Addressing the Most Common Misconceptions about Nursing in Public

Addressing the Most Common Misconceptions about Nursing in Public


1) Breastfeeding is a private act.

False.  Eating is not a private act.  Sure, sometimes we eat in private, but imagine what your life would be like if you were told you needed to eat 100% of your meals in private.  Now imagine you ate every 45 minutes – 3 hours.  Now imagine you also needed to be fed by someone and that person also had to be in private.  It starts to make less sense right?

2) Women want privacy when breastfeeding.

May be true or false, but it’s not for you to decide, that’s up to Mama.  Some babies are fussy, some babies are easily distracted.  Privacy can be beneficial in some cases, not just for nursing.  Some mothers are uncomfortable breastfeeding in public.  This is a huge barrier to breastfeeding success.

3) Women who nurse in public are exhibitionists.

Absolutely false.  And offensive.  The only thing a woman is doing when she breastfeeds in public is feeding her hungry child.  There’s no illicit thrill of it, there’s nothing even remotely titillating about it.  It’s food.  Don’t get confused.

4) Women who breastfeed in public have no class.

False.  Definition of Class: “showing stylish excellence.”  I don’t really know what that has to do with a baby eating.  I can tell you babies need to eat.  It is not about manners or optimal style and grace.  It is about food, it is about a relationship between a mother and a baby and a mother’s responsibility to meet her baby’s needs.

5) You should just use a bottle when feeding your baby in public.

False. Where to start?

  • Many breastfed babies don’t drink from bottles.
  • Many breastfeeding families don’t want their babies drinking from bottles because of nipple confusion.
  • In order to bottle feed, Mamas need to stuff bottles, warmers, ice packs & ice packs into already full diaper bags.  In order to breastfeed Mamas need to pack…nothing
  • Additionally, breastmilk needs to be pumped.  Let me tell you how much fun it is to pump.  It’s not.
  • Bottles and pumps need to be sterilized.  This process is time-consuming and tedious.
  • Bottles, pumps, sterilizing equipment and associated equipment costs money that breastfeeding mothers don’t need to spend.
  • Bottlefeeding is not as healthy or safe as breastfeeding, even if it’s breast milk.
  • A mother needs to pump every time her baby takes a bottle in order to balance out and maintain her supply.  If you have a problem seeing a mother breastfeed her baby in public, wait till you see a mother whipping out her breast pump in public!  Bottle feedings are not for when Mama is with baby.
  • A mother doesn’t need to bottle feed her breastfed baby.  There is nothing wrong with breastfeeding in public.

6) Breastfeeding attracts predators.

False.  Breastfeeding is not an invitation to sexual harassment.  It’s a mother feeding her child.  There’s nothing sexy or enticing about it.  If some pervert doesn’t know how to conduct himself in public, that is the problem, not the mother.  Yes, there are sick people in the world who may misinterpret the act of breastfeeding as some kind of signal to attack.  They may also interpret a woman’s skirt, a friendly smile, the mere presence of a woman.  Should we stay home?  Is any of that the woman’s fault?

7) Women should breastfeed their babies before they leave home.

False.  Breastfed babies are not fed on a schedule and in large part, their needs for breastfeeding are unpredictable, especially in the beginning.   A baby may need to feed 30-60 minutes after the last feed.  They may want to clusterfeed, in which case they will return to the breast several times in a short time period.  It is very important for us to feed our babies on cue.  That’s just how breastfeeding works.

8) Women shouldn’t breastfeed their babies where children can see.

Impossible.  First of all, The mother is feeding a child.  it is actually very important for them to see each other.  Breastfeeding is the normal, natural way to feed a baby.  There is nothing wrong with children seeing a mother take care of her baby.  It is actually good for children to see breastfeeding.  Not only does it help to normalize the process so those children might go on to breastfed when they become parents, but it also contributes to their mental and emotional well-being.  Children are bombarded with sexual content at increasingly young ages.  Seeing breasts performing their normal function, breastfeeding, is healthy.   When a child sees a mother breastfeeding, they see a woman using her body in a way that it was meant to be used, she is using it not for the purpose of somebody else’s pleasure or objectification, but for the simply and important act of nurturing a child.  As I often tell people, I’d rather my son learn about breastfeeding from a nursing mother than a beer commercial. More about that here: Why Children Should See Mothers Nursing in Public

9) There is a time and a place for breastfeeding.

So true.  The time is whenever the baby is hungry and the place is wherever Mama is at.  Babies generally eat anywhere from every 45 minutes to 3 hours.  They nurse anywhere from 4 minutes to 45 minutes on average.  Do the math and you can see how much of our day we spend breastfeeding!  Additionally, babies cannot wait to eat like you & I can.  When their tiny little tummies are empty, the need is immediate and urgent.  More about that here: Breastfeeding, Anytime, Anywhere!

10) Mothers who nurse in public don’t have any respect for themselves, or anyone else.

Ridiculous.  Mothers who breastfeed their babies are respecting their body’s natural ability to give life to a child beyond pregnancy.  The breastfeeding mom respects her body by understanding the natural function of the female breast and knows it doesn’t exist purely for sexual pleasure, or to please men.  As for respecting others, it has nothing to do with anyone else.  No one is breastfeeding in public to offend people.  We only breastfeed in public to feed our babies.  I would suggest the one who shames or attempts to limit a mother who is feeding her baby is disrespectful.

11) Women should breastfeed in the bathroom.

Disgusting.  Maybe the person suggesting such a thing takes their meals where people shit, but no one should expect a baby to have to do something so gross.  It’s eating.  We don’t eat where we urinate and defecate.

12) If we don’t shit, pee or masturbate in public, women shouldn’t be allowed to breastfed in public.

Breastfeeding is eating.  We do eat in public.  It is not a bodily function that involves eliminating waste, nor is it a sexual act.  It is allowed in public because it is eating.

13) People shouldn’t be forced to see breasts in public.

I’m forced to see breasts in public all the time.  It’s inescapable in today’s media and marketing strategies.  I don’t like it.  Not because I don’t like seeing breasts, but because I don’t like breasts being commodified.  OK, that’s me.  No one is forcing you to see a breastfeeding mother’s breasts.  Her breasts are generally covered mostly by her clothing and her child.  You really have to look hard to see more breast than you would normally see every day in a woman’s cleavage or a Victoria’s Secret ad.  Here’s a tip: If you don’t like to see a breastfeeding mother’s breast, don’t stare.  Her baby needs to eat, you don’t need to lurk.

14) People shouldn’t walk and breastfeed.

I have no idea why people have made up this rule.  It seems arbitrary and weird.  Women have always multitasked when it comes to feeding a baby and getting on with life.  What on earth could the objection be?

15) You should nurse with a cover.

You can, if you want to, but no one needs to nurse with a cover on.  Breastfeeding is a learned skill that involves quite a bit of dexterity on the part of mother and baby.  Babies aren’t exactly known for their fine and gross motor skills.  For mothers, there is a huge learning curve.  Force a woman to figure all this out under a cover and you are seriously compromising her ability to breastfeed her baby.  Once Mama and baby have become truly proficient at the breastfeeding process, baby is usually old enough to not want to be under that cover and will use the newly developed motor skills to rip that cover away.  Also?  It’s hot under there.