June 18, 2007

Breast-Feeding: Indecent?

So buried within this Newsweek article was actually a bit of good news: more states are passing protective laws giving women the right to nurse in public.

But why on earth would we even need such laws? Isn't it sort of a no-brainer that breast-feeding is not "indecent exposure?"

Apparently not. Despite all the health benefits to mother and baby that come from breast feeding, people still freak out when they see it in public. And as a result, the Newsweek authors claim, breast-feeding is starting to decline again. They cite a study saying that 48 percent of women "would feel uncomfortable" nursing their babies in a park, store or mall.

This is crazy.

Crabby is going to trust Newsweek's fact-checkers on the health research behind this; they're a big Fancy-Pants Authoritative news magazine. Here's what they say:

"Nursing reduces a baby's risk of diarrhea, ear infections, urinary-tract infections and bacterial infections," as well as possibly "food allergies, obesity and diabetes." It also lowers the mother's risk of breast and ovarian cancer, burns 500 calories a day, and saves about $1,500 a year in formula costs.

Gosh, we sure wouldn't want to encourage that!

Breast-feeding isn't right for every mother; Crabby isn't saying every mom should. But it seems clear that overall it's a healthy thing, a normal thing, and something we shouldn't be making anymore difficult than it already is.

Squeamishness about breast-feeding seems so adolescent. Crabby is beginning to think modern Americans are idiots. Brutal violence is acceptable entertainment for everyone, including children--but the human breast is obscene.

Crabby could rant about this subject at great length but she will try to restrain herself. Do any of you folks have any interesting experiences or thoughts about any of this?


  1. I've read a few too many heated discussions on this topic (I'd really like those hours of my life back, by the way) and as far as I can tell, it's not the breast that's offensive, it's the milk.

    People who freak out about breastfeeding think that any substance that comes out of a human body is disgusting and dirty and a threat to public health and morality. I have seen people -- in all seriousness -- compare breastfeeding an infant in public to pulling down your pants and taking a shit in the middle of a mall.

    This is also the only mindset in which sending mothers and babies into public bathrooms to breastfeed makes any sense. The mother is excreting a filthy, yucky, dirty substance from her body, and the bathroom is the only appropriate place for that.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: people who think like this desperately need therapy.

  2. I could rant at great length as well. It's an odd world, Crabby.
    We'll use sex to sell virtually anything but pregnancy is still considered something to be kept hidden (i.e. "her confinement"). As for breast-feeding, well that's just wrong.
    Despite being perfectly natural, normal, healthy, and right in many, many cases.
    It's another ploy to keep women down in my view. Creating life and being able to offer sustenance from your own body is very, very powerful.
    That scares men, I think.
    It seems to me that the male breast is capable of creating milk though I can't remember where I read that. If more men breastfed it would be a right not a crime.
    Full disclosure: no kids therefore I've never breastfed anyone. But I'd do it in broad daylight in the middle of a busy thoroughfare if I thought it would make a difference.

  3. Leah: Men's breasts have all the same glands and stuff as women's, it just isn't developed -- essentially, they have little girls' breasts. :p So, if you pumped a guy full of hormones, his breasts would develop and he would be able to lactate the same as a woman.

    Oh, and I also think part of the aversion to breastfeeding is the idea that some men have that women and women's bodies have no business being in public without being sexually attractive to them. Breastfeeding an infant has nothing to do with sex and nothing to do with them, therefore it's offensive. The "milk=gross" thing just explains *so much*, though. :p

  4. Heaven forbid that a women's breast is used for it's intended purpose: to sustain life. The West is so entrenched in sex that it hurts people's brains to think that womens' breasts are not for the sole pleasure of men or any other sexual purpose.

    I applaud women who publicly breast-feed. The present and future well-being of mother and child most certainly overrides the offended.

