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August 15, 2007

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Laura

One baby born in the states, one baby born in Germany. In both places i had nothing but absolute acceptance from anyone passing by. I was never looked at oddly, sideways, or had kids nearby told to avoid me. Here in Germany, on the military post, I breastfed with no blankets during the summer, no problems aorund the americans. I also breastfed in the city on the haupstrasse at cafe tables outside to enjoy the nice weather, I breastfed at castles in Munich and on top of the Bavarian Alps. I even stopped in several museums and breastfed while tourists walked by in the quiet echoing halls. If anybody would have told me to put it away I would have told them to kindly MYOB. In the states I breastfed in restaurants and target and walmart. Unfortunately, the only places there to sit are in waiting rooms, which makes you feel put aside, but in all honesty sometimes you need a little quiet time when you're out shopping!!!

AmyH

I breastfed three of my 4 children, and I have to say I did it just about everywhere I went. I initially was nervous, but I nursed at my sil's college volleyball games, restaurants, malls, etc. I even nursed while getting our taxes prepared at H&R Block, and the accountant didn't even realize what I was doing until talk shifted to his newborn and his wife who felt confined because she wasn't confident enough to nurse in public. My not-so-subtle husband brought up the fact that I was breastfeeding at that moment....embarrassing, but I hope, an encouragement to him and his family.
Really, I live in CT. I've never had a problem.

andie

Unfortunately, our Western society has put so many stipulations on 'the breast' that it's sad when the sexual and material (food) functions have to be confused.

I would like to say that a mother should be able to breastfeed where she can bottle feed because in my heart of hearts, that's what I believe. On the other hand, somewhere society has played its role on my subconscious so that if a mother who breastfeeds isn't discreet, it does make me feel a little uncomfortable. The other day, we were at the Zoo de Vincennes, and I saw a mother walking around with a child of around 2 with her shirt wide open with the boob in sight and he was breastfeeding as she was walking. Even with a bottle, I would never walk around in a public place- bottle or breast, feeding should be a time of quiet and peace, for the baby. Also, at Gab's daycare, there was a mom who was kind of what you would define as vulgar, and she brought her newborn to the Xmas party and would just walk around with her shirt wide open and the baby latched on when there was a quiet room to go to, which is what I would have done with Louise too with the bottle! And, it made everyone uncomfortable.

I guess it's a question of respect. I totally don't have a problem with mothers breastfeeding in public if it's done in a respectful way for others- walking around in a public place with shirt wide open isn't very respectful, but sitting on a park bench is. And, if we lived in a society where the breast wasn't so sexualized, we wouldn't even be talking about respecting others because the breast would be accepted in no matter what context. There's a reason why there are nudist towns and topless beaches too- because those are places where the breast is openly welcome. It shouldn't be that way, but that's how it is and because society has created this stipulation on the breast, I don't see why exceptions should be made for feeding (again, society's fault!) It's like we got ourselves into this mess, now let's get ourselves out. But, again, sitting in a restaurant going about it discreetly shouldn't be discriminated against- you've got to feed your kid- and the others have the choice to look away or not. But, sorry, walking around with your shirt open and the kid latched on creates more of a scene than anything, especially when there are benches right there in the shade to enjoy a quiet moment with your baby (or toddler in this case).

Anyway, that's just how I feel, but then again, one of the reasons I didn't continue breastfeeding is because I wasn't comfortable myself with flashing my visitors in the hospital and it also depends on how comfortable you are and we are lucky that in France, the breast is mostly accepted as a symbol of feeding almost anywhere and mostly everyone is open to it.

The Bold Soul

As one of the non-moms, this was an interesting question to think about. First off, I have no problem with the nudity aspects of breastfeeding, and in general I think mothers should be able to breastfeed in most places as long as they are being discreet and considerate of others around them. Sure, it's a little disconcerting to catch a glimpse of some woman's breast if she's feeding her baby in public, but it's to feed a BABY -- she's not flashing! So, when I feel disconcerted I figure that says more about me than it does about the nursing mom, and I get over it. It's just unexpected, I suppose. Yet we can go to the beach and see more exposed flesh THERE. Go figure.

