Breastfeeding in Public Is a Right!

Sasha Brown-Worsham

Last Tuesday, a merchant in Illinois suggested to Nichole Eidsmoe, a breastfeeding mother, that she may want to stop nursing her 11-month-old in public where all of the store could see her. The mother was horrified (as any of us would be), and she and her friends staged a nurse-in. Meanwhile many are siding with the store owner and questioning the etiquette and the "right" to be able to nurse in public.

The question, of course, is answered already by the state of Illinois. Breastfeeding in public IS a right. The Illinois Right to Breastfeed Act states:

A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother's breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding…


Case closed. However, there is more to say about this because obviously shop owner John Rapp is unaware, not just of Eidsmoe's right to feed her baby in his store, but also of the larger issue. A hungry baby should be able to eat.

Now the facts in this particular case are a bit of a he said, she said. She says she was covered, he says she wasn't. But the beauty of it is, it doesn't matter. Whether she was covered or not, her baby was hungry and she needed to feed her. 

If she popped a bottle into her baby's mouth, no one would have batted an eye. And as a mom who has breastfed for 3.5 years total between two children, I can say that never once did anyone complain when I had a pumped bottle in public.

But when I nursed (under my hooter hider), you better believe I got the look. We all know the look. It's the "I can't believe you are doing this in public" look, and almost all breastfeeding moms know what I am talking about.

People are so judgmental about nursing, which is why we need laws like the one in Illinois. Covered or uncovered, nipple or no nipple, nursing is something so natural, most moms don't even think about it. Our culture is so horrified by this idea that the breast might serve a function other than eye candy for men or objects of sexual desire. But they do.

Nobody would dream of getting upset if I pulled out a bottle and fed my hungry baby or if I handed my toddler a non-messy snack in a cup. But everyone is up in arms about a boob.

Well get over it. There is nothing uncouth about feeding a hungry baby. If she was in the Ergo with the hood over the baby, then she was even basically decent as well. But if she weren't, what is it to him? Why do people care so much? Because it grosses them out?

Honestly, people do things that gross me out in public all the time. I'm not a huge fan of seeing people who are clearly unhealthy sucking down even more unhealthy foods. I'm also not a fan of people who wear clothing they don't fit into or who talk too loudly on their cellphones. But I get over it because we all share this world.

So why can't people do the same with breastfeeding? Never mind the fact that if you're grossed out by a baby eating, you clearly have issues. After all, what on Earth makes you think you have the right to tell me how to feed my baby?

If you don't like my boob, look away. Otherwise I'm going to feed my baby the way I want to feed my baby and the way that works best for him and the way in which I have the RIGHT to keep on doing.

Does this bother you?

Image via footloosiety/Flickr

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