I Felt More Comfortable Breastfeeding Outside The United States

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The first time I breastfed in public was more than ten years ago. My daughter, Lila, was two months old. At first, I fed Lila at home. I didn’t go out much, and when I did leave the house, I stayed close to home so I could rush back for feedings.

This is absolutely no way to live, so I decided to take a leap, leave the house and roam free.

For the first few hours, Lila slept in a carrier against my chest while I wandered around Brooklyn. I felt the sunshine on my face, had real conversations with other adults in the world outside my bedroom. It was lovely. When Lila began to wake, I turned my sights to home. She struggled and moaned; I hastened my gait. She began to cry, and I accelerated to a trot. When her screams hit a crescendo, I had to make a choice: Break into a full run or find somewhere closer to feed her.

That right there was the moment I decided my sanity was more important than hiding my boobs, so I found an empty bench at the nearest park and settled Lila on my breast. It’s not easy. Babies wiggle. I needed two hands to latch, and out flopped my boob for all to see. Most averted their eyes, but one woman hairy eyeballed me and scowled to express her discontent.

I became more adept at breastfeeding, but the disapproving looks never went away. Yes, some were supportive, but too often the general sentiment screams “Go to the bathroom. Go home. Go anywhere, just don’t do that in front of me.”

Ten years later, my second child Charlie was born. Now, I’m living in northwest Argentina. Thankfully, Argentines don’t give a damn if you breastfeed in public. In fact, they expect it.

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  1. EX

    September 18, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Love this! I’ve had the same experience – not in Argentina but in a country with similar attitudes to breast feeding. It’s so liberating! It’s why I get so frustrated when (some) men (in the US) say how we can’t expect them to NOT look when we “whip out” our “tits.” Somehow men in these other countries are actually capable of having conversations with us – looking in our eyes no less – while we’re breast feeding. Right next to them. Without a cover.

    • Kelly John

      September 18, 2014 at 4:43 pm

      candyvinestil I saw the draft which had said $7243, I did not believe that my father in law woz like they say actually receiving money parttime from their laptop.. there dads buddy started doing this for only 10 months and just cleared the depts on there cottage and bourt a brand new Mitsubishi Evo. we looked here,..&nbsphtt&#x70://MO&#78&#69&#89&#80&#82&#79&#70&#73&#84&#66&#69ATS&#x32&#48&#x31&#52BEST…

    • candyvines

      September 18, 2014 at 5:24 pm

      I’m not sure exactly what you’re trying to say to me, but in the interest of making you feel welcome on Mommyish I’ve taken the liberty of drawing your portrait. Hope you like it!

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      September 18, 2014 at 7:00 pm

      Well shit. I’ve been spammed and even had my very own personal troll for a few days, but I’ve never had a bot address me by name before. You must be doing something right!

      Also, that is a stellar portrait.

    • candyvines

      September 18, 2014 at 7:21 pm

      Thanks! I think they are becoming sentient.

    • rockmonster

      September 18, 2014 at 8:17 pm

    • rockmonster

      September 18, 2014 at 7:13 pm

      The drawing is nice, but I’m still scared.

    • candyvines

      September 18, 2014 at 7:22 pm

      Of her endowment? Or the fact that she has upwards of $7000?!?

  2. Kristen

    September 18, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I would just like to say that I have breastfeed all over the place in the US for the first year of my daughter’s life, and never noticed any dirty looks. In fact, once at Church I was actually congratulated. I am so sorry for anyone who was made to feel uncomfortable while nursing. As the author writes, that is no way to live.

    • leighshulman

      September 19, 2014 at 8:25 am

      Fwiw, it didn’t bother me when I was in the US. I mainly ignored people. It’s just nice, though, to live in a place where people are so gracious. They love babies and kids here, and thus make it really comfortable and easy to have them.

