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Why Does Public Breastfeeding Make People So Angry?

admin June 17, 2016

It’s kind of odd that we’re in the middle of 2016 and still having this conversation, but we are.

This week, two things happened — one small and one big.  The big one was the video of the woman getting chewed out by a man at Target for breastfeeding her baby.  She videotaped it on her phone, so everyone could see.  Luckily, people came to her rescue and told the man to stop, but still.  Harassment is not legal, not cool, and really upsetting.

The small thing was that someone commented on a very tongue-in-cheek post I wrote about public breastfeeding at the beginning of the year.  The person identified themselves as “Annoyed” and stated that “Just because you have a baby and you are breastfeeding DOES NOT mean the world revolves around YOU and your baby.”

That’s so odd.  I mean, it really is, honestly, an odd point of view.

So, we have to talk about it.  Again.

Why Does Public Breastfeeding Make People So Angry?

Let’s start with that comment I got because I think it represents a view that many people hold.

For some reason, a lot of people feel like public breastfeeding is about them and their rights.  That they shouldn’t have to see it or talk about it.  It makes them uncomfortable, so it’s rude for others to “do that” in front of them.  It’s not “decent.”

I am really tired of that.

Breastfeeding is a baby eating.  A person’s basic rights to eat, drink, and otherwise have their physical needs met, trumps anyone else’s right to “not be uncomfortable.”  In fact, no one has the ‘right’ to not be uncomfortable, ever!

If a baby can eat from a bottle in public…then a baby can eat from a breast in public.  It is simply how some babies eat.  There are no caveats to this — not “if mom is discreet;” not “if mom wears a cover;” not “if it’s an emergency.”

We cannot say “Mom should have planned her outings around baby’s feedings” because babies can get hungry anytime, anywhere — most breastfeeding babies are not on a schedule. They can get hungry 10 minutes later or four hours later, and it’s sometimes unpredictable, especially in the early weeks.

We cannot say “Mom should have pumped for her baby,” because many moms do not have pumps. Or maybe they do not respond well to pumps, or choose not to go through the hassle of pumping, storing, cleaning, and everything else that is involved.

We cannot say “Mom should just give baby formula while out” because formula is less optimal for baby’s health and gut development. Plus, many babies will refuse it if they’re used to breastfeeding (or will refuse the bottle regardless of what’s in it), and what to feed a baby should be up to the mom, not the general public!

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Everyone’s Rights in Breastfeeding

Let’s just get clear on peoples’ rights when it comes to breastfeeding.

The Baby

The baby, as a tiny, immature human, does not have a concept of “wants,” but only of “needs.”  When baby gets hungry or requires comfort, it is a need.  Breastfeeding may be how they satisfy hunger or receive comfort.

If breastfeeding is how the baby’s needs are met, then the baby has the right to expect to breastfeed whenever s/he needs to.  This is a most basic thing.

The Mom

The mom has the right to meet her baby’s needs whenever and wherever she is.  That is what the law says, and that is what common sense demands.

Some people (including the commenter I quoted) compare breastfeeding to defecating in public or having sex.  Breastfeeding is not elimination, and it is not obscene or sexual.  It is a baby eating.  Period.

The mother has a right to meet her baby’s needs, no matter what.  Regardless of who is around, whether or not she is covering, what she is wearing, or if she is being “modest.”

Believe it or not, the breastfeeding mother is not doing it “at” anyone, she is not doing it for attention, she does not want people to look at her or call attention to what she is doing.  She does not think that she is the center of the world, nor that her baby is. She is simply trying to meet her baby’s most basic need: hunger.

The General Public

If you are not the mother or the baby, you have no say and no rights.

Actually, the general public has the right to look away.  To walk away.  The right to not breastfeed their own babies in public.  To not breastfeed ever.  Or to not have babies at all.

It’s perfectly fine to make your own decisions about your body and your baby.  It is fine to say “I would only breastfeed at home,” or “I would only breastfeed with a cover.”  You have every right to make these decisions for yourself!

