What is women’s responsibility to men while breastfeeding?

Today, on International Women’s Day, a conservative Catholic Twitter personality retweeted a story about a gubernatorial candidate who breastfed her baby in an election ad. He added this comment:

“Lady, cover that up. Breast feeding in public is fine but cover up. No one needs to have to avert their eyes uncomfortably.” (I’ve taken out his name because it’s not about him. His sentiment is very common among conservative Catholics.)


Curious, I looked up the ad in question to see how flagrant a bit of lactivism it was.

Now, a disclaimer: I’m rare among my friends in that I have some sympathy for men who find public breastfeeding distracting. Men like boobs, and I’m okay with that. I do believe women should be aware at the effect their exposed breasts can have on men.

Of course, it’s not always possible for women to be completely discreet, and lots of babies won’t tolerate covers, and of course there is often a flash of skin that shows while you position the hungry baby, and the most important thing is that a baby get fed when he’s hungry; but it does kind of bug me when moms go out of their way to turn breastfeeding into some kind of exhibitionist statement, hanging out at Starbucks with their entire titty on display like some kind of–


Watch the ad. Here’s the footage that made this Catholic conservative fellow’s eyeballs feel so uncomfortable.


Did you even see anything? I didn’t. Just a hungry baby getting fed.

This video is almost miraculous for how unboobful it is. Margaret Thatcher showed more skin on any given day than the woman in this commercial. She’s far more modest than I ever manage to be. (For the record, my own public nursing technique was to remove my glasses. Then everything got all blurry, and no one could see us.)

So . . . what’s the deal, here? Why does this Tweeter, and so many other men (and women, too), find even the idea of public breastfeeding so disconcerting? Because that’s all there was here: An idea. We saw a woman; we saw a baby; we knew what was going on, but we sure didn’t see anything. And yet merely knowing it happened caused the fellow discomfort.

Long have I pondered over this puzzle. I can easily understand how secular men can find breastfeeding off-putting. Many men are so warped by porn that they prefer videos to living women. Actual, real, in-the-room women are unappealing to them. They only want to see women who’ve been artfully separated into parts, like a cow at the hands of a butcher.

But how is it that conservative, Catholic men tremble with consternation if they must be in the same room with a woman using her breasts as if they are some kind of, ugh, mammary glands or something? They say they are concerned with modesty and decency, but how can that be so? They’re happy to partner with Fox News, which has a “cleavage” tag on its page, and whose female news anchors routinely show abundant skin. Conservative men don’t demand draconian modesty from their political idols, male or female. Only from nursing mothers.

Truly, I believe them when they say public breastfeeding causes them discomfort. But I don’t believe it has anything to do with the woman offending their sense of modesty, decency, or chastity.

The discomfort they feel is the discomfort of being excluded. The discomfort they feel is in seeing a woman’s body in a context that has nothing to with them. It makes them uncomfortable to see a woman in a context that even temporarily excludes them.

When a woman shows half her boobs in a skin-tight dress at a gala, men feel that this display is for them (and be honest, it probably is). They understand the situation, and they are in control of it. They feel themselves to be the central actor: I am a man with eyeballs and a penis, and look! Here comes a set of breasts for me. 

But if those breasts are in use for feeding a baby, where does the man fit in? He’s excluded. He feels weird and itchy and unhappy. He feels he has to look away, but it’s breasts, so he doesn’t want to look away, but when he does look, he sees something that doesn’t have anything to do with him. And he doesn’t like that, at all.

As I said, I have sympathy for men who struggle with public breastfeeding. It’s not wrong or bad or disgusting of men to be sexually aroused by the sight of a breast.

But here’s the thing: We feel what we feel, but we’re in control of what we do next. Normal, healthy, decent men can be aroused by a breast, but then immediately tell themselves, “Okay, that’s enough, now” if they find themselves acting or thinking like a creep. Men must earn the title of “man” by training themselves to get used to the idea that breasts are not always there to turn them on.

And that is a man’s responsibility, not a woman’s.

It’s a man’s responsibility to always remember that women are whole people, and not just body parts. This is true whether a woman is breastfeeding discreetly or openly, whether she’s dressed like Daisy Duke or draped like a dowager, whether she’s starring in a National Geographic special or if she’s a woman clothed with the sun. She’s a whole person, and it’s a man’s job to remember that.

It’s his responsibility to remember she is a whole person if she’s topless because he’s currently having sex with her. She’s still a whole person, always a whole person. It is his job to train himself never to forget this, and to act accordingly, even on Twitter.

It’s his job to train himself never to forget this even if, when confronted by a woman feeding her child, he has to “avert his eyes uncomfortably.” The man who whines about having to avert his eyes?  Barely a man. If shifting his eyeballs is the hardest thing he’s is ever required to do, this is a soft age indeed.

And so I’ve changed my mind, in recent years, about women’s responsibility to breastfeed discreetly. I used to think she should do everything she can to cover up as much as possible, out of charity for men who struggle with chastity. But now I see that behavior as potentially propping up a culture of pornography.

As I said above, I do believe women should be aware at the effect their exposed breasts can have on men. But I’ve come to understand that that effect may very well be to help restore our culture to sexual health. Public, uncovered breastfeeding reminds everyone that women are not isolated parts. They are whole. They have a context of their own, and that context sometimes has nothing at all to do with men’s desires.

My friend Kate Cousino said it well: “I firmly believe public breastfeeding is a blow against pornography culture. Context is precisely what porn omits. And the context of sex and breasts is real human beings with lives–and babies.”

As I said in my conversation with Claire Swinarski, extreme modesty culture is just the flip side of pornography culture. Both are obscenely reductive. Both rob women of their personhood. Both say that women are valuable only insofar as they do what men want them to do.

And men say the same thing, when they rage and sneer at women who breastfeed in public. It’s especially scandalous for Catholic, conservative, family men to behave this way, making a huge show of huffily leaving the room if their daughter-in-law begins to nurse at a family gathering, or complaining bitterly to the pastor when women dare to feed their infants in the pew without a cover.

When men do these things, they’re saying, “It’s more important for you to protect me from passing hormonal inconvenience than it is for you, who haven’t slept in four months, to just sit down and feed your baby. My obligation to exercise self-control is too hard for me. All the obligation is on you, breast-haver. Because I’m a man, you must make my world easier by caring for me, too, as you care for your new baby.”

It’s International Women’s Day. A very good day to be a man by taking responsibility for your own eyes, your own brain, your own hormones. A very good day to start your training. Women are whole people. If you work at it, you can learn to see them that way, even if they’re feeding babies.


Maria Lactans image By Wolfgang Sauber (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


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91 thoughts on “What is women’s responsibility to men while breastfeeding?”

  1. Public breastfeeding has been a controversial topic for years, with some people arguing that it is inappropriate and should be kept private. I believe that public breastfeeding is a natural and normal part of life that should be celebrated and supported. In addition to the numerous benefits for both mother and child, public breastfeeding helps to normalize the act of breastfeeding and encourages other women to do the same.

