10 Mums Share Their Stories Of Being Shamed For Breastfeeding In Public
According to lactation expert Pinky McKay, it sadly happens a lot more than we probably realise.
Speaking to 10 daily, Pinky said we need to step away from the idea that mums who are breastfeeding are 'flaunting their breasts' when they are simply trying to feed and nourish their newborn babies.
She explained it's this kind of behaviour that chips away at a mother's confidence and makes them less likely to venture out with their baby.
"It creates a perfect storm of isolation and anxiety that can lead to early weaning and in turn, grief and feelings of inadequacy for that mother who really wanted to breastfeed her baby," she said.
In Pinky's line of work, she has seen this happen all too many times, with a large proportion of mums having negative experiences when breastfeeding in public.
Shani said in the last five months of breastfeeding, "I've had so many eye rolls I have lost count. I've heard tongues clicking and had a child's eyes shielded by his mother's hand while frog marching away."
I've also been told I'm setting a very poor example for my daughter who will think wearing nothing is okay.
But the judgement sometimes doesn't just come from strangers. Anne-Marie said she was shamed for feeding in public by her now ex-husband.
"My husband was the only one who had a problem with me feeding baby in public. He shamed me into sitting alone in the car once. Soon became my ex husband as I was ashamed with myself for allowing that to happen," she said.
Sadly, there are many other public places where mums said they came into contact with breastfeeding shaming:
At the beach
"I was nursing my two-year-old son (quite discreetly) at our local beach recently, surrounded by scantily clad beach goers. Then a women and I assume her mum were pushing a young baby in a pram and called me 'disgusting' among other things." - Signe
Inside a parents room
"I was shamed inside a parents room, inside a breastfeeding stall. I had the curtain open watching my 22mo in then play area while I breast fed my newborn.
"A lady came in and yanked my curtain shut and told me to keep it shut because her husband was coming in with the baby and didn’t need to see that. Unfortunately I was too shocked and too vulnerable (after a very traumatic birth) to say or do anything except quietly cry.
"It’s been nearly four years and still kills me that I didn’t stand up for myself." - Louise
At a cafe
"I was at a cafe feeding. An old man came up to tell me how disgusting I was. My 2mo then nip-lashed off and I squirted milk everywhere including all over his face. Don't interrupt my baby mid feed, you will get covered in milk." - Kristen
"I was asked by an older lady and her husband who first stared, then shook their head when I was feeding in a cafe at a shopping centre, using a breastfeeding cover!" - Holly
"I was ‘thanked’ by a cafe owner for covering myself whilst I fed my baby in his cafe. I was too confused at the time to tell him I was covering my baby only to help her not get distracted and that.
"Had I forgot the cover, I would have been feeding her without it. I know he didn’t intend to insult me but I still found it unsettling." - Erin
At a shopping centre
"I was trying to latch my son while walking through a shopping centre and some woman came and told me to 'do that in the bathroom'.
"I was not paying attention but my mum was. She got between us and asked, 'Do you eat in the bathroom?! Why should my grandson?!'.
"The woman's eyes got as big as saucers and then she just looked down and walked away." - Maggie
On a plane
"I had someone turning around to glare at me while I breastfed my toddler on a plane. I just smiled back every time he turned in his seat to give me death stares (like. Dude. Just don't look.)
"But trust me, everyone would have preferred me feeding him - and him falling asleep - than having him getting upset about being in a confined space." - Rachel
In a doctor's surgery
"I had a nurse at my doctor’s surgery tell me not to breastfeed in the waiting room as it may offend the men waiting for their appointments. I was comforting my daughter who had just had her 18 month shots." - Kylie
Pinky said we need to put a stop to the shaming of breastfeeding mothers because a baby's right to feed trumps any adult's discomfort or hang-ups about breasts and nipples.
"You have the choice to look or look away if you see a woman feeding her baby. If it bothers you, don’t look. And please keep your mouth shut," she said.
The more normal it is to see babies feeding, the more normal breastfeeding will become, Pinky said.
Breastfeeding is a learned art, we need to see it to do it – it’s much more difficult to learn to breastfeed if you have never seen a baby breastfeeding.
"And as for children seeing breastfeeding, how lovely would it be for them to view breastfeeding as the normal function of breasts?"
And that's a message we should all be able to get behind.
World Breastfeeding Week is on from 1 to 7 August.
Featured image: Getty