Dig, if you will, the picture… my husband and I at an intimate candlelight dinner. We’re huddled close over the table, holding hands, kissing, touching foreheads, caressing each other’s cheeks. Our legs are entangled under the table. Our food comes, we eat, taste each other’s dish, feed one another. We’re laughing and looking into each other’s eyes. My dress is deeply cut, the entire inside of my breasts are visible. Killer cleavage. We’re clearly having an intimate evening in public. We’re not ashamed of our affection.
Now imagine you overheard comments from a table nearby.
“Why do they have to do that in public?”
“Oh my God, you can see her whole boob!”
“She’s clearly just trying to get everyone’s attention.”
“No one wants to see that.”
“That’s an intimate moment and we shouldn’t have to look at it.”
“That’s between a husband and wife and should be done in private.”
“That’s so gross.”
“She should have more respect for herself than that.”
“I got out to eat with my husband too, but I have more class than that.”
Are you confused yet? You’re thinking, “No one says things like that to a couple having a romantic dinner. This is just silly.” That’s OK. You’re right. No one ever says anything like this to adults eating dinner, sharing intimate moments in public or wearing sexy clothing that displays beautiful breasts.
But we hear these statements made every day about a mother breastfeeding in public. People list endless stipulations about how a mother should breastfeed. There are rules. Rules about rules. Subcategories of rules about the rules. Opinions are stated as facts. Everyone believes that they are right in how a mother should be feeding her own baby with her own body; a decision that most definitely does not affect anyone but the mother and child.
If someone were to express disdain for my husband and me at dinner, you would certainly say that this person should mind their own business, that this intimate dinner has nothing to do with them and that if they have some personal vendetta against PDA they can simply look away. It’s easy to pick out couples on the street; we don’t feel shame about holding hands or kissing our partners in public. When a couple is having a romantic moment, I tend to look away and give them their space. I figure they are having a moment to themselves and don’t need an audience. I suppose some people might stare; I assume the couple doesn’t care.
Why is it so different for breastfeeding mothers? This is an intimate moment between Mom and Baby. Baby is eating. Baby wanted to nurse while Mom was out in public. Mom uses her breast to feed her child (that’s what breasts are for). She is focusing on her baby. She is not drawing attention to herself. She has a great deal of respect for herself and her baby. She is a woman and a mother.
What’s the difference? What’s the big deal?
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