    Furthermore, I also believe in the benefits of adult breastfeeding. While it may seem unconventional, adult breastfeeding has been shown to have numerous health benefits and can provide a unique and intimate bonding experience between partners.

    For more information on the benefits of adult breastfeeding and how to get started, click here: https://www.lactation.wiki
    Additionally if you are in the Houston Texas area, I would encourage you to visit https://ANRHouston.com as well.

  2. I don’t disapprove of women who nurse their babies in public at all. However, I do find this post somewhat wrong-headed, in that it over-emphasizes the influence of pornography on men’s attitude to the female breast as an aspect of their objection to public breast-feeding.

    No one here has bothered to point out that men are not allowed to walk into restaurants shirtless, even very casual ones like McDonald’s, and may well be refused service if they do. Nor are people of either sex, of any age, supposed to walk into fast-food places without shoes on. There’s a big battle going on all over the English-speaking world these days over wearing pajamas in public places. Most of these (except the shirtless males) do not involve modesty at all. The issue is intimate acts or appearances in public places.

    I find public breast-feeding somewhat embarrassingly intimate, on occasions when I happen to catch a glimpse of it, but I recognize the need of babies to be fed and of nursing mothers to be able to move about freely, so I accept it. The men, and more than a few women, who object to it, probably were born in a generation and social class for whom intimate acts and casual appearances were simply not acceptable in public. Porn is pervasive and terrible but it is not necessarily the reason behind such attitudes.

  3. Another possibility is that males have an instinctual desire to destroy the offspring of other males. Like lions. Seeing a woman they have not personally impregnated creates an uncomfortable desire in some men to want to destroy that human baby and replace it with their own progeny.
    Therefore thay become uncomfortable with their own instinctive, anti-social urge and project the source of that discomfort onto the new mother and infant. Leading to “you make me uncomfortable” as opposed to “my own desire discomforts me.”

  4. This reminds me of a recent experience. My husband and I had an appointment and the associate who worked with us was a lovely woman who was heavily pregnant. After we left I mentioned to my husband about following up on something soon because she was going to be gone in the next week or two. My husband was confused about why she would be gone and had completely missed the fact that she was pregnant, despite her standing and walking directly past him to make copies. I was flabbergasted that he could have not noticed her very large pregnant belly, and he told me that he keeps his eyes on women’s faces and does not look down at their bodies.

    As a mom of 7 who has breastfed for the majority of my adult life and has nursed in public in all sorts of situations and amounts of coverage, this is all I ask. Just look at my face. If you glance down to look at the baby and see that he is nursing, look back up at me or look away if you are a stranger. Me nursing my baby does not involve you, I do not need your opinion. I am minding my own business and taking care of my baby, you mind your own business.

    And for Pete’s sake, If I see someone comparing breastfeeding to peeing ever again, I am going to lose my marbles.

    1. No, no, please hold on to your marbles! You know it is going to happen, it is just one of those common things that comes out of the mouths of people who have not had the opportunities that we have had to think about it. If any of your seven kids finds out that it is that easy to make you lose it, you will never hear the end of comparisons of breastfeeding to peeing! I promise I will not tell them, but you never know who might!

  5. I COMPLETELY agree that our culture is so backwards with exposed breasts in porn, advertisements, cocktail parties, etc., seen as the norm and public breastfeeding seen as inappropriate. I wish we could return to a time when it was the complete opposite. However, I do think that with these kinds of things it’s sometimes more helpful to take baby steps in changing the culture. For instance, if I had to breastfeed my baby in a group of thirty men or in front of a teenage boy who I didn’t know well, I would probably want to cover up quite a bit. Simply because men (and women) DO have such messed up conceptions of breasts that I would want to protect myself and my baby and the sacred act taking place between us from those messed up conceptions. I wouldn’t want my breastfeeding to become an object of scandal or lust or a political statement. Ideally, a teenage boy has grown up seeing breastfeeding mothers and never seen porn but that’s not the reality we’re usually dealing with. Suddenly seeing a breast on someone they know well isn’t necessarily going to solve everything– in fact it might things worse. I think covered public breastfeeding is becoming much more normalized in general and that is an awesome thing. I think uncovered public breastfeeding is becoming much more normalized in certain circles and that is also an awesome thing. But I think it’s reasonable to be prudent about which situation you’re in and not just assume that exposure therapy is always the best therapy for every man or woman who has a messed up view of breasts.

    1. well I tried to be sort of anonymous with that post but wordpress went ahead and posted my picture. guess it’s not anonymous anymore lol

  6. I just want to post one more thing as I believe it to be very relevant to the topic. I highly recommend a book titled Nature, the Physician, and the Family ( contains chapters taken from years of Child & family magazine)written by Dr. Herbert Ratner (1907-1997), a Catholic convert from Judaism who was the president of the National Federation of Catholic Physicians Guilds, former director of Public Health in Oak Park, Illinois for 25 years. He wrote in the periodical Child & Family and was a huge supporter of breastfeeding.

    The chapter entitled The New Puritanism and Humane Vitae is especially relevant to this post on breastfeeding. “To understand the new Puritanism, the old must be examined. As commonly understood, the old Puritanism believed that sexual emotion and bodily acts associated with sex were animalistic in nature, demeaning to man, to be tolerated only for the sake of progeny. It dissociated the body and its emotions from the person. May ( Rollo May, The Meaning of Anxiety)describes this separation as “a state of alienation from the body, separation of emotion from reason, and the use of the body as a machine”. In May’s analysis the sexual revolution which sought to free man from the unhealthy repression’s of Puritanism, simply entrapped man anew. Repression was replaced by expression without, however, resolving Cartesian dichotomy, which artificially, and at great cost, conceptually separated body from person. Whereas the old Puritanism viewed sex as bad-to be lamented and suppressed, the new views sex as good-to be extolled and exercised. Although the face of Puritanism was transformed, the substance of puritanism was retained, resulting in a new enslavement and new-puritanism.”
    Further along Ratner states “Because it misconstrues the vice of puritanism, new-puritanism fails to preserve the virtue of puritanism: its dedication and loving fidelity to family and its finality-man’s proven mode of reproduction for providing society with the mature adult. Instead of liberating sex to play its full role in family as a cemented of parental unity, and as a contributor to the milieu of love- the necessary nurturant for optimum emotional development of the child-the new puritanism makes sex recreational and divorces it from the procreation always. “Procreation also” should be understood to include not simply the. The physical generation of the newborn, but, also, the final goal of procreation, the generation of integral adult.”
    What does all this have to do with breastfeeding in public?? Plenty.

    “The modern man’s rigid principal of full freedom [in sex] is not freedom at all but a new straight jacket, in some ways as compulsive as the old. He does all this because he is afraid of his body and his compassionate roots in nature, afraid of the soil and his procreative power”.

