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  • I gave birth to my first child, Asa James, in September 2011. This is the place where I share our journey as a new family.

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04/09/2011

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Oh, amen Abby.

bravo, abby. such a great post. i read this article two years ago and haven't been able to stop thinking about it: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/01/19/090119fa_fact_lepore

oh Abby I am right there with you about how shocking it is that women can view breastfeeding as disgusting or even offensive. I breastfed Emerson till he was 1.5 yrs and I clearly remember looks of disgust when i was out in public nursing. I was always covered and I coudnt understand what the problem was. my baby was hungry and I was feeding him. breatfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby. i will forever cherish the time I spent breasting em. I feel it made our mother/son bond even stronger. just know that there are many mother's out there that think beastfedding is beautiful and there are also great groups out there for breastfeeding support. oxo

SO interesting that you posted on this.

I saw that tweet yesterday and responded, but hadn't read the hash tag. ( I don't really know how to use those things and don't pay attention to them). I was thinking she was just impressed with the other mother's nursing abilities... she is a new mother herself, after all. And then this morning I got back on twitter and saw so many tweets in response, including her own reaction to my response... and that's when I went back and noticed the hash tag. In general, I like to keep the peace, so I just tried to quiet everyone down.

In her defense, I've met her several times and she's a really nice person. She breastfeeds her own baby (or I know she has in the past anyways) so she's definitely pro-breastfeeding. Like you stated above, maybe she's just "a person with strict modesty issues". Who knows.

But I know you mainly brought this up to defend the right of women to feed their babies in public. And I completely agree. Just last week, I nursed my little one in the grocery store parking lot... (in my car but with the door open because it was hot).

It is interesting how intense the discussion often gets when breastfeeding is the topic. Did you see this post on Cup of Jo? 402 comments! http://joannagoddard.blogspot.com/2011/03/breastfeeding-love.html

I saw that exact same tweet this morning and had to reread it because I thought I had read it wrong the first time. I couldn't believe it either. :(

thanks for the responses, everyone!
Eva-I totally agree with you that the person who posted the tweet is a nice person. I met her and even helped her acquire dresses and props for a photoshoot with a mutual stylist friend of our's in Portland. And I agree, too-that usually I DO like to keep peace in blog land. I try to steer clear of anything like this on "abby try again". That is why I didn't name her-I didn't want this post to turn into "hate on so and so post".
But...I HAD to say something. I feel that sort of speech is very HARMFUL to pregnant women, new moms and younger women who have yet to give birth. I am a huge supporter of public breastfeeding and it even made me feel shameful. That sort of talk is not ok and I think the more we gloss over that the more we condone bad behavior.
Women should not be made to feel as though they are "disgusting" for providing nourishment, plain and simple. I know she was not alone in her sentiments and I hope by discussing it openly we can come to realize that we should not be ashamed of it.

oh, i love what you say here, abby. maybe because i am not from here, but it is hard for me to understand so much shame about the body.
i belong to a group in facebook that is called "if breastfeeding offends you put a blanket over YOUR head"

Abby - I understand and agree with what you are saying. Her use of that word was unfortunate. I think it came across a lot stronger than she intended. I know she breastfeeds in public herself. But again, I can see why that statement upset you.

Bottom line: breastfeeding & motherhood are beautiful, important things. I think we all agree on that. :)

Now to go breastfeed Ingrid...

Abby
I love this post. And, I still miss nursing- it's been a year since I stopped. It's really so wonderful even if there are hurdles to jump to get it right. It took me a little while to get comfortable in public and sometimes I just went to the car when I could so as not to make others upset.
I nursed both kids- my boy until he was 20 months and I was 2 months pregnant and the second until she was 2 years and 2 months.
Oddly the people it upset the most where women and the ones it upset the most were my sister in laws. One actually associated it with third world countries and National Geographic. I don't think I've ever looked at her the same since then.

I think it's sad that that tweet went out. Women need to start respecting each other.

way to go, abby. you have such a prominent presence in the blogging world, it's awesome that you are speaking up for such an important issue. i couldn't agree with and support you more. the more of us that speak up for public breastfeeding- and more importantly the more of us that practice public breastfeeding- the more back to mainstream it will become.
you're going to be a wonderful mother :)

oh abby!!! so glad to see you plan to bf. i bf all four of mine and the youngest just weaned himself recently and it is such an amazing experience and soooo incredibly healthy for the baby on so many levels. we had friends and my bil that were offended by my bfing and i was always baffled that someone could be offended by something so natural, so instinctual.

how SAD is it that something that is such a basic instinct and so utterly normal and HUMAN might be seen as disgusting by another person.

i was always really conscious of breastfeeding in public and covered up, but really - if people can't deal with it - it really is THEIR problem. [i think i am really lucky that i live in an area that is PRO PRO PRO breastfeeding, but regardless]

good for you for speaking your mind and for doing what you feel is right !

You know I agree with you Abby, as I've breastfed in public many times when you were with Juni and I. I'm so proud of you for writing this post.

