Uncomfortable » Teeny Manolo


By Glinda

A few weeks ago, a coffee shop owner in Tulsa famously twittered that he was banning breastfeeding in his establishment.

Of course, that was illegal and wrong, and he was promptly advised of his patrons’ right to breastfeed in his store regardless of what he thought about it.

But I am going to come out and admit that I myself feel uncomfortable when a woman breastfeeds in public.

I would never tell a woman she couldn’t do it, I recognize it as her absolute right, and I support breastfeeding, but if I am to be truthful, I have to look away when I see it being done.  I think it is because I view it as a private thing, but of course it isn’t really because one can never know when a child will become hungry.

I remember going to my first Mom’s Club meeting years ago, and one of the board members just lifted her shirt and exposed her entire breast during the meeting, and I just sat there staring at the table because I didn’t want to seem like I was staring at her chest.

I personally had issues with my seven year old son seeing me breastfeed, and I’m sure that it’s due to my fairly Victorian upbringing.  It’s also the mixed message that our society gives about breasts and how they are viewed more as sexual instead of utilitarian. It wound up that I wasn’t able to breastfeed my daughter, but I pumped exclusively for eight months (even though everyone told me I was crazy) and I will say I was somewhat relieved when I didn’t have to go around the house lifting my shirt up all the time.

So am I just a prude? Am I the only one? Am I going to get harassed by the breastfeeding brigade?

10 Responses to “Uncomfortable”

  1. Cate Says:

    I 100% support breastfeeding wherever, whenever, but at the same time, I feel uncomfortable seeing it too. I breastfed my son for 10 months, and with a few exceptions (husband, sister-in-law) , I felt that I needed to go hide us for a while so he could eat, and I could relax enough to get milk out. Ultimatley, I think it’s some of the messed-up ways that we’re socialized- to think of a woman’s body as a sexual object, rather than something capable of nurturing a child. With my next child I hope to be more open feeding him/her, but time will tell. Sadly, I think society in general- especially here in Canada- is still very much against breastfeeding in public.

  2. dr nic Says:

    When my husband and I went to see my best friend/”sister” in the hospital, she had to nurse her newborn daughter while we were there. It didn’t faze me at all (but we’ve been friends since we were six) but my husband did find the floor very interesting for the duration.

    When I was breastfeeding, if I was out, I used a covering so I could be as unobtrusive as possible – both for other people and because I wasn’t really enthusiastic about the idea of putting myself on display.

  3. The gold digger Says:

    When I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile, I worked with a group of indigenous women who whipped out that boobie almost without their hands. We would be in (day-long, excruciatingly dull) meetings and three or four of the women would have babies/toddlers/four year olds with them. All of them would demand the breast sooner or later.

    Fine. Better for the kid, what these very poor women could afford. OK.

    But I tried to knit during these interminable meetings just so I would feel as if I were accomplishing something besides choosing between “Serving Mapuche women” and “Serving young Mapuche women” as our mission statement. (You need at least 8 hours to decide this.)

    The director of the agency, who had a baby attached to her boobie as we spoke, told me I could not knit because it was “distracting.”

  4. Obi-Wandreas Says:

    Of course, in a truly free society, the coffee shop owner would have the right to set whatever rules for his own establishment that he so chooses. Other people, as free citizens, would also have the right to refuse to business with him – customers could refuse to patronize (and I would be one of those) and suppliers could refuse to sell to him. The impulse to use the force of law to keep people from being jerks is a very dangerous one.

    I do find breastfeeding to be a beautiful thing, but the fact is that I am a guy. When one of those things comes out I’ve got two choices: 1) look away 2) stare. #2 is not only rude, but, since there’s a baby attached, kinda creepy. This leaves me with #1 as my only choice – to sit there saying “Aw, that’s cute… is that a french fry on the floor?

  5. KESW Says:

    You could always just look the breastfeeding woman in the eye… not sure why that’s so difficult. They’re nipples, not eye-magnets.

    For the sake of my distractible 8 month old, I try to breastfeed mostly in private, and when I can’t be completely secluded, I do go for less trafficked areas and use a cover. If I’m in a private or semi private place with other women, I ask if they are ok with me not using a cover.

    As to watching other women… the first time my friend started BFing in front of me without a cover, I was a little uncomfortable, but interest took over (I was pregnant and curious) and now it’s a non-issue to me whether or not a woman uses a cover in front of me. I may get embarressed for the sake of my husband, if he’s present, but really… not a big deal.

  6. La Petite Acadienne Says:

    I just sat there staring at the table because I didn’t want to seem like I was staring at her chest.

    I think that’s the key. I honestly think that’s why a lot of people are uncomfortable with public breastfeeding — not because they think it’s gross, or sexual, but because they don’t want to be accused of being a creepy gawker, but don’t want to be obvious in their avoidance, either.

    And I think that’s why it’s so crucial that we continue to send the message that it IS acceptable and great to breastfeed in public. I think that the more we see it, the more used to it we will get. I would assume that cultures with high breastfeeding rates don’t really have this issue with public awkwardness. So it’s just a matter of getting used to it, and (no pun intended) being exposed to it until a breastfeeding mom becomes just a matter-of-fact part of the landscape.

  7. Jennie Says:

    Amazing that we are not uncomfortable when someone breathes, or sees, or hears. Breasts are functional. They have a genuine and important reason for being. If you think about it, denying the breast’s function is like a societal burka. Cover it up and deny it.

  8. raincoaster Says:

    There are a lot of bodily functions that we feel uncomfortable witnessing in other people, whether or not they feel uncomfortable being witnessed performing them. I think it’s Darwinian; we are at our most vulnerable at those moments, and so privacy during those times was, while our species was still getting used to walking on two legs, a matter of survival.

    So, essentially, we just can’t help it. So, staring at the floor is acceptable.

    Mind you, I do think there’s a market out there for capelets for the new mother. Seriously, ponchos are dowdy but capelets are pretty damn snazzy.

  9. Maman A Droit Says:

    My 13 month old has pretty much always refused to nurse in front of anyone other than me and my hubby so it hasn’t been an issue for us. Distractable babies aside though, it doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but I think moms should try to use as much discretion as they can without making the baby uncomfortable (my son won’t tolerate any kind of blanket or cover but I try to cover as much as I can with nursing tops!) I definitely plan on nursing all my kids in front of their older siblings-I’m planning to have them much closer together than 7 years and if I couldn’t watch older ones while nursing a new baby, I’d be in trouble! So far I only have one, but he’ll definitely be right there with me when I’m nursing the next one.

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