    He wrote so beautifully of the mother baby bond and it’s difficult to even pick out only one of his statements , but as a woman I found this so touching. “ It is the fundamental importance to the newborn that the woman behind the breast be faithful in her commitment to cherish the newborn, and that she is willing to give herself to the newborn’s needs by choosing well in the light of her maternal obligations. In a good tradition she knows from the past experience of mankind that the rich rewards come later in life.
    Towards this task of maternal commitment, nature, the great artist, prepares the woman. She makes the female, in contradistinction to the male, connatural to the infant. She does this by giving her softer, insulated skin, cradle arms, a soprano voice to match the infant’s hearing level, protruding breasts to facilitate eye to eye contact ( to encourage bonding), the intuitive heart whose understanding extends beyond a merely discursive understanding. Nursing , then, is intrinsically a love activity between the mother and her child, who is her closet neighbor. In preparation for this love activity nature gives her nine months to redirect and to reorient herself to new motherhood, and to grow in other -directed love, as opposed to self -directed love. The nursing and nurturing mother functions best when she is backed up by the love of the child’s father and those about her, and when fortified by those groups and institutes of society supportive of mothering.”
    “It has been demonstrated that immediately following childbirth ( and for some days or weeks therafter) the mother is in a unique psycho-hormonal state which is propadeutic to her maximal attachment to the newborn, an attachment which has lasting qualities. This attachment or bonding process is analogours to the imprinting phenomenon found in lower animals, an imprint which lasts until the young mature and have no further need of the mother. Breastfeeding, starting immediatley after birth, is nature’s normal and fool proof mode by which attachment is fostered and intensified. It converts mother and infant into bosom friends.”

    I wish I could post more of Dr. Ratner, his lovely defense of large families is wonderful. He said the choicest gift one can bequeath to a child is not material possessions but another brother or sister. And that the large family is the best preventive against loneliness which is so all pervasive in our modern society. He called nature God’s vicar general and that God always forgives, man sometimes forgives, but nature never forgives.

  7. I actually disagree with one of the founding premises of this post. Whenever this issue has come up in the past, there has usually been a tsunami of Catholic bloggers who rush to endorse the public breast feeder. Any dissent is usually shouted down. And maybe it should be – that is not an issue on which I wish to get involved. But this “conservative Catholic Twitter personality” is very much in the minority. That has been experience as a reader of Catholic websites since the days when they were called St. Blog’s Parish.

  8. Ive never actually heard anyone complain about seeing breastfeeding, not male or female, catholic or protestant or jewish or buddhist or atheist. Id be very surprised if this were a particularly catholic thing, give the churchs celebration of babies and its worldwide reach into many countries where this has never been an issue. I think the author might be one of those many people who confuse catholics with nondenominational evangelical christians.

  9. Honestly the fact that breastfeeding a baby in public is still this controversial makes me angry. I have commented previously on this post, but still keep reading others posting about it and it is so maddening. That we still have to even discuss this is so ironic. Women in our society wear so little clothes whether at the beach, at mass, the mall, in movies and the internet. Sex texts are all the rage.
    Corporations use women’s bodies to sell cars, and other products on TV, but still men find breastfeeding offsensive???The twitter post about a woman who shows zero skin but a man comments that she should do that somewhere else makes no sense to me. Does he watch movies? Does he go to the beach or local pool? Where does he live , under a rock?
    If I or my husband see a woman breastfeeding in public and we get eye contact we say “ Hey that’s great
    !!!”, or some other encouraging remark. If there is no eye contact ( we dont’ stare ), we just go on doing what we were doing.
    This anti breastfeeding attitude by men, or other unenlightened women is anti child, anti woman and anti prolife.

    1. i suppose that if she wins the election we can assume she’ll bring the kid to the sessions so if it gets hungry during the day she can drag out her boob and start feeding. and if she don’t bring the kid is it not going to eat all day till mom gets home? looks like it was a pretty good set up that this had to happen when doing the ad? JUST SAYING

      1. She probably had the film studio reserved for a very specific and very limited time, and their might not have been time to nurse and film seperately. Or maybe it is a PR stunt. Anyway, it is only March, and generally elections are November and new terms start in January. So the baby will be much older and much less likely to need to nurse frequently by the time she takes office.

      2. I totally believe that it was staged. She is talking about BPA in bottles so what better thing to do to get your point across other then breastfeed your baby on camera. It also has the added benefit of making her relateable to the audience that she directed this ad too. Simcha’s comment about no boob being shown was ironic in the fact that the camera panned up when she was exposing herself. Also that woman was a lot more covered then I have seen most mother’s who breastfeed. Most of the time they have everything exposed as much as possible.

        As a female, I will admit that I find it very uncomfortable to see woman not being discreet when breastfeeding in public. I also find it uncomfortable to see woman dressing in outfits that leave nothing to the imagination. I love how she explains the uncomfortableness to a feeling of being excluded. I am sorry that is not the reason for me. I find it uncomforatable because I really do not care to see other women exposing themselves in public regardless if it is for feeding purposes or for someone to treat them like eye-candy. Out of respect for others, I keep myself covered so I am not sure why breastfeeding mothers cannot do the same for me.

        1. Some babies won’t eat when covered. I’ve had 3 babies, and 2 were cool with it, one wasnt. He would just scream and thrash.

          Also it is expensive to get good nursing apparel, and while some mom and babies can nurse discretely without those things, some can’t . Today I nursed discretely in a $50 nursing bra, $30 nursing tee, and $30 nursing cover.
          For some moms $5 for a t-shirt and $10 for a bra and $0 for a cover is their budget which means nursing ones with modesty panels are not going to be an option. And we, not they, are in the wrong if we set an expectation of modest nursing apparel and/or gear that poor mothers can’t meet.

  10. Ironically, women in the Victorian era showed way more breast than modern moms typically do. They literally let it all hang out. There’s one article on littlethings.com that I won’t link to, for all those readers who would be shocked, shocked to see mothers nursing their children, but it’s interesting for the historical perspective. Ordinarily, the women were covered head to toe. When they needed to feed their children, they opened the front of their dress and did so unabashedly, as captured on film for posterity. :O

    1. Are you serious? When an uncovered ANKLE was scandalous, they would open the front of their dresses in public? That is hilarious! Aren’t humans funny? I’ll have to visit littlethings.com and look for that.

      1. Leah Joy said,

        “Are you serious? When an uncovered ANKLE was scandalous, they would open the front of their dresses in public? That is hilarious! Aren’t humans funny? I’ll have to visit littlethings.com and look for that.”

        Yeah. I did the google, and it’s well worth the trip.

        C.S. is not kidding that, “They literally let it all hang out.” That’s true of the medieval and Renaissance nursing Madonnas as well–“discreet breastfeeding” seems to be a 20th century invention.

