Nursing in Public -- Why do Women Do it?

For five beautiful, wonderful months, I was a nursing mother. For circumstances beyond my control, I had to give up nursing when my daughter reached her five month birthday, but I wish I could have gone on forever. I am a very active person, and my family almost never sits at home for more than a few hours on the weekends. We're always out and about, and we have fun doing it. I didn't touch a breast pump until I had to stop nursing.

This clearly means that I was "one of those women" who nursed in public. My mother hated it. My sister hated it. My father was mutually morbidly fascinated and repulsed. Strangers stared. Some glowered. Every now and again there was that sweet moment when I would share a smile with another mother who knew exactly what it meant to have the courage and strength to lift my shirt, undo my bra, and pop my baby on. In K-Mart.

I have three daughters, only one of whom I nursed for more than a couple of weeks. I didn't honestly want to nurse my older girls. From the perspective of a mother who had success only once, I want to tell you this is something every woman should experience.

Breastfeeding, in particular nursing, is liberating. Other than pregnancy and birth, I can think of no one thing that is more essentially female than clutching a baby to the breast while he or she suckles. It's glorifying and it is gratifying, and I love it .

Nursing in public is completely legal in most of the United States, but nursing mothers are often the victims of discrimination.
Nursing in public is completely legal in most of the United States, but nursing mothers are often the victims of discrimination.

Do Nursing Mom's Really Need an Audience?

Listen, this isn't about showing off. It isn't about exercising our rights (though for some women that is a nice side-effect). No, this is about feeding our babies . Nursing moms aren't seeking out the best possible audience for our feeding sessions. We don't wait until five minutes before baby gets hungry to go to the store to do our shopping.

Women who nurse in public are almost invariably dedicated mothers who simply don't care what you think about them. Some of us have lifted our shirt in the back seat of a car and leaned over our baby's car seat in order to offer the breast when our child has needed to eat. A few women have slipped off to the car to nurse when their baby is hungry because they don't want to offend somebody.

Nursing moms aren't trying to offend you. They are trying to do what is natural, and feed their babies.

Can't You Go Into the Bathroom to do That?

I never thought I would ever hear someone say this to me. Then my sister did. Of all people, my sister. I have never been the most discreet of nursers. I don't see the reason to be. My habit has been to wear loose pullover shirts and to pull the shirt down over my daughter's head (she can breathe, don't worry!) and to allow her to nurse. I was able to feel by her suckling what was going on when I couldn't see her, and the time it took to latch her on was seconds. Unless someone happened to be staring in my direction, they weren't likely to see a lot of skin anyway.

So what is this about the bathroom?

Well, the bathroom is a place where people go to relieve their bowels and their bladders. Bathrooms are often not clean and sanitary and there are peculiar odors which are associated with a bathroom. I don't know about you, but I would never dream of "nipping off to the bathroom for a snack."

The very thought of eating in the bathroom makes me gag. If I'm not going to do it myself, I'm not going to make my baby do it. Don't even suggest it!

Breastfeeding is a Human Right

Women have a right to breastfeed their children. The child has a right to the best nutrition provided for the child: breastmilk. No woman should be forced to express breastmilk or to stay in the house at all times if she has chosen to breastfeed. Just as you expect her to respect your rights, please respect yours.

Do you have a "right" to not have to see "that?" To have your children not see "that?" I believe that you do (though laws might indicate otherwise!). If you feel offended, you honestly don't have to look. Most women choose to cover the baby when they are nusing (and therefore their breast as well) and you aren't likely to see anything that you don't want to see.

Additionally, this is a natural human process and children don't look upon it as being sexual or "disgusting." It is simply the way that some mommies feed their babies. Many children ask "does it come in chocolate?"

Reader Poll

Do you Nurse in Public?

