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Is it ok to breastfeed in public?

by Vee (follow)
Behaviour (31)      Choices (9)      Breastfeeding (8)     

Image by andyk

In the words of Napoleon Dynamite, ‘Heck yes!’. Women should be able to breastfeed wherever, whenever and however they choose. At least I think so. Apparently though, there are people out there who disagree.

The other day, I was in a shopping centre feeding my six month old and was verbally attacked by a young couple for doing so. Mind you, they too had a baby, so I thought they – if no one else – should understand. She yelled something about ‘a parents' room’ and he repeatedly shrieked, ‘Yuck! Yuck!’ as if he had just witnessed the most abhorrent spectacle on the face of the earth. If you ask me, you’d get more boob on daytime television, and if the Pope is quite happy for me to breastfeed in public, then who the heck is anyone else to object?

Do you think it’s ok to breastfeed in public?

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Absolutely it is, and the right to do it is protected by law in Australia and many othet countries. In nearly 5 straight years of breastfeeding I reckon I've heard all the arguments dozens of times. To folks who say we should just use a bottle when in public you probably don't realise what you are asking. Not all women are able to express milk at all and those who can might not be able to get out anywhere near as much milk that way. If I express it takes me a couple of days to get enough for one feed. Why should a busy Mum have to waste that much of her time because somebody won, t use their neck muscles and look away? And don't ask ys to use a cover if we don't want to. I wouldn't want to eat with a blanket over my head, especially in the summer heat, and neither do my kids.
Sorry my responsez keep appearing twice.
Jennifer, you are spot on with the following: "because somebody won, t use their neck muscles and look away? And don't ask ys to use a cover if we don't want to. I wouldn't want to eat with a blanket over my head, especially in the summer heat, and neither do my kids. " Plus, you made me laugh. Thanks for your contribution.
by Vee
Yes definitely. If you can find a comfortable parents' room then it's probably easier for the mother, but if not, then go ahead and breastfeed where and how you feel so inclined. Most women cover their babies (and breasts), so no one should be offended. And if they find it offensive, they shouldn't look. In any case it's not your problem, it's theirs!
Why not, it was done years ago and no one really mind. Why all the fuss? It is the way of life, and maybe the world should evolve from the Victorian era! ;)
That's right! Besides, few people complain about 'sexy boobs', so why should 'working boobs' cop all the flak?
by Vee
Very true. There's a definite double standard.
Hi Chipp, when was breastfeeding done in public years ago, that you remember ?
by fran.
Done discretely...why not. I'm old school...so we would have mothers place a little light sheet or scarf around her, so no one can see too much.Babies have to eat!
There is also a little cover, for feeding mum's now...love the idea. (see pic).
I understand, modesty. But sometimes it's too hot to cover them up, even with a light muslin wrap. My little one works up a sweat when he eats, and I'm more concerned about his comfort than offending other's sensibility.
by Vee
I understand :)
by jonaja
Using a cover osquite a modern idea actually. Personally I find it actually draws more attention, especially if the little one is struggling to pull it off. When I feed without a cover people usually don't notice. When my son is feeding in the Ergo carrier they often ask if he's askeep because he is quiet with his head on my chest.
Absolutely. It is such a natural process. If the baby needs a drink, I don't think you should have to hide yourself away. I normally use a shawl in public out of respect for people who may not be comfortable with it.
Hi Ali, like I said to Sarah, it's interesting to note that most of the comments on here suggest that it is a good idea to cover up out of respect for those who would be uncomfortable with breastfeeding in public, but people, some women in particular have no problem dressing immodestly even when when it may offend others. I think there's such a double standard. It's ok when we try to be sexy, but when our 'working breasts' are on show, then we must be careful not to offend others. I'm sure that those who have a problem with breastfeeding mothers don't complain about scantily clad women in adverts, television or out and about.
by Vee
Depends which country you are in. In Hong Kong, it's not really viewed as acceptable, so I raced around like a crazy person trying to find the parents room.
