Why Can’t Breastfeeding Mothers Just Be Nice?

When someone posted a picture of a Jewish TV celebrity breastfeeding on the subway, it prompted a hot Twitter debate about whether breastfeeding in public is inconsiderate.

Seeing a mother breastfeeding, even if nothing shows, makes some people uncomfortable. That feeling is unlikely to change, at least in the short term. I believe this happens when people grow up without seeing breastfeeding as part of daily life.  Our culture associates breasts with sex, not with feeding babies.

Even if the mother exposes more than necessary (although I don’t know how an outsider can determine that), the uproar over public breastfeeding exceeds concern over women who wear skimpy outfits. Clearly the breastfeeding itself sets people off.

While acknowledging that women have the legal and moral right to nurse publicly without interference, anonymous blogger DovBear maintained that if breastfeeding makes others uncomfortable the mother should make the effort to move.  He wrote: “My rule is: When possible don’t make people experience things they don’t want to experience. Why is that offensive to you?”

I do find it offensive when people say breastfeeding mothers should leave the room.

I’ve nursed 6 children and moved plenty of times when I sensed it might make people uncomfortable.  I did not want to risk dirty looks or confrontation while holding a baby, or gossip about not being “nice” or modest enough. But I resented interrupting my activities. I missed the jokes and news at social events, planning sessions at meetings, and valuable material at lectures. Sometimes I “only” missed fresh air, a pretty view, or seeing people walk by. But those things mattered to me—otherwise why leave the house?

Moving also brings logistical problems. A mother has to take her older children, stroller, belongings, and by-now unhappy baby to locate another spot. The private spot, if it exists, could be far away, cold or hot, smelly or unhygienic, noisy or lacking a chair, or not suitable for toddlers.

Let me offer this tongue-in-cheek way of  ensuring equality between nursing mothers and the rest of the adult population. If a breastfeeding mother and her baby attend a meeting or get-together, stop when the baby gets hungry. When the mother “politely” leaves, the other participants should also find quiet spots to sit alone until the baby is done. Then everyone can return to continue the meeting. Does this sound viable, or like a waste of time? But that’s how some breastfeeding mothers feel about leaving the room to nurse. Except no one waits for them to come back.

When people say or think that a woman should leave the room to breastfeed they imply that they don’t value her input, her skills, or her time. They won’t miss her when she’s off in the closet or bathroom stall for twenty or thirty minutes. When she returns she may need to nurse the baby again. Or everyone else may have gone home. This is the price she pays for her “consideration” of others. And have those others considered her?

Breastfeeding, along with pregnancy or menstruation, are facts of life. We no longer live in an age when women hide themselves away when these things happen. Suggesting that a breastfeeding mother is rude, because she chooses not to exclude herself from a business or social event, is misogynistic.

Mothers in the US have the legal right (and in Israel, an implicit right) to breastfeed wherever they and their babies are allowed. Protecting people’s rights also extends to how we frame discussions about these rights. A breastfeeding mother is not ignoring the feelings of others, “making a statement,” or “whipping out” her breasts. She is just feeding her baby. She deserves the same consideration as a bottle-feeding mother or any parent caring for their children.

See also:

Is Public Breastfeeding Immodest? An Orthodox Jewish Perspective

Breastfeeding Basics with Christina Smillie

Nursing in the Negev or Nursing in the Toilet?

Thanks to Lisa Watson Wilkins for use of her photo.


  1. You are reminding me of times I left the room only to find my plate cleared, and everyone finished with eating. That was at least eight years ago, so I don’t remember the circumstances. I do remember I had to train my husband to make sure my plate stayed.

    I don’t have kind words to say about breastfeeding women should make the effort to move, so I’ll just leave this sentence as is.

    • Observer says

      Where and when I grew up women did NOT nurse in public. It just WAS NOT DONE. But, by the same token, if a woman left the table to feed the baby, clearing her plate was also just NOT DONE (unless it was brought to the kitchen temporarily, and that was not the norm.) The idea that a woman should have to lose her meal because she went to feed her child is beyond absurd.

    • BFingMama says

      This happened to me, too. My in-laws invited themselves to stay with us to “help out” when my daughter was born, and whenever they’d make a meal, if I wasn’t at the table because I was nursing, or if I had to go sit elsewhere to nurse, I’d either not get fed at all, or my plate would be cleared because they were done and cleaning up (i.e. “helping out”), and I’d have to fish cold food out of the fridge later. It’s happened at restaurants, too, whether I was nursing or just taking care of my daughter, but I find that a bit less annoying than my in-laws.

      • Observer says

        That’s insane. Do they have an issue with nursing? Or is there something going on with your relationship?

        I’m not really expecting an answer. It’s just the idea that they would make harder for a new mother to eat good meals blows my mind! Utterly Ridiculous!

      • Hilarious. My yekke in-laws were a lot like that when I was a BF-ing mom, in the 90’s. I attributed it to the fact that (1) they are yekkes. If you’re not there when lunch is on the table, you have clearly upended the order of the universe, and deserve to lose your chance at a meal. (2) a bit more seriously, and sadly, my m-i-l was told not to nurse when her children were born (in the ’50’s) and I can’t help but think that contributed somewhat to her lack of enthusiasm and empathy.

        On my side of the family, once when I was nursing my 11-month old baby, my crusty Hungarische aunt, well into her 80’s, made some critical remark about the scandalousness of allowing him to have his way with my bod at that late age, I said something along the lines of “what’s the matter, didn’t you get enough when you had the chance?” It was not a nice thing to say, but I think she understood it as a joke and a blowing-off of her critical comment, so all ended well.

        Last comment – why isn’t your husband doing more to intercede between you and your m-i-l? That’s his job!

    • Michael Me says

      I am one who is offended at this sight. If I want to see boobs with my meal, I will go to Hooter’s. I found a great way to stop it. take your camera to the eating establishment. and start snapping photos. you don’t even have to snap them in the her direction. For some reason the breasts disappear!

      • Michael, interesting way to ensure that proper standards are upheld. Do you take pictures of everyone who dresses immodestly, or only breastfeeding women?

      • Observer says

        Oh, please. In the real world, the amount of “boob’ uncovered by the typical nursing mother is a whole lot less than the normal amount exposed by lots of young women who are just going out. So please don’t expect anyone to believe that this is about modesty or propriety.

        • Shoshanna says

          Oh, I don’t believe a word of it. Can you imagine the conversation:
          “Honey, let’s go out to dinner tonight”
          “Sure! Let me just first grab my camera so I can snap pics of the nursing moms”

          And nursing moms: can you picture a scenario where you would abruptly stop feeding your infant, unleashing a wave of blood curdling screams, because you saw a camera flash in your general direction?

          It’s okay to want to nourish your CHILD on demand. But please don’t feed the trolls.

          • Observer says

            Now that I think about it, I can’t imagine any restaurant taking to well to such stunts. And, you are definitely right about mothers not setting their babies off. But, I must admit that I doubt that someone who thinks that such an idea is clever is having too many conversations that start with someone saying to him “Honey let’s” anything, much less “Honey, let’s go out to dinner.”

  2. Hear hear! My one quibble–which isn’t really a quibble with your piece but with the problem of interpretation: you say “Even if the mother exposes more than necessary”–I just wanted to point out that sometimes it’s hard to say what’s necessary. I always tried hard to keep covered but sometimes, especially to guide the latching on, my version of necessary might have been someone elses.
    I have to say that I often ended up expressing milk and bringing bottles of that milk with me which is also not ideal. I was fortunate that expressing was not hard for me & my daughter was happy to drink her milk in any package (and drinking from a bottle did not discourage her from breastfeeding) but of course this is a ridiculous imposition for most women.
    I’m curious if MII’s readers find it easier or harder to breastfeed in various religious communities vs. the world at large? I would expect that the pro-natalism would mean that it would be easy–on the other hand, concepts of tzniyut might make it hard. I’m truly curious.

    • Miriami, absolutely agree that it’s subjective as to what is necessary.
      I think that it is more an issue of how people see breastfeeding, rather than religiosity. If it’s normal to them, they are okay with it in public. I saw a woman nursing at a haredi wedding during the huppah (with a blanket) and men were walking by.

    • michal levy says

      I’ve never felt awkward to breastfeed in any situation, frum or public or even goyish. Then again, I always make sure to stay 100% covered with the help of a nursing cover.

