This article is not written as one who has ever had occasion to breastfeed in public (or anywhere for that matter), but rather as a person who owns a set of boobs.
I read recently that the Town of Doylestown near where I live has passed a law prohibiting shop and restaurant owners from asking a woman to cover up or leave an establishment if she is feeding her child.
I feel that this is a good thing.
Breasts are one of many areas where American mentality has gone a bit off the rails. This part of the female body has become so hyper sexualized in our culture that when a woman is using them for their intended, biological purpose this is somehow considered offensive to people. However, boobs do not actually exist for titillation – they are, in point of fact, a feeding device. When a woman is using them for this purpose there should not be anything awkward or sexual about that, it’s just a baby eating. It’s sweet, and beautiful, and natural – yes, all those things. But it is nothing whatsoever to be uncomfortable about.
I know all the arguments: Why can’t she put a blanket over herself? Why can’t she go into a ladies restroom to do that? I don’t want to see that!
First of all yes, many women do use a blanket or cover and it works fine for them. However many women have infants that will just not eat that way. I can’t blame them, would you want to duck under a stuffy blanket to eat lunch?
As for the bathroom – um, gross. Same argument here, would you eat lunch in a bathroom? A baby is a human being just like you. Granted it’s a small, messy and socially awkward human being but I for one wouldn’t demand that a baby do something I wouldn’t be willing to do myself.
As for not wanting to see such things, that’s fine too. Don’t look. I give the same answer to people who bleat about not wanting to see fat people in general or not wanting to see arms like mine in sleeveless shirts. Feel free not to look, my friend. You control where your eyes go.
These women are not closet exhibitionists, they’re perfectly average everyday people who know that a baby does not wait patiently when it’s hungry – it becomes increasingly loud and demanding until it’s needs are met. It will in fact annoy the crap out of everyone around it until it gets what it wants. The mother does not want you to be impressed by her boobs, she isn’t thinking about you at all, she just wants to get her child fed and ease its discomfort as quickly as possible. Simple as that.
This is not a question of modesty. Immodest is wearing a peek-a-boo bra or a skirt so short your cheeks are dangling out. Girls do wear those things sometimes to look impressive, and expect people to be impressed when they do. However, there is nothing immodest or indecent about a breast with a baby attached to it. This situation is not sexual in any way, shape or form – and Americans are seriously overdue in adjusting their mentality to this fact.
So to that end, I offer some advice:
I understand that we don’t see boobs often when they’re not on a screen or on the body of someone we’re very familiar with. So when someone you either don’t know well or don’t know at all pulls them out in your vicinity it can be a little startling. You may glance, and then feel bad about the fact that you glanced. It’s okay. Glancing is hard not to do since it’s a reflex, its standing and staring that’s awkward, unwanted and creepy.
If you are having a conversation with a woman and she starts to feed her child, don’t freak out. If she didn’t want to continue her conversation with you while doing this she would have left the room. The same rules in this situation apply as normal: you look her in the face and continue talking. You wouldn’t stare at her breasts otherwise, so why do it now?
Take a deep breath, smile, relax, and go about your day. I promise it won’t hurt you, it’s just a baby eating.