        1. Yes, our parish has a plaque near the front doors with a really explicit image of Our Lady breastfeeding. I remember being so surprised to read a heated debate on a Catholic blog about the appropriateness vs. inappropriateness of nursing at Mass. I couldn’t believe anyone would have an objection. The Mass nourishes us spiritually, and mothers nourish their children physically. It seems very fitting and natural, as well as keeps the noise level down. In my whole adult life I can only remember one mother nursing in a non-discreet way. I think she basically lifted up her whole shirt and proceeded to feed her child. I was a bit uncomfortable, but did my best not to pay any attention. Personally, I prefer to be covered up, but I have nursed six children in public and never been asked to leave (unlike an unfortunate experience a relative had where she was rudely told to nurse in a public restroom.) Once a year or so ago I was at the library (nursing) and an older gentleman walked up, noticed what I was doing, and pointedly said “I know what you’re doing, but it doesn’t bother me, go right ahead” and then proceeded to sit down and converse with me. I get that he was going out of his way to reassure me and be approving (after all, the law in Ohio says mothers have a right to breastfeed anywhere they have a right to be) but I guess I would have preferred he not mention it at all. :/

  11. In trying to understand why many men are uncomfortable with this, we need to acknowledge just how rampant pornography addiction is. Yes, even among conservative Christians. That’s not to say that the “cover up” crowd is right; as a matter of fact, you’re dead on that it’s the pornography culture that has partially caused this discomfort. The mistake comes from drawing a distinction between conservative Christians and regular porn viewers. The problem is a pandemic and it excludes no groups.

    This isn’t an excuse for them; sinners need to repent and turn from sin no matter how common their particular sin is. I think some people vastly underestimate the scope of porn’s influence on individuals, and hence the culture at large, though.

  12. How could she be more covered up?
    She would need a hijab, a burka or a hazmat suit to be more covered up.
    He specifically said “cover up” twice.
    The lack of logic is about to blow my Spock-brain.

  13. I think women need to hear from a man on this.

    While there is a lot of good stuff from Simcha here, there are some deep flaws that are easy to miss due to the intuitive agreement many people might feel with her practical conclusion (which I am not arguing against). The problem is that she supports her conclusion with an unsupported, problematic, and over-generalized view of men’s thinking, which her conclusion may in turn seem to support.

    Simcha is correct that skin exposure is not the only issue with public breastfeeding. But the idea that men experience discomfort just because they are “not involved” is ludicrous. Acts that make people uncomfortable (for whatever reason) are not made comfortable simply because they are not directly and clearly visible. How comfortable are we “doing our business” in a public restroom simply because there is a divider between the toilets?

    To make the analogy stronger: If a man were to urinate out in public, would women be comfortable around him just because he held a towel over his lap,? Of course not – but not because they were not “involved” or because they were so immersed in pornography that they could not see the “whole context”. They simply wouldn’t want to be forced to think about what’s going on even if they could not see it. (Sorry, I could not think of a better analogy because there really isn’t anything a man should have to do down there in public.) Whether a woman is uncomfortable because of perceived immorality, personal modesty, or simple “ick” factor doesn’t matter – they are being forced to think it even if they can’t see it.

    Simcha’s idea that men are uncomfortable because a woman is using her breasts in a way that excludes them is both bizarre and, to me, offensive. Further, the corresponding idea that increasing exposure to breastfeeding will somehow help men with pornography is simply incredible. Does showing more leg when walking help men see women as “whole, legged, walking persons”? Does a tight skirt help men see women as “whole, butted, sitting persons”?

    Perhaps I have missed something here, but I can tell you from my experience at least that this article does not represent my thinking at all.

    1. What is it about breastfeeding specifically that makes men cringe though? (I’m genuinely interested in understanding how men see this)

    2. I am also wondering what makes a man “uncomfortable” if a woman is breastfeeding in a public place, assuming he sees no more of her skin than, say, a formal gown would show. (Most breastfeeding women I’ve seen show less that than.)

      I wonder if it’s simply different cultural norms about what’s acceptable in a public place. My mother taught me not to brush my hair at the table, but I’m sure some people do that without a second thought, and I wouldn’t consider it repulsive if I happened to see someone do it.

      My mother was born in 1940 and grew up in south Louisiana and south Texas, and she told me mothers always breastfed at mass. They sat at the back and covered up as best they could and no one thought anything of it.

      Years ago, women (ladies, at least! the poor didn’t count) weren’t even supposed to be seen in public in the last few months of pregnancy–that was unacceptable. Scarlett O’Hara scandalized her neighbors by simply raising the waistline of her gowns and going about in public anyway.

      I don’t see how it’s possible to retain as a social more that breastfeeding in public is unacceptable, unless we go back to the days when (poor women did whatever and) wealthy and middle-class women had service people to help them do all the necessities of life: a fishmonger who came to the door, a butcher who came to the door, a grocery delivery boy, a diaper service, a doctor who made house calls, kids who walked to school by themselves, etc.

      1. Leah Joy said,

        “I don’t see how it’s possible to retain as a social more that breastfeeding in public is unacceptable, unless we go back to the days when (poor women did whatever and) wealthy and middle-class women had service people to help them do all the necessities of life: a fishmonger who came to the door, a butcher who came to the door, a grocery delivery boy, a diaper service, a doctor who made house calls, kids who walked to school by themselves, etc.”


    3. I do think a proper amount of exposure does eventually wear down a person who is inclined to be prudish. Nobody thinks twice about women walking around in shorts anymore. Lot’s of men just haven’t come to terms with their own feelings because it’s no skin off of their upturned noses. If they cringe at breastfeeding but not on beaches they aren’t being honest with themselves. Refusing to analyze such blatant hypocrisy is like refusing to take off green tinted sunglasses and refusing to believe the sky is blue because it doesn’t look that way from your vantage point! Think about it. Why are normal Christian men ho-hum about bathing suits?

      Other people in the comment section have already made a good case for why eating and eliminating are completely different. Also, nursing babies go through some phases when they are almost *constantly* attached.–What is the poor Mom supposed to do, go into hiding? Never eat out? Live in constant fear of needing a fox hole to dive into? A man who would nod his head to such virtual imprisonment has something wrong with him.

      I finally worked up sufficient ire at *anyone* who would expect such maltreatment while I was breastfeeding an infant on a dirty toilet in a public rest room. My food was on the table getting cold, I was starving and public bathrooms are no place for an infant to eat a meal. Men who prefer to think highly of themselves while not dissecting the problem are just selfish.

      1. anna lisa said,

        “Also, nursing babies go through some phases when they are almost *constantly* attached.–What is the poor Mom supposed to do, go into hiding? Never eat out? Live in constant fear of needing a fox hole to dive into? A man who would nod his head to such virtual imprisonment has something wrong with him.”

        Yeah. Plus, is that fair to the rest of the family?

        It’s just not possible to combine that standard with breastfeeding and a normal SAHM life.

        The consequences are going to be:

        a) being an isolated weirdo
        b) having a small family


        c) formula feeding.

        There’s no scenario where a woman of modest means can have a larger-than-average family, breastfeed only in private, and carry out her basic mom tasks.

    4. Breastmilk is nutritive, urine is a waste product. Public urination or and public nursing are two completely different things, and a mother nursing her child does not affect your personal well being in any way.

