Feb 16 2012

Hassled for Bf-ing in Public– Have you been?

Published by at 2:41 am under Breastfeeding,Parenting

From The Natural Parent Magazine

Mother of two and blog contributor Cheryl Butler from Ottawa, posted this on the mamanaturale Facebook wall:

Just wondering… I found/find Ottawa to be VERY pro-breastfeeding. From the time baby comes out (I never, ever heard the word “formula” from any nurse I dealt with, either time), right through the whole 14 months I breastfed. Everywhere I nursed in public I never thought twice about it, I also never got any of the “looks” I hear people talk about. Is it really that different outside Ottawa? Just a thought I had because I noticed at sign at the swimming pool where the kids take lessons that reads “This pool is breastfeeding friendly”. Never noticed it before, but had breastfed there many times before and see MANY women bf’ing there every class. No one bats an eye.

What a great discussion. Thank you, Cheryl for posting this and inspiring this blog post.

In case it wasn’t blatantly obvious, I am a HUGE advocate for breastfeeding in public. It is something I do regularly, not always because I’m trying to prove a point, but usually because sometimes when I’m out and about, my baby gets hungry.

From Respect The Breast

Though she’s almost a year and eating solids, breastfeeding is the most nutritious and convenient thing I can offer her. She doesn’t always want to breastfeed when we are out, because there are usually more interesting things for her to do. But still, I offer.

I have run through (over and over) a fantasy dialogue of what I would say to someone who had the gall to tell me what I was doing was inappropriate. Or bad. Or dirty. Or wrong. My blood boils just thinking about it.

Realistically, however, (getting back to Cheryl’s question) no one has ever actually said anything to me. There are horror stories that prompt glorious nurse-ins like the one at Target stores and the one at Complexe Les Ailes here in Montreal. And I know there are scary attitudes out there.

Just this weekend I got into an annoying back-and-forth with a friend of a friend–on Facebook of course– who actually compared public breastfeeding to using the toilet in public and having sex in public. Oh, and smoking in public. I don’t really understand what this woman was talking about, but these people are out there. If you’re one of these people, grow up.

While we know the “public perception of breastfeeding in public is… fill in the blank)” I can’t say it’s something I have personally had to deal with. And I’m the breastfeed-wherever-you-are-type, too. I never reserved public breastfeeding for safe spots like swimming lessons or play group. I have breastfed openly at H&M, Ikea, coffee shops and every jazz club in Montreal.

While I believe a woman has the right to cover herself and her baby if that’s how she is comfortable, it’s not something I choose to do. I feel it’s unnecessary and that it helps perpetuate the idea that breastfeeding is weird or bad. Or dirty. I am not shy and do my best to normalize public breastfeeding in any way I can. One of those ways is refusing to cover up. But I also used to work as a nude art model, (for perspective on where my comfort level is with the human body.) Some people are so shy that it’s a miracle they’re breastfeeding in public at all. Let’s not give them grief for feeding their babies.

Seriously speaking the only time anyone ever questioned HOW I was feeding my baby was when I tried purchasing a bottle for my two-week-old. What’s more, I personally have judged women bottle-feeding in public with my eyes, not my speech. That’s me being honest…

So, mamas. Has anyone ever said anything to you or looked at you with hate in their eyes because they “caught” you breastfeeding in public? What did you say or do? Or, are you like me, with a speech prepared for that fateful day? What does your speech sound like?

5 responses so far

  • Cheryl

    Great post! Ya, I was wondering, just because I know Ottawa is pretty pro-breasfeeding. Other than swimming lessons, I too bf’d everywhere. Boston Pizza, walking through the mall, SENS games, even walking through Winterlude last year (where a woman actually came up to me and said “Great job! I just finished bf’ing mine!”). I’m pretty argumentative, so I too had some quick witted remarks prepared incase I was ever approached with negativity, but never came up. I think that most people don’t mind or even care about seeing a mother breastfeed. It’s just that people that feel strongly in either direction (pro or against) seem to speak their minds the strongest and loudest on the subject.

  • Enza

    I once breastfed at Mont Royal and got some looks but nothing serious and I just looked at them back so they would feel uncomfortable. Jenn you have a very interesting past with the nude modeling, song writer and singer what else do you have up ur sleeve??? Ur very intriguing :-)

    Great post!!!

  • http://desiraer.com Desirae Rasmussen (@desirae_r)

    I normally stay away from this whole debate. Mostly because I feel both sides are being silly about.

    You know I am pro-breastfeeding, so I hope I don’t get some backlash from this reply.

    I personally have never had anyone actually say anything to me about breastfeeding in public. Sure I have gotten a couple looks, but hey, when I had bright red hair or pranced around in my bright yellow fleece pants when I was younger I got looks. I have not breastfed in Canada. However, while there I was asked by stranger why I was not breastfeeding. Most of my friends in Canada have breastfed, and as far as I know have never had problems in public.

    I personally think that they few times that there is a problem it get blown up all over the media. I honestly don’t think this is something that is happnening all the time. There are always going to be those how are against something or uncomfortable about something and speak up. That is just life. Does that mean it needs to be a huge issue worth so much attention. I think not.

    A common thing I read is about how mothers want to normalize breastfeeding in public. Well that is fine, but perhaps it already is. Mothers should just do it. AND not make a big deal about it. Isn’t the whole thing about being normal is that it is not a big deal? By drawing so much attention to the issue are we not making it something that is not normal, that is should be deemed special. Why on earth are we drawing so much attention to something we want to be understood as a normal everyday thing?

    Here, where breastfeeding is normalize, if one where to make a big deal about breastfeed, and where they breastfeed she would probably be thought to be someone who just wants attention. Here you just breastfeed, no big deal.

    It is a shame that a few woman are asked to cover up, but I honestly have never met one.

    I hope this makes sense, I am completely dead on my feet! This first trimester is kicking my butt!

    • Cheryl

      I agree

  • http://katery.wordpress.com/ katery

    i didn’t breastfeed but if i ever hear someone giving someone else a hassle about breastfeeding in public, i like to imagine that i would step in and give them holy hell. how can you compare going to the bathroom to feeding your child? it is absolutely ridiculous and no one should have to feel uncomfortable breastfeeding ever. honestly, is there anything more natural and beautiful than being able to feed your child with your own body?