My Heart, Your Home: Public breastfeeding... why I believe it is a "problem"   

Friday, 18 January 2013

Public breastfeeding... why I believe it is a "problem"

There has been outrage in Australia today from breast feeding Mothers, well, from Mothers in general in fact, as a result of this story where a woman was asked to move herself and her feeding baby into the bathrooms or to cover up under a towel in a corner somewhere. There have been arguments for and against this woman's right to sit by the pool and breastfeed her Daughter. There have been several public comments regarding this woman, any breast feeding woman, which have now in turn, caused an online argument. 

Now, I am not going to attack these certain people who have made these ignorant comments. Because that is their opinion and so be it. But what I do what to do is talk about why it is that society is becoming so offended by the sight of a woman doing what she is naturally built to do. Why society, especially the men in our society, find breast feeding to be so repulsive. Anthony and I have been discussing this issue for the better part of the afternoon and what started out talking about the simple fact of breastfeeding, turned into situations where breastfeeding could be confronting, to plunging necklines.

I firmly believe that the reason breastfeeding in public is still a topic in todays world is because of the sexualisation of women's breast, by both men and women. At some point, breasts became more about pleasure and appearance, rather than their function. Unless you (as a generalisation) are currently smack bang in the middle of a breast feeding journey, wether it be yourself or your partner or a family member, then you lose your understanding of what breasts were actually created for. I find that for men especially, before they have experienced their partner breastfeeding their baby, they are incapable of being able to see this action for what it is. But rather, see it as offensive, rude, confronting and uncomfortable. 

Anthony tonight said to me "the only situation I could see that breastfeeding could be confronting in, would be out at a dinner party, at the table". Now Anthony is pro-breast feeding and I know that sharing this comment will make him look less than desirable but stay with me. At first, I was a little shocked by the comment and I responded to him with, "but hang on, why is it ok for someone like say, me pre-Evelyn, to sit at the table with a low cut dress on and have everything on display, but it is not okay for a woman to nurse her child". I then proceeded to show him this post and tell him how completely ridiculous he was being.

After talking it through a little more he did manage to clear a few things up for me, and say something that proves my sexualisation point. He went on to tell me that he is not a fan of plunging necklines. Yes they look good, from far away, he says, but when I am sitting at a dinner table and someone has their breasts out on display like that I, and every other man, have to make a conscious effort to not drop my eyes. He then says this one line... This one line is what changed the way I was going to approach this post. He says "because then everyone at that table will see me drop my eyes and then I am the pervert". 

Pervert. That is the true problem here. The problem is not that this woman had too much on display nor is it that she was making people uncomfortable to see her breastfeeding. The problem is that someone would have seen her and they would have felt uncomfortable because they then become the pervert. The problem is, that people see a breastfeeding woman and in their minds, they want to see more, or they like what they see, then they feel guilty and then they feel like a pervert. The problem is not the act of breastfeeding, it is the reaction to the act. The problem, to the people who have a problem with breastfeeding, is that they cannot accept that those breasts should be used to feed a child, they only see those breasts for pleasure and appearance.

Prude. These are the people who believe it is inappropriate. These are the people who also let the sexualisation of a woman's breast affect the way they view breast feeding. These are the people who think, how dare they be doing that while my husband can see, while my children can see. The prudes, are those who are so afraid of what breasts have become. They cannot understand anymore that breasts have a function. Again, the true problem is the sexualisation of breasts and the inability to be able to accept that breasts are created to feed. The problem is the reaction to the act.

Now, I am in the camp of "discreet" feeding as I personally just dont feel comfortable accidentally showing myself. But, discreet does not mean in a change room, a bathroom, a car or under a blanket. Discreet means to be modest. But, in saying that, some woman are ok with accidentally showing themselves and... who cares? We all know what a breast looks like, half of us have them, the other half love them. If this woman was a single woman with no kids and a banging body who was getting changed by the pool and accidentally threw a boob, there would be no complaint. You know why? Because, the people who have the problem, the people who enjoyed it, would not feel guilty for doing so. 

Breasts were created firstly for feeding our children, then for pleasure, and lastly for appearance. We, as woman, should be able to feed whenever and where ever we need, free of judgement. Our children, should be able to feed when they are hungry without having a towel over their heads. And we, as a society, should be supporting breastfeeding in anyway we can, that means... not complaining about it in the first place.

Are we to be sentenced to 6 months living on the lounge? Never to step into public for as long as our children are required to feed from us? Will this make these people more comfortable? Should we be putting their comfortability before the comfort of our own children, and ourselves? Does a woman feeding her child really affect these people and their days to such an extent that it is worth complaining about? Worth even talking about? At the end of the day, if I breastfeed my child in public...

Does it even really matter?


  1. Great post Jess.
    I think you really have an excellent point that it isn't the act but rather the reaction to the act that is the problem.
    And really the mother feeding her child is not to blame for that and so she shouldn't be the one made to avoid or to leave the situation.

    I guess I am lucky that I was never really bothered too much by breastfeeding in public.
    I did of course try to be discreet but I figured if someone had a problem with it, then they had the freedom to turn away or to leave...just as I had the freedom to feed.

  2. Very well said. I especially love that you took the time to understand the male point of view and it's context in society.

    Bettina @

  3. Great post. I breastfeed all three of my babies, out in public when they wanted a feed. Out for dinner, in the cinema, at BBQs, in shopping centers. I had a couple of male friends occasionally make a comment on the lines of "put that away" and "who hasn't seen Kelly's breasts".