  • I am a nursing mother: Yes.
  • I am a breastfeeding mother but pump milk for when we're out.
  • I am a bottle-feeding mother.
  • I am a man, but my wife does!
  • I am a man and my wife doesn't!
  • I don't have children.
See results without voting

A Personal Story about Nursing in Public

My husband and I are huge fans of dining out. We both enjoy the dining experience and I'm not the best cook in the world. For a long time it worked out for us (because we were able to afford it). Our daughter went with us, because she was still on the breast and I couldn't imagine leaving her behind in order to go out for a meal with my husband.

One Wednesday night when she was about three months old, we went to Olive Garden. I noticed, as she began to fuss, that there were several men watching what I did as I popped her on the breast and threw a blanket over my shoulder (nobody complained). She and my breast were hidden as I nursed, and it was a happy time. I was able to relax, she was happy, and we could eat without her fussing about being hungry. Nursing and eating at the same time is an art form, let me tell you!

Our waitress, who we had known for quite some time, came over to the table and saw what I was doing. In spite of my knowledge of the laws of our state, I tend to be nervous of being asked to leave (because we would, regardless of laws). I wasn't sure what she would do, as we had never encountered this situation at Olive Garden before.

The waitress said "Can I peek?" and pulled the blanket back to see the baby nursing! I was comfortable with this, and clearly, she was also comfortable with the fact that I was nursing my child in the middle of the restaurant.

It isn't disgusting. Nursing is a beautiful thing, and, like the waitress, I'm a looker. I love watching women nurse their children as nature intended, and it gives me a warm feeling inside. If you ever see someone staring, it could be that they are just soaking in the beauty of a mother nursing her little one.

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Comments 47 comments

Lissie profile image

Lissie 7 years ago from New Zealand

There was a case a couple of weeks ago here that a woman was asked to leave an upmarket restaurant becaues she was brest feeding. Caused a "nurse in" at the same hotel LOL

That said I really don't think an expensive (and it was very) restaurant is a great place to bring babies I wouldn't have been happy with a noisy baby in the next table - the nursing wouldn't have bothered me though


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

I agree with you about that, Lissie! Last Valentine's day my husband took me to Ruth's Chris. With the baby. We were still nursing so no option, really. She wasn't bad (thankfully!) but it still wasn't cool. We would have figured something out for a babysitter, I think.

Oddly, the table next to us caused us to get our food for free because we couldn't eat in peace with all of their screaming at one another about their drug use -- that was a $200 meal. We tried to pay for it but the manager wouldn't let us. The waitress got a $100 tip!


Princessa profile image

Princessa 7 years ago from France

What a beautiful hub! I breastfed my children, one of them for 12 months and I loved every single minute of it. At first I was very embarrased and it annoyed me all the staring whenever I breastfed in public. Eventually I got used to it and I just enjoyed that moment with my child.

I would encourage any mother to breastfeed. Thumbs up!


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

Thanks, Princessa!

I don't know about in Europe, but in the United States we are being exposed to more and more hispanic immigrants, most of whom breastfeed (because it's a huge part of their culture). Even when I was young I can remember seeing hispanic women breastfeeding their babies at Cedar Point.

The more you see it, the more comfortable it is. I don't remember seeing a lot of it in England, though!


Princessa profile image

Princessa 7 years ago from France

I was in Spain at the time, and apparently it was something left mostly for the gypsies. Most women are encouraged to bottle feed as it is supposed to be more "practical" and of course more chic.

I didn't care, I wouldn't have changed the satisfaction of breastfeeding for anything in the world. Besides personal satisfaction I found that it was incredibly practical not to have to go around carrying bottles, milk, bottle warmers and all that.


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

I agree with you about the practicality!

I think that here, and now, it's more "chic" to breastfeed. Some women are making a killing selling "breastfeeding tents." I might need to look into that, since I can sew! LOL


lxxy profile image

lxxy 7 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

Three cheers! You're making headway, hon. =)

And this is a very sensitive topic, and you've done well to explain it!

"No, this is about feeding our babies. Nursing moms aren't seeking out the best possible audience for our feeding sessions."

