The Social Stigma of Breastfeeding in Public

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I read a post back in December about a woman who was harrased by a Target employee for breastfeeding her child while out Christmas shopping.

I remember being annoyed by the way this was handled by the employee and the company and sympathetic to the mother who was only trying to feed her child.

At the time, I was only a couple of months pregnant with my second child and remembered the stares I got from time to time when I would nurse my first child in public.

Normally, I was too preoccupied with my daughter and trying to stay covered up to look around and see if this was bothering anyone, but no one ever gave me any grief or trouble for breastfeeding in public before. And to be completely honest, I’m the type of person who doesn’t really care what others think. I’m going to do what I’m going to do and if you don’t like it, well tough! That’s always been my attitude towards everything. Call me hard-headed I guess.

My family loves the zoo, and we’re there just about every week. If the weather is nice and it’s my husband’s day off, it’s pretty much a given that we’ll be taking a trip to the zoo for the day. It just so happened that on yesterday’s trip fell into my son’s feeding time. I thought nothing of it and took the baby to the theatre in the lion exhibit to feed him. It was a dark room and air-conditioned. I could easily find a space out-of-the-way where I wouldn’t be bothering anyone to feed him in peace. I made my way there and found the room to be somewhat occupied by a couple of families watching clips from The Lorax.

I made my way to the back corner of the room, put on my shield, and started nursing my son. The short film ended and the families made their way on to the next exhibit. It wasn’t too long before the next group of people made their way into the theatre and took their seats. With this group were a couple of men and their children. I guess I caught their attention because the entire time, rather than watching the film or even their own children, they continually looked back at me making disgusted faces and exchanging snide remarks about how inappropriate it was what I was doing. I even heard them say, “Doesn’t she realize there are children around?”

I tried to just keep my cool and focus on the sweet little boy who has to hold my hand while he’s in my arms nursing, but these men were taking away the satisfaction I felt for providing my son the best nutrition possible. I wanted to tell them to turn around and mind their own business, but I just sat there quietly stewing over everything they said. They made me feel like I was doing something wrong. Correction, I was LETTING them make me feel like I was doing something wrong.

Eventually they left, still making snide comments and looking back at me while telling their kids not to look back at the “inappropriate” woman.

So I finished what I was doing, met up with my husband and daughter and we made our way over to the monkeys. And there before me stood the men and their kids watching two monkeys going at it. They laughed and make jokes, but never tried to get their kids to look away. In fact, they encouraged it. It’s a natural thing. So, it’s ok for their kids to watch monkeys having sex but seeing a mother nurse her child was “dirty”? Really? I think there’s something wrong with that message.

Although I don’t normally care what others think, I’m still not one for confrontation, so I kept my feelings to myself and only shared my experience with my husband when we got in the car. He knew the way those men acted wouldn’t discourage me from nursing my child in public.

I do what I do for my child and for no one else. If you don’t like it, LOOK AWAY! All too often society makes public breastfeeding seem dirty and inappropriate when in reality it’s the most natural thing.  

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