I am not from the ‘Breast is Best’ camp.  I am from the ‘Do What is Right For You camp’.  I breast-fed both my children for 5 weeks and I am proud of that. Breastfeeding for me was equally amazing as it was akward.  It was something that felt very natural but was by no means easy.  Everyone is different and should be allowed to feed their baby by whatever method works best for them without being judged.

It seems like every week there is a story in the press about a woman being shamed for breastfeeding in public.  Next follows the protest of breastfeeding mums staging a ‘sit in’ and nursing their babies en mass.  There’s usually lots of debate in online forums about breast verses bottle. Things get heated. Then a new debate will open up about whether or not it’s ok to co-sleep with your baby, and the breastfeeding debate will go away for another week. 

I can’t help but feel all the publicity surrounding these negative stories isn’t helping the image of breastfeeding mums.  It seems to me that the establishment concerned gets a whole load of publicity, yes it is negative, but it is till publicity. And they are getting it for FREE!  

And what about all the new mums out there?  The ones who have just gone through the biggest life change ever, and are trying to get to grips with their new life and their all consuming new responsibility. These stories can have a hugely negative impact on their breastfeeding intentions.  

In the early days if you can get both yourself and the baby up, dressed, and ready to face the world, it’s a major achievement.  But the last thing you want is to feel like if you breastfeed in public, you need to be prepared to wage a war for yourself and all other breastfeeding mum’s out there.  Quite frankly you don’t have the energy for it!  And for those of us that are struggling with feeding or maybe feel self-conscious we really don’t want the attention.

I didn’t breastfeed in public with my first child because I was terrified of being kicked out and having lots of attention drawn to what I was doing.  It was a big factor in why I stopped.  With my second child I knew I would have to face it.  Like anything in life the first time you do something can be daunting.  I actually planned an outing specifically to breastfeed in a cafe so when I did it for the first time I was in control of the situation.  I did my research, I knew the laws and my rights.  I had a speech prepared in my head.  I took my husband with me for moral support for when people started tutting and shaking their heads. I wanted him there to back me up and fight my corner when we were asked to leave.  I was terrified and convinced that it was going to be a negative experience.  

After some calming and encouraging words from my moral support, and some tears from me, I did it.  I sat in a cafe and breast-fed my son.  And do you know what happened? Nothing.  Absolutely nothing. No one took a blind bit of notice of us.

These negative stories are putting people off breastfeeding in public. They are reinforcing the view that it is wrong. Sometimes, someone, somewhere, gets it wrong.  But for every establishment that gets it wrong there are hundreds out there getting it right.  The one’s that get it wrong are in the minority, yet they are getting all the attention and making breastfeeding in public seem more unacceptable than it actually is. “I breast-fed in public and it was fine” isn’t very headline worthy or attention grabbing.

With every new story about an establishment asking a breastfeeding mother to leave or cover-up we are perpetuating the idea that breastfeeding isn’t acceptable in public  It’s becoming a self for-filling prophecy.  

Yes, the establishments that get it wrong should be accountable for their actions.  Yes, we have the right to protest.  But just maybe we should do so a little more quietly,

Instead we should use our voices to shout about the many establishments that do support us.  Show them how it should be done rather than how it shouldn’t. Maybe then we will break down more barriers and creative a positive perception of breastfeeding in public, and encourage more people to do it.

Because if these stories stop one mother from not having the confidence to breastfeed in public, it’s one mother too many.  That mother was me.


If you had positive breastfeeding experiences, please share.

I loved this video from Beside You.


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Claire Kirby

37 Comments on Why Breastfeeding in Public is Unacceptable

  1. Pingback: What’s Natural About Parenting? | Left Insider
  2. I think that we should never shy away from calling out something that is wrong or illegal. We need to empower mums to have the confidence to educate people not tell them to be quiet. I don’t think it’s mums that need to be quiet, it’s more the media outlets sensationalising a situation and trying to divide opinion to entice readers that’s the issue. congratulations on you’re achievements and happy world breastfeeding week.

  3. I have to say though, I am very confused by your title. I was expecting to read a post bashing breastfeeding in public, but it’s not about that at all. Am I reading it wrong? Lol! I’m sitting here nursing a sleeping toddler and it’s very late and I’m tired so maybe I’m just having severe mom brain? Anyway, good post! You’ve inspired me to write about one of my many, many positive breastfeeding in public experiences. I’ve actually never had anyone come up to me while I was nursing and say something rude or negative about it.

  4. Those first several weeks of breastfeeding are hard and awkward and it can hurt and is so demanding on the new mother. Babies have that 3 week growth spurt where they want to nurse ALL THE TIME and one again at abt 6 weeks. I always tell moms to hang in there (if they want to continue to breastfeed) because it truly does become easier the older the baby gets. I feel like after the 3rd month was when we really hit our stride and I didn’t have to fiddle so much with pillows and covers (if we were in public and the sun was in their eyes) and dealing with breast pain, etc. It can be hard to get the proper latch down in the beginning too. You should feel proud that you nursed for as long as you did, because the 5 week mark can still be a very difficult time where you may feel like it will never get easier or less awkward. I always tell new breastfeeding moms that I promise, it does get easier! It just may take a few months. But there will come a time where it’s second nature and you aren’t even thinking about it.

  5. I agree completely with your thoughts! I wrote a similiar post some time back about my views on breastfeeding in public. We should spread more positive stories on breastfeeding in public!

  6. I fed my 3 children for a total of 3 1/2 years combined. I also fed everywhere, and had no negative comments. I am a shy quiet very unconfident person so it was a brave thing to do, I suppose, looking back. However at the time, the only thought in my head was, my baby is hungry therefore I will feed her while I eat too. People may have noticed, they may have been disgusted, they could think what they liked as far as I was concerned. Hungry baby…..breast =food. I see that the more negative publicity is not necessarily a bad thing. It can make some people more determined to carry on doing what is right. I can see however how it may put some people off feeding in public, but if you really, really want to succeed at feeding your child in whatever method, you will overcome this like you did.