I did it pretty much everywhere here, but we go to a great restaurant run by Muslims, and patroned by a lot of Muslims, so I always made us leave to feed. (do a feed before we went, and leave before the next feed was due). This was my rule, they never asked, I just thought they wouldn't appreciate it.
Point taken. That was very considerate of you, but I wonder what would have happened had you stayed to feed. I imagine it could be an inconvenience to only leave the restaurant to feed.
by Vee
I don't know if they'd say anything but I know they tick people off for other things (they're a little like the soup nazi in Seinfeld, but the food is amazing!!).
Haha. I understand then why you'd want to avoid ticking them off! Food is very, very important.
by Vee
Many mums do it, and it definitely is not a problem.
I think it's quite alright to breastfeed in public. I've seen it plenty of times and simply turn away.
Why do you turn away ?
by fran.
I don't see why not. In fact, most parents rooms are about as welcoming as a public toilet - they generally have a public toilet attached to them which is so not where I would want to feed my baby. When he was up to a year old, I would feed him wherever I was, covering up if possible so as not to make others uncomfortable. Now that he's a bit older, I only breastfeed him at night, so he has drinks and snacks when we're out. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding in public, actually I think the Australian Breastfeeding Association has put out a poster which says "I don't complain about you eating your lunch" with a gorgeous baby attached to the breast. Weird that another parent would have a problem with it.
I haven't seen that poster. What a good one! It seems that everyone who has commented has mentioned the fact that they would cover up out of respect for those who would be uncomfortable with it, but people, some women in particular have no problem dressing immodestly even when when it may offend others. I think there's such a double standard. It's ok when we try to be sexy, but when our 'working breasts' are on show, then we must be careful not to offend others. Im sure that those who have a problem with breastfeeding mothers don't complain about scantily clad women in adverts, television or out and about.
by Vee
Oh, I forgot to mention that I am with you on the parents' room being as inviting as a public restroom. A good one is hard to come by.
by Vee
Absolutely it is, and the right to do it is protected by law in Australia and many othet countries. In nearly 5 straight years of breastfeeding I reckon I've heard all the arguments dozens of times. To folks who say we should just use a bottle when in public you probably don't realise what you are asking. Not all women are able to express milk at all and those who can might not be able to get out anywhere near as much milk that way. If I express it takes me a couple of days to get enough for one feed. Why should a busy Mum have to waste that much of her time because somebody won, t use their neck muscles and look away? And don't ask ys to use a cover if we don't want to. I wouldn't want to eat with a blanket over my head, especially in the summer heat, and neither do my kids.
I think its absolutely fine to breastfeed in public as well as being necessary and natural. I'm yet to encounter anyone saying anything to me when I breastfeed and my youngest son is definitely not one to be covered up. When I have tried, he just pulls the cover off and makes a huge fuss, so now I don't try. There's been improvements in parents rooms but unfortunately not many have made the connection that places full of dirty nappies might need cleaning more often, and so even the rooms themselves are pleasant, I'm not feeding my child in a room akin to a toilet. A friend of mine once got asked to move along in a shopping centre after security recieved a complaint. She stood her ground, quoted the legal stuff and won her battle. The fact is its feeding time, it shouldn't be a battle.
Good on your friend! Thanks for your input. :)
by Vee
REALLY in the 21 Century we are still having to ask this question?
Can we feed our children in public. It's like something out of the dark ages.
The answer should always be if you don't like it then don't bloody look.

Well said.
by Vee
Yes it is absolutely fine to breast feed in public.
I think it is OK. I don't think it is OK for women to get defensive and aggressive if people look though. I mean it is OK to look if women have revealing, low cut tops on, so it should make no difference if there is a baby attached - that shouldn't stop men looking. If YOU think it a liberty for people to be able to view your boobs, then don't display them - in any circumstance.
There's looking and there's staring. I don't think it's okay for men to openly leer at women's cleavage when they aren't feeding a baby either. There's a line.