    • I also don’t have a problem nursing in any situation and I always use a nursing cover. If I am in a place where I know that the surrounding community is a bit more conservative (read: haredi), I try my hardest to situate myself in a way that is the most inconspicuous. That said, I HAVE been kicked out of a cafe for nursing (at a back table, facing a wall, wearing a cover). The woman told me that she would lose her hechsher if she allowed me to nurse there. When I told her that I had no other place to go (I didn’t live near-by, this was the only place to stop on the street, it was raining, and my baby was screaming), she indicated that it wasn’t her problem and told me to leave. I have never seen my husband loose his temper… until then.

    • On my plane flight from Israel to the US a few months ago, the Chassidic woman from Montreal next to me was (very discretely) nursing her 7 mos old without even using a cover, while the secular Israeli the seat behind was using one of those big apron things. So I don’t think it’s necessarily a tzniut issue!

  3. michal levy says

    I completely agree with you. It’s always unpleasant to have to leave the gathering or whatever, staring at the wall for 30 or so minutes while the world continues without you. It was especially fun when they continued the seder without me.

    • Michal, my oldest was born just before Pesach. My husband and I took turns sitting at the table since my son needed to be nursed or walked the entire time. We didn’t accept any invitations, which in retrospect was quite wise.

      • michal levy says

        My baby was 9 months old when this happened and I was at home. She just needed to be nursed to sleep in her own bedroom. So the reason I left the room wasn’t because anyone was uncomfortable, but still it was very unpleasant that they didn’t wait for me to return. DH was upset about it too.

    • Funny, I quite enjoy being able to take a break from the world and go off by myself. As for continuing the seder while you nurse or put kids to sleep- the seder goes on late as it is. I think it’s unfair to expect everyone (including possibly other young children at the table) to wait because your baby needs to nurse or go to sleep with you at her side.

  4. Amen! I was watching that twitter debate but was too stressed by it to jump in. You know, when a mother is nursing, you can avert your eyes if it bothers you. Most of us sort of do that naturally anyway.

  5. Ok – I’ll say that it’s ridiculous to expect a woman to leave when she’s covered. Or even when she’s making a successful effort to stay covered. After all – on a windy day, a full skirt may fly up [even if it’s long!] and no one will blame a woman for the exposure. However, I found I was never able to stay covered while nursing. Neither of my girls were calm nursers, and I felt that I was more stressed trying to keep myself covered in public than just retreated to another room where I could bare all in peace. They could move their arms, turn and look up at me, kick, and not have to see an anxious look on my face as I try to make conversation and hold the blanket down at the same time. This meant a lot of missed courses, visits, turns in line, whatever.
    I am assuming that you mean nursing while covered, right? Because nursing while not covered – or very partially – really can make many people uncomfortable, especially in observant communities. If you wouldn’t wear your bathing suit there, it’s hard to ask for it to be OK to nurse an active baby. No?

    • “If you wouldn’t wear your bathing suit there, it’s hard to ask for it to be OK to nurse an active baby. No?” Yes, some toddlers are tough to nurse in public and I wouldn’t do it in every situation.

    • Why should she have to cover. Breasts are made for feeding babies primarily. hiding under covers or leaving the room for the sake of others sends the message that there is something indecent about the act and that breasts are sexual. Breastfeeding will never be normalized if everyone covers or leaves so no one has to see it. Cover if you want to, or if it helps calm a distractable baby, but dont cover just because someone might see a quarter inch of breast skin. Feeding a child is one of the farthest things from sex, the skin attached to the baby’s food is not sexual. I used a cover at first with my daughter, but soon realized that its not going to hurt anyone to see the back of my daughters head and my shirt bunched up.

      • michal levy says

        I cover myself because I’m a religious woman and my rav says that the breast area isn’t modest, even while breastfeeding. Because of my anatomy, I can’t nurse without a cover without showing skin, like some women can. I’m covering up my naked skin, not the fact I’m nursing.

      • But whether you like it or not, breasts are sexualized by Western culture. That’s not going to change any time soon. Babies should still be able to freely eat when and where they need too, but not at an openly naked breast in public.

  6. Kol HaKavod to you! I especially identified with the first commenter – having to train my husband to either keep my plate or alternatively put food on it as dishes were being passed around. That was with my first baby – nowadays I breastfeed wherever and whenever. Without a nursing smock or a cloth, though I do try to wear breastfeeding shirts when I know I will be in places where others may be uncomfortable – with the shirt they really see nothing at all. But that is the only concession I make – I will not feed my baby “somewhere else”.

  7. Very well said, Hannah. Nursing a baby is a normal thing to do if more people see babies being nursed, this will only help to normalize breastfeeding and make it easier for the next mother. Would we expect a bottle-feeding mother to hide away? As you say, babies are a normal part of life and so is breastfeeding.

  8. I am a woman who has been exposed to breastfeeding my whole life. My mother nursed all of us, and some past age 2. I agree with dovbear. There are going to be times when breastfeeding is going to inconvenience you, just as marriage inconveniences you, just as adulthood inconveniences you. You won’t always get to do what you want where you want it. I find your militancy very distasteful and gives all women a bad name. You need to respect the culture you live in. So is life.

    • What do you mean, respect the culture you live in ? Most people are supportive of mothers breastfeeding their babies, even if it means doing so in public. In America, a woman has the legal right to do so undisturbed. I would say that’s a pretty good indication that American culture is okay with it.

      At any rate, should all “cultures” be “respected”? If a black person lives in a racist culture, should he respect them by staying “with his own kind”? Should disabled people have more “respect” for non-disabled people by not expecting accommodations such as ramps, kneeling buses, and preferential seating? Societies evolve. That is not a bad thing.

      I don’t think Hannah is being militant or giving anyone a bad name. She is expressing her views in an articulate and respectful way.

      • I don’t have a problem with women nursing their babies in public in a discreet way. But some of the comments on twitter were suggesting that it’s okay even if it’s “in your face.” I disagree.

        • If you want to respond to something I said on Twitter please respond there or quote it here. The mother exposes nothing in the picture that sparked the debate, which was not about tzniut or exposure.

        • Robert Shapiro says

          The only person whose face it is ‘in’ is the babies.

      • When I say she’s giving women a bad name, I mean saying things like “We don’t care what your sensitivities are, we’re going to do what’s best for us” sounds selfish and immature. The prevailing culture in America is not okay with nudity in formal settings. They are not okay with babies at business meetings. I agree with that and I think there’s good reason for that.

        • A) We are not discussing nudity in any form. We are talking about feeding a child that might involve, at most, some bodily exposure (and not more than might be exposed by women who aren’t nursing).
          B) Babies at business meetings is a separate topic. Again, the discussion here isn’t about work etiquette or formal settings.

        • You seem to be reacting to things that Mother in Israel didn’t say and that haven’t been voiced by anyone on this blog. I haven’t read every twitter post but if you are responding to things written there perhaps you should respond in that forum. In fact it’s clear that Hannah and most of the people who post here take pains to try to nurse modestly. Breastfeeding in public does not need to involve nudity. The original twitter post was about a woman nursing discreetly on a subway and not exposing herself in any way. DovBear is opposed to breastfeeding in public, period, because it’s breastfeeding, not because you can see anyone’s private parts.

          As for bringing babies to business meetings, juggling motherhood and career is another topic entirely but it’s not what this post is about.

          • Okay, that’s not how it seemed to me but I hear what you’re saying.

          • Shoshanna says

            I have to apologize. On re-reading, I realize that Hannah did mention in this post bringing a nursing baby to business meetings and so you were perfectly right to comment on it here.

            Personally, I don’t think there is anything inherently inappropriate about nursing in a business meeting. But I do think that balancing a career and motherhood is a separate topic that is much more complex than whether it’s okay to BF on the subway.

          • Okay, we can leave that to the side. 🙂

    • L, your comment was grayed out because it had 3 dislikes. I changed the settings so it won’t happen again. You’re in the minority here but that’s okay.

      • Yes, nice way to silence the opposition 🙂 I recognize that I’m in the minority. Blogs usually attract like-minded individuals. I just think effort should be made on both sides to accommodate.

