It’s one thing to say you support a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, but it’s another thing to really support it. How many of us nursing moms have been told that nursing our babies is great and wonderful and all that, but that we just better cover up completely or pick a corner far away from the rest of the world in order to do it?
While it’s true that some mothers feel more comfortable using covers or a separate room, many do not, and we all need to think about the message we’re sending them when we say that breastfeeding is something that should be done, but not seen. No matter how you slice it, it’s a kind of shaming and it leaves mothers feeling a lack of freedom about how and when they can feed their babies.
On Monday, a mom shared her own story of breastfeeding shaming on the popular Facebook page, Breastfeeding Mama Talk, and it’s raised more than a few eyebrows. In the post, the mom (who has chosen to remain anonymous) shared a note she received as part of a wedding invite, which asked her specifically to not breastfeed her baby at the wedding, and instead gave her the “option” of feeding her baby in the bathroom.
The note actually begins by sounding compassionate to the struggles of breastfeeding moms, but when you read further, you see that its real message is actually quite the opposite.
“To all our mommies who are breastfeeding,” it reads. “We are thinking of you; we are sensitive that you may need to breastfeed during our event, therefore, we have designed an appropriate space for you to feed your baby so that you do not have to do so in public in front of our Family and Friends.”
The note goes on to explain that the wedding hosts designated a special feeding space for the moms: “a comfortable and private area with chairs and baby blankets” — which just also happens to be located in the “ladies room.”
Hmmm … so the invite claims to be “sensitive” to a breastfeeding mom’s needs, but also wants to make it abundantly clear that feeding your baby is not something to be done within view of another guest? And this “comfortable” space they are offering is in fact a bathroom, one of the most disgusting, germy places on earth? Seems like a pretty confusing and offensive note, if you ask me.
That was exactly how the mom who shared the note felt, too. The anonymous mom, who has both a 2-year-old and a 3-month old, tells Babble that the wedding was for her husband’s best friend, and that she’d actually received unkind remarks about breastfeeding in public in the past from her husband’s best friend and his fiancé.
“I personally feel that I was the only person who ended up with this ‘note’ and when my husband opened the invitation and found it that’s exactly what he thought too,” she shared with Babble. “His best friend had previously said something about me not being able to breastfeed at the wedding to my husband way before this but I really and honestly didn’t think she would make it this big of deal.”
The mom says that she felt torn about bringing her kids to the wedding for quite some time, and that she sat on the decision for the better part of four months.
“I honestly had so many mixed emotions on whether to take them or not,” she explains. Her youngest doesn’t take a bottle and while she had a friend who would watch the baby and “wet nurse” him, this obviously wasn’t her first choice.
And although the invitation did indicate she could bring her baby and nurse her, being singled out and relegated to the bathroom definitely felt like a slap in the face.
“If I had taken my youngest, I would have nursed her at my table,” she tells Babble. “I honestly don’t see why I would have had to move anyway.”
In the end, she said that she did not end up taking either of her children to the wedding — and that once she saw the “nursing set-up” that was supposedly provided for her, she became even more outraged about the note, and decided to vent her anger and frustration on Breastfeeding Mama Talk.
“I know the note said bathroom, but I wasn’t prepared for it to literally be in front of the stalls!” she tells Babble. “I’m not going to be ‘shamed’ and pushed to a bathroom to FEED my child,” she added.
But it wasn’t the note itself that bothered her most. The mom shares with Babble that she felt personally called out because of her open and confident stance on breastfeeding in public.
She says she was offended that the bride went out of her way to make sure that breastfeeding absolutely would not happen at the wedding, and that it seemed to be directly pointedly at her. “She knows I have no issues feeding my child in front of people,” she says.
The mom also notes that her unabashed public breastfeeding is absolutely not attention-seeking, and that she always has done it modestly.
“I always used the two shirt method and always try to be modest and discrete about it,” she says. “I have just recently (since having my youngest and still nursing my oldest) started going over the top of my shirts. This is the way I see things: you don’t make it a big deal, I won’t make it a big deal. I’m not gonna be like, ‘Hey look everyone I’m nursing, come look … my boob is out!’”
In the end, this mom was able to find adequate childcare for her children, and she made due with the fact that she wasn’t able to bring her baby. But she is still outraged that this sort of choice had to be made, and she is sure things would have been different if she was bottle-feeding her baby in public, and is quick to point out the double-standard.
“I still can’t see why a nursing mom is ‘banished’ to bathrooms or other areas unless she chooses to go there for HER and BABY comfort,” she says. “If I as a nursing mom has to go to a bathroom or other room to nurse then I think moms who bottle feed should have to go too.”
Preach it, sister. Let’s hope that over time, the message becomes loud and clear that breastfeeding is normal, healthy, and something that all moms should feel welcome to do in public, without shame. Until then, we need to keep calling it out when a mom is made to feel anything less than celebrated and supported in feeding her baby anywhere she chooses to.