Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Lately, there has been a lot of controversy about breastfeeding in public thanks to a situation with the city of Moncton and a woman who runs a booth at the farmer's market there*.  I have strong feelings about breastfeeding, so I thought I would share.

I breastfeed Ella.  I have spent countless hours feeding her.  And I need to tell you something - I strongly dislike it.  Here is a snippet of what breastfeeding Ella includes for me:

  • Waking up 1-2-3-4+ times a night, just to feed her.  If I had chosen to formula feed, she may have been sleeping through the night earlier (as I understand it, the formula is heavier and sits in their stomachs longer), plus Dave could be the one to get up to feed her sometimes instead of it always being me.
  • Stopping whatever I am doing to feed her when she is hungry.  She is on a schedule, but changes in our usual routines, growth spurts, and other events frequently mean that I must stop whatever I am doing to feed her instead.
  • Having to cover up while she is eating.  Many people think this is the solution to breastfeeding in public, but there are three main issues:
    • Ella hates it.  She just tries to push the cover away, or eat it instead of what she should be eating.
    • It's hot in the summer!  I feel bad putting it on her.
    • It isn't foolproof and still garners the same amount of attention that feeding without a cover does.
  • Feeding her in annoying places like in a car (which is extremely uncomfortable), in a restaurant when lots of people are around, on toilets in bathroom stalls, and other uncomfortable places.
  • Having to come home from work just so I can feed her.  I work 3 mornings a week, and sometimes I will get a text from Dave that tells me I need to come home early just because she is hungry.
  • Having to leave church so I can go feed her.  I cannot tell you how many sermons I have missed since she was born.
  • Pain - pain at first when my breasts were getting used to it, pain when they are too full, pain when she bites them, pain when she isn't latched properly.  It isn't comfortable.
So why do I feed her?
  • It's healthy for her.  All the literature suggests that it is easier for her to digest, will protect and fight diseases, and will lower her chances of allergies.
  • It's healthy for me.  Breast cancer runs in my family.  I heard a figure on the radio the other day that young mothers who breastfeed are half as likely to get breast cancer than women who never have children or don't breastfeed.
  • It's cheap.  Other than for filling my stomach with an extra 500 calories a day it is free.  Formula isn't.
  • It's ready when she is (as long as I am ready).  No preparing a bottle.
  • I forget everything, I don't have to worry about forgetting my boobs.
  • It's good bonding time for Ella and I.
Here's the thing - I am all for modesty, and I am self-conscious about my body.  Despite the issues with it, I always cover up in public.  But even while covering up, I am sure people have probably accidentally seen too much.  And I really don't judge mothers who don't cover up, because they are feeding their babies, it is unbelievably natural.

I think instead of getting upset at women, let's get upset at business owners who aren't providing adequate spaces for women to breastfeed, or for babies to be changed.  I think that would help a lot (I know it would make me feel more comfortable).  Just to be clear though, even if those spaces were located in all businesses, I do not feel that women should be required to use them.  Take it from me, being relegated somewhere to feed your baby while the rest of your group is enjoying themselves is unfair and will make a woman be all the more bitter about breastfeeding.

As far as I can tell, mine and Dave's nipples have the exact same sexual component**.  Mine just perform another more natural function as well. I am very perplexed as to why people get so upset when women don't cover up while feeding their babies, but men who have the same sized boobs as I do get to mow their lawns with their shirts off and their beer bellies hanging out.

But that's just my opinion.

*Rumours have gone around that this woman would continue to bare her breasts while not feeding her baby.  As far as I can tell these rumours have not been quantified so I am not speaking to that part of the issue at all, but solely breastfeeding in public.

**Please be aware that this will link you to cosmo's website.  I don't like or follow Cosmopolitan at all usually, but I figured since they seem to be the number one source for all sexual information in this culture, their information can be trusted (?) in this matter.

Please Note: I bear no ill will towards mothers who don't BF.  I understand that some mothers can't or don't want to BF their babies, and that is totally their decision, and I support it.


  1. I did my undergrad thesis on reactions to breastfeeding and I'm quite opinionated on the issue. People DO respond differently to breastfeeding than to bottle-feeding, and I'm sure the implications of this (i.e., not going out in public to avoid a reaction) is one of the main reasons women decide to stop breastfeeding. I have nothing against bottle-feeding, but if a mom chooses to breastfeed, she should not have to deal with ill-informed-yet-opinionated people on top of everything else she's dealing with.

    I can't wait for the day, if God graces me with it, when someone says something about breastfeeding in public to Courtney. I'll go bonkers.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree. Although I fully support breastfeeding, I am always very conscious and do not want to offend others by breastfeeding, so am wary to do so in public. When Ella was first born, I would go to the washroom to feed her in restaurants, until my sister told me that was ridiculous but even now my only concern with it is what others will think of me doing it.

      And that is really interesting about your thesis! What a great topic!

  2. "I don't have to worry about forgetting my boobs."
    This might be my favourite line I've read on a blog for a long time! :)

    1. Yippee! If I had to remember them everywhere I went, Ella would always be hungry, haha.

  3. Great post. I have been breast feeding for 2 years now and have been feeding both Capri and Payson for 7 weeks. I have gotten really good at breast feeding in public without a cover. I found having a good nursing tank top most helpful.

    I hope things get better. It is not fun when it feels like a chore.

    1. I can't wait to be good at nursing without a cover. I am still very clumsy even with a cover! I hope I improve at some point!