So great of you to speak out about this, Abby - it takes a lot of strength. I'm constantly surprised by women attacking other women for baby-related choices...the intensity of their animosity reminds me of high school pettiness to be honest! I had always heard of this bond mothers have, and I was so excited to be part of that exclusive club...only to find sharp lines of division willingly erected by the very members of the club?! And there's a battle of breastfeeding versus formula, public breastfeeding versus private, hospital birth versus birthing center, drugs versus natural, attachment parenting versus whatever the opposite is called...and everyone is so quick to argue why your way is wrong. Vehemently! It's sad... The very best thing I have found is to quietly surround myself with like-minded mamas and open-minded individuals to best support me as I do what is healthiest for my family. I have found they'll be the ones to offer the most advice and support...especially as I try to block out the negativity from women I had expected support from. I can tell you're already doing just that...keep it up, it's the best way to be a positive example while being the best mom you can be!

many years ago now, i took part in many protests in our region to fight indecency laws regarding the exposure of breasts, which were a result of the arrest of a woman in the next town over (Guelph), named Gwen Jacobs, who was arrested for indecency. she was walking around with a male friend on a scorching hot day. he removed his t-shirt. she decided to remove hers as well and walk topless down the street because she felt it was really unfair that men were able to do this and women were not. her subsequent arrest on a charge of indecency sparked many protests about indecency laws in Canada, and i was delighted to see that all of the marches were led by breastfeeding mothers who were tired of mall security or police making them feel as though they were doing something wrong, asking them to move somewhere else, more private, to feed their children, or who had been arrested or been threatened with arrest for indecency for exposing their breasts to feed their babies. It was really empowering and fabulous to see all these mothers, walking along, feeding their children, while we all chanted, 'our breasts are not obscene' and many of us were in various stages of undress to prove a point - where do you draw the line at arresting someone for indecency? what is indecency, legally? anyway, eventually (5 years later), the charges against her were finally acquitted on the basis of the fact that the act of being topless is not in itself indecent. In Ontario, women are now allowed to go topless anywhere men are also allowed to be topless. I'm not saying women do go topless, it is just nice to know they can and won't be arrested if they do. I think it will be a long time before women feel as comfortable about doing this as men have, obviously, because of pervasive gender/societal mores and inhibitions. However, the ruling has also made it possible for breastfeeding mothers to feel less ashamed/worried about public breastfeeding and that, I also feel, was a very significant result of this ruling. I agree with the woman above, if you are offended by breastfeeding, no one is forcing you to look at a woman breastfeeding in public. But to actually say that the act is disgusting is not helpful to women or girls anywhere and perpetuates the idea that women should feel ashamed of their bodies in public or that it is not a totally natural thing for women as mothers to do, which it definitely is. thank you for speaking out, Abby. I really feel that women need to discuss this issue and how it affects women in general, not only in terms of mothers who breastfeed, but also in terms of girls' attitudes about their bodies and self-esteem. I think the use of blankets to cover breastfeeding is a personal choice about how comfortable you personally feel about breastfeeding publicly and that women shouldn't have to feel obliged to use them to make others feel more comfortable. Personally, I don't feel that women should have to use them at all and people need to get over feeling uncomfortable about women pulling their breasts out of their clothes to feed their babies. That's just me. It is a mom's right to decide personally to breastfeed or bottle feed or to cover themselves or not worry about exposing their breasts to feed their baby. People who feel uncomfortable around breastfeeding moms need to get over it!

I'm still scratching my head over this one. I breast fed my daughter in public. No one ever complained. The only people who stared were men.

People think it's cute and sweet when they see baby animals feeding. What's to dislike about humans doing the same. After all, that's what breasts are for. Babies don't wait to get hungry in some private place. People eat out, why shouldn't they. And NOT in unsanitary restrooms.

I breastfed my son for just about a year, and never really got the "hang" of using a blanket/cloth diaper/whatever as a cover-up. He used to stare up at me when he nursed, and covering him interfered with that, so I wasn't comfortable with it. So, I tended to head to the car or another room...but that was for MY own comfort, not the comfort of others. You'll do what feels right for you and your baby, and what others think won't matter. Good luck. (Beautiful blog, by the way...I followed some blog links to get here, so I hope I can find my way back!) :-)

Attitudes like that are the reason that so many mothers, particularly young mothers, don't persist with breastfeeding, as they feel that it will restrict their lives having to find a hidey-hole everytime their baby gets hungry.
I was 25 when I had my son, 2 years ago, and I'd heard so many stories like these, seen first hand women beeing scowled at for feeding in public etc. But because I'm so damned stubborn and headstrong, I took pride in my public feeding and never let it bother me what kind of reactions I got. I'm lucky enough (and perhaps it's the same over there?) to live in Australia where it is actually illegal to discriminate against a woman for breastfeeding in public, so a restaurant owner can't ask you to stop, it's against the law for him to do so. Having the law on my side made it easier, although I certainly would have done it anyway! Good luck with your breastfeeding adventure, it can be very difficult, I had mastitis 5 times and was in and out of hospital, on and off of antibiotics for the first few months, but the pride in overcoming the hurdles and giving your child the best possible start in life is so wonderful!

