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Breastfeeding and Public Opinion

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Reproductive System related image Photo: Getty Images

Some people look at a mother breastfeeding her baby in public and think that it’s just a loving picture of what is natural. Others think just the opposite. In fact, some feel that it is offensive.

There has been much to-do about this subject. Most mothers know that it is their legal right to breastfeed their babies anywhere in the U.S. In 1999, President Clinton approved and signed the Right to Breastfeed Act. However, many public areas remain squeamish about this issue. This is especially true if their customers complain. Representative Carolyn Maloney stated that many nursing mothers have been asked to nurse their child in a more private area, been harassed, told to leave or even intimidated off federal grounds, as reported by Breastfeeding.com.

What can be done to improve this situation? One thing is education, and the other, ironically is to help create more breastfeeding moms. AskAboutPregnancy.com stated that scientifically, babies are born to breastfeed. There are so many benefits – long-term and immediate – to the baby and mother. In general, the public may not know this fact. And in fairness, many mothers do not either. However, there are different organizations trying to be proactive in keeping new moms informed in regard to this option. Some may choose not to breastfeed even after being educated, but the point is that now they know.

Lastly, the more numbers of mothers who breastfeed publicly, the more the public gets used to it. Then it will not be so shocking but will be seen as a normal part of life. What’s interesting is that in some instances when a nursing mother’s rights have been violated, nurse-ins have been staged. Meaning a group of nursing mothers sit and quietly nurse their babies where the offense took place. That’s certainly one way to speak out. Another way is to contact local representatives and see what protective laws are in place in your area. While public breastfeeding is legal, it is good to know if protective laws exist for you if needed.

Resource: Breastfeeding.com, AskAboutPregnancy.com

Dita Faulkner is a writer living in Tennessee.

Add a Comment12 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Breast feeding is a perfectly natural process, the issue in this country is that we get taught from a very young age that exposing our body or specific parts of our bodies is wrong and we will be punished for doing so. That way of thinking influences how people view breast feeding in public. Personally, I feel that a woman should breast feed for as long as possible. For some, it's never, others only while in the hospital or until they go back to work and some can breast feed until the child self weans. I'm breast feeding and having to supplement with formula because my son and I are the perfect storm, he has suckling issues and I have supply issues due to his issues and hormonal problems (PCOS). From my own experience, it's a lot easier to breast feed either at home or in public than it is to bottle feed.

May 26, 2011 - 7:35pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hey, I have no problem with it. As long as the kid shares... In all seriousness, it's amazing this is even an issue. Feed away! Breast feeding is as natural as taking the (L) Train to Brooklyn or 8th Ave. and, conveniently, lasts about as long as the ride. All done! (Burp)

May 13, 2011 - 6:52am
EmpowHER Guest

I took the brestfeeding process as natural besides all the people were once babies and were breastfed I expect everyone to just take it as natural and also good for the health of our babies.

May 13, 2011 - 2:30am

I never breast fed any of my 4 children in puplic, and none of them feel that they have missed out on anything. I believe that breast feeding your child is a very special and private thing between mother and child and helps them to bond, not something to be shared with strangers, as seen today in large shopping centres etc. Surely mothers know in advance before venturing out, their babies feeding needs and comply at home or in privacy. So why is so important for women to make such a Big issue out of doing it in public? We know celebrities do it the Publicity. I have my own thoughts on the reasons why and it has nothing to do with A WOMAN'S RIGHT, we already have as much if not more rights as men. Yes it is natural to and better to breast feed your child if you can, and so is giving birth natural, will we see women doing that in public in the near future? Breast feeding in public is done freely in third world countries where women's breasts are not looked upon as sexul, nor is going bare breasted in public frowned upon, where as in our society it is.
I am a 67 year old retired (midwife) and come from a long line of professional medics of both sex's and can see no reason as to why a woman feels she Must just pop it out and fed baby regardless if baby needs feeding or not. I think it is really more for the mothers benifit than the childs. A bit of "LOOK AT ME. I might be a tad old fashioned, but there is a place and a time for everything. I would'nt like to eat my food in bathrooms or shopping malls etc. with all the pollution, germs and other nasties hanging around so why would one feed thir child in such circumstances.

May 12, 2011 - 3:12pm
(reply to AnnaMay)

Not the case at all, my babies fed every 45 minutes for the first several months so if I'd stayed at home to nurse them, I would have never gone out at all till they were about 6 months old. By one year old they'd only reduced it to every hour and a half. No one asks a bottle feeding mother to go somewhere private to feed their baby so why should a breast feeding mother be asked to go somewhere private? I personally find bottle feeding mothers offensive but try to remind myself that there might be a medical reason, like having had breast cancer or something. It's still really upsetting to me to see babies being given cow milk. If more women just fed their baby when he needs it, even when in public, then people soon wouldn't think anything about it at all. A lot of people don't breast feed at all because they're worried about other people's reactions. I was REALLY embarrassed the first few times I did it so it certainly wasn't for show, but in the end I got to realise my baby was more importance than other people's opinions.

May 13, 2011 - 4:29am

I never used any kind of cover but to be honest when the babies are little, people don't notice anyway and think you're just holding the baby. I breast fed in church and one of the people there asked if he could pick up the baby and I said
"Not now, she's drinking"
He was shocked because he thought I was just cuddling her. I think a cover draws people's attention to the fact that you are breast feeding.
It's when they get into the toddler years it gets tricky because all of mine shouted for boo boo in public and then they try to whip your top up in front of people and aren't remotely discreet. It was challenging to try and keep modest. That's why I would go somewhere private after they were 2 years old.

May 12, 2011 - 11:04am

Good points! You're hilarious!

May 12, 2011 - 8:40am
EmpowHER Guest

I breastfed each of my three children for 18 months each. I was an older mom so I just got over myself as far as being concerned over what other people thought when I was out in public and needed to feed my baby. I knew it was best for my babies and that is what I cared about, not strangers' opinions. I tried to cover up my boob with a blanket when I did it in public, but just never made a big deal about it. It was quite the shock to my husband's family (all bottle bed babies) when I would just whip one out and feed the baby sitting in the living room talking, but I don't care. They got over it eventually and I think it was good for them. When you have confidence, people tend to not mess with you. Going off to a private room to nurse implies that it is somehow shameful or embarrassing, which it should not be. That is one reason I am not sure about nursing rooms in bathrooms and that kind of thing. It kind of perpetuates the idea that nursing your baby is something to hide, and it is not. I agree that the more people who just do it (in a tasteful way) in public will make it normal and socially acceptable, to the extent that that matters to some mothers. The bottle feeders are the ones who should get mean stares, not us.

May 12, 2011 - 8:15am
EmpowHER Guest

I think people who are offended see it as a sexual thing when a women's breast is exposed. Small minds; it is sad to me that ANYone would be offended at such a natural act.

May 11, 2011 - 6:29pm

Thanks for your comments.

May 11, 2011 - 1:37pm
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