The Last Word on Public Breast-Feeding

Seriously, what is the big deal? The only thing she is doing wrong is that she might be more comfortable sitting down.

Seriously, what is the big deal? The only thing she is doing wrong is that she might be more comfortable sitting down.

By Peter Sessum

Since August is National breast-feeding Month I thought it only appropriate that I address it in a parenting blog. So here it is, the final word on breast-feeding. OK, maybe not the final word, although it would be nice if it was. There will still be people arguing that it is natural, a distraction or that it is obscene and sexual. But if there was a last word that would put an end to the public breast-feeding debate it would have to be compromise.

I know that in our current all or nothing society that compromise is a forgotten word. People want to get their way and all of their way or they are offended on a base level. There is never an opportunity for both sides to win. If a company has a health plan that will deny one form of birth control out 20 possible prescriptions it is branded of hating women. Since when is getting 95 percent of what you want a loss? We need to embrace compromise especially in the breast-feeding debate.

Breast-feeding is natural

I don’t mean in a hippie, organic, free-range, GMO free kind of way. I mean that it is literally a natural bodily function. You can forget about all the arguments about breast milk and nutritional benefits for a baby or how that time is used for bonding or any of the other pro breast milk arguments. I am not trying to dismiss those points, but let’s face it, if the other side hasn’t listened to those arguments by now, this post won’t convince them.

The point is that under certain circumstances the body literally naturally produces breast milk. If a woman was unable to produce milk, for whatever reason, but still had her baby latch onto her breast to bond in public there would be a an argument for picking a different time and place for that artificial bonding. Or that there is another way to bond with a child both in public and in private. Also, if the female body couldn’t produce without plastic surgery and breast-feeding was a completely unnatural act I would agree that they should not do it in public. But babies get hungry. Often. And there is a readily available food source that have benefits for both parties there is no logical reason for denying that child food.

And possibly offending someone is not a good reason. Mainly because people are offended by far too many things that there is no way to keep track and we can’t possibly accommodate everyone. So some people are going to have to suck it up. Expecting women to stay inside until the baby is weaned or to have to go to a public bathroom is unreasonable, and in the case of the bathroom, unsanitary. To me this is like someone saying that they can’t walk means that everyone should have to be in wheelchairs because watching free movement offends them. Just expecting the general population to incur an additional cost of acquiring wheelchairs makes this stupid. So asking families to have to pay for formula to feed in public when there is a natural source is stupid.

The compromise is a little discretion. A woman can throw a blanket over her baby for a few minutes or sit in a corner table with her back facing everyone else. Is it a hassle? Yes, but it is a reasonable request and anyone upset with a baby feeding that isn’t obvious to everyone is too sensitive and should have to endure it because life is going to eat them alive if the act of unseen breast-feeding offends them.

An image from a very old patent application so clearly this isn't anything new.

An image from a very old patent application so clearly this isn’t anything new.

It is a disruption

If I owned a restaurant and a woman stood on a table, ripped off her shirt, yelled “leche league forever bitches!” and attached a baby to each boob I would ask her to leave. Not because she was breast-feeding, but because she was making a scene and standing on my table. On the flip side, if woman was quietly feeding a baby with a blanket thrown over her shoulder and someone started bothering her I would throw that person out for disrupting another customer. Remember, just because you are offended doesn’t make you right.

My family went camping with a couple other families a few years back. I don’t know how long one of the women had been breast-feeding before I realized what was going on. Her husband handed her the baby and she casually threw a little blanket over her the baby and one shoulder. I didn’t think anything of it. We were all sitting around in a circle talking and at some point it hit me that the baby was feeding under there. There is nothing disrupting about that. She didn’t say anything, just casually and discretely fed her child. I think that is a good compromise.

On two occasions, one private and one public, women have asked me if it was OK to feed their child/children in front of me. Once was in public where her back was to the rest of the restaurant but was right across from me on the round patio table the other time was at my home when a friend asked if it was OK to feed her twins. In both cases I said it was fine but I appreciated that they asked. It was a bit of common courtesy that is rare in today’s society. Neither one did a big show of feeding their babies so it was no big deal.

If anyone would have said something that would have been a disruption. Making a commotion and drawing attention to it would be a disruption. Approaching a table of strangers to tell them how much you disapprove of public feeding doesn’t make you a concerned citizen, it makes you a jack-hole. That is the compromise, if someone is discretely feeding their child, the compromise is to ignore it and go about your day. A little bit of discretion mixed with a little minding your own damn business will help everyone get along better in this world.

It is a sexual act

There is nothing sexual about breast-feeding. I will say that again, there is nothing sexual about beast-feeding. And for the cheap seats, THERE IS NOTHING SEXUAL ABOUT BREAST-FEEDING!!! I say this not as an enlightened male, I say that as a former knuckle dragging grunt that loves boobs. Seriously, I am a guy that loves boobs. I wish women would randomly flash me just to put a smile on my face. Boobs are awesome. But as soon as you put a baby on one it goes from being someone fun and sexy to utilitarian. In other words, they become udders pretty damn fast.

I have talked about this with other men, including other former grunts, and we all agree that there is nothing hot about a woman feeding a baby. Breastfeeding actually de-sexualizes breasts. If you find something sexual about a woman feeding her child you might want to keep your freaky stuff to yourself. I don’t want you to think I am judging you, but I am judging you. Women have a lot of tools in their tool belt to be sexy and that just isn’t one of them. If a woman thinks that breast-feeding is sexy I am going to tell you that you are wrong. Of course everyone has their thing and there are men that have the fetish. But as a general rule, anyone that wants to complain that there is something sexual about breast-feeding is weird to me and needs to stay quiet. As long as a woman isn’t doing a striptease prior to feeding her baby, there isn’t anything intentionally sexual going on.

Of course, this only covers the debate in broad strokes. I think that most of the women that feed their babies in public are not trying to make some sort of political message, they are just trying to feed their child. Just on the off chance that it is a woman that is already having a tough day and is just trying to get their kid to eat and be quiet so she can enjoy five minutes of silence to eat a now cold meal we should leave her alone. The other side of that is if you are against public breast-feeding, just ignore it and the people that are super militant about it will eventually shut up. If you haven’t learned that the worst way to get an angry woman to be quiet is to tell her to shut up then you are in for a hard road my friend.

Breast-feeding is a completely natural function. The female body is designed to produce milk for a baby to consume. There is no reason for them to be shamed. There is no reason for them to have to go to a public restroom to accommodate people that are overly sensitive. But everyone should also acknowledge that it does bother some people and so they should not make a big production of it. A little discretion with some minding your own business is a good compromise. There are too many real things going on in the world that public breast-feeding should be pretty far down on the list of things that are bad in our society. I will make you a compromise, if you can wait until war, crime, hunger, homelessness and poverty is resolved to make the anti-breast-feeding debate I will stop thinking you are petty and stupid.


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