  7. I breastfed my first two daughters until 9 months and my youngest until about 3 months anywhere and everywhere with no negative comments. I did have a few older ladies tell me how nice it was, and a few older-than-me-but-not-that-old tell me how brave I was and how “good” I was for breastfeeding. (I was only 19 when I had my first daughter).

  8. This is so true. Like you, when I first breastfed my son in public I was terrified of the reaction I would get, and that was almost entirely due to all the stories in the media. 13 months on, I am still breastfeeding. I have breastfed in cafes, in restaurants, in pubs, on trains and in parks. And I have yet to receive a negative comment. if there’s one piece of advice I would go back and give myself a year ago, it would be don’t worry about it!

  9. I never experienced any negativity and have never known anyone personally to experience it. There were lots of terrifying, difficult and frankly bloody awful things about breast feeding, but feeding in public wasn’t one of them. I definitely agree that this type of publicity and all the hype surrounding it promotes the idea that somehow it’s unacceptable and a difficult experience. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Congratulations on having one of the most sophisticated blogs Ive come across in some time! Its just incredible how much you can take away from something simply because of how visually beautiful it is. Youve put together a great blog space –great graphics, videos, layout. This is definitely a must-see blog!

  11. Thanks for the post. I suppose human interaction is such that the negatives are what naturally tend to be highlighted more, that’s what makes us pause, think and react a lot of the time. When everything is going alright, as it should, it takes more conscious effort to stop, think and respond. I agree with you that more voice needs to be given to organisations that give full support to breastfeeding, a very normal and natural occurrence.

  12. I think breastfeeding needs to be naturalised and these institutions making women feel bad must be pulled up and we shouldn’t be silenced. I agree that an emphasis should also be made on the ones helping too but when a woman is asked to leave the tube or a hotel for breastfeeding, there should be an outcry so there can be change. So society can understand stopping breastfeeding is wrong. I actually made a film for Best Beginnings years ago on helping change the image of breastfeeding here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6RmJD9UPGU. Loved this post and your passion. Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts x

  13. It’s hard because it’s just such a sensitive topic and so many different views. I breastfed both my kids I am a prude but I did feed in public and I can’t imagine feeling awkward already if someone told me to leave or cover up when my baby was eating. Hard one to find balance whilst i cover up because that was my choice others don’t think they have to and that makes others uncomfortable. I think you are so right we should be teaching society a new way not keep focusing on these in the media. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me Happy Holidays! #sharewithme

  14. Hello. I completely agree with you. Our society really needs to create a positive attitude towards breastfeeding in public and breastfeeding in general instead of focusing on these negative outdated views. I’ve breastfed all over and it hasn’t always been easy but Brighton has some amazing cafes to breastfeed in – with big comfortable cushions!! 🙂 #sharewithme

  15. I agree completely with your thoughts! I wrote a similiar post some time back about my views on breastfeeding in public. We should spread more positive stories on breastfeeding in public!#brillblogposts

  16. Loved this post. i wrote something similar before. Its so frustrating how people like this get the coverage to say things like this which will effect new mums. I love breastfeeding my children, and had horrific journeys and it took me about 3 months until i felt good about feeding in public. then I just thought – sod it. its suiting my baby, suiting me, if no one wants to see, they should look away and keep their opinions to themselves. after all, I didnt comment on them eating their food and reading a newspaper which includes topless models. 🙂

  17. I think definitely in a society which is not used to breastfeeding in public it is important to cover up a bit. Obviously some people will jump around saying they shouldn’t have to..but the reason they are getting such negative reviews is because they have it all hanging out in front of people who aren’t used to it. It takes time for society to change.

  18. Too right! I just breastfed in public from the start and used some large muslins as l felt better a little covered up. I breastfed for 4 months and no-one ever said a word to me so l think (hope) most people are not offended by it. 🙂

  19. Such a good point that these stories reinforce the idea that breastfeeding in public is an issue. I never, ever, ever had any negativity when feeding my son out and about, and I did it A LOT as he was a very frequent feeder so I could never plan trips around feeds, even if I wanted to!

    • My second son was a nightmare to feed. On again, off again. I couldn’t help but flash some boob whilst he made his mind up! No one ever commented though. These stories in the media made me so scared about doing it.

  20. Absolutely!
    Breastfeeding in public is terrifying. But, especially when you’ve got other kids in tow, what are you going to do? Take everyone to the loo? Hunt down a feeding room? (There’s just 1 in our town centre and it’s minging – I’d have rather sat in the loo.) Stay at home until the child has weaned? Never mind that as a new mum you feel isolated from the outside world anyway.
    And, mostly, nobody says anything. Sometimes people even come up and say NICE things. But none of that ever hits the headlines.
    Breastfeeding in public will only be less scary when it’s as likely to be reported as ‘woman breathes in public’. But until then, let’s make a fuss of the positives rather than the negatives.

    • It is harder when you have more than one child in tow. Ironically enough the only place I went that wasn’t very accommodating was baby weigh in. They were happy for me to do it but had no chairs so I was expected to sit on the floor. Not the comfiest way to feed! I just think these stories are doing more harm than good.

    • Very interesting perspective! You’re right – I do always expect some sort of reaction to me nursing in public. I do it all the time but I do sort of psych myself up to defend my right to or expect someone to say something or give a disapproving look – but nobody really seems to care! They just mind their own business. I hadn’t thought that all this media hype about mom’s being discriminated against for nursing in public might discourage new moms from wanting to try it – but I can see how that is very true! Great post!!

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