hey there abby,
i have been meaning
to write you
because i am also 18 weeks
going on 19 weeks!
:)
i feel the same way
and i am so worried because
i am moving to switzerland
and i have no idea how much
more conservative it will
be there about
breast-feeding in public.
i guess i can always
play the foreigner card.
;)
hope you are doing well.
xo
gwen

Hey Abby - just wanted to say I've been bf my girl for 8 months now in Austin, often in public, and no problems or weird looks askance from anyone so far! (And this is often with plenty exposed, since my daughter likes to look around and won't nurse if she's covered up!) I'm sure there are many different experiences out there, but generally this seems like a good spot for a nursing mom to be. :)

I love that you reacted so strongly to this! I never thought I'd be an activist about anything, but having a baby and breastfeeding I feel so strongly about protecting everyone's right to do so (and encouraging those who don't think they can - there's such a push from formula companies it's unbelievable). The only surprise I've had from someone was an older lady (in her 70s) who was surprised I was going to nurse (with a cover) in the living room where everyone was conversing - she expected me to go to another room (which is getting more necessary as Will gets older and more distractable. But I've nursed in a Hardee's full of men and even they could deal with my presence :)

How awesome that you are starting such an empowering discussion!

It's especially awesome because it's been proven that nothing else has AS positive an effect on encouraging other moms to breastfeed as "seeing" women breastfeeding. (In this case via passionate discussion!) Education, promotion, protection, etc. are incredibly important, but at the end of the day, the most powerful way to get babies and moms all the lovely, healthy benefits of breastfeeding, is seeing other moms breastfeed. I'm thrilled that you will be one of those moms!

It's tough, it really is. I'm not very comfortable breast feeding outside of my home, and for that reason, I really don't breast feed in public. But the bottom line is if my baby were hungry and I needed to feed her, I certainly wouldn't let another person's discomfort get in the way of caring for my baby. Breast feeding is tough for a lot of moms (physically, that is), so it's unfortunate that on top of everything else we have to deal with backlash. From other moms, no less! Anyway, I hope you're feeling well so far, Abby:)

i was also under the impression that public breastfeeding was only an issue if it happens without a cover. personally i don't mind uncovered breastfeeding, but i have always covered up because it feels best like that to me.

not sure why breastfeeding on-the-go is worse than sitting down and breastfeeding. i had my third when my firstborn twins were not even two. i felt extremely fortunate that he was such an easy child to breastfeed, so that i could - literally - run after the other two toddlers with him, comfortably breastfeeding or sleeping in a sling. especially because breastfeeding wasn't easy with my premature twins.

maybe said twitterer was just stunned and used the wrong words... but take it from me, breastfeeding on the move is quite practical sometimes :)

Hello, I just stumbled upon your blog and saw your post. I also had those same fears and posted them on my blog. Here is one of the response from a momma I got. It helped me be brave. AND with a lot of courage I breastfed for three years!! I still can't believe I made it that long, while working! :D

"Here's this militant momma breast feeder's advice: Do not think about yourself or what other think of you, think only of your baby and what your baby thinks of you and needs from you. Take strength from the fact that your child is depending on you to do the right thing for her, and that she is utterly helpless, completely and totally dependent on you to make the right choices for her. Would you allow someone to do harm to your child simply because they might think poorly of you for not allowing them to do it? That's the real question here. :)

Think of the fact that these people are encouraging you to harm your child, then put your chin up and ignore them. Do not look at them, do not invite comment, act as though this is the most normal thing in the world, because it is!!!

If someone says something that implies what you are doing is sexual, reply with, "I don't appreciate you sexualizing my baby. That is disgusting. Please stop." If the idea of saying that to a friend or family member scares you, keep in mind that it isn't about you anymore, it is about your baby, and that they are asking you to harm your child in order to not offend their ridiculous, uneducated, and over-sexed sensibilities. If they find the act of your feeding a baby to be sexy or sexual, that is their problem, not yours.

If you act insecure about feeding the baby, people will react to that and feel like they are allowed to offer their opinions, on the other hand, if you act like you have no qualms about what you are doing, most people will be too overwhelmed by your confidence to dare to say anything. People like to poke at the weak, they are fearful of the strong. Even if you feel weak, pretend to be strong, act like you are strong. Do it for your child. Remember that your child will be taking its cues from you about his/her body. If you've got a little girl, don't make the mistake of letting her grow up thinking that she's an object of sex at all times, even in the act of feeding a child. Keep that in mind!

Lastly, keep a few phrases handy. It might help for you to repeat them to yourself over and over until you're sure you can just spout them out: "My right to nurse is protected by federal and state laws and I am willing and ready to get a lawyer to protect those rights." That's a good one. It may or may not be true depending on where you live, but the chances are great that the person talking to you won't know that, and you'll be well away from the establishment before they ever find out the truth."

Great post. I'm scared to breastfeed in public because of attitudes like the one mentioned. And then I'm ashamed that I would allow the judgment of other people to scare me into hiding a very natural act. I've been expressing milk to take out with us when we go to the grocery, etc., but it's a HUGE pain in the ass, and I wish I had the courage to just nurse in public!

I posted a comment that I can't see right now... I was just wondering, because I came here again looking for more comments about this because it is such an important topic...

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