There’s been a lot of controversy lately surrounding the topic of breastfeeding in public. “Is it even legal for women to do that?” a lot of people wonder. As a matter of fact, not only are there laws allowing everyone to be topless in some places (NYC, for one, knows that it’s not just for men), but forty-three states have laws specifically to help nursing mothers out: it’s legal to feed your babies publicly.
Perhaps you’re a mother who likes to be public about her decisions; perhaps you want to be discreet. Either way, the best way to go about this is to be up-front and polite. Kill your critics with kindness.
2. It’s much easier for them to stop looking at you than it is for you to cart yourself, your baby, and all of your things to another entirely secluded location. If it bothers them, they can avert their eyes. There’s no need for you to have a breastfeeding Batcave (Breastcave?); it’s not a secret that babies need milk. Whoever is giving you the stink eye was probably breastfed.
3. Continuing with “it’s not a secret”, all mammals feed their young with milk. It’s cute when we see pictures of puppies, pigs and kitties doing it on the news; why isn’t it sweet when a human mother is feeding her child?
4. You are providing a positive example to others. Not because breastfeeding is better than anything else, but because there’s absolutely no reason to be ashamed of something that has happened literally since mammals became a thing.
5. Don’t be rude to others, but being sassy in your head is more than acceptable to help you be confident. Especially because whoever is horrified by you feeding your child most likely either has breasts, or appreciates them sexually on someone else.
6. Almost certainly, there will be people who are rude to you. This is America, land of the free, home of the opinionated, after all. But you’re probably not shouting, “CHECK THIS OUT, I’M BREASTFEEDING!” or holding up a neon sign pointing to your baby, or dancing in the middle of a road while feeding. You are being a good mother providing food for your hungry child/ren. Have good manners, but don’t stop simply because someone is uncomfortable. That’s their problem. However, if you are dancing or do have a neon sign, it might be a good idea for you to pause in your antics to help out the general public. Just because it’s good doesn’t mean you have to make a big deal about it.
7. This is a rule that applies to just about everything, and you probably know it already. Look confident, don’t look nervous. You know how it goes: if you look like you’re completely cool with whatever you’re doing, people will assume nothing’s up. Nonchalant poker faces go a long way. If Regina George can pull off a shirt with the boobs cut out, you can pull off feeding your children in public.
Not everyone is going to be snarky and mean about your babies latching onto you, especially other mothers who have gone through the exact same thing. Just be strong and confident (even if you do feel like it’s terrifying the first few times), and you’ll power through with a smile in no time.
If you do experience discrimination, there are things you can do to help make sure that other mothers do not. You can report it to FirstRight, which takes every reported incident of discrimination seriously. They aim to establish a correspondence with the organization in question and enter into an educational discussion about breastfeeding-friendly policies. You can also report the problem to National Alliance of Breastfeeding Advocacy (NABA), which advocates breastfeeding at the state and federal levels, and collects information about incidents of discrimination for statistical purposes.
Side note: Is there anything wrong with bottle feeding, or formula? Absolutely not. But that’s another story entirely.