People all too much think of our bodies in a "naughty" light. Which, of course, is pure B.S. It's a beautiful machine, and you women are stuck with giving birth and feeding our children. And you deserve to enjoy every moment of it! =D

Ewww, a breast! Ever look at a mirror? You, too, have nipples. Well, I don't, but then again...I'm an alien. ;D

lxxy


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

LOL lxxy, thanks!


wittywriter profile image

wittywriter 7 years ago from Concord New Hampshire

I am not sure about other states, but I was a nursing mother to my last two boys, New Hampshire has a pro-public nursing law. Basically, you can nurse your children in public as long as your breast is covered, like a receiving blanket over the shoulder that drapes over the baby's head and covers your breast. I breast fed until personal issues came up between my now exhusband and I. This issue came up during both of my last two babies. That is for another hub. I say, flip out those breast and feed your children with what God gave you to nurture them!


kerryg profile image

kerryg 7 years ago from USA

Great hub! I breastfed my daughter for a little over 18 months and loved it. I always had a blanket along to drape over her while she was eating, but ended up using only my shirt as often as not anyway. It's funny because I was always very modest and shy about my body as a teenager, but somewhere around the time my breasts and hamburgered privates were being inspected by the 10th complete stranger (several of them male) post-childbirth, I stopped caring what anyone saw. *g*


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

I was lucky - my mother breastfed all four of us until we were toddlers, so my parents, sisters, brother and uncles were all either supportive or just paid no attention - they were used to it!

I also fed Isaac while I was out and about. I had no intention of spending time stuck in a toilet feeding, and rarely got a negative reaction, and lots of positive ones.


no body profile image

no body 7 years ago from Rochester, New York

I don't want anyone thinking that because I'm looking that it means anything other than "what a beautiful sight" a baby and its mom. It's like when someone wears a tee-shirt and there's writing on it. I'm torn between reading and getting "what are you staring at?" and just not looking. If I was sure all women felt as you I would be admiring more openly what God has done.


Onusonus profile image

Onusonus 7 years ago from washington

When a kid's got to eat you better put something in it's mouth.


Susana S profile image

Susana S 7 years ago

I love to see mother's nursing their babies in public. Breast feeding should not be hidden away like something to be ashamed of! I nursed both my daughters and often did so in public. Where I live there is a cafe in town that welcomes nursing mums so that was a favourite venue for me. The other couple of nursing room options were foul! One is a like a concrete bunker under a carpark and the other is a very smelly nappy changing room.

Why has society given us these nasty little places to feed our most precious little darlings? There is something seriously wrong here!

The most negative breastfeeding experience I've had was when I fell out with my neighbour because I had nursed in front of her daughter. The whole family treated me like a paedophile after that -and I think that's where the social problem with breast feeding comes from. Lots of people are seeing the breast as a sexual object rather than the perfect feeding vessel that it is.


Philipo 7 years ago

I do not personally like the idea of my wife nursing our baby in the public. I breast should be treated as a "private thing" and should not be exposed to the whole world. You could be sexually harrssing someone somewhere. Even though the baby still have to eat, it has to be done secretly and decently.

http://hubpages.com/business/philipo

http://investmentsprofitandloss.blogspot.com


Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 7 years ago from London

What a lovely hub!  Like you say, if anyone's offended by a breast (being used for its intended purpose), then they don't have to look.

My pre-schooler still breastfeeds sometimes, and when she was younger I always fed her when we were out.  I felt a bit self-conscious at first, but nobody ever complained (luckily), and so I became more confident.

You mentioned not seeing many nursing women in England, but like London Girl I've never had any negative experiences, and almost all of my friends with kids also breastfeed or have done when their children were younger.  I think it's becoming a lot more common here, which is great!


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

Interesting point, I also didn't know a lot of breastfeeders in England!