But no one has a right to make these decisions for someone else.  Ever.

It is okay if you think it is not modest.  It is okay if you think it is rude.  It’s okay if you would never do it.  But it’s not okay to ask everyone else to adhere to your standard and to tell them that they need to do so.

And it’s super weird to say that a mom and baby think they are the “center of the universe” just because a baby wants to eat and a mother is feeding it…while demanding that an innocent baby not eat so that you, a full-grown adult, feel more comfortable.  That is the truly selfish part.

Of course, I often run across people who demand that others do things for their comfort while calling that person selfish for wanting to make a decision that’s right for them….  So odd.  (Really, it’s much more selfish to demand that people do things for you than it is for people to demand the right to make their own decisions!)

Breastfeeding Still Isn’t Common

I understand that some people honestly didn’t grow up around breastfeeding, or grew up where it was only done in private, and still hold these views today.

It really is okay to feel that way — as long as this opinion isn’t placed on others.

It’s hard to have grown up one way, and change.

I remember when I had my first baby, and I had to feed her.  I was in my own home and had her under a big blanket. My father was in the room and acted really uncomfortable like he wasn’t sure where to look or what to do.  He didn’t say anything, though.  He was not used to breastfeeding (he hadn’t been around it in 20 years, and I’d never done it before, at that time).  It was a bit awkward.

By the time my third baby came along, my dad didn’t care anymore.  He just ignored what was happening and kept talking to me.  It became normal — it was really just a baby eating, nothing more.

Most of the people who feel odd about breastfeeding are likely in this boat.  They have not been around it enough for it to feel normal.  They feel uncomfortable about it.

I invite those people to learn more about breastfeeding.  Learn why people do it.  Learn to overlook how people feed their babies, as there are many ways to do it (and which way a mom chooses is between her and baby, it’s not up for discussion with others).  Examine why you feel so weird about it.

It’s okay to ask questions.  It’s okay to need some time to adjust.  Also, it’s okay to look away or walk away if you need to.  Just remember that your reaction is your business; it’s not on others to make you feel more comfortable.

Why do you think public breastfeeding makes people so angry?

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9 Comments

  1. I think the thing that people have a problem with is that our culture has become so sexualized that they think breasts are sexual organs, not secondary sexual characteristics. We cover up sexual organs so if you think that breasts are one of those organs then obviously you should cover them up when you’re using them in any way – otherwise it’s pornographic. However, as we all know (at least here we do!) breasts aren’t sex organs – they’re no different than a man’s enlarged adam’s apple.

    Personally I choose to wear a cover or go somewhere that I won’t be visible when I nurse out in public. If I’m at a friend’s house I don’t bother with that. The cover at first was because I was fumbling with things, my son wasn’t good at it, etc. Now it’s less for that and more because I have an almost 5 month old who is very easily distracted. The cover helps him focus on eating. Is covering up for modesty still part of my reason for wearing it? Yes. When I get to a point where I know I’m not going to have to have my breast/nipple hanging out visible for an extended period will I still cover? I don’t know. I’ll figure it out!

    Reply

  2. You wrote that so well! I agree with everything you said. I wore a cover for my husband’s sake but I so agree that a woman has the right to choose and other people need to deal with their own baggage.