I don't mind if people look for a moment or so, but an adult openly staring would be creepy. Fortunately that's never happened to me anyway. I've had children watch, which is normal curiosity and fine with me.
Yes, but with such great facilities provided by the shopping centres where the mother can sit down in comfort, not be bothered by the madding crowd and change nappy, I question the need to breastfeed in public. I always went to the mother's room to be more comfortable.
I understand but, like others have said, the mother's rooms are not always comfortable, or clean. I suppose it comes down to personal preference.
by Vee
Some places have parents' rooms, others still don't. I visited Hungry Jacks (not somewhere I'd normally go since they don't sell anything I can eat but the little ones have been begging me to visit the playground there) the other day and there is not only no parents' room but not even a change table in the loo. When there is one sometimes they smell like poo..

It's nice having the option of a good parents' room, but that's what it is- an option, not a requirement. That you personally feel more comfortable in the parents' room doesn't mean all women would. Personally I find it disrupts my day pointlessly and wastes time having to go to the parents' room when I could just feed my child in the cafe or wherever I am. I often feed with my child while wearing him in a baby carrier, which means I can do it while shopping or running errands. I would not get anywhere near as much done if I had to stop what I was doing and go to a whole other location just to feed him.
Good point. Feed could e over and done with in the same time that you find the parents room. It could definitely be an inconvenience.
by Vee
Yes you can breast feed in public. People should grow up.
Ofcourse it is.I love the ad where women show the faces of people staring at them by using a mirror in places where they get stared at.
I haven't seen it. Do you think I could view it on youtube?
by Vee
Yeah this is the link.It is quite powerful.Its in Hindi.
by Sasha
Yes! I was thinking of that video when I read one of the comments above suggesting it is womens' fault if men leer at their breasts. Stay classy, men.
Wow. I like very much.
by Vee
YES, for those who answer no maybe the question to them should be "Is it OK to breath in public" Life should always be about nurturing the young and educating the young. Simply put thos ewho object also need the education. Signed off by a grandfather of eleven.
I don't fuss when women wear tops that expose 80% of their boobs, so I don't expect any advice on what I do with mine.
Cover UP? My kids used to rip the cover off. They liked to sight see while feeding and on occasion even tried "Take away" [ This involves holding on with your teeth while you whip your head around to see what's going on}. NOt pleasant for Mummy.
'Take-away'! Haha, but I know the pain! I would cry in shock and pain and Bub would scream the house down as a result.
by Vee
Ha! Yes, mine have been known to do that too. Once my daughter tried to jump down from my lap without detatching first. I think my scream may have been audible from space.
Oh gosh! Haha. I was so afraid my little one would bite my nipple clean off that I dreamt about it.
by Vee
they don't tell you about this before you have babies.
by lynne
In fact, I had lots of older ladies stop and tell me how lovely it was to see people breastfeeding. So good for the babies etc.