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 7 years ago from West Virginia

I breast fed my two daughters. I did it in private though. Who and When and Why did the first someone dictate that the breast of a woman are for the use and eye candy of men? Our breast were put on us for the strict purpose of feeding our young---period. Now if MEN want to google at them and teach women to be made to feel guilty of doing somethiing that is NATURAL and God-Given, then they better find out what their problem is with that because it is their problem. Society doesn't always do the right thing--they just want things to look a certain way and it if doesn't then it is bad. We really got to change our way of thinking. I applaud you for speaking out on this!!


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 7 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

Thank you, Lady Guin! It is true that most things that are normally covered are viewed in a sexual light, and breasts are normally covered. I am a modest dresser, but I will feed my child when she needs to eat!


Cailin Gallagher profile image

Cailin Gallagher 7 years ago from New England

I love your hub!  I breastfed all three of my children.  The first for two years, second for one, and third for 18 months.  I'm usually self-conscious about my body.  But, when your baby wants to nurse, you want to feed them as soon as possible.  I nursed in public all the time with a light blanket as a concealer.  I nursed in many restaurants and really don't think anyone noticed as I became a pro at concealing.  I only breastfed in public while the kids were under a year old.  Otherwise, it was just too uncomfortable.  Breasts weren't made for men after all, they were made for babies...:)


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 7 years ago from West Virginia

I would rather be breastfeeding and dry then soaked and embarrassed. This was learned the hard way. When I was breastfedding my oldes, I did pump before I went out. That didn't seem to matter when my husband and I (now my ex) went to a concert---we had to leave because I leaked through everything and I had many of those pads on as well. I would have been much easier on me if I had breastfeed her, but I dind't want to take her to a concert and subject her to all that noise and the other stuff tht goes on there.

Another thing---all those milk products that China poisoned--it is much better to breastfeed---period! It is safe and also contributes to the child's health. A question just popped in my head--is it better to look good or have better health for your child?


sunstreeks profile image

sunstreeks 7 years ago from Western Washington

I was only able to breastfeed for such a short time that there wasn't much of an issue being out in public, because I didn't get out much at first.

But the bathroom one. That gets me everytime. Why people would think that it be fair for a newborn baby, with such a vunerable immune system should have to feed among all the airborne germs in a public restroom is beyond me. All because it's a little weird for some to see a little extra flesh? If they don't like it, they should just walk away.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

Couldn't agree more. I don't choose to eat my dinner in a toilet, and I don't see why babies should be obliged to do so.

It would seem obvious to me that a baby that gets fed is a quiet, happy baby. A baby not fed when it wants and needs it is a major source of noise pollution (-:


dllhubpages profile image

dllhubpages 7 years ago from Southeastern US

Great hub, I breastfed my daughter and I agree with everything you said.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

The only thing about getting away to breatfeed in private is that certain nosey babies can be distracted from thieir meal if there are a lot of people talking or something going on. My one son could not miss anything, very curious baby, so I had to whisk him off somewhere quiet.

Breastfeeding is not only good for mother and baby but it sure is convenient.


Dekholive.com  7 years ago

if anyone's offended by a breast (being used for its intended purpose), then they don't have to look.www.Dekholive.com


meghansmummy profile image

meghansmummy 7 years ago

good on you! my friend did it for 8 months some people get disgusted by anything they dont understand


BountyBabe 7 years ago

What's not to understand?


annvans 7 years ago

I have seen it but really do not pay much attention because it does not bother me. I would rather see someone breast feeding than giving a baby formula.


14 otra profile image

14 otra 7 years ago from Yuma & Cave Creek Arizona

A few years back I met my friends

My first meeting with friends, (originally from England), occurred as I visited their home to discuss business. He escorted me in, made me comfortable and the three of us talked as he preparred dinner and she sat at the counter breastfeeding their daughter. Impressed at the lovely meal he'd made, I complimented him. He shrugged, smiled and said, "It's the least I can do. I can't make breast milk."