Then I got thinking about that Victoria's Secret thing. And your remark that you should be able to breastfeed anywhere you can bottle feed (which I agree with, by the way). But when you are in a retail store, which is private property, and that store does not allow food or beverages of any kind in the store (and I'm sure Vicky's would fall into that category - if I came in with a cup from Starbucks I'm sure they'd ask me to take it outside before shopping), I have to say I think the merchant is within its rights to ask that patrons not sit there and feed a child through ANY means. There are seating areas available in the malls, and that should be OK to discreetly feed your child there, I would think. But small retail stores don't have a lot of room to move around, they are overflowing with merchandise as it is, and they want to create a certain "ambiance" for their customers. Maybe Victoria's Secret felt the public breastfeeding would be uncomfortable for their other customers, maybe they were worried about customers not being able to move around freely or that their merchandise was at risk, but I can't honestly say I think they are wrong to have a policy like that. I would hope, however, they tried to handle the matter with tact and didn't try to demean or embarrass the mother in question (I didn't read the story), because that WOULD be uncalled for.

In a Walmart or Target, they almost all have a snack area with seating. I'd say it's OK to breastfeed there because it's a family-oriented area. But if I saw a woman seated in, say, the furniture department, breastfeeding her baby, I might wonder why she couldn't wait 5 minutes and find another place? I've noticed that the better department stores, like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus and Macy's, often have comfortable sofas and chairs in the ladies rooms specifically for moms who need to feed their babies. I think that's great, too... why not make it easy for a nursing mom to take a break from shopping without forcing her to leave the store. But that's in a big store; the smaller ones don't have the luxury of that kind of space.

At the risk of getting beat up for saying this, I realize that a nursing mother's first priority is, and should be, the health, comfort and safety of her baby. This is completely normal, understandable, and applause-worthy. But sometimes, I think that mothers, in their single-minded focus on their children, often forget there are other people around them with different feelings, comfort levels and opinions, and they have rights, too. This "my kid comes first" perspective extends beyond breastfeeding; it's the same with parents who let their children act out and misbehave in public places where they are disturbing others... like letting a child kick the back of my seat in a movie theatre or on an airplane, and just smiling benevolently like "isn't he so cute" when in fact he's bugging the heck out of someone! So speaking as one without children (although I do like children), I feel I have a right to shop in a store without being trapped by "stroller gridlock" because there is someone in the store who decides she has to feed her baby right there and then. My time and needs are valuable too. Children have needs and need to be cared for, and I'm not suggesting a mother should let her child go for very long without feeding, so don't get me wrong. But if you're shopping, and your child needs to be fed, then put down the merchandise, leave the store and find a comfortable area where you, your baby, and the stroller can take care of business. All I am suggesting is that parents of small children recognize that the rest of the world has needs, too. It's just a matter off trying to co-exist and being considerate. If I am expected to be considerate of a child's needs, I would hope someone else would recognize my rights as well.

That being said, you can breastfeed Max in front of me, any time. [wink]

Aimee

Andie, Lisa- I agree there is a level of respect that needs to be upheld when it comes to breast feeding in public. Just taking the breast out and feeding and letting you other bits hang out isn't very becoming and give breast feeding a bad name. There is a way to do it so that it's discreet and totally private.

I think more and more public venues are making efforts for the breastfeeding or formula feeding mama. It's such an easy addition to any restroom, rest area to add chairs for mothers to sit themselves down and feed their child. I was just at Bon Marché and was impressed to see that they had a high backed nursing chair and a bottle warmer in their reception area near the bathroom.

I have to say that I have fed Max in the middle of public. Ikea to be exact. Upstairs where they have the model living rooms. We had a tough situation where Max was really hysterical and I went and planted myself in a living room on the couch and fed him. No one knew what I was doing. It just looked like I was holding my baby close. There is a way to BF in public that won't offend. Nobody could even see my breast!

I keep reading other women's experiences about this and it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. You breast feed and it's vulgar and obscene because you are nourishing your child from your breast. Then you bottle feed and you get those people who say that you should be breast feeding and make you that mama feel bad for bottle feeding.