I don't see why not. Just make sure you're discreet enough not to disturb others.
Yes Jennifer there is a big difference between looking and openly staring - but not a great, big difference. I expect most people look at breasts that are obviously on display via low cut dresses or tops and a lot of times those voyeurs are giggling, smirking. A lot of times those "lookers" are laughing about people being exhibitionists. I think they just behave in the same manner no matter how, or for what reason the breasts are on display. People should grow up - but I don't see a lot of evidence of that occurring. So, you either don't mnid being seen or you do.
I have no problem with women breastfeeding in public. I myself have done it, though I personally am not comfortable doing it. I had a breast apron and still wasn't comfortable.
While dining at a restaurant with my inlaws, I was asked to breastfeed outside to which I said the restauranter I wouldn't. He was not particularly friendly and we've never been back to Basil's again.
I don't mean to be rude, but sounds like Basil is a douche. In Australia, your right to breastfeed anytime and anywhere is protected by law. I say you go back and if he says anything to you, you tell him so. Check out the link: https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bf-info/breastfeeding-and-law/legalright
by Vee
It was so long ago now but I definitely wouldn've done that in hindsight.
These days if a restauranteur or shop owner tries something like that they open themselves up to having a dozen or so angry women staging a nurse in at/outside their establishment.
Angry was probably not the right word there. You can't really breastfeed angrily. It's a very peaceful form of protest.
Yes! it's perfectly okay.
People who object this are the ones with sick & dirty motive.How many of these people who object this would like to grab hold of these breast & suck on them.It's like a 'sour grapes ' story. If you don't like it then don't look at it. In so called 3rd world all mothers do breastfeeding in public if they have to & nobody bats an eye.
It isn't always a case of other people objecting to people breastfeeding. Breastfeeding in public isn't all that very, very common. In 2014 lots and lots of people do do it, but lots and lots of people don't do it. If you are comfortable doing it, then go ahead and do it. But don't complain about people who either look or stare. People look or stare at women with low cut or plunging necklines. The more on show, results in (usually) the more they look. How the women that breastfeed in private cope or manage I don't know. Maybe their babies are all suffering malnutrition and are in hospital on IV feeds.
It doesn't matter if restaurant owners ask you to leave, if there is no notice on the door stating the fact that they don't approve, you simply either ignore them or get up and leave. I can't see them wrestling you to the ground and trying to evict you and baby. You just do whatever you want to do. Lobby for rest rooms, designated baby feeding areas with no toilet attached to them. When out to dinner with the in-laws, ask if the restaurant might have a quiet corner away from the noisy table, that you could maybe utilise. People usually oblige positively when approached. Just stop the aggressive manner. Remember there are mother natures out there that are more exhibitionist than nurturers, you are not one of them, and you probably don't want to come across as a whinged either.
If there was a notice on the door of a restaurant saying they didn't approve they'd be openly in violation of the anti discrimination act and could be fined. You do see places with signs that say they support breastfeeding (the ABA gives out stickers) but it doesn't follow that places that don't have the sticker don't allow breastfeeding. That would be against the law.

Yeah, they're probably not going to wrestle you to the ground, though I have heard of cases where staff made a huge scene and made it very uncomfortable for the breastfeeding woman to try and finish her meal, or even reduced her to tears. A woman should never be made to feel uncomfortable just for feeding her baby. That is not okay, and it does matter. If it were any other type of discrimination would you advise the victim to just ignore it or leave? What if staff decided they were uncomfortable seeing a gay couple or an interracial couple eating together? Is it all right for them to just put a sign on the door saying they don't like your kind in their establishment?

Standing up for your rights doesn't make you a "whinger" or an exhibitionist. You can be relegated to quiet corner if you want to. I would rather just go about my business like everybody else does.

I must say I really appreciate Shane's comment. Quite educational. So now all those mothers with the urge to breastfeed in public, know exactly what is on the minds of people that object. They are really contemplating assaulting the mother and assuming the baby's position at the breast. Now that's a comfort.
Who would have thought......it's really an envy thing.

