Feeding Controversy

There you are: at the movies or in the mall, and you see a woman cradling a baby. 'Awww,' you think, until she shifts the baby, inadvertently revealing a nipple. Is this inappropriate or a necessary action? Real men and women weigh in.

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Mom Nursing Baby

Grossed outFor others, seeing a baby suckling its mother is nothing short of disgusting. As mother of one Mariesa said, "It absolutely disgusts me. Creeps me out. Ick!"

Babies need to eat

Proponents of breastfeeding say that all moms are trying to do is feed their baby.
"Think of the baby whose only nutrition is breastmilk (a baby under 6 months old) and the Mom had to go out, just fed the baby before they left, the baby is well rested. So they are out and all of a sudden the baby starts to cry, not a fussy gas cry, but the cry that makes every Mom want to rescue the child. Does that woman have a choice?" asks Kathleen Kerber, mom of two.

Other moms agree. "This is a matter of survival. An infant needs to eat, a lot. Most every 3 hours (and that's from start time to start time, not from the end of one feeding to the beginning of another) some more often than that. If they are going through a growth spurt maybe every 2 hours or less. What is a mother supposed to do? Never leave the house? Not travel to visit grandparents who may live across the country, can't grocery shop, can't visit friends, can't get out of the house even if it's just to go to the mall?" said Sarah Russo, mom of one.

Cover up

For many, breastfeeding is okay as long as the mom is discrete. "Modesty and respect are what seems to be lost here. A small receiving blanket, a shawl, or even a large men's t-shirt would cover the activity details and allow the mother to nourish her child. Everyone knows what is happening, but the "shock value" is removed and all viewers can focus on the child and the beauty of a nursing mother instead of the sexual aspect of the mother's breast on display," says Deborrah Cooper, 40, mother of two daughters.

A personal problem

So is breastfeeding in public taboo? Eighty-eight emails came in when regular people were asked for their opinion. Only a few said they didn't want to see any breastfeeding in public. Several others said that their discomfort with seeing it was a personal problem. "Actually, yes, seeing a breastfeeding mother in public does make me a little uncomfortable, but that is my problem, not theirs. Just because someones actions make us uncomfortable does mean that they should have their rights interfered with," said Steve Kubien, dad of two.

And as some moms pointed out, the United States is a free country. "So breastfeeding moms make some people uncomfortable? Too bad! I don't particularly enjoy seeing people pick their noses, scream at their kids, make out in public, wear too-small clothes, plaster their political beliefs all over their bodies/cars/lawns. But I'm still damned glad I live in a free country," says Jenna McCarthy, author of The Parent Trip and mom to two daughters.

What do you think?

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Comments on "Breastfeeding in public: taboo or not?"

bfpeer June 07, 2012 | 12:04 PM

i think breastfeeding in public is necessary, most breastfeeding moms would prefer to be in a quiet, private place but its just not always possible...If i have an hour to go to the grocery store, im not going to spend 30 minutes of that trip hiding in a rest room...moms are busy and multitasking is the name of the game.

lia... April 28, 2010 | 8:27 PM

I don't understand why do we have to cover our babies to be able to let them eat... so I have to put this blankets over their face even though it maybe hot just for people to feel confortable. Is all about what people say and think about you... is it?

Lanie March 26, 2009 | 2:37 PM

I think that you ladies might enjoy this article from The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic/doc/200904/case-against-breastfeeding

Charles Linskaill October 04, 2008 | 11:56 AM

To see a Woman Breastfeeding their Baby in a public place, is neither shocking, disgusting, or repugnant, infact it is a Beautiful Loving sight, only the 'Prudes' would complain, also most if not all Women that Breastfeed their Baby/Babies are very discreet, they keep it as a personal time for mother and baby, and while you know the Mother is Breastfeeding, you see very little.

Paulene Hinds October 03, 2008 | 9:42 AM

To the poster about the EVIL EYE!!!!! I have read so many of these posts this morning that I meshed them altogether. I realized afterwards that you ARE PRO BREASTFEEDING ANYWHERE!!!!! Sorry for that salute comment...it was meant for anyone who judges me for attending to my child needs....got that all you people who posted about hiding the fact that we are nourishing our children. Also...on the breast pump issue...I was unable to pump milk with one---tried many! When we were adopting our last child from China I even rented the high powered thing that dims the lights when it goes on...nothing but sore nipples occurred. I went to the lactation specialist and they suggested that I nurse my husband in the morning and at night to keep up my milk supply and alleviate swollen breasts and infection until we received our baby. I did it and it worked...I was able to nurse our daughter when we received her and my husband and I wouldn't have changed a thing! Now if my husband can be that open minded about my breasts thatn I don't see how you women can be so judgemental and ual about the whole thing...that is what it appears to come down to...our society see breasts as ual...we are EXPOSING our ual parts to the world. Nuturing a child isn't ual people...it is nourishment! Again to Fern...sorry for confusing your post with the mesh of others :)

