. She blogs about life as a working mom at Simply Stavish. Her weekly feature, Words in the Sand, teaches parents how to grow their child's s ... More

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31 comments

  1. I fully support breast feeding in public. I did before I was ever pregnant and even more so now. Someone doesn’t like, they don’t HAVE to look! It’s not like we put up signs stating: HEY LOOK AT MY CHILD FEEDING!!!

    The breast is a natural part on the woman’s body meant for many things, but especially to feed our children or our future children. Why is our society so hung up on this?

    Anyways, I live in Chicago IL and I was curious what the “law” was and whoo hoo, we can breastfeed anywhere except place of worship. You can sue if they deny you this right. Also, in forty-six states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands, although I read that Puerto Rico also has governing laws that support women in breastfeeding. I will print this out, and if, in the future, any place tries to tell me otherwise, I have extra protection. Here is the link:
    website: http://breastfeedinglaw.com/state-las/illinois/

    The 1st two paragraphs are IL law, the last is the list of states that protect breastfeeding.

    Illinios:
    (740 ILCS 137/10)
    Sec. 10. Breastfeeding Location. A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding; however, a mother considering whether to breastfeed her baby in a place of worship shall comport her behavior with the norms appropriate in that place of worship.
    (Source: P.A. 93-942, eff. 8-16-04.)

    Enforcement Provision(740 ILCS 137/15)
    Sec. 15. Private right of action. A woman who has been denied the right to breastfeed by the owner or manager of a public or private location, other than a private residence or place of worship, may bring an action to enjoin future denials of the right to breastfeed. If the woman prevails in her suit, she shall be awarded reasonable attorney’s fees and reasonable expenses of litigation.
    (Source: P.A. 93-942, eff. 8-16-04.)

    The following is from this site: http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/breastfeeding-state-laws.aspx

    “Forty-six states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.)”

    Yay! 🙂

  2. Tasha says:

    15 years ago, when my youngest daughter was an infant, we were at TGI Friday’s. Yes, I’m going to name the name of the restaurant, because it was a good experience. I’m tired of people keeping the name of the restaurant out of it, because it was a bad experience. People need to know where good and bad experiences happen. anyway, we were out with our four children having dinner, when our youngest woke up and started to cry. I picked her up and promptly started to breast-feed her. The people at the table next to us complained, and I typically didn’t use a cover, but to keep the peace, I did. They continued to complain, and even tried to ask the server if they would ask us to leave, or go somewhere else to feed her. we frequented that restaurant, and the server knew us well. The server made a big show of coming over to our table and whispered in my ear how ridiculous the people at the next table were, and there was no way that she was going to ask us to leave. She told me just keep doing what I was doing, and the restaurant staff would support me. They did, and eventually the loudmouths at the next table were the ones who left. When the server came over, I said very loudly, if they aren’t going to go somewhere else to eat and feed their children, I’m not taking my daughter somewhere else to eat. I neglected to mention that every adult at their table had been drinking, and there were kids with them. I’m pretty sure they didn’t have a designated driver, because every glass had alcohol in it. I heard them when they ordered their drinks. Those who think it is disgusting need to pull their minds out of the gutter and get over it! People breast-feed, it’s life! If you breast-feed, and you think it’s disgusting when other people do it, maybe you need to be investigated by CPS, because you’re the one who is thinking sexual thoughts about breast-feeding.

  3. Colleen says:

    I think it’s wonderful how many moms feel comfortable breast feeding in public without a cover or tucked away in a separate room but I am not one of them. I like to have privacy when breast feeding my son and, if there isn’t a clean private room available, I use a cover that has a piece of flexible metal to keep the top propped open so we can still see each other. Sometimes I’ll even go out to my car to breast feed if I don’t feel comfortable even with a cover. My feelings about when I breast feed have nothing to do with shame or embarrassment, it has to do with not wanting strangers to intrude on a private moment with my child. That’s my time to feel close to my baby and I only let close family and only a few very close friends in on those moments. I choose to cover up or go into another room (never a bathroom, that’s just unsanitary) because I just want privacy.

