One of the most jarring things about sexism and patriarchy’s double standards is the stigma around women breastfeeding in public spaces. Or even among multiple people. You’d think people would be more accepting and understanding about the whole process, seeing how natural and essential it is, but unfortunately that is not the case.
There is often heavy judgement and rigidity around women breastfeeding their babies in public. Sometimes, people feel like they can project their own thoughts about it by policing women and telling them how to go about it. And that’s just very unfair. Which is why we’ve got a list of women revealing their experiences around breastfeeding, in the hopes to normalise the whole thing.
1. I was severely harassed (the police were called and spoke to me for over an hour begging me to agree to stop breastfeeding even though they acknowledged that I had the legal right to do it). That happened at a water park and was exhausting but ultimately, nothing happened. I was there with a friend who is an LC and her husband, so they were super supportive and helpful. I had a few one-off comments at other places as well. All of this happened in NJ 10-12 years ago.
2. I’ve nursed 2 babies anywhere I needed to. I’m fairly chesty with 32G breasts during the first few months after birth. I’ve never used a cover (my first didn’t like it), and never had any problems. I’ve nursed in airports, in restaurants, in stores like Target, Macy’s, etc. I’ve nursed in public parks, at the beach, really anywhere. Honestly, the hardest part was finding somewhere I could sit comfortably, preferably with elbow support. Admittedly the two cities I’ve lived in are both fairly liberal. If you’re nervous I recommend attending a group for new moms, or a similarly parent-filled environment for your first time.
3. My BFF has been breastfeeding for a year and has had to endure numerous comments from her own mom, but so far nothing from strangers in public. I’ve been formula feeding for 4 months and have gotten a small handful of shitty comments from coworkers, but so far nothing from strangers in public. It seems like no matter what you do, you will get comments from someone, but more likely from people you know. And it won’t be limited to how you’re feeding your baby, either.
4. I’ve never had a problem, but I do enjoy when malls and airports have a quiet area to feed so the baby doesn’t get as distracted. My dad gets the weirdest about it though. I really do think this generation is different, I feel like if I need to feed, people bend over backwards to make it easier and more comfortable. I was in an old part of the Toronto airport that had no free seats, people everywhere because of delayed flights and an Air Canada agent opened up an empty office for me to use so I could get some quiet and a good chair.
5. I’ve never been harassed. I may have received dirty looks, but I was always looking at the baby or my phone or whatever and never noticed. I do have friends who have been asked to go to a bathroom or another private space by employees after other customers complained about them nursing (after which managers were always apologetic when informed about the law). But most people are too scared to make their assholish comments to your face.
6. I was at my pediatrician’s office for a 5-month check-up (I live in Japan) and the nurse ran up to me when I began nursing in a nursing dress and threw a blanket over his head making him unlatch and cry. I said, “Is there a problem?” She smiled and said, “No problem, you just must be so embarrassed right?” The conversation took place in Japanese and I wanted to go off on her so bad but I couldn’t go off in Japanese so I just got quiet.
7. My husband once COVERED UP THE WINDOW OF THE CAR where I was breastfeeding. So, not only was I in a parking lot, in the back seat but the window was covered. It was rainy and dark per usual for WA state so there was LITERALLY no way anyone could have seen my small statured self nursing at all. Hell was raised that day.
8. I had a similar experience in the hospital. Like, maybe don’t work in a postpartum unit if you don’t want to see new moms in various states of nudity trying to figure out breastfeeding?
9. We are Catholic, and my DH told me to go outside once when I was nursing our daughter in church. I told him I was pretty sure Mary breastfed Jesus, and that he could go outside himself and think about that.
10. My dad tried to cover me with a napkin in a busy Mexican restaurant years ago in a crunchy college town. My mother lit him up. “Does anyone here notice? No? Is this giant napkin more eye catching than holding a baby? Yes. Did I nurse your 2 kids everywhere we went? Also yes. Watch the TV if it bothers you.”
It’s really important that women get the space and rights to breastfeed as comfortably as possible, where ever they need.