Should Women Breastfeed in Public?

Breastfeeding is a natural biological function, but is there a time and a place for it? Nearly 75 percent of American mothers breastfeed their babies, but the issue of nursing in public remains controversial, as it raises the difficult question of how much exposure is too much. Babies get hungry even in public places, so what's a mother to do?

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When my little boy was 2 months old, he was colicky. He was LOUD! I mean, you can hear him from the other end of a mall! Should I feed in public? He wants to eat in public - and he simply cannot wait until I find some place, cover him up, etc. He just wants to eat NOW and that's that. Usually the people around me are glad that the noise machine has stopped.

Arguments of breastfeeding in front of other children being "indecent" is absurd. Breastfeeding in public sets an example for the next generation that it is the normal thing for a mother to do for her baby . There are certainly enough babies in malls with a bottle in their mouths - too many. It's almost "normal" to bottle-feed.

"Should" women breastfeed in public? What kind of a question is that? Of course a woman should breastfeed in public. She has every right to, and her child has every right to eat in public. Our society sexualized breasts to the point of absurdity, but they're just mammary glands. Heck, some people sexualize feet - should I refrain from wearing sandals?

I've seen mothers breastfeeding in public before. You just can't get any more natural than that act.

The only reason I can even think of to not allow public breastfeeding is the exposure of the breast in public, which is an antiquated rule anyway meant to appease strict religious types who view the human body as sinful in general.

Welcome to the 21st century. Those backwards rules should all be tossed. If an infant is hungry and the mother chooses to breastfeed him, by all means let the kid eat!

its called a breast pump or a bathroom. nobody wants to see it. its common courtesy. so stop saying you have to starve your baby when there is another way.

you can actually see the baby breastfeeding . Most mothers use a blanket to cover the breast, preventing exposure.

Women and children should never be asked to leave any place and hide or be asked to shroud themselves or their babies because they are breastfeeding (or for any other reason for that matter).

Doing so confirms a cultural attitude that is so damaging that its affects go far beyond breastfeeding and into other areas of life such as equal employment and domestic abuses toward women and children.

It confirms that something inappropriate is happening.

It confirms that the woman and child be held responsible for others insecurities and/or misinformed points of view.

It confirms that breastfeeding isn't the normal or proper way to feed a human baby .

It confirms that women and children are objects that can be removed and manipulated at will whenever they pose an inconvenience or behave out of line.

These confirmations are gross misconducts and human rights violations against women and children.

Women should breastfeed their babies whenever and where ever need be.

To do other wise and to hide or cover confirms the misconceptions and ignorance surrounding breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding in Public is not only necessary to mother and child from a nutritional and emotional point of view but it is necessary to induce change on a cultural level.

YES they should if need be!!! Come folks it is a natrual part of life for a mother and a child there is no shame in it and people just need to keep there mind's clean for once..come on give me a break is this even a real question????

Honestly, all of you should be ashamed.

I will not waste my time on this thread as well.

I supposed I am the only woman here who is not too keen on a woman breastfeeding in public.

I am not religious or a prude, and I understand and sympathize with all the arguments in favor of breastfeeding in public. And to be honest, for the most part, I don't care. However, I think many women act as though they should be considered as some sort of mavrick for breastfeeding in the public. The problem this causes, is often I find them going out of their way to breastfeed *in* public (even if the option to go to a more secluded spot is possible). I would never want to blatantly breastfeed in public if it were possible (and keep in mind, I am NOT arguing it should be outlawed! I'm far too much of an Anarchist to allow that!). However, whenever possible, I would much prefer to find a nice, quiet, more secluded spot, away from distracts, and spend the time alone and bonding with my baby. Many times, women who advocate breastfeeding in public, sound as though they plan to walk around with the poor child attached to her breast the whole time. They act as though the public should not only tolerate it, but accept it, and further more herald them as a bastion of motherly sainthood because of their self-less act in breastfeeding. It is as ridiculous as it sounds, but I find many breastfeeding mothers to act just like this. It's very silly and makes you consider the classic saying "People don't have children should, and people who have children shouldn't."