      1. Thank you SB. It’s obnoxiously illogical and absurd to speak as if urinating and feeding a baby are the same thing. Eating food and feeding oneself is a closer allegory. The comparisons to going to the bathroom really need to end — it’s an insane argument DV2018.

    5. LOL I think your post is right on. I actually do cover up around friends/church; but less so in public… I am discreet and have nursed all 12 of my children. A very strong supporter of nursing and even about nursing uncovered, I personally resent even feeling like I “should” in church. But I loved your analogy about the guy peeing under a towel. I think you are on to something. It’s not the covering up or not covering up, or even seeing anything, that makes people uncomfortable. That’s been my experience too… the guys or women who seem to have an issue with it don’t care if you are covered up. It’s the fact that you are nursing publicly, period. And yes, Simcha’s argumentation about men being excluded and that’s why they are uncomfortable struck me as odd when I read it too. Same with the exposure argument. I do think that boys that grow up with it as normal and have parents that teach that are less likely to have issues with it, so maybe in that sense it’s okay. I will say though, I did have one friend who was real squeamish about it even if I was in a different room. It took him dating his South American wife and visiting down there and seeing women literally “hanging all out” nursing to make him change his opinion on it, and he was okay with it after that. So I’m not sure, maybe in some way she is right. I don’t understand WHY his opinion changed, honestly.

      I still would like to know why men and even women can get so weird about it. I really can’t understand and I’ve never really been given a good explanation from those who do have an issue. I would love to hear what men who don’t like it think… WHY?

  14. I can’t resist retelling this breastfeeding story, because it is so apropos to illustrating the difference between American Post-Puritans, and modern (supposedly post-Catholic) Italians.

    There is an Italian restaurant that my family sometimes goes to for special events. The owners and managers are (surprise!) Italian, but not the big, jolly, loud kind. They are worldly, well dressed, a bit snobby, and willing to give you a little love, but never lavishly.

    They watched me get bigger and bigger in my pregnancy, but I don’t think they commented. A couple of weeks after the baby was born, my husband and I walked there for dinner. The baby had fallen asleep nursing at my breast in a sling, and was still latched on. I wanted her to stay asleep so I could eat! She was covered very discreetly with a blanket over my shoulder.

    I couldn’t have been more surprised when the usually cool and collected manager behaved completely out of character when he saw us, shouting with that sing-song, thick accent, “Oh! You have your baby!” He literally pounced on us with happiness saying “Let me see!” I replied “uh…well, she’s nursing and asleep right now.” I KNOW what an American guy would do when given *that* hint, but those two (owner and manager if I recall correctly) had zero clue that I wanted them to give me my space–went right over their heads.. They LEANED IN and literally waited for me to uncover her, making these funny little Italian noises of appreciation. My husband burst out laughing (he knows me and sensed my irritation) when I sighed with resignation and said “Okay, fine,–but only because you’re Italian..” I bared the baby and half of my chest for them. They were so appreciative. I’ve actually never seen them so appreciative about anything (and they see plenty of high heels, short skirts and cleavage on a regular basis).

    And yes, my inner American is appalled when I see the squirting Madonna paintings. Lol

  15. Wow; that was extremely insightful. I’m always interested in the topic and there’s no dearth of conversation–nearly all from the pro-procreating-humans perspective, since opposition to public breastfeeding is usually a knee-jerk reaction from people thinking with their wangs, not an arguable ethic. This is the first time I’ve seen it so forcefully put that people who dislike seeing functioning breasts are people who expect all breasts to be offered up to themselves.

    I’ll shamelessly link to the time I wrote on my own experience when I was griped at by a middle-aged man after breastfeeding during Mass. I had. . . a lot of things to say about it, including discussing iconography, the incarnation, and the vulnerability of my postpartum body, as well as gloating because the man trotted off to tattle to the priest who’d baptized the baby, but here’s my final takeaway: “I have sat through homily after homily after homily against birth control, and no Catholic gets to tell me off for lactating, anywhere, any time.”

  16. So many excellent points in this post. Men only want to see perfect “porn” breasts. Not engorged, sagging, just-had-a-baby breasts. Just like they only want to see youthful perfect bodies, not real bodies at all stages of life.

    1. In defense of men at church though, a man who knows you-but isnt’t your husband-probably doesn’t want to have any knowledge of what you look like under your clothes. That’s why they wince when they see a woman they know breast feeding at the back of church. It’s too close for comfort for them. I can understand that reaction.

      1. I think sometimes that knee-jerk reaction to look away may come from a man being told from a young age to respect women’s bodies. If he has been raised to not objectify breasts he might just quickly avert his eyes if there is a breast visible purely out of habit and without thinking. Though logically he may realize a second later it’s just a woman breastfeeding and it isn’t sexual, what a person realizes logically and what they do as an instant reflex can vary.
        Though, if the woman notices that he looked away she could mistake his response for disgust even though he did not intend it that way.
        My husband sees breasts all the time at work in the hospital, but those are patients and the context is in the hospital where he expects to see them while doing his job. But when we went to see a friend’s new baby and she was breastfeeding he waited outside until he had her permission to come in the room because he did not want to barge in and accidentally see our friend’s breasts without her permission since the dynamics are a bit different when it is your friend and not your patient.

        1. Exactly! I do the same! It is natural to avert your eyes if you see something that is supposed to be private!

        2. I have also, because of public breastfeeding, seen the breasts of married women I know, and have somehow miraculously escaped without being aroused, disgusted, uncomfortable, creeped out or, and this part is very important, creepy. Also, I very much like the breasts of women I find attractive and I am very much not gay. So, Men – What is the big problem that I am missing here?

      2. I’m a man at church, and I don’t care when women breastfeed at Mass, nor do I understand men who are bothered by it. There was this one time when an hispanic woman with a bunch of kids and an infant sat right up against me in a pew that was clearly too full, and then pulled out her breast and started feeding the baby. I was very much bothered by the extreme invasion of my personal space, but I would have felt that way regardless of the breastfeeding. If anything, it added a layer of humor to the whole situation.

  17. This is helpful and healthy corrective, not only for those that are hypocritical about “modesty, decency, or chastity”, but also for many that are both sincere and wrong, distorted, confused in their view of the human body in all the ways you’ve outlined. Thank to Simcha, and many commenters also.

  18. Most of what needs to be said has been said very well in the original post and in the comments. Just wanted to weigh in as a priest and what most people would call a ‘conservative Catholic’ (not my way of putting it, but whatever). I think it is absurd to say, as the original tweet said, that ‘no one should have to avert their eyes in public.’ Sez who, mac? There is a good old conservative Catholic virtue called ‘custody of the eyes’, precisely ordered to all such situations. The world is not going to arrange itself in such a way as to never present you with visual stimuli that may attract you. Grow up and take some responsibility for where your eyes are going, and staying!
    I’ve had women in spiritual direction nursing their babies. I politely avert my eyes while they’re adjusting the child into position (of course that particular procedure is hard to do without some semi-nudity!), and then we proceed. Somehow… it works. Even for a conservative male priest!

