When You Feel Awkward Seeing Breastfeeding in Public

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For one reason or another, some people feel awkward when they see a woman breastfeeding her child in public. This does not necessarily make them bad people. Their feelings can be perfectly valid; it takes a unique set of nature and nurture to arrive at the point of feeling awkward with a specific trigger such as this.

For those who aren’t accustomed to seeing breastfeeding in public and are largely uninformed about how it all works, a little patience may be needed as they adjust. After all, few of us have been spared from American culture’s mixed messages about women’s roles and heavy promotion of both infant formula and breasts as sex objects.

That said, misunderstanding and ignorance are acceptable; projection of fears and lashing out with harassing or discriminatory behavior are not.

Here are a few ideas about what to do and not do if you’re not yet comfortable seeing breastfeeding in public (but you’re working on it, right?).

Do:

Look away.

Walk away.

Put yourself in the mother’s shoes.

Put yourself in the child’s shoes.

Consider your feelings. Where does your discomfort come from? Is this a new sight for you? Do you feel angry at the mother? Do you feel sorry for or disgusted by the child? Do you feel offended? Are you worried you’ll see the mother’s skin? Do you feel ill-prepared  to handle the sight of breastfeeding?

Learn more about breastfeeding.

Remember this is nothing new. You’ve seen this before: You’ve seen a baby eating and you’ve seen breasts. If you’ve never seen the two together, you’ll likely be surprised how un-shocking it is.

Remember it’s a mother and child’s right to breastfeed wherever they’re legally allowed to be. That means on the bus, at the library, beach, pool, mall, restaurant, church — a wide array of places. Almost anywhere, really.

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Don’t:

Tell the mother to cover up.

Offer the mother something to cover up with.

Ask them to leave or move.

Make a face that signifies your discomfort.

Make a formal complaint.

Get involved by making comments. Especially ones like “That’s a private matter, stay home to do that.” If it is truly a private matter, you can mind your own business.

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