  5. It doesn't bother me specifically. No, wait, the truth is... I just don't care. I've never cared about the matters of pregnancy and anything related, so unless a breastfeeding mother was to insist to do that right under my nose and force me to watch and coo over it, I couldn't care less. After that, it's their business if they want to cover themselves or get some privacy, or not. Personnally, I don't find it attractive nor beautiful, but it doesn't shock me either. I suppose that the idea of it being shocking was born with the Victorian era or something. ;)

    On the other hand, I'll be *very* bothered by someone leaving a dirty diaper in a public place, or, worse, changing their baby's diaper in public "because it's something natural". Yeah, it's natural, but there's still crap in there all the same, lady. Let's say there is 'natural' and 'natural'.

  6. Hi Chickengirl,
    Wow, thanks for the fascinating info. Would not have guessed about guys being able to lactate; nor that it's the milk itself that freaks many people out. I've never noticed women squirting it all over the place, have I just been unobservant? (And I totally agree about men resenting boobs that aren't there for them to ogle sexually).

    Hi Leah,
    I do think you're right that men find it threatening--and apparently some women do too though this mystifies me even more. And re thoroughfare nursing: I totally believe you would too!

    Hi Goinggone!
    Yep, we live in weird culture where "it hurts people's brains to think that womens' breasts are not for the sole pleasure of men or any other sexual purpose." Well said.

  7. Hi Kery,
    Totally with you on the distinction between nursing and diaper changing.

    Public baby-poop display grosses me out too. That indeed belongs in a restroom. And wouldn't it be nice if diaper-changing happened as often in Mens rooms as Womens?

  8. I breast feed both my children. I am not modest really so, I did breast feed in public to the horror of strangers, friends and even some family members. I do think we need to protect it.
    I am always disappointed when I here someone choose not to do it.
    My boys were hardly ever sick, never had infections or colic.
    It is an amazing physical bond with your baby.
    I think some people some how equate breast feeding with sex in a way and it makes them feel dirty to view it. Instead of realizing they need to work on themselves, they turn on the breastfeeding mother.
    I breast feed both my kids exclusively for the first six months. My grandma was afraid that my babies would starve. Granted my babies were not super chubby but, they were healthy (per doctors visits). She really did try to make me stop. I think on some level she felt it was uncivilized.

  9. Breast feeding in public is perfectly fine, however "baring it all" is not. There should be a distinction between the two. I am pregnant with my first child and will breast feed in public, but I will use a blanket to cover up. I am torn about supporting the latest campaigns for rights for breast feeding in public because I support being able to do it in public WHILE BEING MODEST, but I do not support breast feeding in public while you let everything hang out for the world to see.

  10. I agree with everything you said in your post, Crabby. Actually, I'm more in line with 'chicken girl'--the things that people get upset over in this country--it's unreal. New to this site, but me like!

  11. Ok. I confess. I visit this blog daily and even read all the comments... but have yet to post one! This topic bugs me though! I don't really understand how breast-feeding is in any way offensive... kery brought up changing diapers as a comparison, and I totally agree. Changing diapers affects people in the vicinity, but how does breast-feeding in any way impact people other than the mother and child involved? It's not like it smells, makes noise, or takes up a huge amount of space... (children when they get older, do all these things, but that's besides the point) why should people care? some people walk around in clothing that reveals much more than many breast-feeding mothers, but that's perfectly acceptable? give me a break!

  12. When feeding the next generation is considered indecent, someone needs to grow up, and it's not the infant.

  13. Hi Samantha,
    It's great to hear a mother's experience with this. And good for you for not letting people discourage you from doing what was best for you and your kids!

    Hi anonymous,
    Thanks for stopping in!
    I actually haven't seen many women being particularly flamboyant about it, but perhaps you've run in to more of that than I have. And to me, a brief second or two of an uncovered breast isn't all that offensive. But I suppose if someone were making a big show of it in order to attract attention, that would be a bit weird.

    Hi Adam/DietKing,
    Thanks, and your site looks great too! I'm actually thinking about doing a fairly ignorant post on Alli soon, which you've raised some good points about. So I may steal some of your thoughts!

    Hi Lauren,
    Thanks so much for braving the commenting process and for visiting regularly! (This makes Crabby very, very happy).