I agree with it. I just think that it needs to fall under some sort of public etiquette. Letting it all hang out as if we were common animals is not appropriate. I am embarrassed to look at someone cause if I am spotted looking I am deemed to be a villain. The same principle is applicable to baby girls (toddlers) walking around naked in public. As a man I feel I need to go elsewhere otherwise I might be regarded as a pedophile if I look in that direction. Breastfeeding all good - do it with style. Cover up with linen/blankie etc. Simply respect other people, especially men and boys.
Interesting thoughts there herbe. Thanks for sharing. What then do you make of the whole double standard with 'sexy boobies' and 'working boobies', as discussed above?
by Vee
If you use that logic it would seem that double standards do apply to men urinating in someone's view...even behind a tree etc. Is that a problem? yes it is. Even if men cover up during such an event woman are disgusted (men too) Men do not display portions of their penis as a fashion statement. Men wear a tie, yet they can unashamedly open their shirts up to their trousers if they want to, but they don't. Women do. That can be sexy. Having sexy boobs working..is sexy as well?? Being treated as a perv for noticing a breastfeeding woman is not the reaction expected by the "witness". It seems that looking at a woman breastfeeding her baby is not received as well as watching non working boobs, now suddenly the same boobs are sacred?? Treat working boobs and "sexy" boobs the same. I would expect woman to have a need for privacy during breastfeeding. Burping, farting etc etc is just not acceptable in public. Breast feeding obviously does not fall in that category...but being found looking at a breast feeding mother does fall under that category. And respecting that men look (woman too) cover up and all is good. If majority rules than I would expect BF mothers understand that men (and women) feel awkward. Even BF mothers tell their kids not to stare at other BF mothers...
by herbe
Firstly, I don't believe that penises and breasts should be equated, or can be equated (if I have understood you correctly). The female equivalent, to the penis, is the vagina. Breasts, unlike the vagina, are intrinsically asexual - they serve no sexual purpose. They are purely functional. They are only as sexual as we make them. A woman breastfeeding is not sexual. It's necessarily functional – a woman feeding her baby. I don’t think it should be treated any differently to a woman bottle-feeding her baby in public. Urinating in public is functional, yes, but it involves excreting waste and an inherently sexual organ – the penis (or vagina). The two are not comparable.

Secondly, I personally do not have a problem with people having a look, so long as the look is respectful. For me, the sight of a woman breastfeeding is wonderful, and it literally brings a smile to my face. Not because I have an attraction to breasts, but because it is an act that sustains and nurtures the mother/child relationship.

I believe the problem lies with those who find themselves uncomfortable in the presence of the breast-feeding mother as well as with the hyper-sexualised culture that has led to this discomfort.

I don't know if you have seen the episode of 'Friends' wherein Ross' ex-wife breastfeeds their son. Anyway, Ross' friends, Joey and Chandler leave the room. When Ross confronts them, he asks why they are uncomfortable at the sight of Ben being breastfed. 'This is the most natural beautiful thing in the world,' insists Ross. Joey answers, 'Yeah, we know, but there's a baby suckin' on it.'

Like Joey and Chandler, we live in a society where breasts have become so sexualised that we cannot see beyond their ‘sexiness’ to the intrinsically beautiful and functional purpose they serve – to nourish and sustain our young. Like Joey and Chandler, we have allowed our perceptions of breasts and breastfeeding to be hijacked.

Men and women should not feel uncomfortable when ‘confronted’ with a breastfeeding woman, just as they would not feel uncomfortable at the sigh of a woman bottle-feeding her baby. Though I concede that reality is not how it ‘should’ be. If a man is caught looking at a woman breastfeeding, there’s little doubt in my mind that people would assume he was a pervert. Why do people not assume that the man may be a father, who can appreciate the efforts of the mother in question? Because the culture in which we live has so sexualised breasts and the way men ‘should’ perceive breasts, that we assume if a man is looking at breasts then he must be sexually aroused and/or a pervert.

‘Having sexy boobs working..is sexy as well??’ Not sure what you mean here. Working boobs, i.e. breastfeeding boobs, are sexy as well? If this is what you mean, then what I’ve said above emphasises my point. Our response to breasts must be appropriate to the context in which they are on show.