What a wonderful moment!


wordscribe41 7 years ago

When I saw the title, I got worried about this hub. I thought you might delve into how inappropriate public nursing is. Whew. Thanks for being an advocate for all women. I remember the stress I felt out in public nursing my singleton, the stares, the urge to hide out in the car. When I had my twins, if I was going to have any life outside the home at all, I knew I'd have to become less shy. I had the "have milk, will travel" mentality. It's much harder to be discreet with 2 babies suckling, however. I brought ridiculous amounts of blankets everywhere I went in the heat of that summer. I wish more people understood the necessity.


Mardi profile image

Mardi 7 years ago from Western Canada and Texas

I think you have done a wonderful job on a potentially difficult subject for some people to understand. Moms should be allowed to nurse in public and I really appreciated how you indicated that you were discreet but not ashamed.


RooBee profile image

RooBee 7 years ago from Here

Fabulous hub. I am currently a breastfeeding mom, though we're not doing it as often anymore (he's 14 mo). I personally dislike formula and find that nature has blessed us with the perfect nutrition for our little ones.

It's absolutely ridiculous that there is any sort of stigma placed on public nursing. As you said, those of us who do it usually take great care to be discreet so as not to offend anyone.

When I'm around my close friends & family at my place, though, I just whip it out and take care of business. :) Gotta be free sometime!


Misha profile image

Misha 7 years ago from DC Area

Thumbs up ladies :)


Zollstock profile image

Zollstock 7 years ago from Germany originally, now loving the Pacific NW

You just brought home some important points for this mom who often hid under blankets in the car when nursing and weaned her son six months ago (sob). Breastfeeding is practical, logical; it is private AND public. The latter distinction depends very much on context. In our society, we seem to have declared breasts as one of the ultimate icons for sex through imagery in popular culture and somehow neglect to acknowledge that they serve a crucial and important purpose. Other cultures don't fuss over breasts – they are out, in the open, utilized as they should be to nourish the young. Glad you were able to experience and appreciate this with one of your little ones. Here's to happy prolactin release!


Amy G 7 years ago

Great Hub! I breastfed three babies, and I did it whenever they were hungry, no matter where I was. I really don't care if there is someone who dissaproves. Go ahead... say something to me, I dare you!

Wonderful Hub - Thanks!

Philipo~ Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but honestly I think you're a tool. You act as if your wife's breasts are a household item. They're actually not for you, pumpkin. They're for your baby. Let it be; it's a beautiful thing.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 7 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon

Firstly, great hub, I agree that there is no reason to stay at home all day because some people are offended. Kid's gotta eat, and you have a life to live. I would hope that you wouldn't take the baby to an upscale restaurant though, or a concert - but that is a different issue isn't it?

Now I'm going to make some people angry. I think the argument "if you don't like to see it then don't look", is totally bogus. I was in a mall and a mother whipped out that breast and popped the baby on there. I happened to catch it and looked away quickly to respect her privacy. But I did see it. I think you should be able to do that, whether someone sees it or not, because you have to. I think people are too prude when it comes to this, but you cannot say that if we don't like it then don't look, because sometimes it's unavoidable.

The other thing is that women may not see breasts as sexual objects, but they are to men. Obviously their primary function is to feed the kids, (why does anyone use formula when they have two perfectly good milk factories hanging from their chest?), but face it ladies, it is a sexual object too. But there is no reason that a man can't give you the respect you deserve at any time, but especially when feeding a baby.

I whole heartedly agree that women should have a clean place to breastfeed, and that asking a mother to go into the bathroom is dangerous and filthy. I would rather see a woman feed her baby in the restaurant than go somewhere unprotected.

Being as discreet as possible is the right thing to do, but you gotta do what you gotta do first. Others being offended is secondary.


Kebennett1 profile image

Kebennett1 7 years ago from San Bernardino County, California

Nursing your baby is the most natural thing in the world. Before there were bottles what do people think mothers did?