    You make an excellent point about breast-feeding not affecting any one else much (unlike diapers), and like you said, rambunctious kids have way more 'impact' on those around them than breastfeeding moms do. But no one forces parents with kids to go hide in the restroom!

  14. I've never had a children and I've never breast fed so maybe I've no business in this discussion BUT I fail to see how anyone can find it offensive. And most women seem very discreet about it - you can hardly tell what they're doing although that is not the point. They have every right to breastfeed whereever and whenever is the right time for mother and baby.

  15. I totally support a woman's right to breastfeed their child in 'public.'

  16. I have no problem with women breastfeeding in public as long as they do it discreetly. I'm a flight attendant, and I have mother's baring all on the plane on a frequent basis. I try to be nice and hand them a blanket and I either get dirty looks or a very vocal protest.

    I once had a women removed from an aircraft for refusing to coverup while breastfeeding. Several other passengers complained so I offered her a blanket, she declined. I then offered her the option of moving to the rear galley, out of sight of other passengers, she declined and insisted it was her right to breastfeed in public. I had her removed from the aircraft for failure to obey a crew command. She threatened to sue me, but I never heard anything else about it so I guess she gave up.

    Bottom line, I have no problem with it. I don't think it is disgusting, but I also think you need to be discreet and coverup.

  17. ooo, love this topic. I am currently a breastfeeding mama. My third. Have nursed all of them to about a year. When I have to do it in public, I always think people would prefer to have me quitely feed le bebe than to have him scream at the top of his lungs for an extended period of time. Hmmm, feed a starving baby or care that someone feel a teensy bit uncomfortable. Really now.
    I will say this though, I do believe in discretion, not because I feel self-conscious but because I felt differently before I had children. I didn't quite understand fully the experience or know very many nursing mamas. So a blanket, quiet corner, in an effort to be little curteous, that's fine. but when it comes down to it, boob wins.

    I would be in complete shock if someone came up to me and asked me to stop, or move, or said it was offensive. I wouldn't even know what to do...except maybe take aim. (ew. but funny.)

  18. I"ve never had a problem with it...I mean that's what they're for.
    I think it's people with issues about seeing other people's breasts that need to take a deep breath and go for a walk. Mosy women who I know who breastfeed in public are quite modest about it and I fail to see why it would be a problem. If the woman is comfortable doing so in public...why not? Most friends I know who did so would ask those near her politely if they minded, and usually they would not and they would do so. It's not like they're gyrating about with tassles on whilst doing so...silly prudish ideas...

  19. Sorry, Tired, I missed you the first time! Very well put, I must say.

    Hi Dawn--
    Well, lack of breastfeeding experience didn't keep me from weighing in! As usual, you make complete sense.

    Dr. J, hi there! I always seem to agree with you. Perhaps you could say something dumb sometime, just to get a rise out of me.... Nah.

    Hi Noah,
    Thanks for stopping by! I'm just amazed that other passengers would be that upset about it. Seems like screaming babies are a lot more nerve-wracking than nursing ones. You got stuck in the middle--but I actually think it's the other passengers who should have been kicked off the plane, not the nursing mother.

    You had me laughing with that "take aim." I think it's an excellent idea! Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  20. First off to the couple of folks who said that they agree with breastfeeding as long as it's done in a covered-up, non-flamboyant way; I would just like to point out that babies have no common sense when it comes to "discreetly feeding". My son decided early on to spend half of his time eating being curious. Noise - up his head goes; bright light - up his head goes.

    Sometimes I'd get the whole, "Can't you try harder to cover up while feeding him" speech. And let me tell you that to someone getting three hours of sleep daily, a better plan to hide my breasts while feeding my baby falls fairly far down on the list of important things to do.

    If it were up to me we'd plaster big billboards up that show women breastfeeding so that more women could feel more comfortable. I can't believe we have famous works of art hanging in museums that show naked folks, and porn is so huge, and beer commercials show just about the whole breast but the nipple and yet people get in trouble or feel bad for feeding their children.