Does this make sense? I understand what you are saying, and I agree with you. There are particular assumptions and judgements that are made about men/boys watching/looking at a woman breastfeeding. But instead of attaching a stigma to the act of breastfeeding, or having women cover up, shouldn’t we demand better? Shouldn’t we demand that people not assume that all men are perverts if they look? Shouldn’t we demand that men are just as capable as women of appreciating the close bond between a mother and her child? Shouldn’t we demand that women have the right to feed their children how, when and where they choose?

by Vee
Herbe, I'm sorry that I made you feel guilty. That wasn't my intention.
by Vee
I agree with herbe BUT if you are comfortable feeding your baby in public, then you should certainly go ahead and do whatever makes you happy. I believe that if you were not comfortable doing it, you just plain old wouldn't do it. I think that if you wear low cut dresses and tops, or miniskirts you do that for a reason. Either to bring attention to yourself or you believe it is a bloke magnet. Whatever, the outcome, the aim is to attract the eye of (usually) the opposite sex. I can't see how blokes can automatically "turn off" the attraction when a baby is attached.
There are also a lot of women out there, mothers, that seem to think that they are trend setters with this very basic function. Breastfeeding in public is accepted the world over, certainly in all third world countries except for some with religious objections.
So, if you personally don't mind exposure, I don't think you will get any objections from the blokes of your world.
Vee and Fran

I am for Breast feeding where ever and when ever. My issue is and remains what Vee points out and it will not change in society. Breast are not asexual. If they were simply functional we would not have topless swimmers at the beach removed due to indecent exposure.
There is nothing wrong with Breast feeding in public. What is wrong is the reaction from the BF mothers to people staring/looking/admiring/perving and the subsequent guilt felt by the observer. The observer is classified a pervert as would any man sitting next to an underaged girl in an aeroplane. Society has taught us to vilify men on an instant and with perceptions of sexual monsters. If society accepts that boobs are not attractions but working glands, then I suppose the cosmetic boob enhancement business will be upset. Woman line up to get their boobs sorted out. BF mums will eventually get their silicone implants and lifts to get their sexuality back. I think I made it clear. Vee your comments make me feel guilty again...you are part of that society that you describe, so am I.
by herbe
Again, herbe, I'm sorry as that was not my intention. And, for the record, I would never have mine 'enhanced'. I wear my saggy breasts as I would a badge of honour.
by Vee
I agree with everything Herbe says. Breasts are definitely not asexual.
Also, Vee I thought that women is Australia already had the right to breastfeed wherever and whenever they choose to. Didn't think they needed to DEMAND that right anymore. Don't know how you DEMAND that men/boys who look at breastfeeding women aren't considered pervs or anything else. I think your attitude is very typical of so many "mother earths" out there.
It is a matter of personal choice.

fran, I don't think it's a matter of 'demanding' the right to breastfeed where ever and whenever we like. Perhaps what I should have said is, we are in a position where we must demand to be able to breastfeed where ever and whenever we need to without being targeted and abused by insensitive and disrespectful people - like I was that day at the shop. I was humiliated. Nobody has the right to make anyone feel that way for feeding their child.
by Vee
Why are we even talking about this natural action.
I doubt that there would be many people who would care and if they did we should just laugh it off.
We're talking about it because some people fail to understand the naturalness of breastfeeding. Perhaps many people don't care, but the two that targeted me certainly did, and I was humiliated and in no state to laugh it off. Unfortunately, I saw red and it upset me quite a lot. Perhaps, I should simply laugh it off.
by Vee
They are the ones with a problem you are the person with a hungry baby.
Just direct them the isle that sells prunes. That will fix their problem.
by kstew
kstew, I like that. I like that very much! Thanks. :)
by Vee
Absolutely yes. In any case there are not always suitable places to take a baby. There are many places without parent rooms anyway. I remember feeding my baby at a sheep show, there was nowhere to go so I sat down on a bale and draped a cloth over the two of us. Although no one could see anything I did get some funny looks. Too bad!
That's it! Good on you Liz H. :)
by Vee
I certainly think it is OK to breast feed in public. It however should be done tactfully.
by kimp
Never did. Would feel very uncomfortable having to bf in public. My choice.

If I see it being done in public, mum & bub are not normally sitting next to me, so it does not concern me. Their choice.
I think it is OK but I believe you should cover yourself with a scarf as some people might feel uncomfortable otherwise and there is no need to feed without a scarf.
by Finy
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