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Public Breastfeeding: Natural or Indecent?

Updated on August 6, 2014
Actress, Olivia Wilde, nursing her newborn.
Actress, Olivia Wilde, nursing her newborn. | Source

Celebrity Mothers Share Breastfeeding Pictures

Apparently, being open and public about breastfeeding is now becoming a trend in Hollywood. Celeb moms share their own breastfeeding photos, relaying to fellow nursing mothers that there should not be shame or stigma behind it.

See the photos from Us Magazine:

State Laws on Public Breastfeeding

  • 47 States including Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands all have laws that allow mothers to breastfeed in any public or private place.
  • South Dakota and Virginia have laws that exempt breastfeeding in public on the grounds of indecency and nudity laws.
  • Idaho offers no protection or laws on the issue.

Today, public nursing has become the center of a heated controversy within the past couple of years. With more women trying to find the balance while being working mothers (as well as the modern feminist movement), there are arguments that anti-public nursing is a human rights issue.

From an anthropological viewpoint, nursing is the first and most natural way to feed and nurture one's child. From a societal standpoint, it comes down to cultural norms, public indecency, and the overall "taboo" that breastfeeding has become. The push and pull comes down to breastfeeding mothers believing that they have the right to feed their child whenever they need to be fed while battling social norms and customs. With many lawsuits filed from women who were told to "cover up," many women today are trying to destroy the stigma that is associated with public nursing.

I am not a mother, and these opinions are not necessarily my own. I hope to prevent an unbiased look at the debate from both points of view: those for and against breastfeeding in public.


Pro: Women Feel that Public Nursing Is Natural and Their Right

  • Prohibiting public breastfeeding is discrimination based on sex.

  • Prohibiting public breastfeeding is seen as another attempt to marginalize women or control women.

  • Children have the right to nourishment whenever they want/need; children have the right to do so without having a blanket over their heads.

  • Convenience---- not having to worry about forgetting or not bringing enough milk/bottles.

  • Confining a woman to her own home is sexist.

  • Breastfeeding is natural, and people who become offended are the people that sexualize the act.

Publicly Breastfeeding Does Not Give You the Right to be Inappropriate


Arguments Against Breastfeeding in Public

I think the majority of those that are in opposition of public breastfeeding are not necessarily against breastfeeding in public, but the way that a mother chooses to go about it.

Public Nursing is Indecent- Individuals and companies that oppose public breastfeeding are most likely only concerned about decency. Yes, our culture has scandalized the female breast more as a sexual organ than just a part of the female anatomy. Regardless of the sexual culture in our country, modern opinions of the breasts are that they are just as private as the male and female genitalia. It is a parent's right to raise their child the way they want, and exposing your breasts to other people's children is infringing on that right. Just because breastfeeding is natural does not mean that it is appropriate in all settings and situations. Use discretion and respect other people's rights as well.

Breastfeeding is an Intimate Act- One of the primary purposes of breastfeeding is the attachment between a mother and her baby. Some people may become uncomfortable by witnessing a mother breastfeeding in public because it is seen as an intimate and private moment (PDA arguments anyone?). Some mothers claim that they have the right to bond with their child whenever they want, but that does not mean that other people want to bear witness to it.

Mothers Discuss Their Opinion on Public Breastfeeding

Where Do You Stand?

See results


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    • jlpark profile image

      Jacqui 3 years ago from New Zealand

      Oh heck no, not offended in the slightest. I can see both sides of it, and was never comfy feeding in public when breast feeding via breast rather than using expressed.

      Just because you are a 'bystander' doesn't mean you aren't entitled to an opinion on it.

      I've got friends who are going to or did extended breast feed - to 2yrs plus. Not something I considered nor would do right now - but can understand their need to, but also that it can be deemed a bit odd...

      It is funny what does stand out cause it's 'taboo' even when you are part of the group - I'll notice a feeding mum before my partner! I'll also notice a gay couple holding hands etc because I don't see it often, even being a gay is a weird phenomenon

      Thanks for the hub.

    • Sami Hanson profile image

      Sami 3 years ago from Kansas


      Haha, no I completely agree that it is rude to stare, but it's funny how much things stand out when they are considered "taboo." Hopefully I did not offend you because I am not a mother, so this issue doesn't concern me besides me being a possible... spectator? Hopefully that word doesn't imply that I'm someone that stares or tries to spot mother's that breastfeed, lol. I'm with you though, I think that if I was a breastfeeding mother I would simply want my privacy or cover up.

    • jlpark profile image

      Jacqui 3 years ago from New Zealand

      As a feeding mum, I went to the parent's rooms - for privacy for me and my bubs, and everyone else. Also - knowing Bubs had trouble latching, I'd have been 'waving about' in public for extended periods, which I have an issue with (and am sure others do too!). And then being a pumping mum rather than an BF'ing one wants to see a breast pump in use in public!

      I think that most people either cover, or only expose what is necessary and latch quickly, so all you actually see if you are ...rude enough to stare is a bit of upper breast usually. No nipple, just a bit of skin. And it's this reason I'd hate to see people have to cover if they don't want to.

      What does bother me is when people get all indignant about it - the "I have every right to feed my child, don't you dare say a word in judgement" looks - hell, I don't care if you are feeding or not, you'll be giving yourself an ulcer being so confrontational all the time.

      The last thing is - people also need to stop judging those people who bottle feed. Breast may be 'best" but people have their reasons.

    • profile image

      Sanxuary 3 years ago

      People in America are way to neurotic. They need to stop being robots, consumers and followers of stupidity. We were told marijuana stories for decades and now were saying get over the lie. We are made the way we our for a reason and nudity in this country is way to hyped. Other peoples husbands and wives are not yours to exploit and if a girl dresses provocative or wore no clothes at all, she is still not your target. Sadly we have to many perverts, retarded social norms and walking judges of other people. The couch in the female bathroom was for this purpose but in all honesty a woman should be able to feed her child wherever she wants. There is nothing sexual about it and no great mystery.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      I agree, I believe it is a matter of mutual respect. I have nothing against it either, though we should be conscious of whether those around ae comfortable.

    • Sami Hanson profile image

      Sami 3 years ago from Kansas

      Exactly. I do not think that they should cover up because "they might turn men on," but there are certain parts that might become exposed that other people are not necessarily ready to explain to their children. I have nothing against breastfeeding or public breastfeeding, but it also comes down to the respect of those around you. I think that causing a ruckus on their rights to do it anywhere allow people to TRY to cross over the lines to try to make a scene. I read so many articles trying to get both sides of the situation and it was a headache with everyone thinking they have to make a statement regardless of whether or not it makes others feel uncomfortable--- and I do not agree with that.

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 3 years ago from US

      As a child around women breast feeding the most would cover their baby suckling with a light piece of material or small blanket if it were winter. I guess it just has to be up to the individual whether they want to share that sight with others or not. I am sure there are worse things they could be doing. It would probably take a lot less than that to turn some ppl on. It just seems to be a statement many women want to make today and I can't see running them out of a restaurant for it....

      Now when that baby starts walking it may be a dif story. I have heard of women nursing kids til they are 4 and older. That is a bit ridiculous.