Defending Yourself Is Disrespectful, Say A Few Loud Ones Against Public Breastfeeding

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A few of the comments on a recent reactionary post I wrote are getting… a little out-of-hand, I’d say.

I don’t censor any non-spamming comments on my posts because I find great value in upholding the right to free speech and sharing of ideas. I personally feel that disapproving certain comments that rub me the wrong way could be likened to demanding that a breastfeeding mother throw a cover over her torso and child when in public just because someone can’t handle it.

Now I must learn how to handle things I don’t agree with too, such as antagonistic comments. (A heavy bet that zero of the nay-saying commenters would dare peep a word directly to me if they actually saw me breastfeeding in public).

Here is one commenter’s example of the general attitude expressed by some (bold emphasis and reformatting are mine):

“The biggest problems I have with your reply to that article are,

A) You are being extremely disrespectful of her opinion instead of simply stating your own. She didn’t make fun of mothers who feel the need to breastfeed in public without a cover, you are poking fun at her opinion. Grow up.

B) Nothing against you personally, but why do mothers feel the need to turn a beautiful bonding moment with their babies into a public battle? Just a question I have.

And C) The comments you made about her husband and child. I don’t want my husband looking at anyone else’s boobs, regardless of what they’re being used for. I don’t want my child to either. It makes them both uncomfortable and I have no problem explaining to my children what breastfeeding is and how it’s beautiful, but I don’t have to go into an anatomy session with my 5 year old boy about a strangers breasts either. And bottom line, my marriage is none of your business and how I raise my children are none of your business.

I think a big problem with our society today is that women think being able to show parts of ourselves is freedom or equality, it’s just not. We as women have the freedom to be classy and respectful of other people’s opinions and feelings in public, but nobody wants to talk about that. No one wants to just shut up and take a second to understand that I have just as much a right to be comfortable as you do.

So why not compromise? The writer and myself are not asking you not to breastfeed in public all together, although if I were breastfeeding I would [not do it publicly] for the sake of bonding and I would pump when going out if possible, we are simply asking that you compromise.

Why is it that we can and you cannot? Is it really about feeding your baby at that point? Or more about feeding your ego?”

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I assume the commenter expected or hoped for a direct response, so here it is:

A). No, the original author [of this article] didn’t make fun of mothers, she shamed them. Given my level of insult, I tried to remain respectful, and this was the best I could do. “Grow up” is also, incidentally, what I say to adults who can’t handle the sight of feeding children.

B). I and other breastfeeding mothers didn’t turn public nursing into a battle, it was the people who harassed and antagonized us for public nursing. We speak up for ourselves in defense, not offense. Who hit first?

C). That’s fair that you don’t want your husband looking at other women’s breasts. Perhaps you should trust him not to look at them then. (Note I’m only bringing up your marriage because YOU mentioned it first). Breastfeeding is not “showing ourselves,” and by law it’s not considered public nudity.

ABOUT COMPROMISE:

“For sake of bonding,” my child’s comfort is more important than yours. Covering is NOT simple, kids typically hate it and won’t allow it. Pumping is NOT easy, requires a lot of work, and many women cannot produce enough milk with a pump or respond to one at all. Bottle-feeding also can cause dental, oral and stomach problems for infants, so it’s not the best choice for all children.

A mother has the right to do what’s best for her child despite what strangers think is “best” for their own comfort.

If you truly believe a breastfeeding dyad covering up is a compromise, then what would YOU be doing to fulfill the terms of compromise? I see no amount of sacrifice on your end in this scenario.

ABOUT EGO:

Breastfeeding is always about a baby. Someone needing to project harmful “opinions” (at some point, accumulated ignorance renders one’s personal “opinion” into a trained oppression) upon a normal, harmless activity is attempting to feed his or her own ego. (In my OPINION).

I also see that my response to the writer was in defense of myself and child, whereas you have gone out of your way to visit my page to tear down and belittle my defense. Who exactly is the one seeking attention for sake of ego?

I will admit, I do post pictures and write about breastfeeding in hopes that people see/read, because it helps to normalize society and helps mothers learn how to breastfeed successfully, what to expect, and so on. This is a peaceful parenting blog that covers topics such as breastfeeding, so yes, I am reaching my gentle-mothering tentacles out to spotlight a huge part of the motherhood and childhood experience that has been lost on many Americans for too long.

I do NOT breastfeed in public for attention, however. Any and all attention given to me while doing so cannot be considered a result of coercion if I’m merely responding to my child’s needs. I make a point of sharing my breastfeeding experience — there is no point being made in my having a breastfeeding experience.

So thank you for your part in helping to raise more awareness of this issue and revealing the kind of discrimination and shaming that mothers face — the kind thinly veiled behind words like “right,” “opinion,” “compromise,” and “ego.”

I feel like I’ve said this what seems like a hundred times already, in various ways, but I’ll keep saying it.

For the commenters who bothered to come visit my page, I now encourage you to click around on the menu tabs to learn more about infant feeding. If you have any questions, feel welcome to ask.

