“She’s 5 months old, and she eats breast milk. From my actual breast. Shocking, I know!”

So says Shannon Smith, a Canadian mom of three who was asked to stop nursing her infant in public.  Near tears, she made her purchases (I wouldn’t have!) overhearing the other shop girls make rude comments unknowing that she was the boob-in-public perp. 

Then Smith went home and started a blog, Breast for the Weary, vented a little, and via the wonders of social media and the internet, a nursing flash-mob was staged in the mall in protest.

I’m always perplexed that this is still news.  Breasts make milk to feed babies.  Biology.  It really is that simple.  For those who feel moms should be relegated to a dark corner to do the somehow dirty deed: don’t stare. Why would I want to feed an infant in a dirty public restroom?  Would you sit on the toilet to eat?  No.  And neither should babies. 

Most moms are discreet.  I was while nursing in public.  Oddly enough, I think things like this function as a flashing neon light: nursing in progress (is it the kicking feet sticking out?)  I used a blanket in the beginning but then figured out that a well-placed scarf worked better, or just my arm when I nursed in my beloved Beco carrier. 

H/t: Teaching my two.

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16 Responses

  1. […] perplexing unless it’s a reflection of attitudes toward nursing itself. Who am I kidding? When mothers are asked not to nurse their infants publicly, why wouldn’t a nursing doll baby cause anguish among the […]

  2. Just to clarify, by “lactating pair” I was referring to mother and child. (!)

  3. I breastfed my seven babies without public scandal. 😉 I tried to plan around the expectation that they’d be wanting to nurse while we were out. Frankly after six months or so my babies weren’t crazy about nursing in strange places so I stayed home a lot.

    Given the amount of cleavage we routinely see in the course of a visit to Walmart I think this isn’t really about women exposing their breasts. A lactating pair is a sign of contradiction to the culture.

    I love LLL. They were a voice in the wilderness for years when the “experts” were telling mothers to free themselves from their burdensome children by offering them chemical glop through an artificial nipple. Science is now backing up everything nursing moms already knew about the benefits of breastmilk, breastfeeding, and secure attachment between mothers and babies.

    • I wish I had better luck with LLL. I think the best advisor I’ve spoken to was a former one ; )

      As for science and nursing, I’m still awed by the Live Science article last year detailing the DNA enhancement nursing provides. Amazing, isn’t it, the design of life.

      Laughing re Walmart cleavage. You’re absolutely right.

  4. I was heartbroken when my son weened himself in less than months. I enjoyed that bonding.

    My littlest one is adopted, so it was a bottle for her and the bonding was not quite the same thing.

    I had not electricity today from the snow storm, I spent the afternoon at borders with a bunch of others in the same situtation. Two women were nursing, I didn’t see anything but happy feet.

    People are sick. Moms know what is best.

    • Happy feet! ; )

      Sorry your son self-weaned so quickly… and re your daughter, did you know you can try? I didn’t until reading at one of my favorite nursing sites, kellymom. Just an fyi…

      • I did now that, but it wouldn’t work for me. I have had some serious health issues and not in the position to change me hormone levels.

        I would have loved to have done it, but it wasn’t in the cards. But, the upside is that I was never supposed to have a baby and I have two now. I trade that for the nursing experience anyday.

  5. I wouldn’t buy anything from that store either. AND I would ask to talk to the manager.

  6. If I had been that mom, I woulda said, yeah. I’ll leave when I’m done. Kinda busy right now.

    Really. Like we enjoy the thrill of the possible exposure. Can we all just agree to make the baby stop screaming?

    I never had anyone give me a hard time. Perhaps my attitude showed, lol. The most shock I ever caused was that of a 4 year old. I was not expecting anyone to come in (I was at a family function, not in public), so I had no blanket, just the baby’s head under my loose shirt.

    So the 4 year old stops, agape and staring. “What is he DOING???”

    Well, he’s drinking milk.

    Still wide-eyed and now bewildered: “from WHAT???”

    I guess he knew there wasn’t a bottle under my shirt.

