Why Women Might Not Want to Breastfeed in Public Places

Someone said something to me a few weeks ago that got to me. It was about me breastfeeding in public and it wasn’t appropriate. It was someone I had never met and while it was said in jest, it made me uncomfortable. It was not appreciated.

I laughed it off in semi-shock, as you do in those situations. And of course, on the way home, I came up with ALL the best comebacks. But I was never going to see this person again, so I was defeated in a way.

Those who were confident enough to feed anywhere, at any time, were people I envied when I was feeding Tom. Time and time again, I would read online people saying that NOBODY should be embarrassed to feed in public. It was like if you didn’t like doing it in public, you had the problem.

**FIRST TIME MUM**

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Tom was a very fussy feeder. And he was on the shield. He often fed in a dark place or he was on again, off again. All things that made it difficult – especially for a first time mum. I had a favourite shopping centre with the best feeding rooms. I fed in people’s bedrooms when I visited. I ducked off whenever I really had to. I always felt awkward doing it, but not as awkward as revealing all in public.

Tom also would take a bottle. So if we were going to be out for an extended period of time, I would express and give him that, rather than feed in public. I look back now and I think how ridiculous, that I created all that work for myself, that I sometimes thought it better to stay home because of it. But this is how I felt and I felt this way because this is what society has done. It has privatised the most natural instinct in the world. It has forced it behind closed doors and empty bedrooms. As a first time mum I actually thought it was ME who was shy. ME who had the problem and that I’m coping by just getting around it.

**SECOND TIME AROUND**

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Jeremy is 9 weeks old. I have fed him in a bed, on the couch, in special care nursery, at a park, in a church, at a giraffe exhibit, at Mother Goose. Have I felt uncomfortable at any of these times? You bet. While feeding at the zoo a little boy came and sat next to me. He wanted a rest. His mum pulled out a snack for him and had a chat. As I swapped sides I heard his Dad start to say “Ok, so are we ready to go? Let’s go” he was clearly uncomfortable with the situation. The mum said “We can just wait until he is finished. What’s the rush?” She had barely noticed.

I didn’t like that I was making that person uncomfortable. And I don’t think it is HIS fault that he was uncomfortable. Perhaps he just felt it right that I might need some privacy and space, I don’t know. I know that the desire to feed and nurture my little man far exceeded the fact that I had made him, or even myself a little uncomfortable though.

The other thing is, Jeremy is an awesome feeder. No shield, no worries. He has not touched a bottle. And I’m proud of that after the struggles we had the first time around. I feel confident that I can DO THIS THING. Which was so different to last time. I don’t want to complicate life with bottles and expressing and sterilising and all the rest. I love that I can just walk out the door and I have what he needs, at the perfect temperature on TAP. And if I need to turn that tap on in public from time to time, well so be it. It’s society’s problem, not mine. But spare a thought for those women who might not want to feed in public places…telling them they should simply just do it and not care about people around them, is a simple answer for a more complicated issue.

Do you agree?

6 thoughts on “Why Women Might Not Want to Breastfeed in Public Places

  • Agree! I felt the same first time and so much more confident the second time around. In fact I’ve become quite a lactivist this time around!!

  • I totally agree with you. It’s incredibly sad that women feel this way but for a lot of people it’s not something they can just ‘get over’. It’s about trying hard to normalise breast feeding again and attempting to steer away from breasts as a sexual instrument and remembering that they are a feeding tool and not to be ashamed of. Helping new mums to find confidence in themselves by being the change you want to see is all we can do. Setting a good example and educating as best we can to make this thing OK.

    • Thanks Emily. Totally agree also with ‘normalising’ breastfeeding. It’s difficult when you suddenly need to expose a part of your body in public that has been hidden since day dot! It is definitely about education and I sometimes wonder if it would be nice if this conversation was made to be had with midwives in the hospital.

  • I couldn’t agree more! I have an 8 week old baby girl who is exclusively breast fed and whilst I know I shouldn’t feel uncomfortable about feeding her in public I do and nothing will change that.

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