I was lucky when my girls were little. We lived abroad. Over in Asia, no one ever said a thing to me about breastfeeding in public. Because I was a stranger living in a strange land, I always got pointed at for being different, which is why I opted to use a cover because people would stare at me no matter what I was doing.
It turns out that some of my best breastfeedings in public experiences were in China though where, as little as they know about it (often giving misinformation to new moms in the hospitals, such as telling them to give babies water to drink), they were very kind.
When my eldest was only 8 months old, we went to the Great Wall of China. On the tour, my daughter wanted her boobies. We happened to be at a gift shop and I was looking for a place to sit down so I could hold her easily.
But there was nowhere to sit, so I started to sit on the floor. One of the women behind the counter saw me and ran over to me with her stool. Another rushed over with some tea for me. I wish women in America would be that kind to each other when they’re breastfeeding.
By the way, an interesting fact here: even if you adopt, you can breastfeed your adopted baby. It’s called induced lactation. If you’re considering adopting and want to breastfeed, definitely check that out.
Is it Rude to Breastfeed in Public?
A lot of women ask this, but no, it’s not rude. What IS rude is making a mom keep her child from being fed because you have sexualized her breasts. Women that are breastfeeding aren’t there to show off their stuff. They’re just trying to live normal lives with their kids by going out to dinner, going shopping, taking their other kids out to get some fresh air at the park, and all that jazz.
For me, I was simply more comfortable using a cover. But sometimes that doesn’t work because your baby will kick at it or pull it away.
If you have one that allows you to make eye contact with your baby though, they’ll be less likely to pull back the “curtain.” Try one of these. You can also wear nursing tank tops that make it less revealing, and certain baby carriers can make it so discreet, that no one will notice.
Is Breastfeeding in Public Legal?
As you can probably tell, I am 100% behind breastfeeding mothers, though I understand why men or even other women get flustered about the topic. We’ve been trained our whole lives that breasts are merely for show. If I go out to the beach in my tiny little bikini, no one says anything. Well, some leering men may catcall, but no one ever says, “Hey! Cover up! No one wants to see that!”
As I said I was supremely lucky to be breastfeeding in another country. No one once said anything rude to me. My husband translated for me one time when I was nursing in public that a bunch of older women who had noticed told him it was such a good thing to breastfeed.
But in the states, I’ve had many friends made to feel shame for doing something our bodies were designed to do. You shouldn’t feel ashamed. In Europe, women sunbathe topless. But here, women that breastfeed and keep things discreet still get criticized.
If you’re one that finds breastfeeding offensive, I urge you to read up on why it’s good for babies and moms too. Please be less critical. It’s a mom’s duty to feed her baby, and I certainly don’t judge you if you choose to use a bottle instead. Motherhood isn’t easy for any of us. No one is saying you need to do it too or to look at it if it bothers you.
If you’re a breastfeeding mom, know your rights. You do not need to go sit in a dirty public bathroom stall. You do not need to be shouted at by people that are ignorant on the subject. The law is on your side.
How We Should Lift Each Other Up
It’s not just breastfeeding though, is it? Sometimes it feels like women are out to get each other. What a shame that is. I try to be friendly with women I see out in public, especially other moms. Whether they’re breastfeeding or not, if their kids are crying, I give them a sympathetic look and try to offer comforting words. If I see another mom drop her baby’s blanket or toy or look like she’s about to leave something behind, I help her.
We could all do better by helping each other regardless of our stance on breastfeeding, all of us. Offer a kind smile because we don’t know what each other is going through. That frigid day in Beijing, those women didn’t speak a word of English, but they let their hearts speak. Moms for moms, that’s the way it should be. Not moms tearing each other apart for nursing or for not nursing.
Show some love because the world needs more of it, and when we do, we all make this a better place for each of our beautiful children.
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.