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  3. Your point on viewing the woman’s breast as a sex tool only and refusing to consider it for the prime function it is naturally supposed to fulfill is a Bull’s-Eye hit. All those idiots especially in the Western Hemisphere(both male & female) who refuse to give a helpless baby the right to survive by suckling on to his/her Mother’s breast milk (his/her only source of nutrition till 6-10 months of age)should learn that the civilizations in the East always allowed this and also gave it a priority over others right to personal spaces like seats in a bus, train or airplane or entire rooms to facilitate the breast feeding in absolute peace and purity… Alas this is fast disappearing from places like Thailand(Sex Tourism Capital of the World), Indonesia(due to Islamization), Bangladesh(due to Islamization), Pakistan(due to Islamization)etc. It still survives in Burma, Vietnam, Nepal, Bhutan and India in areas without drastic urbanization (cities)and loss of inherent value systems which are also slowly on the way out due to “reforms” based on Western ideals of a “Modern”? world… It is heartening to be able to see both men and women getting up from their seats in a bus or train, to make space for a breast feeding Mother, or leaving the premises/room out of respect for one of the holiest duties pertaining to mankind… the way they turn away their eyes from the spot where the woman is out of respect… it is also worrying that such instances are also getting less in number after each passing day as the “information revolution”? makes them squeamish just like their western idiots… in these parts of the world…

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  4. I had a situation at my neighborhood pool on the 4th. I was there with my children along with maybe 15 other people and a gentlemen I had not seen before yelled at me from across the pool ” arnt there laws that govern that” at first I did not think he was talking to me but he confirmed he was. My son is 11 months old and was completely covered with a muslin swaddler, u could not even see him so I guess he watched me cover him and assumed I was nursing. I was shocked, I’m typically a go toe to toe person but for once I was speechless. The man had clearly been drinking and I had my 3 other kids in the pool and felt helpless so I did not say anything and I think he was a guest of another resident. He was angry and appeared so disturbed by me nursing even though u could see nothing!!! Not even my baby much less any part of my boob. Some people are crazy. As if me nursing was more offensive then his very overweight, hairy, drunk disruptive state at a family pool!!!

    Reply

    • That’s so awful!!

      Also proves that wearing a cover does nothing. If people *think* you are breastfeeding, they can get angry, upset, think ‘weird’ thoughts or whatever! They don’t need to actually see anything to be a jerk. :/

      Reply

  5. I personally am old school. I would rather use a feeding cover or go to a private place to feed my baby, and wish others would too. That is because I’m old school. I really don’t care to see others feeding either. To me, it’s also a very intimate time with my baby and would rather not share that moment with others. I realise not every woman shares this opinion, but it is mine.

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  6. let me start off with, I’m a believer in God and I breastfed my baby. With that being said being a believer , there’s a verse in the Bible that talks about a man who looks at a woman with lust has committed adultey with her in his heart. This may get flack but this is my own opinion; when a woman is showing her breast while breastfeeding some men may get turned on by it, and most women know that men will but they choose to ignore it and say ” well that’s their problem for looking” which yes they should know better but as the owner of your body… you should know what and what not to show especially in an intimate time with your baby.
    If you wouldn’t want your spouse to jack off to you while you breastfeed because it’s an intimate , why do it in front of a stranger so they can think impure thoughts and think about NOT ONLY YOU but your baby as well when he has his hand on himself while in the bathroom the next time he has the urge?
    Don’t mothers wanna protect their babies from disgusting perverts like that? This is where I think mothers should cover up if they are out in public, it’s also being respectful in front of other husbands as well towards their wife. A breast is a breast and I wouldn’t go and have my boob out without a baby on it in front of married or non married men? Why would I do it with a baby on it? I’ll cover up instead. It’s not hard to take that extra step….

    Reply

    • Frankly, if a man is going to get turned on by breastfeeding, that IS his problem. Many men might “think impure thoughts” if they see a woman covered because they realize that she is breastfeeding and their mind wanders! Is that her fault, too?

      The problem lies strictly with the person who is having the issue. Not with anyone else who happens to be around. A mother feeding her child is NOT a sexual act and should not be treated as such — particularly when she’s quietly sitting and minding her own business. Others should do the same!

      Reply

    • Thing is Rochelle, you don’t need to be breastfeeding for that. You only have to be out and about wearing normal clothing for some men to get ‘lustful thoughts’.
      If you feel more comfortable covering up then do so. I did as well. But I don’t expect others to do so just because I did.

      Reply

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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