  19. I very much agree with all of this. The truth is, Christian men have to find a way to deal with our strong attractions to the women we encounter in public regardless of what part of their bodies they are showing. That’s not an argument for everyone going nudist. But a breastfeeding mother is using her body for its intended purpose at the moment that she is supposed to do it. Men should treat the feelings of arousal (or disgust, for that matter) that they encounter from the sight of a woman breastfeeding no differently than the sight of a woman hiking up her skirt to wade through a creek.
    The bottom line is that if a man is really attracted to a woman, he will be aroused by any part of her body that has been touched by estrogen, including her face, neck, and even her hands. That’s an internal struggle for us that we should address in our prayer lives, not by asking women to stop having normal public lives or to stop using their bodies as God intended in the fulfillment of His work.

  20. I wanted you to know that I’m leaving the Church in part because of you (and also in part because of SSPX culture, to be fair, and because of other things such as Mark Shea). I’ve been reading your blog a long time. I find this article frustrating and emblematic of the Magisterium and Church culture. It doesn’t really matter as I’m what they call cannon fodder historically speaking but if enough men like me leave maybe something will eventually happen.

    1. Good luck to you brave band of men leaving the Church as a protest against Simcha Fisher, Mark Shea, and SSPX culture! Write again when you get to your new home!

      1. R said,

        “Good luck to you brave band of men leaving the Church as a protest against Simcha Fisher, Mark Shea, and SSPX culture! Write again when you get to your new home!”

        That was very funny!

  21. I think the article is good, but it perhaps misses the topic of men that want to do the appropriate thing and don’t always know what that is because there are no clear rules. As a woman, it is easy for me to just say, “Well just do whatever you were already doing and just go about your business because there are exposed breasts everywhere and breastfeeding is just feeding.” But then I married a man that has told me he has experienced something of a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” culture surrounding men trying to be respectful and public breastfeeding.

    There are some women that get loudly offended when men look away. Those are generally the types that breastfeed as unclothed as possible in public to make statements. The ones making exhibitionist statements often make the news, and their more brash lactivism tends to be the loud voice most often heard in the media because the media loves drama and breasts. And at least in my husband’s case being the youngest in his family he did not see breastfeeding growing up so these were the women that he probably first associated with breastfeeding. (Not the best first impression.) And because they were breastfeeding as a “protest” of sorts, it invites all the usual drama that unnecessary polarization brings. You’re a jerk if you look TOO MUCH because you are sexualizing, but you are also a prude that is sexualizing women’s baby feeding choices if you are uncomfortable looking. So he was left with really no clue how to act around breastfeeding because he did not want to be a jerk at all and no one told him what the non-jerk option was if both looking and not looking could be considered sexualization of breastfeeding.

    In his case, he tried to be polite and look away one time while a woman basically had her breast laying out for a while as she was getting her child ready. She chastised him for looking away because looking away was somehow “judging” breastfeeding. But he had genuinely thought looking away for a second while she gets settled with the baby was the respectful thing. When she made him out to look like a prude and chastised him loudly and publicly for “judging” her he was embarrassed.

    In his line of work he sees every part of the human body on a very regular basis. He’s not afraid of body parts. He’s at work probably with his hand up someone’s backside doing a procedure as I type. And being in the medical field, he sees a wide range of cultural attitudes surrounding comfort with exposed body parts so he tries to respect them as much as possible while still getting his job done. So he has been trained to essentially err on the side of caution whenever possible. So to him it is just better to be over-respectful and find out the person wasn’t uncomfortable in the first place than to accidentally offend someone by crossing a line. In a clinical environment, this tends to work out pretty well. But in real life the protocols vary a lot more.

    So you end up with some guys that are genuinely trying to be respectful. They are trying hard not to offend, but they feel the goalposts are always moving with breastfeeding in public. One mom will be mad if you give her privacy and tells you to keep looking at her when you talk to her. The other mom genuinely prefers privacy and asks why you are looking. Both complain that they are sexualized by either looking or not looking at breastfeeding.

    There are plenty of jerks that are worth confronting because they say or do intentionally inappropriate or rude things. Plenty! All jerks should be put in their place.

    But I think 99% of breastfeeding-in-public articles leave out the men that are seriously trying to say or do the right thing but they keep finding that the “right” thing can vary so much from mom to mom so they just have zero clue what to do or where to look when a woman starts to breastfeed. As a woman (who breastfed!), this makes me think that we also have a real duty to make our own comfort levels and parameters known instead of making it a guessing game for those around us. A quick, “I know you are just trying to be polite but you don’t have to look away.” would neutralize a lot of potential misunderstandings.

    1. Why can’t he just keep his eyes on the mom’s face/eyes? And if she is embarrassed and would prefer he look away, won’t it show in her face (which is where he should be looking)?
      I am sorry someone made him feel bad one time, but that’s kind of how life is. We all misread situations sometimes.

      1. I think you reinforce my point a bit with that comment, R. You automatically assume he should know what she prefers. (Continuing to look at her). You forget that anyone taller than the woman breastfeeding will see the breast very well in the field of view while looking at her face. (And he doesn’t know if she wants him to look or not.) And you assume that he should just immediately be able to read her discomfort in her face if he should have looked away. (But by that point he has already offended her.)

        The very issue is that I think there are a lot of men that truly want to respect the mom’s wishes but want to know upfront what her wishes are in that situation. Mind-reading is difficult, especially if the two people are from different cultures where social cues could vary, or if she is just exceptionally polite and does not show it in her face that he has made her uncomfortable. Just based on my husband’s discussion of the topic, I think there are a lot of men like him that truly want to do whatever makes the mom most comfortable when she breastfeeds in public, but they feel a bit like they have to read minds. Men are usually pretty terrible mind-readers, so a quick, “Hey I need to breastfeed but I won’t be offended if you see anything” or vice versa could be a pretty simple way to establish the mother’s ground rules in a Western culture where the rules vary widely from person to person.

        1. I agree with you, Mary. The extreme lactivists who feel the need to loudly shame a man who politiely looks away don’t help the situation at all.

        2. <>
          What I assume, if anything, is that good manners suggests that when we are talking to someone, we look them in the face instead of having our eyes on their breasts. Therefore, I extrapolate that to breastfeeding moms. I would be shocked if this policy got your husband yelled at by anyone.

          Really? Because I hear all the time that men manage to address themselves to women’s breasts without having the woman’s face in their field of view. How does that work, do you think?

          I agree that the easiest thing would be for the two people to clearly communicate that there is breastfeeding about to happen and neither of them intends to make the other uncomfortable, or to offend in any way, they just want to continue where they are but with a baby being fed. I just don’t think that takes a million words. You are assuming (based on one event in one man’s life) that most men are completely at sea about whether a woman might insist that she will only be comfortable and consider him an ally if he is staring at her breasts while she nurses. I just don’t buy that. Sure, she could say “Hey I need to breastfeed, here, but I won’t be offended if you see anything” as you suggest, but you are saying that some woman was offended that he looked away. That’s just an example of an unreasonable person, it’s not a reason for men to pretend they are clueless about what they are supposed to do in the event a breast suddenly appears.