If you are hungry and you go to a restaurant you eat, so why not feed your baby when he or she is hungry? I don't believe I have ever seen a mother who was not being discreet about it. The problem is not with the nursing mothers. The problem is with the pornographic viewers! It is all in the eyes of the beholder! Nature and Nurture VS A Sexual Object! It is sad that such a wonderful thing can be reduced to a sexual deviance!


Marie Tyson profile image

Marie Tyson 7 years ago from Seven Valleys, PA

I think that I was in 4th or 5th grade the first time that I had seen a woman breastfeeding her baby. I had never even thought about anyone breastfeeding until then. I think that it was after that moment that I decided if I had any children I would do the same thing.

90% of my family is really uptight, but they haven't really said to much. My mother thought that it was gross, but it made her giggle too. My dad is the only one who seemed to have a huge problem with it. "It's inappropriate for you to do that in here", was often what I heard. Oh well...I told him that it was my baby and I wasn't leaving the building just to feed him.


momo6kids1968 profile image

momo6kids1968 7 years ago

iagree,it is liberating. i nursed my son until he was 13 mos,i miss it!it is our right and i to asked for privacy because i was afraid of what would happen,after awhile ,i started giving back at what other people were giving to me,i wish my city would have a feed in ,my city is terrible for breast feeding moms.


Lady Emmy profile image

Lady Emmy 6 years ago

I think it's stupid that in a world where nudity is becoming more and more popular (granted, I'm all for respecting the human body and not prancing around topless all the time) but nude/ topless beaches are common, and people don't mind that much when a girl walks around in a string bikini. You see WAY more skin, and breast even, in one of those than with the average breast feeding mother, so why do people have issues with it? And if they do, they should provide a comfortable, CLEAN environment for mothers who choose not to subject their children to the garbage in formulas. I personally will NEVER give my kids formula, as my mother breast-fed all of her children until they were too loquacious to have her continue doing so (what would YOU think if your child slapped your breasts in the supermarket and started saying "Eat that, Mommy, want eat that!"?), and we all had severe reactions to the formulas she tried us on. There's nothing better than Mommy's milk for a growing little one. God made it, it isn't broke by a long shot, so why do people keep wanting to fix it? You GO girl!!! Although I will say that the pump makes it easier to get Daddies up in the middle of the night, or if you need to leave the little one with a babysitter for an emergency or something. :)


Eco mum profile image

Eco mum 6 years ago from Portsmouth

What a written beauty. You have talent to write simply and lovely. I breastfed my son for 5 months, also only because I hd to return to work. It wasn't easy at all, I had to use breast shields and fuss around each time but I enjoyed it very much. My husband don't feel comfortable with my feeding our child on public which make me really sad sometimes, but he allowes me to do it anyway. Great reading, carry on!


disgusted 5 years ago

It seems mothers are so anxious to feed in public they never even bother to wash their hands the dirty devils.

If they wish to go around naked at home that is fine but how about a little respect for other people and young child who are brought up differently.


vrbmft profile image

vrbmft 3 years ago from Yucaipa, California

It's "interesting" ALL the things people do in public including sneezing, farting, wetting their pants (as you get older), eating for crying out loud. How gross is eating! Sneezing. OMG, sneezing. Laughing and when I laugh, I usually laugh hysterically. Moaning, groaning, complaining, letting a little or a lot of rage out. I mean what is breast feeding compared to all of that? So lifegiving compared to all those other things!!

THANKS FOR A WONDER FILLED HUB!


carter06 profile image

carter06 3 years ago from Cronulla NSW

OMG WHY? do we still have to justify the birth right of every human being...Such a great hub EM you do all nursing mum's proud!! VUUABI shared & tweeted...great job... P.S you should have included R U an X nursing mum for more votes:)


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 2 years ago

Nice Hub. I completely agree. [FYI,I noticed a typo in the next to last paragraph "peaked" should be "peeked."


Everyday Miracles profile image

Everyday Miracles 2 years ago from Indiana, USA Author

Fixed. Thank you!

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