The child being the center of the universe. That is another discussion I intend on addressing soon.

Sarah

I have never had a negative experience breastfeeding. In fact, I have had a lot of positive experiences. I have breastfed just about everywhere you could imagine from the metro to the Louvre. I am always discreet. If anything, I feel uncomfortable breastfeeding around those who bottle feed because I feel like they are judging me. Especially now that I feed a 19 month old. Lots of people make uninformed assumptions about breastfeeding a toddler. Like the first commenter though I would just tell them to MYOB.

One comment about not allowing food and drink in stores though...this is because they are trying to protect their products from getting spilled on or stained. I think it would be very difficult for a breastfeeding mother to "spill" her breast milk onto any products so if this is their argument for asking to leave, I think it is a little silly.

I always leave stores and look for comfortable locations anyway. (Aimee, I think the displays at Ikea count as comfortable...) but I also think we can't say that because a mother has stopped in the middle of a store that she isn't being sensitive to the needs of others. Every situation is different with babies and without knowing the background of each and every person I wouldn't say that anyone should or shouldn't do something. Same goes for perceptions of misbehavior - we don't know what that parent is working on with their child (not that they should be able to let kids kick the back of the chair) but we shouldn't assume that they are just letting their kids run free either.

Phillippa

I've never hesitated to feed anywhere, in Paris or in San Francisco, so far. Restaurants, middle of the street leaning against a window, park, while walking on a trail.... But I am discreet and most of the time, you would hardly be able to tell.

My favorite place to have breastfed is on those little posts right in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. There weren't seats anywhere else, and I needed to keep an eye, on the exit, for my from-out-of-town friends who were still inside. I've never been judged for feeding, actually, and the only situation where I've had someone ask me to go do it in private ("how about in the bedroom?") is my own grandmother. Strange, huh? At any other place and with anyone else, there would have been some conflict. But in this case, I said, "Ok" packed up my milk and went to the room ;)

materfamilias

so discouraging to know that this is still an issue for discussion, yet very encouraging to know that young mothers are still willing to push for their children's right to feed in the most natural way possible.
I nursed my four in the late 70's, early 80s. I'd read enough to know how important breast-feeding was for my kids, so that while I never would impose my choice or opinion on other moms, I was prepared to be quietly political in my daily feeding choices. I'd always been self-conscious about my breasts and there was absolutely no exhibitionism involved (what a crazy accusation that one is!), but I felt as if anywhere that I was allowed to be with my baby/toddler, was fair game for nursing. I saw a woman nursing on the floor of The Hudson's Bay department store when my first daughter was young and that image really fortified me--as a society we'd rather risk our babies being exposed to gross bacteria than have to see a mother nurse!. As you say, with the right clothing and/or a light blanket draped carefully, the whole thing can be quite discreet. My most awkward moments were with my second daughter who clung to nursing 'til 22 months and even at that early age was a great extortionist -- she'd yell "Mowk, Mowk" (Milk) at the top of her voice in church where she knew I'd give in just to keep her quiet! My favourite moment was probably my brother-in-law, only 21 when I had my oldest, asking shyly and not pruriently at all, if I minded him watching 'cause he was really fascinated. I think there probably is a lot of curiosity covered up with discomfort -- if only more people could admit to it and let us show them how it's done!

andie

Great point about it being a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situation.

Sarah, I actually feel weird around BF mothers because I feel judged because I formula feed! So, we're in the same boat! Up until Louise and Gab were 6 months old (the 'acceptable' age to stop BF in France because most women go back to work by then, so it's understandable to wean at that age), I got comments that what I was doing was wrong.

It's been so nice that Aimee has opened this debate to hear from so many different people on both sides and to see so much support for both sides. Since Gab was born, I have honestly felt that I need to hide how I feed Louise and that all BF were against FF just because that's the reaction I initially got. To see BF supporting FF and vice versa, that's wonderful!

As for Bfeeding a 19 month old, I think it's weird, but it's not against you, it's just something I personally wouldn't do because I would feel weird about it (I remember how BIG Gab was at that age and just can't imagine it) and that stems from my own personal weirdness. But, when you are in a situation, like you are with Felix, obviously it's not weird to you and that's all that matters. And, I'm not judging you! You do your thing and that's great!

