I’m sorry, everyone. I never intended for this to be a breastfeeding advocacy blog, but – y’know. Boobs and their baggage are things that predominate my life at the moment, so…
You’ve probably read about Cheese & Biscuits cafe in Rockhampton, who kicked a massive goal for breastfeeding mothers this week by politely ejecting a customer who was frightened by the sight of a lactating breast in their courtyard. He’d already complained to management, who’d informed him they were a breastfeeding friendly establishment and that they would under no circumstances ask a nursing mother to cover up or leave. He then took it upon himself to approach her, leaving her visibly upset when the owner came out to deliver his coffee. When apprised of the situation, the owner swiftly transferred the man’s coffee to a takeaway cup and showed him the door. She later posted about the incident on Facebook:
The post went viral, was picked up by local then national and international media and at last count their business page had over 5000 ‘likes’ and hundreds of five-star reviews from all over the world. Not bad for a small cafe in a regional city. I’ve seen it suggested that this was just a really well-executed viral marketing campaign, which I guess is totally plausible – but given that nobody was hurt, they’ve publicly affirmed their nursing-friendly stance and there’s been a huge groundswell of online support for mothers who breastfeed in public, I say ‘bravo!’ anyway! Reading the article online warmed the cockles of my, er, bosom.
But then… oh, then. I scrolled down. I broke my rule. I read the comments underneath the article. And while the overwhelming majority of them are positive, supportive, and lovely (and at least a million of the bajillion supportive comments are from MEN, hooray!), a small but ugly minority are foul. And so, because I am a complete masochist, I have trawled the grimy depths of the comments section for the most ill-informed, grotesque and idiotic arguments against breastfeeding in public. I give you them here, along with my retorts. If you are of a delicate disposition, you may wish to avert your eyes:
These poor folk are confused. They seem to believe that the observation that ‘breastfeeding is natural’ implies that all natural things are acceptable in public. Let me make it very easy to understand.
Urination = expelling waste. Illegal in public. Smelly.
Defecation = expelling waste. Spreads disease. Illegal in public. Kind of gross.
Spitting = expelling waste. Spreads disease. Usually unnecessary. Illegal in public. Very gross.
Nose-picking = a dirty habit. Spreads disease. Not illegal in public, but not well-tolerated in offenders over the age of five.
Masturbation = a sexual activity. Illegal in public.
Breastfeeding = giving a small child food and comfort. Provides protection to infants against disease. Recommended as exclusive food for babies under six months of age, according to peak health bodies. Not only legal, but protected by law.
So, unless your argument is that urination in public is natural AND provides the ideal food for someone in your care (ewww), we are talking about two completely different, equally natural things. So hush your dirty mouth, please.
OK, clearly this fellow is a bit of a loony who may be unfamiliar with the concept of ‘male privilege’, but let’s humour him for a minute. If anyone complains, they are the bad guy. Male or female. Old mate is more than welcome to go to ADCQ, where I’m sure he would be educated about the section of anti-discrimination law that protects the right of babies (both male and female babies, incidentally) to be breastfed without impediment anywhere they have a legal right to be. I doubt his own claim of discrimination/harassment would hold water. He’d probably just end up embarrassed at his own behaviour all over again.
Yes, us exhibitionist mothers. We’re known for our rabid urges to expose ourselves for our own (and your) sexual gratification. Because we’re certainly not tired, or sore, or distracted by the responsibility of attending to the myriad needs of a tiny baby that we’re quite possibly still learning how to keep alive. I was totally up for a bit of casual flirting with strange men when I dragged myself to town in the early postpartum days. And we certainly wouldn’t hold a man accountable if he assumed we were being provocative by feeding our infants and subsequently raped us (victim-blame, a whole other argument in itself). Or if he raped some random woman he passed on the way home, given he’d been worked into such a lather, based on how ‘MM of NSW’ believes the system works.