        • Charlene Connell says

          I find old ppl eating to often be gross. They suffer from dry mouth and smack their lips. They often miss their mouths. They have to take their teeth out sometimes. I am certain I am not the only one. I bet we could find a significant percentage of the population that finds old ppl eating disgusting. Therefore, old ppl should not eat in public. At the very least, they should cover up or eat facing the wall. I mean, they have no right to offend me.

          BTW, I do think old ppl eating is pretty gross some times–often, even. But it would be insane to ask someone to please, whatever they do, don’t make us watch them eat. Oh wait…that’s the whole debate.

  9. I am nursing my third child and have been trying to find the balance between my own needs, those of my children, respecting others’ comfort levels, and the fact that babies just need to eat! It’s hard to understand how something so banal, even, stirs up such heated debate…
    That said, I wonder how many of the people insisting that women leave the room, or even cover up completely, would think it’s ok to ask women on the street to cover up? Like MII said, people seem much more bothered with women who breastfeed in public than with women who wear skimpy outfits. In fact, my experience has been that most of the people who are offended by public nursing are equally offended by the implication that others can tell women what is or isn’t ok to wear. I think this is one more effect of the hypersexualization of American society – where breastfeeding is about sex – but overt public displays of sexuality are never inappropriate.

  10. Sometimes there just isn’t another place to move to. The more public breast-feeding is done, the less fuss will be made. I’ve seen some interesting cover-ups and specially designed clothes.

  11. I can’t respond to any of the responses to me. They seem to be grayed out. I tried responding on twitter. I was ignored.

    • L, I apologize for not responding to you at the time. It was a heated argument. I just figured out who you are.

      • Right, and I didn’t have access to some of it due to my account being protected. I respect the sacrifices it takes to breastfeed a child. I do. But I can’t wrap my mind around this:
        “But I resented interrupting my activities. I missed the jokes and news at social events, planning sessions at meetings, and valuable material at lectures. Sometimes I “only” missed fresh air, a pretty view, or seeing people walk by.”
        There are plenty of things I miss out on for various reasons. Such is life. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Having children is a sacrifice. Every woman chooses if that sacrifice is worth it.

        • Shoshanna says

          I agree with you that having children sometimes means making uncomfortable choices. I would say it often does, and that children and many activities don’t mix. But shouldn’t we as a society be trying to make those choices easier for everyone, so that having healthy kids doesn’t involve more sacrifice than necessary? Mortality rates for childbirth used to be much higher, so that choosing to have kids meant risking your life. Thankfully, that level of sacrifice is no longer an issue for mothers in developed countries. Sometimes women were expected to make sacrifices for purely cultural reasons. Pregnant women were expected to stay out of polite society in Victorian times because the sight of a swollen belly was considered offensive. Aren’t we all better off for having left those days behind?

          In the original blog statement you quoted, Hannah said she did in fact often move to avoid a confrontation with people who were offended, but that she resented doing so. I would hardly call that “in your face” behavior. You seem to think mothers should have to sacrifice sunlight, fresh air, and social interaction in order to do what’s best for their kids. Isn’t it better to just have some people get over their squeamishness about breastfeeding?

          When babies are small, they nurse every 2 hours or more, often for 30-45 minutes each time. If a woman cannot nurse publicly, she will have to stay alone in a room facing a wall for months. That’s a surefire recipe for postpartum depression. Faced with that choice, many women will opt not to breastfeed at all.

          • There’s a time and place for everything. Breastfeeding is not the same as bottle-feeding. I hear what you’re saying but there is a reason for people to be squeamish about it. There are ways for women to get sunshine and fresh air while breastfeeding without being in your face like the woman in the picture accompanying this post. There has to be some give on the part of nursing women and some respect for the sensitivities of others.

            And a note on the original picture of Mayim Bialik: I am not offended with her nursing on the subway. I do question why a 3-year-old couldn’t wait. It’s much harder to nurse a 3-year-old discreetly!

          • “Breastfeeding is not the same as bottle-feeding.”

            I think that is entirely the point – it is not. Bottle feeding is strictly a feeding method, whereas nursing can be (and biologically is meant to be) much more: it feeds, comforts, prevents illnesses, meets babies’ suck needs. This means it is done much more frequently than bottle feeding. A baby can’t comfort-suck on a bottle or else he will over-feed, whereas he can control the flow from the breast and it slows during comfort sucking. All those times you see babies in public using pacifiers, a breastfed baby might be nursing w/ the frequency of the use of the pacifier by the non-nursing baby. Because breastfeeding is so different, many people don’t understand that it would take mothers away from life so much more frequently than it would if bottle feeding moms had to go somewhere private to give bottles. Some mothers don’t nurse biologically and use schedules and pacifiers, but lots of women really do have to nurse much more frequently to maintain an adequate supply because everyone’s milk storage capacity is different. And what are bottles and pacifiers, anyway? Breast substitutes. They have artificial nipples on them. If it is offensive to breastfeed in public, then how is it okay to use fake breasts in public?

        • I completely agree with you. I would much rather be doing a more fulfilling job than the one I’m doing now but I’m staying with my work from home job because it pays well, is flexible and allows me to be around for sick kids, small kids napping, etc. So I keep telling myself “Fulfillment will come at a later date, when the kids are older, it’s all about stages” Motherhood is in large part about sacrifices. Sacrificing some conversations and some views seems a small price to pay.

        • Yes, having children involves sacrifice. You sacrifice sleep because the baby needs food and comfort at night. But in this case there are only negative repercussions for the mother and baby. These are significant enough to outweigh concerns about politeness.

          • What will happen to the mother if she retreats to a corner? Come on. She’s an adult. Here’s an example: I was at a concert recently. There was a mother nursing in the back row, discreetly, covered up. Her friends came over to visit her, she enjoyed the concert, all good. However, what if she would’ve said “I have a right to nurse wherever and whenever I want to” and walked around in the lobby where refreshments were being sold during intermission, nursing? Would you still think that’s appropriate and respectful? I hope not.

          • “What will happen to the mother if she retreats to a corner? Come on. She’s an adult.”

            What about mothers who have several babies and nurse them each for say, 2-3 years? Retreating to a corner could become her life for more than a decade. Mothers in our society have a higher risk of PPD as it is – being a new mom can be HARD! – and so this attitude of “she’s an adult; she can deal with it” could be very defeating to a mom going through years of nursing.

        • I totally 100% agree that having children involves sacrifices. But a baby *needs* to be fed. Breastfeeding is the normal, biological way to feed a baby. Should a bottle-feeding mother also be forced to feed elsewhere? Is it about babies and babies being fed in public? I rarely hear this being the case, it tends to be breastfeeding itself that is the problem, not the fact that the baby is being fed. I might have more time for this type of discussion if all babies being fed were forced to be fed elsewhere. However, that is not the feeling I am getting. In which case, I do not agree that sacrifices should come into this discussion. Why should a mother who is doing the biologically normal thing (i.e. nursing her baby) be forced to hide away, while a mother who is bottle feeding be allowed to remain in public. If that is the case, the real issue is breastfeeding, which is just plain sad. These are babies, they are meant to be breastfed, anything other than breastfeeding places them and their mothers at risk of health problems – we should be celebrating women who help to normalize breastfeeding, not making them feel ashamed of what they are doing.

          • Just typed a long addition to this and lost it. Will try to re-write!

            I hope my post above does not come across as anti-bottle feeding. It is certainly not meant in this way. I firmly believe that mothers do the very best they can, at the time, given the information and support available to them.

            What I am more worried about is the issues people have with breasts being used for their normal, intended purpose. People who are against public breastfeeding, what do you think about bottle feeding? Are you ok with bottle feeding, but only under a cover to hide it away? Or is obvious bottle feeding also ok? What about what is in the bottle? Are you only ok with it if it is formula or is expressed milk, fed by bottle, also ok? What about formula fed by a nursing supplementer, at the breast (which is totally possible for some women and is often a way to mother at the breast, despite not being able to bring in a full milk supply, for whatever reason)? So, is it what is being fed to the baby that is the issue or how it is being fed? Where do you draw the line?

          • L, I would think that walking around nursing my baby where other people were walking around buying and consuming refreshments was appropriate, why wouldnt it be? I mean unless my daughter had a habit of unlatching and spraying milk everywhere, why shouldnt she be able to eat, and me be able to get myself a beverage, in an area that is clearly designated for the purpose of consumption of food and beverage? And I will echo Emily, would there be anything wrong with a baby being bottle fed in the refreshment lobby? Or a baby having a few of moms bites? What if the baby wants a taste of moms water bottle? should she go back to her seat and pull out a blanket for snack time?