          1. Sorry, Mary, I am trying this again. Bad formatting on my part the first time left out the text I was responding too.

            You said: You automatically assume he should know what she prefers. (Continuing to look at her).

            What I assume, if anything, is that good manners suggests that when we are talking to someone, we look them in the face instead of having our eyes on their breasts. Therefore, I extrapolate that to breastfeeding moms. I would be shocked if this policy got your husband yelled at by anyone.

            You also said: anyone taller than the woman breastfeeding will see the breast very well in the field of view while looking at her face.

            Really? Because I hear all the time that men manage to address themselves to women’s breasts without having the woman’s face in their field of view. How does that work, do you think?

            I agree that the easiest thing would be for the two people to clearly communicate that there is breastfeeding about to happen and neither of them intends to make the other uncomfortable, or to offend in any way, they just want to continue where they are but with a baby being fed. I just don’t think that takes a million words. You are assuming (based on one event in one man’s life) that most men are completely at sea about whether a woman might insist that she will only be comfortable and consider him an ally if he is staring at her breasts while she nurses. I just don’t buy that. Sure, she could say “Hey I need to breastfeed, here, but I won’t be offended if you see anything” as you suggest, but you are saying that some woman was offended that he looked away. That’s just an example of an unreasonable person, it’s not a reason for men to pretend they are clueless about what they are supposed to do in the event a breast suddenly appears.

    2. It sounds like your husband is a virtuous man who truly respects women, and sometimes there are just misunderstandings about the best way for him to communicate that. I think there is always a possibility for misunderstandings when two human beings are interacting, and with something as intimate as breastfeeding it’s going to be hard to come up with a one-size-fits-all rule to govern the cultural norms around it. But, the difference to be seems to be that wherever your husband ends up looking while he’s next to someone breastfeeding, he’s not then going on Twitter and posting about how rude or immoral the woman was. Nonverbal behavior that might be misinterpreted is one thing, coming out and saying that you oppose public breastfeeding is another.

      1. Well, he may not be doing that, but he’s supplied his wife with a single incident from which she is extrapolating on the internet about rude women being so prevalent as to create a paralysis of confusion on the part of well-meaning men such as her husband. So this is not really an improvement.

        1. R, just because I listed one single incident it does not mean that is the only incident from which I base this entire idea. I do think these issues arise more often than people want to admit. Good and respectful people tend to get embarrassed if they accidentally offend someone and they don’t necessarily like to talk about it. After my son was born I started to really notice the vast array of breastfeeding preferences in public. What is comfortable or uncomfortable really does vary from mom to mom. So for that reason I can see how a lot of misunderstandings could arise even when everyone is well-intentioned. I am not “extrapolating on the internet about rude women being so prevalent as to create a paralysis of confusion”. I gave one example of one rude woman. I never implied there was a massive prevalence of rude women. What I am saying that I think a lot of people want to be respectful and follow the mother’s lead to do whatever makes the mom comfortable in public but they cannot read the mother’s mind and unsaid social cues can be ambiguous.

    3. I guess I just have never encountered these issues as a man. Maybe it’s because most of the time I see breastfeeding women they are friends of mine? But when the breasts comes out, I just literally do nothing, and somehow it’s always been fine. I’ve gotten into trouble for holding doors and offering to walk women home, but never for just continuing to have a normal conversation while someone is breastfeeding.

  22. You are trying to come off as feminist yet you say THIS “I do believe women should be aware at the effect their exposed breasts can have on men.” Are you kidding me? You completely lost me after this sentence. And are you actually implying that only ‘secular men’ watch/ are influenced by porn? LOL YOU are part of the problem, THIS ARTCILE is part of the problem, not women . there is no “”responsibility to men” to feed a baby. NONE. full stop.

    1. I’m thinking you didn’t read the entire article. She didn’t say that only secular men have a problem with porn. What is the brand of feminism you are accusing her of? This sounds just downright reasonable to me, not feminist or anti-feminist.

  23. It can’t just be a sense of male exclusion otherwise women wouldn’t feel the same revulsion to breastfeeding in public. I think it more has to do with how separated from nature modern man has become and basically Manichean Americans are.

    Second, big business has done a great job in pushing formula and bringing into question breastfeeding. We really lost a whole generation of breastfeeding mothers with the WWII generation. For many, another underlying message is only poor women or animals breastfeed. And we all want to be rich or act rich according to the capitalist mantra. These all produce an atmosphere of discomfort with breastfeeding. Most people couldn’t tell you exactly why they object to publicly fed babies, they just have a vague idea that it’s “wrong.” Marketing at it’s finest.

    As an aside, I had no problem with my dad or brothers watching me breastfeed and neither did they. My father has seen a lot more than my boobs when he helped deliver one of by babies unexpectedly born at home. It did not traumatize him.

  24. I agree with everything you said but I don’t know why the need to single out conservative Catholic men. My husband is a conservative Catholic man who doesn’t feel this way. I have conservative Catholic friends that I breastfeed around that don’t seem to feel this way. I’ve breastfed five babies over the years and the only negative reactions I’ve actually gotten from anyone has been from women. I’m sure that there are men that are bothered by it because I do see their statements online but I haven’t noticed that it’s a particularly Catholic or conservative Catholic thing.

    1. I think her point was more that they, of all men, should be the first to see women as people not body parts. I don’t know any Catholic men myself who appear troubled by breastfeeding—but clearly there are some.

      1. Conservative catholic men see women as people? I guess the pro-life, anti birth control, no women-as-priest sentiments certainly seem to mirror this?? Also, for the 2nd time, since when are conservative catholics suddenly exempt from sexualizing anything. I think the more repressed you are, the more you ARE deviant deep down. Do I even have to get into the Catholic Priest abuse scandal??????

        1. Yes, pro-life and anti-birth control views very much value women as people, rather than just sexual objects (especially pro-life views which value the life of unborn women). And repression has nothing to do with the priest abuse scandal, as abuse among priests is the same percentage as any other institution and denomination.

        2. I do believe she accused the ‘conservative Catholic’ gentleman in her initial comments of just that, sexualizing this mothers need to nurse her child by deeming it inappropriate and admonishing her to cover up. Really, for the second time, did you even read the article?!

  25. When my firstborn was a few weeks old, we had some people over. Okay, a party. We were babies ourselves. Anyhow, I was sitting on the couch, and the t.v. was on. My baby started to fuss to be fed, and I got up to go to another room, because I was still fumbly and uncoordinated as a breastfeeding mom. As I turned to go, a man spoke up. “I just want to say on the behalf of everyone here, THANK YOU for leaving to do THAT.”
    I just looked at him, then looked at the t.v., which was set to MTV and displaying a panoply of boobs, then back to him. I was speechless.

    1. Yes, it’s the Playboy mentality here in America. American men are obsessed with breasts . Maybe they weren’t breast fed as babies LOL.

