Boobs, Boobs, Boobs: Stop Policing Breastfeeding Moms!

Breasts are for feeding babies.

For some reason, people sometimes need to be reminded of this; for example, a woman in Moorhead was asked to cover up when she began breastfeeding her 11-month-old baby at a public pool. It turned out okay, but it’s still a symptom of a weird cultural problem we have.

Breasts aren’t inherently sexual, and when you look at it, everyone already knows it. That’s why men are socially and legally allowed to be seen in public topless. Yes, those are also breasts, and no, it’s not size-dependent, either, because men with large breasts are allowed to go out topless and women with small ones are not. So it’s entirely dependent on gender, not size.

That’s creepy. Women’s bodies aren’t more sexual than men’s bodies.

And America is fairly odd in its sexualization of breasts. Historically they haven’t always been considered sexual; in many cultures women routinely go topless and topless/nude beaches can be found all over the place in the modern world. It’s a weird social quirk that Americans have that the rest of the world does not necessarily share; I remember being slightly surprised once when a woman changed her shirt in the public part of a Helsinki airport bathroom. No one else noticed or cared.

Breasts are for feeding babies. Nothing wrong with finding them sexy, of course; some people dig eyes, some people dig feet and probably there are people out there who dig noses.

But sexualizing breasts at all times and in all places isn’t good. One, it’s deeply creepy to sexualize women’s breasts, but not men’s, at all times and in all places. Two, it hurts breastfeeding moms. And three, it hurts their infants, too.

Incidents like these are why a breastfeeding mom I know had to cram herself into a restroom at Target with a baby, a baby-carrier and a diaper bag to try to feed the hungry baby amid nasty smells and constant flushing noises.

The science all points to breast milk being the best for babies. Plus, using formula will get you endless amounts of shame for being a bad mom from those Tina Fey called the “teat nazis.” And you can’t just hide in your home for a year or more and wait for your baby to be weaned, because babies need diapers and clothes and powder and lotion and shampoo and ointment and bottles and lots and lots of washcloths and all these things need to be bought and retrieved.

Would anyone seriously advocate putting moms under effective house arrest, anyway? They’re people, not cattle.

As Jurassic World showed, you don’t raise a dinosaur alone in captivity; do we want half-crazed isolated moms rampaging through town ripping down fences, attacking animals and picking fights with T-rexes?

All joking aside, half the population sees breasts any time they look in the mirror anyway. It shouldn’t be a big deal for them or the other half of the population to see a female breast in public occasionally, any more than it is to see a male breast.

And it should especially not be a big deal to see a breast used for its major purpose, which is feeding a baby.

17 Responses

  1. Conrad Smith

    I was just wondering what people’s opinions are on using breast milk from a bottle when in public, or if this would be unacceptable as well? Thoughts?

    1. I doubt they’d know the difference.

      However, the woman who has to spend a bunch of time pumping the milk when she could be spending time with her baby, doing household chores or heavens, taking a sanity-break? She’d know the difference.

  2. Schurkey

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let’s see what happens the first time a middle-school teacher decides she has the right to breastfeed her kid in the school lunchroom–or in the classroom. I can hardly wait for the nutjobs thinking she’s just sexually abused the school kids colliding with the Right To Feed coalition. There will be wailing, and gnashing of teeth. That’s material fit for daytime TV entertainment, folks.

    A guy gets thrown out of the local swimming pool area for taking photos of–presumably–kids in swimsuits; but it’s OK for Mom to hang ’em out at the pool.

    Every time I think the world is a truly weird place, I close my eyes, quiet my mind, pay attention to my surroundings…and discover that the world is stranger than I ever imagined.

  3. None

    You’re awful quick to defend someone’s rights but what about a person’s right to speak out if they are uncomfortable with something.
    Under your argument I guess Rosa Parks should have stood up and moved to the back of the bus.

  4. Andrea

    I breastfed all three of my children – and my oldest is 6 years old. I have no problems with breastfeeding, and yes, it can be a pain to use cover-ups, but I also do not understand the desire to purposely try to make others uncomfortable. Like it or not, American culture has sexualized breasts. Period. Shoving breastfeeding down other’s faces doesn’t make it more accepted. In reference to this specific instance – no, you do not have to smother your child with a quilt – there are other options to cover your breasts and not make your child uncomfortable as well as not making others around you uncomfortable. I’m tired of you painting all women who breastfeed as boob-displaying psychos who have something to prove by breastfeeding. I know you think you are advancing the cause, but this is the wrong way.

  5. Patience

    Wouldn’t it be great if no one gave a shit about breasts out in the open? And we didn’t care if there were a bunch of women feeding their kids? Hell, in a perfect world we world all walk around naked, but some are too immature to handle a woman feeding her young. People need to get over this idea that nudity is always sexual.

  6. Kurt Kollman

    …and what male life guard was uncomfortable with her breastfeeding. I’m sure she didn’t pick the middle of the pool to feed her infant. If I see a woman breastfeeding, I feel she wants a little respect & I don’t make a big deal about it. Grow up man!

    1. And it’s okay to not feel totally comfortable with it. There’s nothing wrong with looking away. Breasts aren’t hypnotoads and nobody’s prying their eyes open Clockwork Orange style, either. It’s okay to just look away politely.

  7. Greg

    I love the irony of how a guy with a camera at a pool is sexual, and he gets raked over the coals for taking pictures in a public setting…..yet in the same week, women are lining up in droves to flop a boob out in the pools to show boobs are not sexual.
    Make up your minds- you can’t have it both ways.

    1. One had to do with children, not women, according to everyone but the person concerned (who said he was not sure whether the female person he photographed was a child), IIRC.

      Not really equivalent.

  8. Greg

    So clothed children in a public setting are sexual, yet exposed female breasts in the same setting are not?
    Who gets to make these irrational rules anyway? Oh that’s right, Soccer Moms! Because raising “my” child is the most important thing on earth, “my” needs and feelings and conveniences are all that really matter, right.

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