Kathy October 03, 2008 | 9:00 AM

The ultimate Lady is not judgmental and scornful of her breastfeeding sisters. People cutting on nursing mothers are showing a far greater lack of manners than women doing the breastfeeding. Smile at the mama who is likely sleep deprived and doing her best to care for her infant and go about your business. How much is it REALLY affecting your life anyway?

Paulene Hinds October 03, 2008 | 7:42 AM

I like that comment, "Know that when I am given you the evil eye it's because I think you're very rude and inconsiderate to those around you." My response to that as a woman whose babies came first is, "Know that when I am waving back at you with a one fingered salute that I don't really care what you think! I would never feed my baby in a washroom, nor would I let my children eat in one...not even in my home. I personally have never met a woman with her whole breast exposed while she was nursing and if there is a quiet place to go that is provided, most woman use it...I did, I found that it was less distracting for my baby, especially my oldest who liked to pull off the breast and look around if it was noisy. By that age though 1.5 years) I usually had a few minutes if he was hungry and would find a quiet corner or would ask the waiter etc. if there was a quieter area for us to have lunch etc. to feed my child, so we could eat in peace as well. Newborns however are hungry and require to be satisfied immediately. As a mother you must attend to your child's needs quickly when they are newborns up to about a year or you risk not bonding with your them. Would you leave your screaming newborn in a poopy diaper just to appease the general public...no you would go and change that child immediately (and don't anyone dare say...in the bathroom, privately...it ISN'T the same thing as feeding) the point I am trying to make is that you would attend to their needs for comfort! Breastfeeding is because the child has hunger, a need that requires a mother to satisy it...immediately most of the time. Breastfeeding is a choice, to do it in public is a choice too and women should feel comfortable IF THEY CHOOSE to feed their child in public either way! Without judgement from others. I never judge women for NOT breasfeeding and I think I deserve the same respect from others, but in reality not everyone has the same views as I do and you can see from the beginning of my post, I DON'T really care whether you judge me or not...give me the evil eye or say something ignorant to me about it, it is MY CHOICE.

Christine October 02, 2008 | 3:03 PM

Mollie, I am the definition of a lady when I am breastfeeding my children, in public or at home. As for catering to your courtesy or the courtesy of other small minded people people I don't really care. I have courtesy to my children to give them what they need, when they need it, no matter if it is convenient for me or those around me. Hey Fern! Want to come to dinner? We are having Oysters...

Mollie October 02, 2008 | 2:44 PM

What happened to being a lady? Just like many natural things our body does, just because it's natural doesn't make it appropriate in all situations. If you choose to breastfeed, that's wonderful. Just be a lady about it. Yup, I was the girl who changed under her t-shirt in the gym locker room in middle school.

Fern October 02, 2008 | 1:43 PM

Wait, backing up... Noelle, based on your argument, modesty is not the issue. Rereading your second message I realize, you are *grossed out* merely by the thought of a breastfeeding infant in your vicinity. Honey, that truly is YOUR PROBLEM. Just like I'm revolted when someone eats seafood near me. Especially, like, shellfish. Ew ew ew. So gross. But should that person seriously be concerned about catering to my food issues? How self-centered would I be to expect them to? Not everyone eats or enjoys seafood. Shellfish consumers should be more considerate towards those who think it's disgusting. Go ahead and eat it around me, that's your right. But know that, when I'm giving you the evil eye, it's because I think you're very rude and inconsiderate to those around you.

Christine October 02, 2008 | 1:20 PM

Noelle, who made you the morality God. You stated, " "If I know it's obviously happening, then it's inappropriate." Why is it inappropriate JUST because you say so? And a screaming child at church is a disruption. If your baby is screaming and you can calm him by nursing him in just a few seconds so that you can still sit there, listen to the message the preacher is delivering and get something out of your church experience, isn't that MUCH more important than rushing out so that the handful of people sitting around you don't have to see you breastfeeding? Heck, every church I have been too was big enough that if I didn't want to sit in the vacinity of a mother with a young baby, nursing or not, I didn't have too. Do you think Eve covered up when she nursed her and Adam's children?