Seems like you are projecting your own feelings onto others. I don't know any mother who breastfeeds in public who thinks they deserve a halo or trophy for it. They want to basically feed their baby and go about their day. They're not thinking about it as much as you are, honestly. You are taking offense to something imagined in your own mind. You don't like it because of your own personal limitations and speculations and fantasies about what other people are thinking and feeling. I have breastfed in public when necessary and my main concern was comforting and feeding my baby. I actually also thought that I didn't want to irritate those around me by letting my baby cry, either. So I was trying to be conscientious and you're trying to say I somehow was thinking about how wonderful and Godlike I am? Please. You don't sound very educated on nursing if you call the child "poor" to be latched onto the mother. Infants who are breastfeed are breastfed on demand, this is what keeps the supply of milk up. Being latched on to the mother when they are hungry is normal. There's nothing "poor" about a baby who is offered the breast when they want it, in fact that child is getting their needs met and the mother is being responsible. There's nothing worse than a screaming hungry baby and a mother who ignores its needs for fear of what people like YOU are thinking.

Just because something is "natural" does not condone its place in society . There are many "natural" acts or behaviors that we have done away with as humans to distinguish us from the animal kingdom. Defecating in public, terrible personal hygiene, public sex, physical domination of females, abuse of children , etc., are all present in animals of nature. We take pride in having transcended these things..

Breastfeeding being "natural" is not an adequate defense of its PUBLIC use. Though I don't mind it.. just a bad argument.

There are many natural things that are not seen as inappropriate in public such as eating (which is what a baby is doing -- so it's ok for you to eat in public but not a baby?). The baby isn't taking off its diaper and taking a poop or peeing on anything. The mother isn't changing the kid's diaper at a restaurant dinner table. The baby is doing what others would do in public -- eating. Eating is natural and acceptable in public society . Your argument makes no sense because eating has never been outlawed from public view. We don't have secluded booths in restaurants so we don't get everyone ill by eating in front of them. We don't cover our heads with towels and blankets while we eat. We don't run to the bathroom to eat, either. You're comparing crapping with eating, and saying that a baby eating is the same as a person crapping in public because both are "natural."

It's odd that so many people on this forum seem to be in agreement when breastfeeding in public is still so taboo. Last time I checked, even on youtube, you have to be 18 to view a woman breastfeeding. I can't figure out if this attitude towards the matter stems from our inability to view breasts as anything but sensual, or if we just really enjoy sexism in this country..?

I've seen a woman publicly breastfeeding (who had a cloth draped over herself and everything) be asked to vacate a public park before. At the time I was too young to realize the implications of such an event, and even now I can't help but be confused at our audacity at seeing women feed their children in the most natural (and usually most healthy) of ways.

It's funny how society is ok with baby bottle nipples which are ginormous mutated representations of actual nipples. It seems to me the whole problem is men who sexualize breasts and women who go along with that thinking. Women are being told to hate their own bodies and men are insisting we find normal bodily functions "disgusting" unless it's something sexual that benefits them. In which case ANYTHING GOES. The same people who find breastfeeding gross probably engage in analingus and such in the name of pleasing their gonads.

You've already demonstrated you'll lie to avoid losing face in the Circumcision thread.

Why do you think someone like you, who claims total closed mindedness is "arguing objectively" would ever be taken seriously?

How can you ever expect to be taken seriously if you continue to attack people instead of the arguments they form?

If you don't have the intelligence to make a significant argument you probably shouldn't be on a debate website.

Ok, I voted 'No', women should not breast feed in public areas.

Yet, I STRONGLY support breast feeding in general.

Why do I have such an unusual stance? Especially being male as many men find the entire process "arousing" or interesting.

I do not. I find the entire process very.. very.. obnoxious. It's not something I prefer to see in public, much like I don't like seeing public displays of affection, and other unnecessarily public exposures that are more appropriate for a private setting.

If they wish to cover the process with a towel, shroud, or retreat to a more private setting, great! Please do and if you do, I strongly encourage you to feed your child naturally!

However some of us don't like to see it. I'm sorry for that.

did you mean unnecessary?

anyway. that's the key word. breastfeeding is not an "unnecessary" act.

Just because you personally don't like seeing it doesn't mean that the woman and her child should be denied their rights.

Personally, I can't stand people who talk loud on their cell phones in public, but I would be strongly against any law or ordinance banning such a thing.

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. " --Evelyn Beatrice Hall (often attributed to Voltaire)

Do you feel the same when seeing nude sunbathers, topless dancers, women with cleavage hanging out of their tops, models in print ads nude or barely clothed, breasts used to advertise products, cleavage, women in bikinis, and so on? A breast is a breast is a breast. Men have breasts (and can lactate for that matter -- bet you didn't realize that) but women's breasts are somehow great if you're using them for ANYTHING other than what they're designed for and for their functional biological purpose. You can bear to witness a breast being used functionally, and I wonder why that is. You think a baby eating is "obnoxious." What I find obnoxious is women prancing around everywhere with their breasts barely covered in order to stimulate men and get their attention and approval. You really are literally backwards thinking.