  26. Well, for perspective from another era: Charles Dickens was writing at a time when it was considered too immodest for a man, while speaking in “mixed company” to mention that he arose from bed to investigate an outcry during the night, and pulled on a pair of TROUSERS (read “Oliver Twist”). However, in the book “David Copperfield”, the title character was befriended by a couple who had a large number of children. When he met them he was a teenage boy, and the youngest two children were infant twins. He referred several times to the fact that he never saw the mother “without one of the twins attached” while they took their nourishment. David then loses touch with the family for a couple of years. When he meets up with them again the father happily assures David that the mother is now more active because the twins no longer require nourishment from Nature’s fount. “In short, (he says) they are weaned.”

    No one seems to think that there is any problem at all with this mother nursing her babies in front of a teenage boy, a person that we would view as a raging cesspool of hormones. I think that is because NO ONE was supposed to assume that the mother was a sexual object. She was just a mother feeding her babies.

    So perhaps modern American men could learn something about modesty from the Victorians?

  27. Amen! I also don’t get the whole movement among women to wear padded bras and other accessories to avoid any indication that we are mammals. It’s like we can’t accept that we all have bodies under our clothes.

  28. Awesome. This is perfect.

    I laughed out loud about the “some men feel excluded” part. So true. And while they are feeling excluded, I think they are also grossed out because (ew) –their inner Puritan hates bodily fluids of all kinds (even if they produced said bodily fluid).

    So–my husband was telling me about the unwritten rule that is on the rise in corporate culture –neither men nor women are (really) allowed to take time off. Getting married? Too bad. Sick? Work from your bed. Vacation? Check your emails for more than half the day. Hungry? Keep working and type while you chew.

    I will celebrate the day that women respond by pumping milk at their desk. A lot. It takes a lot of stimulation to keep those mammary glands producing a healthy supply. How’s that for distraction?

    1. “I will celebrate the day that women respond by pumping milk at their desk.”
      I pumped milk at my desk. That was in 1994 and 1996, so I hope you were celebrating 🙂

      1. My hat is off to you.

        The first time I pumped in earnest, (one of those electric contraptions) it was for my nephew in the NICU. I did it in a bedroom alone. When I watched what it did to my nipple, it gave me a severe case of cognitive dissonance. I couldn’t believe it was even possible to stretch like that and remain intact. I had to keep thinking cozy thoughts about my baby to keep the milk coming.

        At a desk? In an office? With men gawking?

        That makes you a warrior mama. I couldn’t have done it. You’re a breast boss.

        1. At a desk, in my office, with the door closed and (almost always) locked. One day it evidently wasn’t locked and my boss started walking in without knocking. He didn’t make that mistake twice.
          So, no I didn’t do this with men (or women or children) gawking.

          1. Well–see that’s the thing–most women in the work force don’t have the luxury of a lockable office. At the last corporation my husband worked at, they had a gym, yoga room, TV room, *video gaming room* and yes, a lactation room. But nobody really used them. They were there as props. –Luxuries for those who have a poor work ethic.

            Now, what seems to be trendy in corporate life is to do away with any barriers between desks, calling work spaces “neighborhoods”. The entire chain of command kind of huddles together. There is zero privacy. But it is geared toward one thing, and one thing only–productivity. That’s why they cater their lunch and sometimes dinner as well. And it isn’t altruism. At least now, where my husband works, the objective is pretty much spelled out, and nobody has the smarmy nerve to call the company and the workforce, “family”, like the last place. That was appalling –like calling our president a Christian man with a straight face.

  29. I’m not sure if I agree with your theory about why men complain about public breastfeeding even when it’s not revealing. Maybe some men complain due to issues of feeling excluded, but I think that many men (and women) complain about this because even if they claim to be pro-breastfeeding, they still view it as a bodily function that should be covered up to the fullest extent. That being said, I completely agree with everything else you wrote in this post. Everywhere we look, there are boobs (even at high schools!), cleavage, macro mini skirts, etc, and yet people complain about a mother nursing her baby without a cover? I personally am a very modest person and probably would attempt to breastfeed as discreetly as possible (I never had a biological child and never nursed). But if another woman is okay with a little bit of skin showing, and her baby doesn’t tolerate a cover, in my opinion the amount of her breast that will be visible is nothing compared with the immodesty that is seen on a regular basis in public places, and I’m not just talking about the beach. Furthermore, the non-breastfeeding immodesty is much more provocative than an exposed breast during nursing. And as far as the view that breastfeeding is a bodily function that should be done in private, that doesn’t fly with me either. Elimination and sexual activity are bodily functions that should occur in private. Eating is not.

    1. “Elimination and sexual activity are bodily functions that should occur in private. Eating is not.”

      Could not agree more!

      Simcha, thank you. Well said.

    2. I think that the “bodily function” argument is just an convenient holding place in the mind for some who are uncomfortable with the paradox breastfeeding presents. For some men this can be their problem of possessiveness over the female body (and/or parts). For some women, it could also challenge their own concept of their own body and how they relate to others physically

    3. That itself is a culturally construed notion. I agree that in the United States eating is not considered to be an act only worthy of being completed in private, but I have actually visited a nation where you’re given your own private room to eat lunch (when invited over to someone else’s home to “share” a meal) for the very reason that it is considered to be just as private an act as going to the toilet!

      1. Hi Different Claire! Wow, I have never heard of a culture that considers eating to be a private event. It seems that most cultures use mealtime to build community, for celebrations, etc. I have to say that I do enjoy eating alone sometimes, due to my introverted nature.

  30. Thank you for your post on breastfeeding in public. I had been a La Leche League ( organization founded by Catholic women dedicated to Our Lady of La Leche) who helped mothers to breastfeed their babies. It frustrated me to no end on how many women were not breastfeeding because of the fear of breastfeeding in public. Living in a country that tolerates all kinds of nudity on beaches, in movies and on television, it always made me angry. Our country was founded by Puritans, and it’s still Puritan so that was my reasoning. The connection you made with porn was a new angle I had not considered but very relevant.
    Here’s the thing, babies nurse for more reasons than just nourishment. They need that comfort from their mothers that breastfeeding provides. There are just so many benefits from financial to health for both baby and mother that it is a shame that our culture is so prudish.

    1. Some women just actually do not enjoy breastfeeding in public. I found it to be a huge hassle. And I got all kinds of judgment from women that assumed I was “ashamed” or a prude. So I literally got pressure TO breastfeed in public. I really just hated dealing with always having to find a place to sit down (because breastfeeding standing up was uncomfortable on my bad back) and I couldn’t get anything done if I was trying to run errands and my son wanted a million tiny feeds in quick succession. The simplest trip to a store could end up taking forever by the time I found a place to sit and did a feeding and then started shopping again. So I breastfed mostly at home and did bottles of pumped milk or formula while I was out because it was simply less stressful. The sad thing is so many women are quick to label someone like me as a prude or ashamed simply based off of what they see, but it really just boiled down to me doing what was most comfortable for my back.

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