  4. Krystin says:

    I agree with the article I am NOT sorry that breastfeeding in public offends you. I am a first time mom and the first time I had to feed my baby girl in public I was really nervous, but she was hungry so I did it without trying to expose my breast too much. I do not like the thought of covering because she likes to look at me when feeding and I sure as heck wouldn’t want to wear a cover over my head when I eat so why should I cover hers? If you don’t agree to it then you walk away or don’t look. Breastfeeding shouldn’t be seen as something so “exposing”, everyone has breasts women just happen to be bigger and produce something healthy for a baby. Now don’t go whipping them out, I know I said everyone has them, but if you are not going to feed a child then there is no reason to pull one out. I don’t want my 14 year old nephew to see my breasts, but he is mature enough to understand that it’s natural to breastfeed a baby and doesn’t even bat an eye when I do. Educate children to know that it’s something natural not absurd or too sexual.

  5. Rachel says:

    If you think nursing in public should only be done with a cover I really hope you or your children go near a museum or art gallery, you might also want to stay away from church as well. They *gasp* a lot of time have imagery of breast displayed through out them. Why you ask? Because a breast is not sexual sorry but penis’ and vagina’s are sexual they are what reproduce a baby, you know that is what sex is right? It is down right disgusting you are so offended by a woman trying to nourish her child yet men walking around shirtless is entirely acceptable. You know they can produce milk and breastfeed as well, so if a man was breastfeeding would that be ok? What goes through your mind that makes you think a baby on a breast is in anyway sexual or disgusting? How perverted of you to look at a baby eating and think anything sexual at all. I hope not a single one of you are religious because another *gasp* JESUS was breastfed and since I have never seen evidence of olden day nursing covers I am going to assume it was without a cover. You know even countries where women have to be covered head to toe at all times support and almost demand breastfeeding from a women even in public UNCOVERED!! Why? Because the breast is made for feeding a child not for sexual perversions. How dare a single one of you make woman feel uncomfortable for feeding her child. Good luck keeping your children from seeing a woman using her breast for what they are intended for. Please do not ever bring your children to the beach, staying away from all civilization might be best because they might see women in bikinis or scantly clad for no other reason except to look sexy. I would not recommend visiting foreign countries either cause most other countries breast are perfectly legal to bare in public. Good luck living under your blankets in your houses.

  6. Austin says:

    If I had to use a cover every time I fed my baby in public I would never leave the house. Under a cover my baby just stares at it or cries. He refuses to latch on. And why should he eat under a hot cover in the middle of August? Would you? That’s absurd. Nursing in public is actually very difficult for me because my breasts are so large I have to expose almost my entire breast so I try to use a burp cloth to cover the top but my baby will always inevitably pull it off like a toy. I seriously dare someone to criticize me. If you think I’m being indecent or obscene just wait. I will lose.my.shit. and tell you loudly what an ignorant pervert you are for thinking it’s indecent for feeding my child the most natural way possible. Because that is the truth. You can try to sugar coat it all you want, but that’s the truth. Don’t like it? Too bad. I have a key fob given to me by the LLL that has a copy of my state’s law that says I have the right to breastfeed anywhere I am legally allowed to be.

  7. Ntemie says:

    Breastfeeding is the most natural thing on God’s green earth. I use to feel offended; because I was ignorant before I had my own children. I get it now. I do wear a cover up in public; but if I feed in my car or in the house I do not wear one. My husband got offend because of my four year old begin exposed in the house. I told him that it is natural and when my four year asked what I was doing,I said feeding your brother he said okay and went on with his business. He doesn’t even pay any attention. I support public breastfeeding; because I think it is beautiful and my child is not going to starve just cause your offended STOP LOOKING AND MOVING ON!!!!!!!!! Besides it is not illegal to expose yourself in order feed your child.

    • Lillie says:

      That is right but your husband even hadn’t agreed upon your 4yr old was exposed to it. May be natural but ask him about it later on and he’d probably be disgusted knowing he saw his mothers breast. And thst would be a natural reaction of a son. Sex is natural but im sure you wouldnt want to have intercourse with him around watching. If you do… that’s another subject. But I agree stop looking and move on, unfortunately just as much as you continue, so will this rant of people hounding agree with public breastfeeding. (Even if its natural). Pooping and having to pee is natural too but its not something you do in public, same as sex.

  8. Tammy says:

    I absolutely agree with nursing, I do not agree with nursing in public without a cover up. It’s just good sense, nursing is beautiful and natural, flashing everyone around you is not.

    • Erin says:

      I don’t suppose you live in the same region as I, otherwise you would understand that sometimes, covering your child while they breastfeed is the opposite of good sense, and can be downright dangerous. It can easily be 90°F here in the shade, with 75+% humidity, and that’s at least 9 months out of the year. It can be dangerous for any child to have their head covered for any length of time even in cooler weather, but here, there is a very real chance of overheating, heat stroke, etc.