          • And if it is the breastfeeding itself that people are uncomfortable with, then should they not also be uncomfortable seeing bottles and pacifiers in use since those are breast replacements? They are fake nipples – is that offensive? If breastfeeding is offensive, is a bottle like using a dildo? I truly, truly don’t mean to be crass by that comment… if you really think about it though, is it the “private part” being used in public that is the problem, and if so, then why isn’t there a problem with seeing a plastic replica of a private part being used in public? And again, I truly mean no offense by making this comment; I only try to offer a comparison to get people to think more deeply about the issue. I hope this comes across the right way, and please know that I’m not comparing feeding of babies to sex.

  12. ruth alfasi says

    I really enjoyed your insights, Hannah. Just like anything else, commonsense should come into play even when nursing, but it’s hardly rude!
    Once, when my daughter was a baby, I didn’t have the right paperwork to leave Mexico, and my husband (at the time) had taken an earlier flight. The officials held me in their office for what seemed like hours, suspicious I was smuggling this baby who was dark and looked nothing like me, out of their country. Baruch Hashem I was nursing because rude or not, when she woke up and started screaming I had no choice but to feed here there as tzniusly as possible under a scarf. And all my “proofs” they had refused to acknowledge were finally accepted – they escorted me personally to the awaiting plane that was already ready for take-off. AND they apologized. You can’t nurse, if you didn’t give birth. I’m glad in places such as Mexico, nursing is still considered “normal.”

  13. Robert Shapiro says

    It amazes me that the religious community treats women as baby making factories, and yet would have a problem with the feeding department of that factory. These ‘men’ (I use the quotes because they are not – they are little boys with beards. Men understand the way the world works and that women aren’t property and their breasts are there to feed children, not spark the flames of heresy in the hearts of men) need to get with the program. This is the 21st century. If ANY man takes issue with these women breastfeeding, they need to make sure that they get vasectomies, as to not add to this world ending and horrific problem of slightly exposed mammary flesh.

    • Robert, this issue crosses religious lines. Religious people might cry “tzniut” but there are many religious communities where nursing in public is tolerated, as Abbi described.

      • I would point out also that I think public BF is the norm in many religious Muslim communities as well, at least as far as I’ve heard.

      • And in many societies, it is actually other women who criticize nursing moms. The only issues I have actually known about firsthand were other females confronting moms nursing in public.

        • Ms. Krieger says

          Yes, the very few times when I have noticed someone looking disgusted/upset with me nursing my child in public, it was an older woman.

          Then again, I have been publicly commended for breastfeeding my child while riding the bus. By an older woman.

          I guess that attitudes (in the US) are in transition.

    • sylvia_rachel says

      I think it’s more complicated than that. As Hannah says, there are (many) religious communities where public nursing is perfectly normal. But equally, objections to public nursing come just as often from secular society, and just as often from other women as from men. The number of people who have no problem with string bikinis at the beach or mini-skirts and low-cut tops at the mall, but are shocked when they see a fully clothed mother nursing her baby in a public place, would amaze you.

  14. Doesn’t it depend under what conditions people are bothered? A friend once told a story about encouraging an alternative where a new mother was breastfeeding – covered – at the Shabbos table, but the guests just couldn’t overlook the, um, slurping. However, I’ve seen several times when breastfeeding was done discreetly in a classroom – including men and women (my ulpan in sometimes-charedi-RBS for example), and it was easy enough to overlook and focus on the real action.

    Something about cultural spaces – you could arrive at a general distance between people where it’s no longer someone’s business to be bothered. The guy sitting next to her on the train – he can complain. (But maybe he should have the courtesy to move, just like he should have gotten up for her when she was pregnant six months before. It’s an ugly society that puts the burden of bearing its children, solely upon its women.) And maybe that wouldn’t work in a more extreme religious environment, where there are only charedi around and many men in the area.

    • I find this insistence that charedi environments are anti BF curious. In my brother’s house and extended family (all charedi) public BF is completely normal, at the dinner table, living room and elsewhere. He found it curious that my MO in laws were against breastfeeding in the living room.

      I completely agree that it’s all about cultural spaces. I’m much more comfortable nursing in a restaurant vs. nursing at my own dining room table with guests. It makes no sense at all, but there it is. There is more intimacy in the private space of my home than there is in a public space, I guess. Same with a subway seat- there are no boundaries between people, making it more uncomfortable than nursing on a park bench. OTOH, I never hesitated to nurse on a plane. Unlike a subway, you’re stuck there for hours and there’s nowhere else to go.

      With my fourth, I was thrilled to have a nursing cover. It made latching on in public hassle free, I never had to worry about tugging my shirt around exposed areas. Then in later months, my daughter was the one who never liked to nurse anywhere except the chair next to her bed, so that nipped my public nursing career in the bud.

    • A lot of people would think that the slurping was entertaining. If her baby was slurping from a bottle or straw would she have to move? It’s the idea that people know the mother is bf that bothers people.

  15. Let me start by saying that I am a breastfeeding advocate(I’ve even done a blog post about what some branches of Judaism say are the spiritual benefits of breastfeeding).

    As to the picture being passed around… It is a mother nursing a 3yr old in public. I can see why some would say that this is unnecessary.
    1) A 3yr old is old enough to be able to wait for a meal, and to understand the reasons for needing to wait.
    2) A 3yr old ought to be able to ingest a variety of foods(solids ect) thus reducing the need for nursing.
    3) While halakhically a mother is permitted(and some say required) to nurse wherever she finds herself when a baby(up to 24mos) is hungry. She is also required halakhically to show discretion when the child is older than 24mos.

    I find it disappointing that a breastfeeding advocate would post a picture of nursing in public that is so easily incendiary, which is what this is. It gives critics far too easy of a time. While I don’t feel that nursing a baby whenever and wherever there is a need is at all inappropriate, I think that nursing a toddler in public is.

    Just my two cents.

    • Please share your source for #3.
      I understand your concern about the child being 3 but mother IS showing discretion–nothing is visible.

      Originally I didn’t post the link to the picture, as the discussion was not about nursing toddlers but about nursing in public in general. Azigra asked me to so I did.

      Personally I feel that no one should decide on the behalf of others until what age they should nurse or nurse in public, including when they should use bottles, pacifiers, strollers, etc. These are personal decisions and we don’t know all the factors involved.

    • I have a very high needs nearly 3 year old and when she needs to nurse (yes, it is still a need, even at her age), she needs to nurse. Yes, she eats plenty of solid foods, but nursing, esp at this age, is not always the same thing as eating. It provides more than just nourishment (though the nourishment that it provides is also very important). If I was sitting with her on a subway and she needed to nurse, my options would either be to nurse her quietly or have her scream and cry and kick people sitting next to us. It is obvious to me which is the best thing, both for her and for society.

      Despite being old enough to eat solids, I fail to see how this is related to a need to nurse. Nursing at age 3 is very normal, from a biological and physiological point of view. Frequent nursing at age 3 is also very normal.

      • Charlene Connell says

        My child is not yet 3, but she was born prematurely and her consumption of solids has been effected. At 28 mo old, she still nurses eight times a day. She gets a great deal of her nutrition from breast milk. This is why it is so dangerous to say for someone else “this is appropriate” or “you must stop doing this”. I would be a prisoner in my home if I could not bf my greater than 2 year old out in public. She can hardly drink from a cup and I am her primary source of hydration.

    • Dr. Keren Epstein-Gilboa says

      Breastfeeding has nothing to do with feeding in older children. Yes, they continue to ingest essential nutrients and antibodies, but those attributes do not prompt nursing from the child’s perspective. As the reader above demonstrates there are multiple developmentally appropriate reasons that older children turn to their beloved calming object in diverse contexts.