Seriously. I’m sure some strange people are indeed turned on by breastfeeding, possibly because it’s the only glimpse of breast tissue they’ve ever had up close, or because they are confused and completely blank out on the fact there is a BABY there. By the same token, I also know that some people are turned on by feet. Does that mean I shouldn’t ever wear sandals to a cafe, in case I provoke a foot-fetishist into depraved lust? What about Plushies? Should I forbid my children from taking their stuffed animals out in public, in case Monkey or Miss Rabbit have an undesired effect on someone who finds them unusually attractive? Please. Take responsibility for your own reactions, no matter how hot under the collar you get. If you can’t keep yourself on a leash, maybe consider covering your face with a light shawl or moving to a quieter area.
4. Think of the CHILDREN!!
How awful! Imagine, if children got the idea that boobs were intended for feeding babies, instead of thinking they’re for selling things! What would be going through a poor child’s mind? I’d hazard a guess it would be along the lines of ‘Cute baby. Wonder if I can get close enough to sneeze in its face once it’s finished drinking?’.
Or, if the child isn’t familiar with breastfeeding, experience tells me they’ll simply march up to the mother and ASK:
Kid: Why is your baby doing that?
Me: She’s having a feed. She drinks milk that I make for her in my body.
Kid: Oh. Why doesn’t she drink it from a bottle?
Me: Because it’s easier for me this way, and I get to give her a cuddle at the same time.
Kid: Cool. Does she like bacon too? I like bacon. *Sneezes on baby*
Which leads us to…
5. The completely misguided personal hygiene argument:
Wait, what? So, there’s dangerous airborne bacteria that can enter my baby’s lungs, right? But I only need to worry about those while she’s feeding? Or do I need to have a hankie covering her mouth and nose at all times while we’re in public? Because I really don’t know if she’ll be down with that…
Or are you worried about my breastmilk somehow spurting across the room and landing in your coffee, poisoning you? Pooling on the floor beneath my seat, creating a slip hazard? Let me assure you, it’s fairly unlikely. My goal is generally to get most of it into my kid’s mouth. It’s probably more likely everyone will be subjected to a bit of baby spew at some stage, but that’s going to happen regardless of the feeding method.
Maybe you guys are confusing breast- and bottle-feeding. There’s lots of sterilisation and so on involved in feeding a baby out of a bottle, which is one of the many factors that makes breastfeeding the right choice for me: always on hand, always sterile, always the right temperature and quantity. And all those immunity-boosting antibodies will, I’m sure, offset the risk of her inhaling any airborne diseases should her hankie slip.
6. The It wasn’t acceptable in the old days, you need to respect your elders mistruth:
Really? Are you sure?
In any case, no. Even if things were different in his day and he was embarrassed, he had the option of accepting the seat that was offered to him inside when he first complained to the staff. Depending on how old he was, in his day Aboriginal people may still have been classified as ‘fauna’ under Australian law and denied access to many facilities. Does that mean he has the right to object to an Indigenous guy ordering a coffee and sitting at the table beside his today? Nope, nope, nopity nope. Some change is for the better, especially when the principles have been enshrined in the law. Sorry, not sorry.
7. The I can’t see what’s happening right in front of me dummy spit:
Yes… they’re clearly leaving in droves.
As you say: ‘Oh well’… I’m sure the proprietors won’t miss one or two customers now. Chances are they wouldn’t welcome your business anyway. But remember, there’s no guarantee if you go elsewhere that some other mother isn’t planning to ruin your day with her tits:
Image credits: Breastfeeding at Chattanooga Bus Stop 1943 via thederangedhousewife.com
Breastfeeding at an Outdoor Meeting via buzzfeed.com – I couldn’t find the original source, please let me know if you can.
‘Ruin Your Day’ is by Sparrow Folk and will do the opposite when you listen to it!
So, it seems this post is going to be receiving a lot more attention than I’m used to, sometime in the next few days! Thanks for reading. If you have a comment, please leave it below – I’d love to hear from you. Comments will be moderated so may not appear immediately – but I’ll happily publish any comment that isn’t obscene, abusive or obviously spam. (Yes, even if you disagree with me!).
If your comment starts with ‘I’m all for breastfeeding, but…’, please read this post before you proceed.
If you imagine my staunch support of breastfeeding means I look down on parents who bottle-feed, please read this post and think again.
You can find out more about me (and how this very amateur blog came to be) here.