      • Erin says:

        Oh, and for what it’s worth, I was unable to breastfeed my own son, so this is coming from the point of view of a person who frequently witnesses nursing in public but doesn’t practice it herself. No one can tell you that you aren’t allowed your feelings on the subject: you have every right to them. However, your feelings do not give you the right to push your opinions onto others. No one is grabbing your head and forcing you to watch a woman feed her child. Use your neck for what it was intended and turn your head away.

  9. Bella says:

    I am a nursing mom and I think it’s ridiculous for you to want to show your breast. I have a 13 yr old and he doesn’t need to be exposed to seeing a woman’s breast, I don’t even like for him to see mine, and I don’t want to see your breast either. Cover up there’s nothing wrong with that. The bigger question is why do you want your breast exposed?

  10. chelsey says:

    I think it should be covered. And there isn’t anything wrong with that. I wouldn’t want the world to accidentally see my breasts nor do I want to see anyone else’s. People don’t want their children seeing accidental boobage im sure. Realistically, the average Jane can’t just whip it out in public when not breastfeeding, (for obvious reasons I might add) so why is it so frowned upon to ask to keep it discreet? Walking on thin ice here I know. But that’s just my opinion.

  11. Laurel says:

    I was once in a quiet restaurant booth, very private, having lunch with my mom when my 2 month old got hungry. After feeding him quietly for some time, a server came to let me know that I was making other guests uncomfortable. So I gently broke my son’s latch, and he promptly started wailing. I asked her which situation – quiet, discreetly feeding child, or five alarm screaming infant – was going to make the other guests more uncomfortable. She hesitated, and I put my son back to the breast. I told her that since everyone else in the restaurant was eating, it seemed discriminatory that my son be denied that right as well. I was just as loud as the crying baby had just been, and we had attracted some attention. I think the management decided that it wasn’t worth a scene, because the server left to get the manager (who never materialized) and we got a free dessert! Sometimes the best thing to do is just to stand your ground. Nobody likes buzzwords like “discriminatory” said loudly in their business. You might even get a free piece of cake!

  12. Amanda says:

    I’m sorry but any one who corilates breastfeeding with anything sexual that says something about you not the nursing mom. Yes, it’s an intimate, bonding moment for mom and babe. But ultimately it’s about food!! Sustinence… not SEX. If baby is hungry, feed your baby, however you choose to feed your baby. People who make feeding your child perverse scare me. Oy Vey!

  13. Ibironke says:

    It’s rather sad to know that breastfeeding in public seem uncomfortable to most people. In Africa, it’s considered part of the joy of motherhood. Breast feeders are never embarrassed by the public. In fact in most cases, when u have a baby crying in public places, often times the mother is advised to breastfeed the baby and this is done without shame.

  14. Lillie says:

    I dont entirely agree or disagree. Although breastfeeding is totally natural and to do It in public saves time and as well makes time and is convenient upon us mothers but to be open with your breast hanging out; in my opinion, is un appropriate. Yes I said it. As natural as it is…Having to pee or poop is natural as well but I think we all would approve of it if it was done privately. In which it is, it is. I dont think anyone would want some guy to whip out his junk and take a piss, just anywhere that is. But its natural. And to compare it to breastfeeding isnt quite the same, but theyre both natural so yeah it kinda fits in the debate. Im not one to judge some woman breastfeebreastfeeding breastfeeding even with her boobs out but im a woman myself and do the same just private. I couldnt breastfeed without being covered up in front of my father or mother or brothers, at that, any of my in laws. Because at that its uncomfortable for them, so same in public with people you dont know. Its not perverted but you will get those perverts stare just look at your breast and that isnt very comforting for you or your child. Plus some people just dont wana see it. Just as you wouldnt want them doing something natural but uncomforting for you.

  15. Ruth says:

    i feel the same as a first time mom i try to cover up so people cant see me but after a couple of months i feel confident about not covering up first of all because my baby dosen’t like it and second of all what is wrong i am feeding my baby

  16. Margaret says:

    It’s interesting that the lady in Lynn’s story said she would move her to a more comfortable place. When has the bathroom been a more comfortable place to sit? Especially with a newborn! Lynn should’ve reminded the senior members of the parish that God said “Let the children come to me.”

