On Public Breastfeeding

While attending a wedding this weekend, Alexis and I became the objects of unwanted attention. Because she’s so easily distracted, I sought out the most out-of-the-way little corner I could find in which to nurse her. My poor hungry girl had been distracted out of her mind all day long, and she settled in for the first good feeding she’d had in hours. At which point an older woman and several others appeared, and the woman started loudly announcing to the air, “SOMEONE NEEDS TO TAKE HER TO THE BATHROOM. SHE AT LEAST NEEDS A TOWEL.” She never spoke directly to me.

Alexis heard the commotion and looked around to see who was making all the noise. After that, she was far too distracted to continue nursing, which meant she was still hungry, which she remembered right in the middle of the wedding ceremony.

A well-meaning woman whisked me away from the situation and into a bathroom to nurse Alexis, lost cause though it was. I spent the rest of the weekend ruminating about this experience.

How many things are wrong with this picture? Let me count the ways.

Firstly, no, I don’t need to nurse my baby in the bathroom. Bathrooms are dirty places not designed for eating. Not to mention there wasn’t even a chair in the bathroom you were referring to, and for my baby, public bathrooms are scary places full of loud noises and distracting people. I noticed that you forgot to ask the waiter to bring your meal to the bathroom.

Secondly, no, I don’t need a towel, or any other sort of cover. I’m sorry for you that the sight of a baby eating is so uncomfortable for you. I know that must be the problem, because it certainly wasn’t my breasts, because you didn’t see them. I know what I look like when I’m nursing, and all you got to see was the back of my adorable baby’s head. Most people think her fuzzy hair is cute. In the dress I was wearing, I’m pretty sure I had more flesh on display when I wasn’t nursing.

On another note, please try to get over your hang up about breasts. They are made to feed babies. That’s what they do. All the other things they can do, like sell beer, fill out cheerleading uniforms, and excite sexual partners, are afterthoughts, and they are your baggage, not mine.

But perhaps you weren’t uncomfortable. Perhaps you were simply pointing out that women are supposed to nurse in bathrooms and under covers, and were worried that I didn’t know this. I doubt it. But even if you did, you’d be wrong. Nowhere is it against the law to breastfeed in public. Many states, including this one, have laws that explicitly state that women are allowed to nurse in public anywhere that they are allowed to be with their baby. Illinois’ Right to Breastfeed Act states:

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.

I had a right to be tucked away in that corner and to breastfeed there. I did not need to go anywhere or cover anything. And honestly, if you had just minded your own business, I doubt most people would have noticed anything.

I generally dislike confrontation, and I certainly had no desire to create a scene at a friend’s wedding. Despite that, it is unfortunate that this woman never actually spoke to me about the problem she had with me breastfeeding my daughter in public, because it made it difficult for me to offer any response to her before the moment had passed. Which, I suppose, is just how she wanted it. That way she could avoid something like this:

Very Crafty by Heather Cushman-Dowdee

Very Crafty by Heather Cushman-Dowdee

Seriously, cogent arguments aside, mind your own damn business. Your rude and selfish behavior made it so that my baby couldn’t eat, and you did your best to embarrass and discomfit me, which is just a nasty thing to do to a person. You looked like an ignorant jerk, and I hope everyone else present saw you for what you are.

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9 Responses to On Public Breastfeeding

  1. Jolene says:

    Very well said, Shannon. Since “that person” probably won’t see what you wrote, someone needs to send it to her… Just let it pass, times have changed since she had her family. Don’t let her being rude spoil your memories of the wedding. Good for you!

  2. Sarah R. says:

    I’m so sorry you had to have that experience! What is wrong with some people!?! Because there is OBVIOUSLY nothing wrong with a woman feeding her hungry baby, wherever that may occur. Your response here is perfect. If only the rude/misinformed/etc. people would read these things and take them to heart.

  3. luisa says:

    Breastfeeding your baby is a normal and natural thing to do even on public, just ignore them.

  4. Shannon says:

    Thank you for the supportive comments! It’s always nice to know you’re not alone in something, even if you’re going to do it anyway. :)

  5. nicole says:

    sorry you had to deal with that person! i’m just 17 weeks pregnant with my first so i’ve never had to experience anything like that (yet!) but i can only imagine how it felt. i’ve already started getting opinions on how to raise my child, what to do and what not do when it comes to baby bedding, etc. etc. i am already over it and the kid isn’t even here yet! :) it seems like people enjoy handing over their opinion (good or bad) to any pregnant person or someone with a kid. i think i might snap at some point! :)

    • Shannon says:

      It’s amazing how having a baby (or being pregnant) seems to invite people to tell you what to do, isn’t it? I hope you never have to experience anyone giving you a hard time for feeding your baby. But whatever the “advice” is, stick to your guns mommma, you know what’s best for your little one. :)

  6. Sarah says:

    I’ll get her back for you in a year or two, when husband and I have babbehs. I’m going to take my boob out at the table every single Thanksgiving!

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