NOTE TO BREASTFEEDING MOTHERS:

If you’re ever harassed or discriminated against while breastfeeding in public, don’t hesitate to use these resources for support and advice:

Breastfeeding Harassment Hotline is 855-NIP-FREE

…if you’re harassed for nursing in public

…if your employer fails to comply with workplace pumping laws

Visit FB! Stop Harrassing page & campaign for Facebook to change its breastfeeding photo guidelines. Includes many petitions, help, and action items on the topic of demonizing breastfeeding photos.
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5 thoughts on “Defending Yourself Is Disrespectful, Say A Few Loud Ones Against Public Breastfeeding

  1. You got that right! I really can’t believe some of these people. You know they’re not talking bad about Victoria’s secret window displays too wtf do they have against using breasts as they were intended?

    Nevermind them mama, you keep doing you. The hate they spew will circle back, believe it

  2. I wasn’t able to leave a comment on the post I originally read (regarding your difficult experience at the wedding), so I hope it’s alright if I leave one here. I want to thank you for taking the time to write a post that was obviously very difficult to put into words. I must confess, when I first started reading it, I brought my own “puritanical” attitudes with me. But as you explained what happened, and your reasons for your convictions regarding breastfeeding, my eyes have been opened to how things are from your side of the issue. I’m 51 years old and I have an almost 20 year old daughter. I managed to breastfeed her for five weeks, but switched to bottle-feeding at that point. Part of the reason I switched was because it was such a hassle to feed her whenever we were in public, because of many of the issues you describe. I remember calling my mom in tears and saying, “Is it really so bad to bottle feed?” and because she was of her generation, she said, “Of course not!” I commend you for standing your ground and not caving to convenience — yours or the public’s. I will say that I made extraordinary efforts to make sure my baby and I cuddled like crazy, even though I fed her with a bottle. Some of my sweetest memories are feeding her in the rocking chair my dad made for us while I was pregnant. My only “issue” with your post is with this comment: “other kids use a lovey or a pacifier as false soothing” — because we used cloth diapers as burp cloths, our sweet girl got used to their increasing softness under her cheek when she would fall asleep on our shoulders. So well into her toddlerhood, she carried one around with her and she even slept with one in her pillowcase into her teen years. I wouldn’t call it “false soothing,” because she got tons of loving and hugging from both of us (there’s nothing cuter than listening to a 2 year old girlie and her daddy sing “Chantilly Lace” as a bedtime lullaby). t have one set aside that I plan to make into a bridal hankie with lace when she gets married. 🙂

    • Hi Laura, thanks for your comment and for sharing your story. I’m sorry to hear about your struggles — this is in part why I share my experiences too, because we all can learn a great deal from each other. I wanted to clarify about my comment “other kids use a lovey or a pacifier as false soothing.” I stand by what I wrote there, however I didn’t intend for it to cause offense against parents whose children enjoy pacifiers or loveys, or those children themselves. If my own son wished to soothe himself with the comfort of a material item, I’d support that desire. I call it “false” soothing because it replicates what human affections intend to do; I didn’t mean to imply that it is always desired as a means of fulfilling lack of human affection. I included this bit to help the target readers consider how it’s normal and accepted for a child to soothe themselves with a pacifier or lovey, but it’s considered “coddling” or “encouraging dependence,” etc. when the child prefers to seek soothing from mother’s breast. I hope that was more clear. The lace bridal hankie is an incredibly sweet idea 🙂

      • Crystal clear! 🙂 And truly, I think it’s sad that our society has become so danged anxious to push our kids toward independence before they are ready for it. We homeschooled our girl, and I got so annoyed by the parents (living vicariously through their 14 year old Harvard-ready squirts) who questioned our decision to “slow track” things. We didn’t require our girl to take dual-credit courses in high school, or sign her up for umpteen jillion extra-curricular activities. We encouraged her to find her own interests. She is passionate about piano and began teaching littles when she was 17, completed two novels during NANOWRIMO in 2012 and 2013, and is very active in our church’s college group — and these are all things she pursued on her own without our shoving her in any particular direction. Kids need to be allowed to grow up at their own pace with ENCOURAGEMENT, not force. She’ll be starting her sophomore year at the local community college and is planning a side trip to Christ For the Nations in Dallas before finishing her bachelor’s at a four year school. What that bachelor’s will be in is anybody’s guess at this point, but as I told her — that’s what college is for: to explore and learn and grow and find out what you might want to do with the first part of your life, until something else catches your eye and you start a new adventure later. 🙂

  3. I don’t like breastfeeding in public, but I do it when I need to. When I was younger, I did buy into this “compromise” bullshit because it was fed to me and I didn’t yet have the critical thinking skills to dispute it. As I developed as a feminist and smart person, I realized that I couldn’t name specifically what made breastfeeding “obscene”. Then, that belief began to erode until I realized that it was just a thing. It COULD be sexual in the same way that putting on or taking off shoes COULD be sexual. It was a matter of imagination. So now, when people say to me that breastfeeding is indecent or something, I ask them specifically how it’s different from wearing a V-neck shirt or a bathing suit. Every person stumbles on themselves when trying to answer it, which makes it easy for me to point out that maybe they don’t actually know why they think that and maybe they’re overthinking things. If you want to try my approach, please feel free. 😉

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