Fern October 02, 2008 | 1:09 PM

Noelle, you have clearly never mothered a breastfed infant. The time to breastfeed is when the baby is hungry. The place to breastfeed is where the baby is hungry. Not all babies take bottles. Not all babies tolerate being covered up while they're eating (hello, it gets HOT under there). The problem with the "modesty" argument is that it is relative. I think if you can't see my boob, that is modest enough. Paulene's mother in law, however, thinks the modesty criteria is not met unless Paulene and babe are hunkered down alone in a private room. Since any given breastfeeding mother cannot satisfy the masses of whiny adults with their apparently pressing "modesty" needs, she should rightfully focus on the one person whose needs ARE truly pressing: her baby.

Christine Navratil October 02, 2008 | 1:04 PM

OMG, breastfeeding is the most natural thing a woman can do and for people to still walk around being so ignorant about it is really aggrevating. What is sadder though is people who let the public decide what they do for their babies. My proudly breastfed my son for a total of 2 1/2 years, I did it in public, and I did it uncovered. It didn't mean I did not respect myself, or my baby. I did it FOR my baby, as far as respecting others around me, to get respect you have to give it and if you are going to look and judge you don't deserve my respect. If you don't like seeing it, don't look. Most of us have enough decency and smarts to not stare at handicapped individuals. We were raised to know it is impolite. The same rules follow. I hope that by the time our children are adults, they will know the same thing about breastfeeding mothers and that the taboo of breastfeeding in public, covered or not, will no longer be an issue to debate.

Mom of 4 October 02, 2008 | 8:54 AM

Funny how people are disgusted at the most beautiful sight in the world,a mother feeding her child, yet it's ok to show boobs in magazines and movies etc, where the boobs are used as a ual object.. what's wrong with this picture?

Noelle October 02, 2008 | 8:29 AM

You can't compare breastfeeding to the Venus de Milo in a museum. I see that breasts are for feeding and all that. And it's nature. Sure you want to do it in Target at the cafe? It's all yours. You want to sip your coffee at Inn and Out Burger and feed your kid? Go for it... But you still have to understand that you are exposing your breast, and there is a child suckling off of your nipple and eating breastmilk, and for people who are not breastfeeding just as you are - there's a discomfort, just as I go to take a bite of my sandwich? It's not just what it looks like (in regards to seeing unflattering body parts "cracks, muffin tops,") it's the entire action. My point is that there's a time and a place - just use discretion for people who are modest.

Fern October 02, 2008 | 7:49 AM

I wish low rise jeans were taboo. I'm far more offended by some stranger's ass crack than I am by an accidental flash of nip when a woman is taking care of her child. No doubt the bimbo flashing her butt cleavage, muffin top and skanky thong is the same one who is "disgusted" by a healthy parenting interaction.

Charise October 01, 2008 | 8:01 PM

As far as I'm concerned, this is a non-issue. Are we so backward in America that a bare breast used to feed an infant is considered by some to be indecent? The human body is not just ual, but we seem to forget this in our society. Perhaps this is a cultural throw back to the Puritans? The human body is beautiful! God's own work of art. Would you have a museum cover up the Venus de Milo just because you have hang ups? Mama's use your breasts for what they are meant for and ignore those who need enlightenment.

starr October 01, 2008 | 7:40 PM

I never said ual! Can't you read? I sure am certain I am not out of my mind. I want my sons to grow up and respect women. I have friends that have breast fed their kids. They all had respect for themselves and others to cover up.Gina thanks for actually reading and understanding. I can tell you respect yourself and you demand respect from others. Every woman is entitled to her own opinion.

spynefxr October 01, 2008 | 6:00 PM

Breastfeed a baby in a bathroom? Are you out of your mind? Would you let your kid eat in a bathroom? Yeah sure, take his chicken nuggests and fries, and go eat in a sleazy bathroom! Yeah, Come on, get real. If you arent going to have your kids eat in a bathroom, you shouldnt expect mine to either.

Noelle October 01, 2008 | 3:09 PM

I wouldn't expect mothers to go into the restroom. When I use public restrooms, I try to be in and out as quickly as possible. However, I think that breast feeding without modesty** (that's important in my argument) disrupts respectful social situations among people who may or may not be comfortable with the situation (this disregards what would be "public" - that's a different story) for example during an eating/restaurant setting. No matter what anyone (including myself) thinks, wants to think or whatever -- breasts are ual objects with or without an infant attached. It's just as much a common courtesy as removing your child from church when he's screaming. If I know it's obviously happening, then it's inappropriate. If I don't know it's happening, then keep on doin' what you're doin'!

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