    The USA is one of the only places on the planet where breastfeeding is only common in the first year -- and gee, it's not too hard to figure why.

    When I used to work as a doula I had way too many women tell me that they were embarrassed to feed their baby in public because of dirty looks or comments and that is simply not cool.

    I could go on but other's here said how I feel already.

  21. Hi geosomin,
    Great advice to those who freak at breastfeeders: take a deep breath & go for a walk! Thanks for stopping in.

    I love the description of trying to feed your kid on no sleep with an uncooperative kid--yeah, like your biggest worry should be protecting people around you from the horrendous sight of a breast!

    And you make a great point about typical breastfeeding being much shorter here in the US than in other countries. And it sounds like that's a big problem here--that lots of the health benefits come from doing it longer and US women generally stop too soon. Thanks!

  22. I have decided that this is all a conspiracy perpetuated by the formula manufacturers. I have yet to hear anyone say they were bothered by a breastfeeding woman, and if they are, THEY should leave the area, not the mom. My dad was uncomfortable when I was breastfeeding, but he just left the room. Fine with me, I don't need my dad seeing my boobs anyway!

    I would think that a woman should wait until she has the hang of nursing before doing so at the mall. If your little bundle of joy is giving you trouble about latching on, public places aren't really the place to figure that out.

    Also, the woman should wear something that makes for easy access and cover up for the boobage. Again, have this stuff figured out before you go out.

    This should be common sense.

    As far as asking the people around you "if they mind" I think that is just plain ridiculous. I have never heard anyone say, I am going to give my baby a bottle now, do you mind? Yeesh!!

    Breastfeeding is an awesome thing and I loved every minute of it!!!

  23. hi holly!
    I love hearing from you gals who actually have done it and know what you're talking about. Great practical advice as well as kick-ass attitude.

  24. Like Dawn, I've never had a child so I can't speak from that angle -- but I don't understand the freak-out factor for breast-feeding, either. As others have pointed out, most moms who breast-feed in public are very discreet. And yes, it's ridiculous, the double-standards about breasts.

    Crabby, I tagged you for a meme if you'd like to play, but only if you want to play. No pressure! :) See my blog for details!

  25. Hi :o)
    I've just come from Half The Mans blog where you commented on the Xenical fat loss tablets post, and you said you were curious about them. I've tried them, and this is what i wrote on his blog..

    Xenical's been in Australia for a while. I tried it about 4 years ago [for 2 months], and i'm not sure it really helped.
    30% of the fat you eat just goes straight through you. That means that you continuously "leak" fluid that looks, and feels like cooking oil. How much you leak, depends on how much fat was in what you ate.[But you still ALWAYS leak]
    I always felt like a mess. I tried using panty liners, but because it's oil, i didn't feel any cleaner. You still have to change your pants all the time. A few times i was out, and after sitting down, i actualy looked like i'd messed myself when i stood up, because there was a dark patch on my pants crutch!
    It's just a big hygeine issue for me, I always felt dirty.

  26. ....Breastfeeding is normal. If someone has such an issue with it that it brings out a response. It's their problem, not the mothers.
    But on the flip side, It's up to the mother to be somewhat discreet.

  27. Hehe, Chicken Girl and Thomma Lyn -- I think that will make three tags for poor Crabby. Now where to head to with all of that! ;)

  28. Hi Cactusfreek,
    Thanks for all the info! I just came down here after putting up a new post on that very subject--and this is exactly the kind of stuff I was curious about. (I think Xenical is the same thing as Orlistat, right?)

    Sounds like you used it as directed and still got yucky side effects? That doesn't seem fair! I'm with you, putting up with "leakage" is just not worth it.

    And thanks for you comments on breastfeeding too!

  29. Hi Thomma Lyn, ChickenGirl & Kery--

    Uh oh.

    So three of my favorite people, all of whom I probably tagged for something myself earlier on, have tagged me for memes.

    As it happened, I got tagged a couple of other times in the past 2 weeks by people I'd met recently and I turned them both down, saying I'm not doing Memes any more.