      No, it isn't fun. But despite the fact it feels like a chore, it is most definitely worth it, and I am sure that when I no longer BF I will definitely miss it.

    2. I usually don't cover up but just put a blanket across the top of my breast so my boob doesn't show, but the blanket is not over her head. Much easier.

  4. I know I wrote this on your Facebook wall, but I should leave you some comment crack too. Since I pretty much spilled my mind already, I'll copy and paste. :)

    1. Women should not feel the need to go somewhere else (a designated room, a washroom stall, away from prying eyes) to nurse. You're right, it does alienate the mother - but not only that, it takes breastfeeding away from the public eyes, therefore making it unnormal. Other women should see mothers breastfeeding so that when their time comes it is normal to the to do it. (This Sunday I breastfed in the middle of the church service. Gavin was super loud but I did cover up. I hope no one complains to Nolan!)

    2. Everyone "thinks" they support breastfeeding in public, but by telling a woman to cover up, they are not actually being supportive. They are propagating the notion that there is something about nursing that needs to be hidden. Until the world starts having a problem with the breasts that are shown in media and heck, even on the street in the summer, no one should have any right to tell women that they should cover up.

    I think normalizing breastfeeding is the key. If that means more nurse-ins and less cover-ups, I'm all for that.

    1. I actually read it here first!

      You are right about your comments. It is funny, after I had Ella (and even now somewhat), I realized that I didn't have any memories of seeing someone breastfeeding out in public (at a restaurant or whatnot), I am not sure if I just didn't notice or if it just doesn't happen that much. I have always wanted to breastfeed in church, but am a little concerned about the reaction (especially since I work there!)

      I was reading the comments on the CBC's article and I realized how much of ou population really doesn't support breastfeeding, going as far as saying it is bad manners. I cannot understand how feeding a baby is bad manners (they compared it to chewing with your mouth open, etc). I think our society needs a huge opinion shift on this matter.

    2. Ugh. Now I'm reading all the comments. I is mad.

    3. That was silly! You shouldn't have done that!

  5. I am most offended when people compare breastfeeding in public to sex... or defecating... really? Breastfeeding is like POOPING?

    You will get better, although it might take you until your second baby to get really good. I always nursed Eli in private, away from other people. I didn't even own a cover until he was a bit older and I was shy. Plus he was not good at nursing, it was a battle to get him latched on for a long time.

    Theo? I nursed everywhere. I used a cover when he was little but from about 3-4 months on I stopped. I just always wear a tank top under my shirt so that I can pull my shirt up, the tank down, and nobody sees anything :) But that's a personal decision on my part and I don't think anybody should feel required to do that.

    It does irk me a bit when women feel a need to push the breastfeeding agenda to a point of offending people. Yes, some people will always be offended by breastfeeding and we should have laws that protect us from those morons. But let's be honest - some women DO make a bigger deal out of being obvious (and nekked!) than they need to.

    At any rate, I will continue to breastfeed my future babies in public, but discretely. I do not think I would put up with anyone asking me to leave or cover up :) A lot of the time (with Theo anyway) people didn't even realize I was nursing him until they tried to peek at his face - now that's an awkward moment.

  6. Weighing in here - with fear and trembling....The dilemma culturally in North America and Europe is that primarily female breasts are associated with sex, whereas in other parts of the world, they are primarily seen as functional. This does not mean that there are not cultural taboos about public breastfeeding even in places where the functional idea is the norm, i.e. women are unable to breastfeed in the company of men, however, generally, it is seen as well, just life in most of the world. (Here I would also like to say that in North America and Europe what women wear is markedly different so as to make breastfeeding publically more challenging - i.e. tight clothing vs. the loose clothing worn in many countries where breastfeeding is part of a normative routine either public or private). So without looking at all the comments from the CBC radio show, it boils down to these two things for me: Sex and function. When talking about breastfeeding, it seems to me that both these things are in play. We are sexual beings, created for enjoyment as well as pro-creation(a lovely word I think). Banning public breastfeeding reduces us to only one part of that equation - sexual beings, with no function other than being sexual. Not a surprise in this day-and-age, I suppose, but it's an idea which should be vigorously opposed, IMHO and is what you are doing with this blog Amy. That being said, I do think that public breastfeeding is to be encouraged in a way that allows as many as possible to be comfortable, including the mother and child and in full recognition of the dual nature of our bodies.

  7. I have nursed Emelia in public from the time she was born (discreetly, usually with a cover), and I have never been made to feel outright uncomfortable. I guess I am pretty fortunate! In fact, I would nurse anytime, anywhere without really wondering if it was ok. I once nursed in a smaller country church during the service, after which I learned that was a very "riske" thing to do in that congregation, but no one said anything!

    I have noticed, however, that I am getting more self-conscious nursing in public as she gets older (16 months now) and she is walking and talking. She mostly nurses before bedtime and naptime, so we don't often nurse in public these days, but I feel like as much as people think/say they are okay with breastfeeding in public (whether or not they really are!), there is definitely even less acceptance of nursing older babies/toddlers, even with the recommendations by Health Canada/WHO of benefits in nursing to 2 years old. I have been encouraged by your post, Amy, and those who have commented to not be self-conscious about breastfeeding (even a toddler) in public places! How can it become normal, if people don't see it happening!

  8. I am nursing my second baby right now and he hates a nursing cover. I didn't really use it that much in the beginning so when I tried to use it he was flapping his arms like crazy. Forget nursing in public. It would be a free show for all! It is really hard to nurse (and I am trying to nurse for a year.)It is time consuming for sure!


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