  16. Fly that flag high girl. Whip it out GOOD! I so totally agree. 20 years ago when I nursed Evan I had to pump in an old closet, sit on toilets in VERY dirty bathrooms (and he took FOREVER!), almost suffocate him under blankets and eventually was so paranoid about it…it lost a lot of it’s shine. I managed to make it until 6 mos and I didn’t choose to stop – he was a failure to thrive baby so I was kind of forced to bring in heavy nutritional guns – but my breasts reacted strongly to the lack of time spent nursing and well, you know where that takes you. In a male dominated society not only are breasts seen as sexual items but so are women. This is becoming a keen debate in the US – allowing men to legislate women’s civil rights and legally determine their own actions. We are placed in the role of children who don’t know any better and thank goodness we has the mens to make our decisions fo’ us right?

  17. Just yesterday, at the Kuppat Holim, while awaiting my turn, a neighbor from Shiloh happened tobe sitting next to me and when her baby started to cry, she covered herself and began to breastfeed. Well trained (my wife breastfed, my daughter breastfed/feeds), I assumed the position: eyes straight ahead. It’s easy.

  18. Nurse Yachne says

    I can tolerate DovBear (TM)’s knee-jerk Leftism, and sometimes even his snarky disdain for Americans who have made aliyah (obviously, we all think we are better than he is). But his hostility for women breastfeeding in anything less than solitary confinement is adolescent, repulsive, and downright *weird*. He should be made to sit on the toilet in a filthy public rest room for half-hour intervals every 2 hours.

  19. Nurse Yachne says

    By the way, Mother, we were wondering where you had been. Little did we know you had donned the cape of SuperLactationMama and set out to conquer ignorance and prejudice!

  20. I’ve nursed all our 7 children for varying lengths of time, and fed them discreetly/covered over in all sorts of places and all sorts of company, with no adverse comments at all. (Mostly in UK, but also in Israel and France). I agree strongly about the cultural spaces – I’m with Abbi that I’ve sometimes felt more comfortable nursing in a restaurant than at our own table with guests. I’ve also enjoyed taking a break from the world and disappearing into the lounge to feed – in fact I said recently that now I no longer have a baby as an excuse, it’s quite difficult to sit at the table for the whole Shabbos meal!:)
    2 points: firstly, it’s fascinating how a post about breastfeeding always stirs up feelings and attracts comments – the only other topic which is so controversial is whether to let your baby cry it out, and secondly, the importance of following the thread carefully – I looked at Hannah’s comment which began, “Michal, our eldest..” and then said “our son” and thought that’s odd, I’ve never heard of Michal as a boy’s name before!

    • I agree with some of this, in that I would probably feel more comfortable nursing in a restaurant than at somebody’s else with certain guests. I also do enjoy being able to escape off somewhere quiet to nurse in peace. But that does not mean that I should feel forced to do that. Sometimes I choose to do so, but just because I sometimes enjoy the peace does not mean, in my mind, that it is the right thing for all mothers and babies, nor that any woman should feel like it is what is expected of her.

      • Emily, I certainly wasn’t saying that anyone should be forced to leave to nurse. Obviously every woman should do what is comfortable for her, which will vary on different occasions – there might be times when it will cause embarrassment to everyone else in the room (yes, it’s their problem not mine, but still…) in which case, the polite thing to do is to leave.

        • Sorry, I should have been clearer, I didn’t think you were saying mothers should be forced. It was more that a few people had mentioned that they enjoyed going elsewhere to nurse and the feeling I got from others was that they were using this as an argument against allowing women to nurse in public, just because it worked for them. If that makes sense! I should have clearer that it was not aimed directly at you. Sorry!

          • I wasn’t making an argument about anyone doing anything. I was sharing my own nursing experience, which was as valid as anyone else’s. I don’t personally agree with the notion that everyone should be ok with all nursing babies in all contexts because it’s based on the premise that everyone in the world should adopt a worldview that perfectly matches up with your own. A) It’s never going to happen B) It’s an unfair expectation.

            In my own experience, my babies preferred nursing in quiet private spaces. Nursing them in the middle of the mall worked for a very short time, say between 6 weeks and 3 months. After that, they were simply too interested in the world to stay latched on for very long, then they would get hungry, then cranky and it just ruined the whole day. I tried to time our outings between meals and if they happened to get hungry before hand, I would find a discreet quiet place to nurse them FOR THEIR OWN BENEFIT.

            Nurse wherever you want and whenever you want, I just think it’s unreasonable to expect the entire world to congratulate you for it. You might get dirty looks, but if you’re doing what you believe is right, who cares?

  21. Abbi, I can’t reply directly to your last comment, I am not sure why.

    My worldview is coming from a biological view of what is normal for humans and human babies. Breastfeeding is normal. I completely see that other people’s world views are influenced by their cultures and societies etc., but that does not take away from the fact that breastfeeding is the normal way to feed babies. Perhaps not the social norm, but certainly the physiological norm, for all babies, all around the world.

    As you say, different things do work for different mothers and different babies, I totally agree. It sounds like you found what worked for you and for your babies and if that was to go somewhere quiet, I see nothing wrong with that, for you.

    The thing with saying that who cares if I get dirty looks is that to a certain extent, I see what you are saying, and for me, yes, I don’t really care. But I am lucky. I am confident about what I am doing, I am surrounded by friends and family who believe breastfeeding is the right thing to do and I will continue to do what I am doing, irrespective of dirty looks (in case it is coming across that I am purposely offending people, I will say that actually, I a prefer to nurse discreetly (not with a cover, but discreetly nonetheless) and I am very polite and respectful, if others are polite and respectful to me. I am actually very shy!). So it won’t affect how I feed my babies.

    But what about an unconfident young mother, struggling with the challenges of feeding. One dirty look or comment is often enough to make them stop breastfeeding, esp if they are not surrounded by others who are supportive. So, I do think it matters, even if it does not matter directly to me. As somebody who is a confident breastfeeder, I think it is my responsibility to speak up for breastfeeding mothers and to try and make it that little bit easier for the next woman. Women do stop for fear of breastfeeding in public and certainly, in the UK at least, women choose not to even try for fear of what people might say. These are women who might otherwise wish to breastfeed, so it really does matter who the world treats them and how we normalize, or not, breastfeeding.

    I have supported women who have told me that just seeing another women breastfeed in public has given them the confidence to nurse their babies, in public or not. If we never feed in public or if we only feed under a nursing cover so that it is not obvious what we are doing, how will we ever normalize it as the normal way to feed babies?

    Yes, I may be naive, but I do live in hope that the biological norm will one day be the societal norm for how to feed a baby and I think breastfeeding in public will play a vital role in getting us there.

  22. Michal Levy says

    Ok so I got it that some people get uncomfortable around nursing babies. But why? Assuming that nothing is showing.

    • Nurse Yachne says

      Maybe they just don’t fully comprehend that women have breasts even when we’re *not* nursing. (Didn’t DB say it was objectionable whether the woman revealed anyhing or not?) Unbearable to think that we’re all naked under our clothes, too.

      • I think it’s also the fact that the baby is sucking on the mother’s breast. Some people have a hard time grasping the concept that sucking on a breast for a purely nutritional purpose is 100% innocent. Loud slurping – yes, it’s happened to me too – can be a bit embarrassing, but sometimes even that is unavoidable in a public place.

  23. I find it interesting that your original discussion on Twitter was about a picture of someone nursing on a train! Obviously we could discuss whether a three year old is old enough to wait or not, but let’s imagine I am on a train, with half an hour left to my destination, with a small baby who cannot wait to eat. What would DovBear and his friend think the “considerate” thing for me to do would be?
    (a) get off my train, find a private place (in the train station???) to nurse, then after finishing nursing, wait for another train to come
    (b) out of consideration for other passengers, let my baby scream for half an hour until we get to our destination
    (c) out of consideration for other people, wean baby off the breast before ever getting on a train, plane or bus
    Is there some other option I’m missing? Because all of those sound nuts. I’ve always been one of those mothers who prefer my privacy while nursing, but I make a major exception for public transportation. I’m all for being considerate, but I just don’t believe that breastfeeding needs to be a prison sentence.

    • yeah, you missed the option of exiting a moving train, ha ha. that is something i’ve been struggling to understand too, how a nursing mom can be any more “respectful” of others while riding on a train??

  24. Thanks for mischarecterizing my position. I see i was right when i said you weren’t listening. Though i did say that my rule is nice people don’t make other people uncomfortable when other options are available, i also said (multiple times both on twitter, and othe post you didn’t link) that this rule applies to the people who are made uncomfortable as well. In 99% of the cases they should remain silent. I don’t know why you persist in focusing on one part of my position, rather than all of it.