    Which is totally hypocritical of me because I've tagged people myself, and even tried to start my own meme once (which kind of went nowhere, 'cause I did it wrong. It was all just as well).

    Anyway, the problem is I sort of ran out of people to tag for things and was annoying those I tagged. I was also having trouble working the memes into posts given that this is at least in theory a "subject matter" blog. (Though I'm always off topic anyway!)

    So I'm really sorry to be such a spoilsport but I think I'm going to stick with the "no more memes" policy, especially since I've already turned other ones down on that basis. (But I hate to say no to such cool people!)

    But thanks so much for thinking of me!

  30. No worries. :) To be honest, I don't really dabble into memes myself, and this is the first one I do on Color Me Fit. I'm not too sure myself where to put those, hehe.

  31. Awww. But no worries here either. :)

  32. The things that people choose to be worried about here in the US just astonishes me. Seriously... take a second to compare... a woman breastfeeding her baby, or the constant parade of half-naked women dancing around on the television? What is wrong with this picture?! People are picking and choosing here. Apparently bare skin is only supported when it is sexual.

  33. Thanks Keri & ChickenGirl,
    You guys rock & I'm sorry to flake on this. Thanks for being so understanding!

    Hi Jessica!
    Yeah, isn't the double standard completely weird?

  34. I breast fed all three of my kids - though the middle one for the longest. The first wierd encounter I had was from another breast feeding Mom who was ticked off 'cause the boss let m efeed my son in the break room during my lunch break while she nursed hers in the car. She actually ended up quiting over it - when all she had to do was ASK.

    The second was after emergency surgery. I needed a breast pump to relieve some of the pressure and the Male nurse FREAKED. This in a hospital that advertisises it's "excelent" OB ward. I had to call my sister in law - head nurse on a different floor - to some and straighten this idiot out. H=I do not know what on earth he thought I was goint to do - but did not seem to understand that I was a nursing Mom without her Babe ! idiot.

  35. Hi Lisa!

    Wow, that just amazes me. Why are people so weird about it? And that nurse sounds like a totally idiot. I hope someone gave him a good talking to. What evil plans did he think you had in mind with a breast pump?

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  36. When my daughter was a baby I breast fed her and was told to go hide in the bathroom to feed her because someone was offended. I was shocked because I had taken every percaution to make sure that nothing was visable. I guess there are some that are just stupid.

  37. Yeah, I also find it utterly ridiculous that people get bent out of shape over a woman breastfeeding in public. I actually chewed out these 2 old guys in a store because of their behavior towards a woman who was breastfeeding. Mind you this was quite a few years ago, so I don't remember word for word what they were saying, but at the time I was shopping and became aware of these two acting indignant and making comments in regards to a woman who was standing a few feet off nursing her child. She was kinda standing off in the clothing rounders so she was somewhat concealed from the other shoppers, but you could still look and tell what she was doing. The 2 guys were acting all offended and making comments about how she needed to go somewhere else and do "that", and they were certainly trying to embarrass the poor girl. When I realized this, I got angry. I told them that they needed to knock it off and mind their own business. I was like " I bet if she was on a stage in some strip club somewhere shaking her breasts, you would think that's okay, but she's not supposed to use them for what they were intended for? You need to shut your mouths and keep your comments to yourself." They were certainly taken back, and I think the one guy was actually thinking of mouthing off to me, but then he realized that there were a whole bunch of people who were taking interest in the conversation, and were shooting him dirty looks. Especially the women. So they wandered off. The lady who was breastfeeding looks at me and said "Thank you." She had heard all the comments the 2 guys were making about her. I don't understand how anyone can think there's anything wrong with feeding a baby.

  38. I don't understand why it's okay to show every part of your breast except the nipple in public (like Lil' Kim at some awards show I can't remember the name of), but it's not okay to breastfeed in public where the nipple is covered by a baby's head.

    Women a hundred years ago weren't supposed to wear clothes where you could tell they were pregnant. And not too long ago having a pregnant woman on tv was taboo. This breastfeeding thing is just another hurdle for women.