I have seen lots of places with nursing corners, like the American Embassy, but no bottle warmers! And, I've actually gotten bad remarks because I've asked a restaurant to heat a bottle. So, it's the 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' thing again. In the end, what are we supposed to do, not feed our babies at all in public?

Tsoniki

Great comments! With my first I arranged my errand running around my DD sleeping - she would eat, fall asleep then I would leave and come home before she woke back up! That actually lasted quite a while and when I finally nursed her in public it was fine.

With my son he was probably a week old or so and he woke up the minute the car stopped. So I nursed him in Subway while my DD ate her sandwich. No one said anything then/there either. I had a wrap too or a blanket and would cover up just to shield myself (my modesty still existed even after giving birth with a room full of people).

I think people should be able to nurse wherever/whenever. I admit I was the one feeling uncomfortable when a friend of mine sat down in the middle of the mall, whipped up her shirt, out came the boob and her then 3 (or 4?) year old nursed. Nothing against nursing that old, but it was just the way she did it.

lee

I have breastfed in lots of places but there have been a few occasions when I did not feel totally comfortable doing so (in line at the embassy, for example) and I had to go find a secluded spot. I agree that it should be a quiet moment for mama and baby, but that's just my personal taste. I think a hungry baby would eat just fine in the middle of a rock concert, if necessary.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out in the US. Thus far in France, I feel people have not even really given me so much as a second glance, which is honestly the way it should be. Then again, the Frenchies go topless on the beaches and have semi-nudie pictures on the kiosks, so there is definetly more boob here in general. :)

materfamilias

just back to add one thing -- when thinking about the discretion issue, I think it's necessary to realize that there's a thin line between discretion and internalized shame. By the time I was nursing my youngest, a son, I had a 9-year old, 6-year old, and 3-year old daughter, all of whom will have learned at least some of their own attitudes towards breast-feeding from whether or not I thought I had to leave a room to make others feel comfortable. Of course, if I was fairly brazen about flashing the nursing boob, they would quickly have tuned into the discomfort/shock value of this as well. But I think it's important that not only are we nurturing the child at breast, but we're working to model possibilities, if only accidentally or unwittingly, to the next generation of moms and dads.

Kelly

Aimee,

I am loving the discussions you are creating.
As a mom of 2, first one BF for 11 months, second is still BF at 10 months, I have found no issues on breast feeding in public. I have actually found that I get positive feedback if any at all. Maybe it is just the people I am around. I did have some serious anxiety about it at first, but after the first time in public with my little one crying, I didn't even hesitate to feed her.
Like you, I am one to use a blanket or wrap to cover the actually boob part, as I don't particualarly want to world to see them as well. However, this gets a little tricky as your babe becomes older and pops herself off at any distraction :)
That said, although I would never look poorly apon a mother BF her baby in public, I was at a party one time where a mom was BF a toddler with no attempt to cover and her breast was constantly just hanging out, this being at a dinner table with mixed sex people. I will say that this made even myself feel a bit uncomfortable.
So to sum it up, I guess my opinion is to breastfeed whenever and where ever you need, but to make some sort of attempt to cover yourself if in a public place. The sling type carriers work great for that. In fact I have fed my babe while shopping in Target an nobody knew any different.

Again, Aimee, thanks for sparking such great discussion!

Aimee

Materfamilias- You brought up a thought that I hadn't thought about: curiosity covered up with discomfort. I think that you probably have hit the nail on the head for how most people feel. When you feel discomfort, what do you do? Try to remedy the problem? Look away. Say something. Forget about it. How did this discomfort come about? From curiosity.

Maybe if people would address what the real issue is with BF in public then we could make some progress towards everyone getting along.

I think there doesn't need to be any reason to really be opposing one another one this issue. Each child is taken care by their mother and their mother knows best. Everyone has the right to feel uncomfortable or disagree about something. In this case BF your child in public or not. But is it our place to say anything? Is our place to make someone feel bad about themselves because you feel uncomfortable or do not agree?