    • The post says: “While acknowledging that women have the legal and moral right to nurse publicly without interference.” I think it’s clear that this means that you don’t believe in asking women to move. I presented both sides.

    • Shoshanna says

      99% of the time it’s wrong to ask a Black person to move to the rear of the bus so that White people can be more comfortable.

      What, did I say something offensive?

  25. I presented both sides.

    Really weakly, and arguably not at all. Look if all you want to do is beat up straw men, I’m not going to interfere, but I will say that I’m mightily disappointed.

    • We’ll have to disagree here. But I will add the link to your post.

      • As someone who followed the whole conversation (as best as I could), DovBear was much more open and understanding than the post and your readers make him out to be. Look, you’re preaching to the choir. Your readers are proud breastfeeders, as they should be, but it might be good for them to know that they might not be making any friends with their approach.

        • Actually L, if you read other posts on breastfeeding on this blog you would see that not all readers are with me on this topic, to say the least. I wasn’t expecting so many supportive comments here, but I clearly touched a nerve.
          I have added the link to DB’s post so readers can judge his views as he presented them.

    • Dovbear, unless I’ve missed something – and I don’t have Twitter – you have made no distinction between a woman who has exposed a normally concealed part of her body when breastfeeding and one who hasn’t. Is there a difference in your opinion? It is possible to be completely concealed while breastfeeding and many women in their normal mode of dress expose much more of their bodies than a woman breastfeeding modestly.

      • @Hadassa,

        It has nothing to do with whether or not body parts are exposed. The question is this: Have the customs, conventions and practices of the group or the place been respected? Has decorum been breached. We don’t drink coffee in shul. We don’t slurp on an ice cream cone while waiting on line to meet the president. We don’t sit in a court room with a hamburger. So is it such a large leap to say that it might not be proper or appropriate to feed a baby (breast or bottle) in every situation?

        However, what the blog owner did not make sufficiently clear, is that I don’t think anyone should ask a BFing mother to leave. Courtesy is a two way street. Just as a BFing mother should refrain from breaching decorum, the people around her should refrain from embarrassing her or behaving like busy bodies. The dignity of a place is important. The dignity of a person matters more. For example: I wouldn’t approve of your drinking coffee in shul, but I wouldn’t be the one to ask you to put your drink away (unless the shul, as a whole, had formally given me that role)

        • ” So is it such a large leap to say that it might not be proper or appropriate to feed a baby (breast or bottle) in every situation?” You make it sound here as if there are only a few very hallowed places where women shouldn’t BF, or even bottle-feed. I would agree that there are many places where it is inappropriate to bring a young infant or toddler.

          But I read your tweets and your blog post and you definitely singled out BF as being rude, a breach of decorum, and undignified. Not just in shul, or waiting in line to meet the president, but in public. May I quote you? “In most cases, you’re free to do as you please, and in most cases I’m not going to stop you. Public breastfeeding is one of those situations. You can do it, if you must, but I’m not a sexist barbarian for silently disapproving.”

          So is there any place other than the privacy of a woman’s home or a bathroom that is decorous, appropriate, and dignified for breastfeeding, where a woman won’t meet with your silent disapproval? (except for that 1% of the time when you feel it is appropriate to tell her to shove off, that is)

          • And by the way, your disapproval is hardly “silent” if you tweet and blog about it for days and days.

  26. Fair enough. 🙂

  27. Dr. Keren Epstein-Gilboa says

    Many of us are uncomfortable watching babies suck on bottles or pacifiers. We are aware that these behaviors put infants and mothers at risk for multiple health and social problems. Yet, most of us know that we can not demand that mothers stop bottle feeding or pacifier providing in a public area. We can only imagine the response of others if we dared to do this. We realize that these behaviors, like a multitude of additional behaviors we might disagree with, are considered the norm and thus, we must be tolerant. We cope by averting our eyes or gaining distance in other ways..
    The same principles should be applied to breastfeeding but are not due to misconceptions about the abnormality of nursing in our culture. Normalize breastfeeding so that mothers will not feel that they need to hide this act, even if at times human skin is revealed. We may all help normalize this essential developmental task by talking about nursing as the norm and by most certainly engaging in breastfeeding anywhere and anytime.

    • You are uncomfortable?? What about women who adopt? What about women who can’t nurse because they have been advised not to due to medications they are on? I did not nurse my third because I am a foster/adopt parent. If I had chosen to have more bio kids I wldnt nurse bec of medication issues. Judge away while asking others to tolerate what you self righteously believe all women should be doing. All women are not you and sometimes it behooves people to stop and think that others might make other choices for reasons you are unaware of before jumping to “they are harming their kid!”

      Hope it is not too straining on your eyes as you avert them while adoptive mothers (gasp) use bottles to feed their babies.

      • Hadassa says

        The percentage of women bottle-feeding because it is medically advisable or necessary is very small. Please take into consideration the context in which Dr. Epstein-Gilboa wrote her comment. The subject of this blog is not breastfeeding in general. It is the offense that people take when seeing women breastfeed in public. If you read other posts on the site you will see that readers are aware that for a small minority bottle-feeding is a necessity, not a choice.

        • Her comment was about her resisting the impulse to approach women who are bottle feeding to stop them from doing something harmful for the baby’s health and social life. She made it sounds abhorrent to her, something she would like to avert her eyes from and if only society would accept her approaching these abusive women. . .

          And what is wrong with women making a “choice” to bottle feed? Should we not support those women without rushing to judgement? Should we not assume that they have reasons and that they don’t owe the world explanations for their choices either? Talk about another way to increase post partum depression.. A woman chooses to bottle feed and the pious self righteous breast feeding crowd criticizes their parenting from day one!

          Hate to break it to all but there is more than one way to raise a physically and socially healthy child. There is more than one way to build a healthy bond with a child. motherhood should not be about competing with the next mother to prove who is better. Every family is unique. No one is that knowledgable to know what is right for everyone in every situation. I am a Dr. too and her “dr” title doesn’t give her any right to judge the rest of mothers out there any more than it gives me the right to.

          • Hadassa says

            You’re missing the point. The point is, why is it more acceptable to take offense at breastfeeding than it is at bottle-feeding, being as mother’s milk and breastfeeding are so much healthier than formula and bottle-feeding? You said not to jump to conclusions about why a mother chose to bottle-feed. I merely stated the facts.

          • i think she was simply trying to make a point: that just because some are uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding, it doesn’t mean that nobody should breastfeed in public. likewise, if some people are uncomfortable with bottlefeeding, it doesn’t mean nobody should bottlefeed in public. lots of people don’t like to hear kids in restaurants, stores, etc.; it doesn’t mean nobody should bring children into these public places. i’m uncomfortable when i see people chew food with their mouths open or talking really loudly while in restaurants, bu it doesn’t mean they are not allowed to do these things. i think the point was this: we can look away from things that bother us, whatever those things happen to be.

          • btw, the same antidepressants that were ok to breast feed with 10 years ago have been proven unsafe. As a psychologist I can’t begin to tell you how many breastfeed anyway to hide their need for the meds and to not want to be a bottle feeding mother. It is not all that rare for people to be on antidepressants. Especially young mothers. The medical need to bottle feed may be far more common than people realize.

          • hadassa, I don’t take offense at breast feeding in public. I also don’t criticize women who bottle feed or take offense when they do. I breastfed by bio children because I too believe that it was the best choice ai could have made in my situation. Her taking offense and her remarks about bottle feeding should be just as offensive to everyone here as the ones offended by those who don’t like the public breast feeding. Interestingly, there is only support for the commenter who is offended by the bottle feeders. The commenter hasn’t clarified yet so why are people jumping so quickly to tell me that she didn’t say something unsupportive and even accusatory to bottle feeding moms?

          • Shoshanna says

            I think you make some excellent points here. We should all try not to be hasty to judge one another.

            The original poster did say that she wouldn’t approach a bottle-feeding mother, but would still disapprove. I agree with you that if you wouldn’t insult someone to their face, but then go on the internet and announce that you disapprove of their behavior, it is still offensive. Which is why so many of us are critical of DovBear’s posts and tweets about how selfish and inconsiderate public breastfeeding is, even though he would never approach a nursing mom and challenge her.