Are you saying they should not? Does that mean that they should be subjected to indecency laws?

Why is the process obnoxious? Perhaps an overt pda might be offensive to someone who is uncomfortable with natural human behavior. Perhaps your personal preferences are to not see individuals exposing their bodies. What I don't understand is how you take your personal preferences and translate that to what people should or should not do.

An individual who drops his pants in a shopping mall does so with the intention of impacting others. It is an act intended to offend others and arouse himself. That is an assault, and he should be cited accordingly.

An individual who is clutching a companion in a lengthy embrace typically has no intention of impacting others.

Similarly, an individual who is breast-feeding is simply feeding her child.

There's a serious disconnect stemming from our Protestant roots in this country. A man on the beach may walk around without a shirt on and create no sensation of any kind, whereas a woman may do the same thing and receive a public citation.

An agoraphobic would prefer that when she leaves the house, no one else was out and about that day. It would be preposterous that because she finds being in crowds of people a noxious experience, people should be required to stay home until crowds slim.

Your problem with breast-feeding is an as-yet unjustified one, and therefore it is categorized as a personal issue. Personal issues should be addressed personally. The agoraphobe should seek help for her condition.

that is very close minded. im sure you dont mind looking at women's bodies in general, im sure you spend a lot of time staring at women and enjoying yourself. but its not ok for a women to breastfeed in public? should the mother stay home for the first 1-2 years and not leave the house because you dont want to see her performing a natural feeding technique used by all mammals? if you dont like to see it then dont look. would you ask every person who holds hands or kisses or performs your version of PDA to stop? if so then what makes this a free country?
how about, if you dont like it, then DONT LOOK.

But to say a women feeding her kid is "obnoxious" is absurd. I'd find the screaming, hungry kid to be more obnoxious honestly.

Seriously, it's not like a women is jumping up and down yelling "Look at me!" Most of the time there sitting down. (It's more comfortable that way.)
How about summer time. Put a cover over the kids while it 90+ degrees out? Is that fair? Would you like your head in a blanket while it's that hot?
Is it really so hard to not look?

I don't like looking at fat men in speedos. Guess what, I don't go up to them, call them obnoxious, and tell them to cover up. I simply look away at something more pleasing. And it doesn't ruin my day in the least. I don't feel the need to make a stand on the subject (I'm not making a stand now, just using it as an example) .

No ones telling you to sit and stare. And surely no one is telling you to get aroused by it either. (I find that idea a little disturbing but who am I to judge what turns a person on?)

You say you strongly support it, but only as long as you don't ever have to see it. That does not show support.
If you were married and your wife wanted to fully breast feed, would you send her from the room to do it in private so you wouldn't have to see it? Would you not take her to restaurants as long as she was breast feeding ?If it was over 90 degrees out would you demand that your child be covered just so he could eat?

If you would, and say you care that much about other peoples feelings. then how about the feelings of the breastfeeding mom ?

He only admitted that he doesn't like seeing us. You did the same in saying that fat men in speedos is gross..

He can't help the way he feels. He even added to the end of his comment that women can still do it. It just gives him the willies.

He can help the way he feels by changing his thinking. One must have a thought to have a feeling. Thoughts come first. Change your thinking, you change the way you feel.

I'm beginning to wonder if OV is running out of ideas. I'd like to see what evidence suggests that this is truly a controversial issue. Perhaps it's only an issue in the US (but even then, I doubt it). Even in Arab countries where a face or leg exposed is a serious offense, breastfeeding in public is acceptable. Who is saying it's not?

Clearly the poll on this debate indicates that it's not an issue worthy of debate.

And fervently scanning to find someone who is on the "no" side, all I find is a couple comments of immaturity and silliness. Not anything worth replying to.

I suppose even OV needs to put in some tongue-in-cheek debate topics from time to time.

I won't commit to an answer, because once again OV phrased the question in an amateurish manner. I mean, who am I to force a woman to feed in public? ;-)

When I visited my cousins in NY, one of the things we did with them was go swimming in a local pool. While we were there a mother started breast feeding her baby .

I, twelve years old at the time, only noticed the odd way she was holding her baby but did not know she was breast feeding because absolutely no breast was shown.