I know that when I am confronted with a situation where I feel discomfort, embarrassments, I try to look inward and figure out where this is coming from. Of course with people who are close to me in my life, I will say something but other than that I don't feel like it's my place to say or pas judgement.

I think for myself I will just lead with example and people around me will take what they want from it. Likes you said, Materfamilias, lets work to model possibilities for the next generations of mama and papas.

Tilly

Hello all! Sorry to go off topic, but...

I'm 39 weeks pregnant and stumbled across this blog a few weeks ago and cannot tell you how useful I've found it so far. My miracle blanket is in the mail as I type! Anyway, I'm a native English speaker (Irish) living in French-speaking Switzerland and am looking for a glossary of practical ENG/FR childbirth-related terms (waters breaking, that kind of thing...) that might be useful for labour and can't seem to find anything online, so I just thought I would check and see if any of you might be able to recommend a link or have compiled such a glossary yourselves that you would be willing to share?? I'm surprised that I can't easily locate such a glossary via Google since every other subject matter under the sun seems to be covered, but there you go. Anyway, thought it might be worth a try. Thanks in advance. And thanks to Aimee and all you posters for creating such a great site!

gleek

this is a hard one for me because i don't practice what i preach! i believe that breast feeding in public is awesome and that every mother has the right to feed her baby wherever she wants to, though a modicum of modesty is generally nice :)

i, personally, don't feel that i can BF in public anymore. i did in the beginning when my daughter would take to the breast, eat, and then be done. now she's all over the place! she can barely stay latched on for more than three minutes at a time. she's so interested in her surroundings that she is constantly leaving me hanging out in the wind! and my breasts are huge (i'm beginning to really dislike them!) so it's not easy keeping modest.

since i already pump during the day three times per week because i'm back at work, i give her expressed breastmilk in a bottle whenever we're in public. thankfully this works for us both and now daddy has been able to spend time with her in this special way as well.

i'm guessing that someday soon she may go back to feeding and just being done, and also once solids are established she won't need to be at the breast as much. at that time we should be able to feed in public and i'll be ok with it. until then, it's the bottle for us!

Cathy

I formula feed, but I think it's a BABY'S right to eat whereever and whenever they're hungry. People that are offended by breastfeeding, formula feeding or toddler feeding (flinging food, eat with hands, more food on baby than in baby) just need to get over themselves. If I didn't like something that a random stranger was eating for lunch, it's not business to ask them to throw it out or move.

I just don't get how people can be offended by a child eating. Just my opinion. . . .

HAINAngel2000-Mary

I personally breast fed 3 of my 4 kids. I agree a person should have the right to breast feed anywhere they so choose. But with discreasion. I think there is nothing worse then a woman flopping out her boob in front of everyone for all to see. If a mother does it in a conservative way, covering herself and putting a light weight blanket over herself then I think that is good enough for me. But its the woman who just flop it out with out consideration of others feelings around them that I care personally. This is just my opinion..
Its not being offended by a child eating but a mother being well half naked that does..
Breast feeding is a beautiful thing...
Mary

Leigh

I've never had a problem BF my child in public and I'm a boob-flopper. There, I said it. I AM A BOOB FLOOPER. :)
Not because I'm trying to whip 'em out for everyone to see but because I'm so used to BF'ing and at ease with it and because I'm usually trying to "get er done" and because I refuse to cover my baby's head with a blanket (esp in this AZ heat) while trying to balance her and keep an eye on my toddler, etc.
And because my boobs, quiet literally, are floppy and kinda big. I cannot "hide" them very easily. No one has ever said a thing to me and if they are staring of giving me looks I don't notice because I'm not looking at them. I'm either carrying on a conversation with whomever I'm with or gazing at my child or...again, trying to contain my 2 year old. :)
When my first was born, I tried to be more "discreet" and it was so hard, so cumbersome, it irritated my baby, and left me feeling so shameful. The nessasity to feed my baby does not mean I have to take others "feelings" into account. There should be no arguement there.
Again, a passionate topic and passionate responses. :)
I get continually dissapointed that it even has to be discussed - and that BF in public has to be defended - but since it does, THANK YOU all for having to courage to talk about it.
I'll be on my merry boob floppin' way and hoping that if I offend any of you we can find a way to stop, smile at each other, and recognize our amazing connectedness as powerful women. Even if we choose to flop our boobs or flop the bottle.
Love and peace,

phillippa

And another thing.....