          • Shoshanna,
            Thanks for responding. I wish the original commenter would respond as well. I understand the uproar over Dovbear’s opinion. Of course he is far from alone in his opinion and there will always be people who don’t agree with one another as to what is considered appropriate behavior. At the same time, I believe that Keren is no more right here than Dovbear yet I see no outrage. It is taboo for her to approach bottle feeding women so she doesn’t. However, she posts her opinion clearly on the web, same as Dovbear yet I am the only one on this thread disturbed by this. In fact, Keren goes a step further. All DB said was that he felt it was rude. There was no message “she is a bad mom” Keren said it puts mothers and infants at risk for multiple health and social problems aka a bad mom. Call me rude over a bad mom any day.

          • “Keren said it puts mothers and infants at risk for multiple health and social problems aka a bad mom.”

            this commentor did not call anyone a bad mom – she merely stated the fact that formula feeding carriescertain risks. that is merely a statement of truth. it is also a statement of truth to say that a baby will die if you don’t feed it. adopting a baby is beautiful and necessary – my own mother was adopted, thank goodness – and sure, some adoptive mothers induce lactation but not all know about it or can get a full supply. formula is very often necessary. adoptive parents are absolutely not “bad” parents. but that doesn’t take away from the fact that formula is not the normal food for babies and thus carries risks to normal infant development (like more illnesses, for instance). but in life we have to make many choices, and many carry risks. infants were not meant to b e transported around in cars (biologically speaking) yet we do it because of the way we live so far-flung from each other and from necessary goods/services (we don’t all live on self-sustaining farms with our extended families). just today i took a risk by taking a 2.5 hour trip with my children. so does that make me or others who made this trip “bad moms?” certainly not. but it doesn’t take away from the fact that we took risks to get here.

          • Really Erin?
            If you feel like averting your eyes because someone’s behavior is that offensive to you, “bad mom” is more than implied. Again, where is the stink for intolerance toward bottle feeding mothers? Where are all the commenters calling them misogynistic in response to her comment? Why am I the only one on this thread to even mention that there are many reasons to bottle feed and women make the best decisions they can for them and their babies? Who negated anyone’s reason for advocating for breast feeding? Certainly not me ( a woman who breast fed bio children and whose foster/adopt child was too old when taken into care for it to be anything but ridiculous to introduce breast feeding to!)

            Where is the original commenter and why are there so many coming to her defense in her absence?

            did I attack breast feeding. absolutely not. did I attack public breast feeding? Absolutely not. I attacked a woman for being yet another attacker on women caring for their babies. A woman passing such harsh judgement that she only wishes she could confront and correct these awful mothers who, by the way, most are living in this universe and are aware of the advantages of breast feeding.

            I hope if I do foster another child of an age where s/he is still of breast feeding or bottle age a woman like her comes up to me to correct me. I would love to confront her in return and ask her if she is so worried about other people’s abused and neglected babies, why doesn’t she consider caring for some of them herself. Hey, that is what we foster parents are doing when we bottle feed the babies we are caring for. You know, the ones from which she needs to “cope” with so she averts her eyes. Whether I get validation on this blog for it or not, I reserve my right to be highly offended by her comments.

            This is an interesting readership. With everything I said, not one came and commented in support of women who adopt being supported by the mothering community, not one came to support the millions of mothers on antidepressants or other meds who are caring for themselves a d hence caring for their babies. Not one. just more breast feeding is best, which, by the way, I never argued against and neither did anyone else

            The readership here is quite the judgey group with clearly not too much room for dissenting voices, or even voices like me that take issue with a women who self righteously dismisses so many others. But I guess that is what people do. Go to hear their own echoes.

            Well, I am here to praise women who have to make the tough choices. The ones who have to juggle caring for babies while also caring for their own medical condition. The ones bottle feeding because trauma is associated with the breast. The ones who hate breast feeding so much that they knew they had to stop in order to handle being a mother. And of course the ones who raise children not biologically related to themselves whether because they are infertile or are simply trying to make the world a better place by caring for children who need families. I celebrate all of them. Shame on so many of you for making all of them feel looked down upon, judged and criticized. May you all one day realize that you are no better than anyone else. That we all have our challenges and stumbling blocks as we try to raise children and it is better to support each other than cut each other down.

            To be offended by dovbear is a joke. He is one guy with a loud voice and not one breast feeding woman will ever be affected by his personal opinion. Afterall his wife breastfed his kids just preferred to do so in private. Big deal. Wow. To not be offended by women who cut down other women, much less of a joke.

          • Tikunolam: I completely support mothers’ choices to feed their babies as they wish whether by breast or bottle or some combination. As a lactation consultant I am well aware that many mothers cannot breastfeed for a variety of reasons, including medications, lack of breast tissue, surgery, adoption and more. In addition many mothers who wish to breastfeed don’t continue because of poor information and support. Whatever led to her decision, there is never a reason to judge mothers over the way they feed their babies.

            I did write in my post that it is okay for people to feel uncomfortable around nursing mothers. In the same way it is also okay to feel uncomfortable around bottle-feeding mothers, whatever the reason for the discomfort. I understand that Keren’s reasoning as expressed here could be seen as judgmental. I have emailed her for a response.

          • “To be offended by dovbear is a joke. He is one guy with a loud voice and not one breast feeding woman will ever be affected by his personal opinion. Afterall his wife breastfed his kids just preferred to do so in private. Big deal. Wow. ”
            I didn’t write the post to convince DB, but all of the others in the Jewish community (and outside it) who agree with him.

          • well i’ll just stop commenting after this; obviously i can’t speak for the original commenter, Dr. Keren i think it was… i was just sharing my own impression, which is that she was being kinda tongue-in-cheek… maybe she wasn’t; we won’t know unless she responds herself. different meanings can be inferred from the written word because we don’t hear the tone or an actual verbal conversation. as for the readership, i don’t know about others, but i followed a link here from a breastfeeding site, so that is already my area of interest; never been to this blog otherwise. thank you for adopting; as i mentioned before it is of personal importance to me, so i always like to hear about generous parents adopting/fostering children. all the best to you.

      • Keren asked me to post this:
        In my last comment I suggested that one would be bitterly attacked if they dared to replicate and apply the negative comments regularly made about breastfeeding to artificial feeding. The comment made by Tikunolam demonstrates my point quite clearly. The apparent anger experienced by the respondent is suggested in her comment she/he “won’t even bother commenting…” [MII: on Twitter] and she/he implies that expressing concern about artificial feeding is misogyny. DovBear’s comments clearly demonstrate the double standard and cultural disregard for nursing as normal. This type of comment is likely familiar to most of women who are or have either been breastfeeding mothers or facilitators. Women who decided not to breastfeed, were unable to unable to nurse or have lost precious breastfeeding relationships have likely felt the same anger expressed by DovBear. An analysis of the comment will provide us with further insight into the phenomena in our culture, and advance mutual understanding.

        Let’s start by defining misogyny. The term misogyny implies a hatred of women, including of course disdain for women’s physiology. Comments praising women’s physiology, using the normal female physiological continuum as the term of reference, and expressing concerns about interference in women’s continuum can hardly be considered misogyny. Breastfeeding is an essential component of the female continuum. Increasing research clearly demonstrates the risks of not nursing properly for female physical and emotional well-being. A brief look at the correlation between reduced rates of nursing and female and child pathology reinforces the connection between the lack of breastfeeding and impaired female function Not nursing and early weaning early have far reaching and long standing negative implications for women. Thus, stating that one feels uncomfortable observing acts that devalue women and endanger their well-being is most certainly not misogyny.

        A true expression of misogyny on the other is exemplified by the denigrating comments regularly made in reference to breastfeeding. Harassment of nursing mothers includes but is not limited to interference in breastfeeding practices, intrusive comments about methods of child rearing associated with nursing, and loathsome comments about female breast anatomy and physiology. Women who nurse are also forced to hide what they are doing. Nursing mothers are regularly told to cover up, nurse elsewhere and to stop bothering others with their normal physiology. Female welfare, comfort and confidence, are discarded in place of the apparent comfort of the surrounding context. The accepted denigration of breastfeeding is especially prominent when it comes to nursing beyond infancy. Most nursing mothers are aware of these comments, and in many cases accept and tolerate this abuse.