I remember that she was wearing an oversized grey shirt and had a red towel wrapped weird around her chest,so her baby could feed without her breast being exposed.

I don't know how long she had been doing it before, a man walked up to her and asked her to stop. My cousins and I were nearby, standing in line to buy icecream, so once we started listening, we could easily hear everything.
The mother politely refused to stop. She said her baby was hungry. The man yelled at her that she should be ashamed of herself for doing it in front of children and he actually pointed at me and my cousins (which is when I started paying attention).
The woman said something like, "It's natural, and I'm not showing any clevage, so go away."
The man started screaming about how "disgusting" it was and how "vulgar" she was being. The mom burst into tears and asked him to leave her alone.
Then the baby's daddy, who looked like he could play pro football, (at least that's how I remember him) came out of the bathroom. He got in the guy's face and said "what the hell is your problem?" And when he found out what the guy's problem was, he said "leave us the f*$! alone." And not having the guts to insult a woman when her husband was around, the cowardly, pyscho jerk left; but no before hurling one final insult over his shoulder "wh*r#". The husband's response was to punch him in the face, and he got knocked out. The cops were called, but our parents made us leave before they arrived.

Since then, I have been around to hear two more incidents like this sparked by a woman breast feeding in public (but without showing clevage), but none were as sensational.

That was an unbalanced individual verbally assaulting a woman and her infant. It's a shame that the father answered the verbal violence with physical violence. I'd be lying, though, if I said I didn't appreciate that part of your story.

The notion of it being wrong to breastfeed in front of children is oddly ironic, no?

Anyway, again, I don't see that as controversial, because it's just a misinformed, maladjusted individual with a skewed sense of right and wrong. This site is meant to be a debate site, and I just don't think this topic is worthy of discussion, because the odds of bringing anyone in on it with valid opposition are unlikely.

Thanks so much for the anecdote, though. It totally made my day!

He protected his woman just damned fine. If anyone calls my mother or my wife a whore, they should expect violence.

Clearly the main topic is simply not one that's open for debate.

Despite your personal feelings on the matter, neither the father, the mother, nor the infant were in any physical danger. In fact, the guy was leaving. This was not a matter of defense. It was active assault and battery situation, and had the lunatic pressed charges, he may well have had a case against the father. Violence is completely uncalled for in that situation.

Again, that's not to say that my personal feelings don't align with yours. I just think that we should suppress those urges in much the same way that we (hopefully) don't go around punching all of the people we encounter every day who we feel would do well with a punch in the mouth.

an individual from being attacked, then i see no reason why that man - or anyone else who feels they can ignore the rights of the individual to peacefully pursue actions that do not limit or infringe on another's freedom - should not get a punch in the face to serve as a reminder: actions have consequences.


It was defending his wife's honor and good name.

how many debates on this site would come to blows? Physical aggression is unnecessary in this case. If you have options, and you choose to infringe upon an individuals right to be free from unnecessary harm, you are in the wrong both legally and morally. What the lunatic did was verbally assault the woman. This was also a criminal (though minor) offense. There were avenues to pursue (including allowing the guy to walk away and shout his obscenities) that didn't involve criminal and violent behavior.

You are accurate in your description of the man's justifications, but the man's actions were wrong, nonetheless.

They were wrong in your opinion, and justified in mine. Yay debate :)

97% say yes. This is not even divided by conservatives and liberals. both can agree YES!

It's so great to see that all the commenters and all the experts agree on this one!

Of course, babies should breastfeed whenever and whereever they need to. We don't ask if adults should eat at restaurants, talk on cell phones in public places, or perform various other functions. This is a basic human right and we say babies are human (or mammal for that matter), then I don't see how this is even a debate.

When my son was first born, I would hide in cramped cars, smelly bathrooms, and changing rooms to feed him. What I discovered was that this cut into my social time. I very quickly got fed up with this and mastered a technique where nobody saw anything they otherwise wouldn't have. Then I was able to breastfeed anywhere without cutting into my social life. I was able to have complete conversations with my husband at meals out, see whole movies from start to finish, and finish making photocopies at the store. After I gained confidence and finesse I started choosing to feed my son in public if I thought he might get hungry on the way home, it was my way of sticking it to society without cutting into my social life. After that the only time I had to "seek shelter" was after my son was old enough to have trouble deciding if he'd rather watch what was going on around him or eat. And then it was only so he would finish eating so we could continue with our activities. So basically what I'm saying is that if moms didn't breastfeed in public, there would be a lot less breastfeeding and a lot more stressed out moms. I think it's more of a practicality issue than a modesty issue. If you did hide somewhere to breastfeed, you'd never be doing anything else!