I sincerely commend all of you who can manage to keep your child and boobs covered with a blanket. I've tried a couple of times, just for the (fake) gesture in certain scenarios because I really don't need it (boobs not big at all), but Max won't have that. I don't blame him.

So boob floppers or otherwise, it's not as easy for some to be as discrete as others. No one should have to leave the party, sit in the bathroom, or in some lonely corner unless she or her baby prefer the privacy. If we're having a conversation at the table, my eyes aren't in my lap so one might glance there from time to time, but it shouldn't be long enough to make them uncomfortable.

The Bold Soul

First I just want to say that I think it's great that so many of you ARE comfortable BF-ing in public when you need to. As a woman I think it is a bit ridiculous that we should be made to feel ashamed of our bodies at all, but particularly for something as natural as feeding an infant. This is a very interesting discussion for me to read, as a non-mother, and I can say that, even if the sight a BF-ing mother DID make me a little uncomfortable, I'd still never make a rude remark to her or suggest she should leave while she's doing it.

Some of the other comments did make me think of a question, though, and I thought I'd just put it out there in this discussion - hope you don't mind Aimee, but I think it fits in. What is the value in breastfeeding a child beyond the age of 18 months or even a year? My understanding of the main point of breastfeeding is that you are helping a new baby build good health and antibodies to help them resist disease. And sure, it's important to help an infant feel comforted and secure, and forms an important bond with mommy. I get that.

But seriously... once they can walk and talk and eat solids? Once they are no longer infants and are considered "toddlers"? I do think that is a bit strange, and can't help wondering who is really getting the benefits at that point... the mother more than the child? Is it something mothers like to do, to keep their child close and dependent? I get the feeling there are some mothers who, consciously or subconsciously, don't want to encourage their child to become independent, and it sure seems to me this is one way to do that. So, what IS the "healthy" cut-off time to wean a child from the breast - and by "healthy" I mean what is both physically AND emotionally best for the CHILD. A child may want to keep breastfeeding forever, but at some point, isn't it emotionally healthier for them in the long run to wean them?

I am honestly trying not to be judgmental, but I am genuinely curious what the reasons are. Do doctors actually ADVISE continuing to breastfeed that far past 18 months, for medical reasons? I do think it's strange to be BF-ing a child over the age of 2. Personally I don't know anyone who has done that, so I don't have anyone to ask.

So... enlighten me.

Jennifer

Bold Soul has asked a good question. As a mother who has children but who chose to bottle feed (for various reasons, one of those reasons being poor milk supply), I have a hard time getting my head around the idea that some children are nursed beyond even a year.

Aimee

Shall I blog another entry for this discussion? I think this is an interesting topic because there are no "right answers". Well, that's what I believe... :)

I'll post my response in another blog entry.

Penny

Bold Soul ~ The World Health Organization has recommended children be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding for the first 2 years and beyond. I think this has been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

http://www.who.int/child-adolescent-health/NUTRITION/global_strategy.htm

Another flopper here (although I do tend to use my sling as they get older). I breastfed my daughter until she was almost 2 1/2 years and am currently breastfeeding my 16 month old son. I'm very pro-breastfeeding but I'm not a fanatic and I support every mother's right to do the best thing for her child. Having only recently moved to France from Australia, I am enjoying seeing the attitudes to breastfeeding here. So far, like Australia, I've had nothing but support when I have breastfed in public here.

Matt

Penny-- Keep in mind that WHO recommendations are made for underdeveloped countries where general health and living conditions are horrible. It obviously makes more sense for a child to drink breast milk, because the mom filters out anything harmful to the baby. Who can feed their child formula when the water is putrid and is full of malaria? Who can afford formula?

Back on topic, anyone who has a problem with breast feeding in public should be slapped. It is probably the most natural thing that humans do...

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