        Attacks against breastfeeding mothers extend to others who dare to support the female continuum. Those who facilitate nursing or those who dare to speak out about the negative implications of not nursing properly are commonly criticized or worse. Name calling includes breastfeeding bullies, radicals, and similar. Can you imagine using these names to portray facilitators in other areas of health care? Name calling and setting unattainable boundaries for nursing mothers and facilitators is a clear expression of contempt for females and their normal functions.

        Contempt for women and their physiology has deep historical roots. Throughout history patriarchal institutions and practices regularly obstructed female processes inclusive of normal birthing and lactation. The strength of the male conceptualization in patriarchal societies is demonstrated by female internalization of ideas that damage their well being. The pattern of female identification with male generated views was noted long ago by the early feminist Simone DeBeauvoir. Macrosystemic processes are facilitated by individual experience. This implies that an unresolved loss of desired birthing or breastfeeding experience may reinforce societal views of female self-disdain, and comments equating support for female physiology with hate for women. One might contend that comments equating concerns about the ill effects of bottle feeding with female misogyny are congruent with the long time pattern of female internalization of male views

        This discussion started with views explaining the closeting of breastfeeding, and my contention that one would be bitterly attacked if they dared to make similar statements about artificial feeding. Responses within the blog validate this point, reflecting the reality faced by breastfeeding families and facilitators. We should take note of these points and use them to help us make growth enhancing decisions.

        Readers interested in learning more about origins of female self-disdain may read about this in my book on Interaction and relationships in breastfeeding families,
        Specific reference to this topic is also available in my chapter entitled “Breastfeeding envy: Unresolved patriarchal envy and the obstruction of physiologically-based nursing patterns. In A. Bartlett & R. Shaw (Eds.), Giving breastmilk: Body ethics and contemporary breastfeeding practice.

        Dr. Keren Epstein-Gilboa PhD, MEd, BSN, RN, FACCE, LCCE, IBCLC, RLC

        • How irritating that you failed to address anything I said. My anger? If you were using a bottle to feed your foster daughter and some woman averted her eyes in order to cope with the sight of you, well, what would you call it? A mother’s nurturing instinct is also a part of her womanhood. A human’s instinct(though clearly not yours) to care for children who have no mother able to care for them is part of humanity and my womanhood. It is part of my physiology just as much as breastfeeding my bio children was part of my physiology. The response to feed a hungry infant is part of all healthy humans’ physiology.
          You are preaching to the choir with regards to breastfeeding. My bio children were breastfed as were Dovbear’s. To criticize and shun women responding to their basic healthy physiology to bottle feed a hungry infant in their care when that child is not their biological child, just as one example, is misogynistic. Period. To keep repeating the research is unnecessary. Not all women can breastfeed their children. Period. To shun their ways of nurturing their children is in no way commendable and is certainly misogynistic.
          Promoting your book while signing your name with a bunch of letters is beyond pretentious. Who even signs their name that way? I too have my Ph.D. I have never seem someone with a Ph.D. Have the need to put their bachelors degree and masters degree after their name unless somehow they feel their ideas will be given more weight if they add more letters after their name.
          Try responding to what I have actually said. Repeating what you have said over and over again is a politicians way out, not a way to promote discussion.
          By reading your latest comment I have to wonder if you even bothered to read mine at all.
          Clearly I bothered comment after my initial instinct told me it would be a waste of my time. Perhaps I shouldn’t have wasted my time trying to open your eyes to how your comments could be perceived by so many women out there who are fully aware of the benefits of breastfeeding.
          Honestly, I don’t think you even read Dovbear’s thoughts either. He, in no way, denigrated breastfeeding. I will repeat, his kids were all breastfed for at least a year. What he may not have made clear but I know it to be true, it was with his full support. What he believes is something that should not be done in public does not negate his feelings about breastfeeding. If you bothered to read what he said, his own wife feels that breastfeeding should be done in private.

  28. I’m fairly late in this debate. I am a breastfeeding mother (nursing our 5th born right this second). I find it sad that people search out things to be offended for. I have never seen a nursing mother announce her intent to breastfeed and demand that everyone observed. It’s not in anyone’s face, with the exception of her baby. I have and will continue to nurse any and everywhere. I was in Target a few days ago and a woman held a conversation to me for several minutes without realizing I was nursing my baby in my sling. It’s not a issue until people make it one.

  29. Kol ha’kavod.

    For what it’s worth, I nursed my babies anywhere and everywhere, and anyone who scowled just got a smile back. The toddlers and preschoolers, too. Though nursing toddlers in particular is tough in public … they’ve got their own ideas about how much should show … 🙂

  30. Love this… I think a big part of the problem is that people who expect nursing moms to go somewhere private is that they think nursing is the same as bottlefeeding, that you only have to do it for ten minutes or so every 3-4 hours. They don’t understand that babies nurse for comfort or that a baby with a breast in its mouth is often content and not loud and “disturbing the peace.” They need to understand that mothers who feel like they have to leave to room every hour or more often will feel isolated – we are social beings! – and will either wean so they can socialize with other adults, or they will suffer in silence as they are isolated, and maybe even grow to resent nursing their child and do it solely out of obligation, robbing them of the enjoyment of their babies… what a shame.

    One thing I disagree with… that saying a nursing mom in public is being rude is “misogynistic.” I think this viewpoint comes from other women just as much, if not MORE often, than from men. I think it boils down to a truly uninformed, ignorant understanding o lactation and human biology/infant needs rather than any hatred/disdain of women as females.

  31. Wolf_Mommy says

    If people don’t see more women nursing in public, they are never going to get used to it. Asking a woman to isolate herself because she is feeding her child is barbaric. I understand that people are uncomfortable viewing the human breast. But I ask people not to think about the breast, think about the baby. That baby is eating. Nothing else is going on. The more people see it, the more it will just become a part of every day life.

    I recently wrote an article about why it is important that women be allowed to breastfeed their babies anytime, anywhere: http://www.nursinginpublic.com/addressing-opposition-to-nursing-in-public/breastfeeding-anytime-anywhere/ Check it out!

  32. ruth alfasi says

    Wow, such a response you got, Hannah, it really runs the gamut. I have to add, as an advocate of nursing and having lived in Mexico where it’s just common practice, every woman covered with a “reboso” or shawl. Even in other countries tznuis and discretion are valued and earns every woman a bracha. But I do hope people become more sensitive to the realities of being expected to leave your meal, your friends, your good seat. I loved how you described that.

  33. I was walking down the stairs once nursing a 3-4 month od baby and two women were coming up the stairs. One said to the other “Do you know what that is? It’s a milk shake”
    Gotta love a sense of humor.

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  35. Whenit comes to others , we should not be judgmental or at least give the benefit of the doubt , while we should try to respect other feelings and yet meet the needs of our kids

  36. I have nursed two children and am now pregnant with my third with every intention of nursing this one as well. Neither of my children were “peaceful” nursers and at times would flail around and knock off whatever cover i had on. for my own modesty’s sake i preferred to remain covered and was never able to master the art of nursing “discreetly”. That being said, i also nursed in many places and situations an thankfully never faced any discrimination of any sort. in fact i found most people either did not notice or were mostly supportive of my choice to BF. I am also lucky enough to be in a place where there is a great deal of access to “nursing rooms” which makes life so much easier! Many women i know BF in public and rarely if ever get called on it, maybe Northeastern US is just a very accepting place to BF publicly. I have nursed on planes, buses and trains both in the US and Israel, I have nursed in the dressing room at JCpenney (one of the staff saw me sitting on the floor and asked if i would prefer using the handicapped dressing room which had seating and told me she would make sure no one bothered me while i was there!) I have nursed sitting on the floor of Build a Bear while my older daughter stuffed her bear. I have also seen women nurse almost everywhere and so discreetly i almost didn’t notice. The truth is most people who complain about it probably wouldn’t actually realize that someone was nursing unless it was pointed out to them or they were watching like a hawk!~

  37. I can’t believe that women would agree with this. There is nothing wrong with a woman breastfeeding, public or private space, nothing nothing wrong!

    I find politics much more offensive, I find people starving to death much more offensive I find that non jews are segregated from society in Israel much more offensive, not giving the seat to a woman on the bus very offensive, I could continue, but is hard to be a minority and talk to a wall.

  38. Bat Mitzvah says

    I think people can just do their thing and not bother other people.