  17. holly says:

    I am much like the woman that wrote the article. First child scared, second child thought of others, and third child fed up! None of my children liked those hot covers! I was shopping with my infant (third child) at the mall. When she got hungry I took her to my car, which was in a dark parking garage, and started to breast feed her. A car pulls in front of my car to park. The lady driving the car starts starring at me and shaking her head with disgust. She gets out of her car and starts ranting loudly about covering up? I am so mad at these people!! If your uncomfortable, don’t look! I know for a fact that lady didn’t come to the store to stare at my daughter breast feeding. What is wrong with people? Do we really live in a world that we allow our insecurities to take over for our common sense.

  18. eunice says:

    Some people are hpcrte. How many people worry abt covers when they want to eat? If I irritate u by brstfdn my baby, u can move smwhr else but no one has d right to dictate how to feed ur baby. Am a brsfdn mom n I looooove it so much. I pop it out whenever my baby needs it with or without cover in as much as it is a clean environment. Soooo proud of brstfdn. Kudos to brsfdn moms out there.

  19. Kiersten says:

    I am still nursing my 2 1/2 year old. I have always nursed in public and it became less nerve wracking and easier over time. Sadly the cultural view on bf-ing in public is not widely accepted (at least where I live and from my experience). It’s really a travesty that women feel uncomfortable doing it in public.
    Once I acquired some nursing tops and figured out ways to cover my breasts I was able to feel better about it. I felt like a nursing cover just drew attention and that I was giving the impression that I was ashamed of nursing all together and had to hide it.
    I’ve never had anyone say anything to me luckily. People need to chill out and mind their own business, it’s a beautiful, natural, and healthy way to raise your baby. There are ways to nurse respectfully in front of other people.

  20. Kateri says:

    I am a young women who breast feeds my baby but I use a blanket. On one occasion I practically ran into a mom who was walking around breast feeding without a cover it made me sick, to me it made something so special and intimate like nursing your baby seem pervertied I remember feeling dirty later on that day when I was nursing my little one and having strong feelings of not wanting to nurse at all. On another occasion my teenage sister in – law told me how she had seen a women Brest feeding with out a cover and it made her not won’t to nurse her baby. She thanked me for upswing blanket and said that seeing me cover made her more open to the idea of nursing your baby. I have had many young girls and wemen tell me the same. So my question to all you women who feel comfortable not covering is. Are we makeing breast feeding look gross or beautiful. Just recently I saw another young women who was very classy looking at a public place nursing her baby with a nursing cover she was so cute pretty and motherly and I thought to myself wow that’s how I want to look she made motherhood seem so clean and sweet. I think that motherhood is the greatest gift a women ever could recive.

    • Kimberly says:

      I nursed my 1st son until he was 21 months. At first I used a cover everywhere too, but as he got a little older, he refused to eat under the cover. He would tear and pull at it until I removed it. Bring a first time mom, and afraid of “offending” someone, I then resorted to feeding in bathroom stalls and my car depending on where I was. What is more gross, sitting in a toilet in a grocery store bathroom nursing or finishing my shopping while he discreetly nurses? I am pregnant with my 2nd child now, and I plan on using a cover, if she will, but after that if I am out and about and she wants to nurse and refuses the cover, I’m not going to hide in some toilet stall. It’s sad that you judge those women who weren’t using a cover, especially knowing you nursed yourself. Their babies might have refused a cover, or be super hot under one, or heck, mom might have forgotten the cover! It happens. I think you should be more understanding, instead of trying to say its “perverted” without a cover. It’s still nursing whether its under a cover or not! What’s the difference!? When a baby is hungry, you feed them, and they shouldn’t be uncomfortable when they eat, and neither should mom.

  21. Ondrea says:

    I think people should be more worried about women feeding their children nasty fast food and pure sugar than a woman naturally breastfeeding her child, we were not given breasts to have them poke out of our shirts, we were given them to feed our children after birthing them, which is what women are made for.

  22. Angela says:

    I breastfed both of my children, but was never comfortable enough to do it publicly. I have anxieties with people staring at me WITHOUT my boob hanging out. If you don’t have any issues like I do, however, I don’t see any reason for you to hide. It’s completely natural. The few mothers I have seen publicly feeding their children were huddled up, looking somewhat frightened, as if they were just waiting for someone to judge them. I’d always try to catch their eye, and give a reassuring smile.

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