    Off topic a little: In NY they passed a law where it is legal for women to go topless because men are allowed to go topless. I don't understand why people differentiate between a man's chest and a woman's chest. Both of them can cause sexual feelings and attraction.

  39. Hi Kyla,
    Thanks for stopping by! I hate to hear of people being treated like that--it just seems so stupid!

    bill s,
    Good for you for saying something! It's hard to believe some people could be so obnoxious. Sounds like the woman really appreciated it too.

    Hi anonymous,
    You make some really good points! And I hadn't heard of that New York law. But it makes sense to me. Don't know how many women will actually take advantage of it, given the harassment they'd have to put up with.

  40. As Karen said to the woman ranting about the nursing mother in Super Target:

    "Lady, it's a boob. Stop acting like one and get over it."

    Once again, leave it to the Puritans to create something tawdry about using the human body for a purpose God intended.

    -- P

  41. You know what cracks me up?

    There's this show on E! called The Girls Next Door. It's totally great-- a reality show about Hugh Hefner's three twenty- something girlfriends(they are brilliant minds-- let me tell you).

    Anywho, for whatever reason at some point during the show there is a need for them to not wear clothes. To provide them modesty, E! blurs the unmentionables so they look like naked Barbie dolls.

    I've always wondered why bother? It all just seems very letter of the law to me . . .


  42. I would never go as far as to say breast feeding to be offensive. But consider this, a restaurant full of 13 year old boy scouts watching as a mother switches her child from one breast to the other? Do you seriously believe they are watching her thinking what a beautiful & natural sight it is to see a mother bonding with her child? No, they are thinking a little lower. I spent many years waiting tables & I have seen it with my own eyes. It is easily remedied though. Common courtesy & a receiving blanket. I know one woman who breast feed all 3 of her children till they were almost 2. Her 6 year old would reach down her shirt & pull out her breast in the middle of the restaurant because he wanted to "see it". Yes, it can be a beautiful thing. And yes it can be offensive. A little courtesy goes a long way.

  43. Hi Penelope,
    It's a boob! I know, I can't quite figure out why we're so weird about this stuff. And, um, that TV show you mentioned sounds seriously educational. What with the blurred brainy bimbos and all. Will have to check it out some time.

    Hi Sebrina!
    Thanks so much for stopping by. Well, to play devils' advocate for a moment, it it really a huge problem if a group of 13 year old, possibly horny, boy scouts encounter a naked breast in a restaurant and have to learn how to act in a socially appropriate manner despite their curiosity and possible lust?

    I think one reason for our weird fixation on the sexual in this country is because we don't accept human bodies and their sexuality as a normal part of life. And a glimpse of a naked breast while a mother breast feeds should be something any normal healthy adult or child can tolerate without freaking out.

    But that's just me, and I know lots of people feel differently. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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  46. I cannot Say For certain That I agree with breastfeeding But I am also Not in the same boat as Im assumeing this Mr Sess. But tis not in my nature to insult People so I will not start and arguement on here It will lead to worse things. But I read through most of statements and some of you Remain Anonymous for privacy Purposes. Have stated this is way a ploy to keep women down. You are wrong Their are males like that But the fact is We need to wake up and realize we need eachother to survive. Call me what you will, But I am a V.I.P in Govermental Laws and secret society I assure you that Your rights will be protected in more areas then they are now. We are currently working on it. But some areas simply will NOT allow it so I cant make any true promises I am sorry for some of the rude comments on here but for those of you sniping at the men. You need to grow up. Have a nice day I will be checking in ever so often.

  47. I posted the above statement but after I slept on it. I got the impression some of you may think incorrectly about it. Normally I stay out of Things like this but I coulden't bare it with sesses comments on here. Nice move by the admin by the way. But anyway What I ment by you need to stop sniping at men. Im going to finish it. The point of it is becuase men most are never going to stop thinking it is sick. Their is litterly no point in even trying It is the way they are grown up in schools in household And in many other areas of aspect. I know I ask much but The only way I can see is to deal with it I am sorry if this offends anyone. From Strauss

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