More people stare at a screaming baby then one who's eating :) If someone can shove a cheesburger down their throat in a public place why shouldn't my baby get to eat in public too? If our society wasn't so set on seeing breasts as sexual objects, then breastfeeding wouldn't be such an issue.

As a registered dietitian specializing in pediatric nutrition and a board certified lactation consultant, it is my professional opinion that the majority of women should breastfeed. Breastfeeding is a natural body process and can be done anywhere. All mammals breastfeed and as humans, we are mammals. Breastmilk is the optimal food for babies, promoting optimal health and providing infants more than just nourishment. Since the taste of breastmilk changes with each feeding, babies are exposed to the foods that the mother eats which provides a foundation for the introduction of solid foods and better infant acceptance. In addition, babies if breast fed on demand (when they are hungry), learn hunger and satiety and know exactly how much to consume to meet their growth needs. This helps to prevent childhood obesity. Breastfeeding in public is not offensive because when infants breastfeed, the breast is hidden by the baby. Breastfeeding should be celebrated as it provides not only physical well-being, but social and emotional well-being as well.

I am completely baffled as to how this is even a debate!!! Breastfeeding is a normal, natural, regular part of life where babies are being nourished so that they may live. If the argument against is that you are afraid of seeing my breast, then you should be ashamed of yourself, educate yourself, and go and eat your meals in non-public areas - perhaps even the mall toilet stall (where I have been led to before to breastfeed!).

"..perhaps even the mall toilet stall (where I have been led to before to breastfeed!). " LOL!!! U R kidding rite lol!

The reason we have breasts is to feed our young! It bothers me if I see a baby being fed a bottle as I know he/she is slated for ear infections, more illnesses and lower IQ. The 'green' aspect of breastfeeding alone should make this a boderline requirement! No resources are used when one breastfeeds, no manufacturing of formula, bottles, packaging, shipping, cows and their whole maintance factor, (feed, milking, methane gas polluntion etc.). I feel if you choose to not breastfeed, your insurance premiums should be higher(much like it is for smokers..) as it is likely that infant will be in the pediatricians office more than a breastfed baby and the mother will have more health issues as well. At least every woman should provide her colostrum if nothing else,,, babies first immunization. The more woman breastfeed in public, the more common place it will be and it will no longer be an issue.

Yes! Show as much breast as you need to and breastfeed away! (It was impossible to keep my breast covered when I was breastfeeding my 12 month old. She knew that my breasts were there for her!)
While 75 % of American mothers may breastfeed their babies, many of those only last for 3-6 months. It would be easier for mothers to choose to breastfeed longer if our society could get over its ridiculous, over-sexualized breast fixation. the more public breastfeeding, the better!

It saddens me to know that we live in a society where this is even a DEBATE. I would like to make the people who vote "no" on this eat their next meal in a public bathroom or "closet" (for lack of a better term). This just shouldn't even be an issue. Vote "no" then move to the communist country of ur choice!!!

Definitely women should breastfeed their babies in public!
Although sometimes they should be more carefull or discret when they brestfeed in public, not everyone has to see. I used to cover my breast because I felt unconfortable if people see..

You eat in public, don't you? You eat in your car, on the phone, in a restaurant, outside on a bench. Babies need breastmilk. People that feel strange when they see a mother breastfeeding her infant should remind themselves that there is nothing strange about this. Most times you can't even see anything (as in a breast, or any part of it) while a mother is nursing. If you're looking REALLY hard and continuously you might see some skin. Oh no! Skin!! Girls at the beach show much more skin than any breastfeeding mother. I have and do and always will continue to breastfeed my children (as discretely as I can) in a restaurant, in my car (not while driving of course), at a park, in a Zoo, during Church, at my friends house..etc. It is ridiculous that this is even a discussion.

Maybe I don't like to see people eating distractedly while driving, or stuffing food in their mouths while walking down the street! Of course moms should be able to breastfeed in public without negative looks or comments. Babies get hungry frequently and it would be hard to leave the house without needing to nurse (I have twins, I know!). I tried to find a quiet place and be discreet and, thank goodness, didn't encounter any probelms. However, I hope one day we'll all be comfortable with what our breasts are intended for - and that we won't even need to debate this.