Telling Breastfeeding Moms to 'Cover Up' Is Sexual Harassment & It Needs to Stop

Mom breastfeeding in public
Ververidis Vasilis/Shutterstock
There are two decisions that almost all breastfeeding moms have to make at some point: Will they nurse in public, and if so, will they cover up each and every time they do? These are personal decisions that every woman should be able to make for herself, but unfortunately, there are many instances when new moms are shamed for their preferences and instead are influenced by those around them. People sexualize breasts, even when they're being used to feed a child, which is why one woman just shared a scathing takedown that calls out breastfeeding shame for what it really is: a form of sexual harassment.


As more women feel empowered to speak out about their own experiences with sexual harassment thanks to the viral #MeToo movement, Instagram user DiAna Channing can't help but see one form of harassment many people have overlooked. "Speaking of sexual violence, how is telling a woman and child to cover up not sexual violence? Stop sexualizing breastfeeding," she wrote. "Motherhood is so f*cking fierce. What could be more perverse than asking a woman to feel shame for nurturing an innocent life in the way she was biologically designed to do?"

Breastfeed Chicago sign

Both before and after having kids, women cope with their body being objectified and hit with unwanted, sexually motivated comments. The game doesn't stop when a baby is involved or when the body being judged is sustaining another human's life -- the shaming is just framed as protecting public decency. Let's be clear: There's no difference between a man commenting on a woman's ass and a stranger commenting on a woman's breasts while she's breastfeeding in public, yet one is considered somewhat acceptable and is often justified in the name of decorum.

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Some moms decide to only nurse in private or have a blanket or scarf over their baby if they do breastfeed outside of their home, and there's no problem with this. The problem isn't those who cover up because that's what makes them or their baby more comfortable. The problem is that many women feel shamed into nursing privately; they do it because others stare at them, make comments about their bodies, or flat-out ask them to go breastfeed in a bathroom or leave the area. This is sexual harassment, and many breastfeeding moms have to deal with it on a daily basis.

Just this week, a breastfeeding mom took to Instagram to call out a man who catcalled her as she was walking to her car to find a private space to breastfeed her daughter.

Mom at Target

"Today I'm minding my own business in the Target parking lot. A man catcalls at me from his car," Angela Pueschel wrote on Instagram. "The irony is that I'm about to get my daughter out of her car seat so I can nurse her in the privacy of my backseat for fear of being ogled by strange men."

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This woman and all nursing moms should be able to breastfeed wherever they feel comfortable. Yet, Angela made the decision to do it in her car instead of in a comfortable space in Target because of her previous experience with people who only see boobs as a sexual objects. Even just staying in the parking lot, with her boobs completely concealed, she was still objectified. But the incident makes it clear that whether women are objectified for breastfeeding or objectified before they've even started, the harassment is the same. In both instances, women are being viewed as sex objects first and made to feel uncomfortable about their bodies. And both types of harassment should be taken seriously.

It's clear when a colleague in the office touches another employee without her consent that it's sexual violence. But it's less apparent to some that making a breastfeeding mom feel uncomfortable in any way is just as disgusting. "When we speak up we make the world a safer place," DiAna Channing wrote. And it's way past time that nursing moms feel secure feeding their babies in any place and in any way that they choose.

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