  7. Where I live, we have to contend with the La Leche mafia who make you feel like a criminal if you use a bottle! I nursed the first one but for medical reasons couldn’t nurse the second and I felt as if I needed to hide to bottle feed my baby!
    Babies have to eat, moms know what’s best for them & their babies and should be left the heck alone to feed those babies as they see fut.
    I remember feeling a little weird the first time I entered a room where my older sister was nursing. I solved the awkwardness by looking in her EYES when I spoke to her. That’s what I recommend: if it makes you feel weird to see as nursing mom, look away or LOOK AT HER EYES instead of at her boobs – you shouldn’t be looking at her boobs anyway even if she isn’t nursing because that’s just rude. 🙂

    • Laughing re the “look at her EYES.”

      I’ve had my run-in with the LLL mafiosa as well. When I started weaning pjT (at 24 mo), I called for advice. The woman still nursed her 4 year old. And did everything she could to discourage me from weaning.

      I’m bummed you couldn’t nurse #2–I’ve met so many other moms who were told they couldn’t due to meds only to find out later they could have. It’s been my experience that most doctors know absolutely nothing about nursing. The nurses and midwives rock. And Tom Hale (Medications and Mother’s Milk), too!

      • My baby had a lot of issues, As a preemie who was very sick, he only had an IV for a few days, then a feeding tube up his nose & down his throat. He didn’t have a sucking reflex and half his time in the NICU was just convincing him to accept food that wasn’t from a tube. Plus I was on serious medications due to my medical condition. The nurses said they’d help me to try to nurse or pump milk but at the time I was more worried about my son staying alive and I gave them the OK to bottle feed. It was my own decision. At my hospital, the nurses and doctors are explicitly instructed not to pressure moms either way, but just to let them know that they’ll help no matter which choice is made.
        I wasn’t on meds with the first baby, but my milk wasn’t so great. After two months, she really wasn’t gaining weight the way she should and she spit up constantly. We never managed to perfect the latching on thing either and my poor boobs were all torn up from her. As soon as I switched her to formula, she started to thrive & when I thickened it with rice cereal, she stopped spitting up.
        So I say, to each their own, moms should do what works for them and feels right for their babies and not let anyone make them feel bad. Momma knows best.
        Oh, one more thing that happened to me due to breastfeeding – stress fractures. I didn’t know that my bones were being drained of calcium until on of my feet turned up with bone breaks. I walked around on a busted foot for two weeks before finally seeing a doctor and as soon as he saw the X-ray, he asked me if I was nursing.
        My diet was terrible because we didn’t have much money and everything we had went to baby things, which is probably why my milk wasn’t so great.
        I remember being SOOOO hungry all the time, and actually getting light headed and nearly passing out a few times. My first few months as a new mom were really rough on me. I think I may have had some PPD, but there wasn’t any support system for me because I’m fairly isolated where I live and I hadn’t discovered all the friends that live in my computer yet.
        It was much different with the second one. After the trauma of having him be so sick and in NICU, once we finally got him home, I had no depression or baby blues at all, holding my little baby boy was nothing short of pure BLISS. it didn’t bother me at all that he had a bottle, because in those early days it was still a battle to get him to take it and my husband is the one who had the magic touch for feeding him.
        Sorry for the ramble, I just remembered a whole bunch of stuff that I normally don’t think about.

      • MJ, believe it or not, malnourished mothers in Asia and Africa are still able to produce “good” milk–nutritious–for their babies. Yes, it will leach calcium from your bones, but not that fast. Nothing a calcium supplement plus a little milk won’t prevent.

        And trust me–I understand how difficult it can be in the beginning. There were nights when pjT cried and cried and cried the first month. And so did I. If it weren’t for the support of my darling husband, family, friends, and a few damn good LCs, I would’ve been lost. Add to that a raging case of thrush by 6 weeks owing to the massive antibotics we were both put on after delivery, and I felt like we would NEVER be able to nurse normally. But we did. Evenutally.

  8. I’m nursing as I read this. That poor mom. What is wrong with people?

    • I know. I was shocked by the article that not all states had breastfeeding rights laws in place. Especially since I lived in one of them until last spring! I rarely encountered problems outside of family lol.

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