  3. jane

    September 18, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    A la Kristen, I also nursed in all of these places in the US with nary a problem. Did I like it? No, because I didn’t like breastfeeding. But that was absolutely my own issue, rather than anything that happened to me while nursing. While we certainly aren’t as pro-breastfeeding as other places in the world, I do wonder if a little bit of the author’s early experiences have to do with the interpretation of events with all the insecurities of a new mother. Much is different about baby #2, even if you do still live in the same country.

    • Korine

      September 18, 2014 at 1:55 pm

      Unfortunately I’ve known plenty of people who have had such terrible experiences while breastfeeding publicly (in the US) and I’ve actually had to unfriend someone on Facebook for patting themselves on the back for “confronting” a woman about breastfeeding in public. You don’t have to be insecure to feel the disapproval.

    • jane

      September 18, 2014 at 2:12 pm

      Of course not. I didn’t mean to imply that “it’s all in her head” at all. I just wanted to say that a) breastfeeding in the US isn’t always terrible and to point out that b) her sample size of one experience doesn’t necessarily make for an accurate generalization of breastfeeding in America.

    • leighshulman

      September 19, 2014 at 8:32 am

      Of course it isn’t always terrible. What I’m pointing at here is that the general feeling in the US is more negative than in Argentina. And fwiw, my sample size isn’t just me. While I write this article from my perspective, it’s part of a larger conversation I’ve had with many women.

    • guest

      September 18, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      I hope you told her off before you unfriended her… congrats on telling someone off for feeding their kid!! Erm…I mean…

    • JAN

      September 18, 2014 at 2:18 pm

      I think different regions in the US and even different areas within the same region have varying levels of acceptance. The only time I’ve ever had anyone say anything to me was not in the large urban area in which I currently reside or when I lived in the Netherlands (or visiting France, Belgium, or Germany) but in a rural town on my way to visit family. I was even using a nursing cover and sitting unobtrusively facing a corner which I never did at “home.” Different areas, different attitudes.

    • EX

      September 18, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      I’ve never had anyone say anything particularly rude before but I have had people, even in their homes, “offer” me a private place to nurse. Also, in the US I’ve always used a cover. If I didn’t I have a feeling I’d get more of the nasty looks this article refers to. Whereas in the countries in Europe in which I’ve breast fed I’ve done so without a cover without anyone batting an eye.

    • aheb

      September 18, 2014 at 10:36 pm

      I’m not offended if someone offers me a bedroom, etc. as a private place to nurse. When this has happened to me it has almost always been other women that have breastfed their own kids. My kiddos don’t nurse well with distractions and while I don’t mind being in public, it is often easier on them to be in private. Both my sons have been this way, don’t know why. So if someone were in my house, I would offer them a private spot, but it would not at all mean I was bothered by them nursing in the middle of my living room if that works for them.

    • lea

      September 18, 2014 at 10:54 pm

      While I’m not offended with the offer either, I do think that it can create an awkward situation where you aren’t sure if they are actually offering for your comfort or for theirs.

      You can usually tell by their reaction to declining the offer though.

    • leighshulman

      September 19, 2014 at 8:35 am

      I’m also not offended by being offered a private space, and in fact, I usually look for one for the same reason you say. I wouldn’t assume they offered for their comfort.

      And maybe if every place I went out of the house had a comfortable and private space to nurse, I would use it, too.

    • leighshulman

      September 19, 2014 at 8:29 am

      I think I probably was more self conscious about breastfeeding in public with my first, but for the most part, after the first few weeks, I didn’t care what people thought.

      If this was just once or twice or something no one else I knew experienced, I probably wouldn’t have bothered writing the article. But as you can see from the comments here and as I’ve heard from plenty other people who live all over the US, it is common for people to be bothered by breastfeeding.

      The US has a current in the culture that is very kid unfriendly in general, at least compared to Argentina and even some of the other places I’ve traveled and lived.

  4. Bleu Cheese Bewbs

    September 18, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    I’m in the US and I use a cover when in public (unless I’m feeding in my car). I’ve had someone avert his gaze when I was BF – with a cover on. He wasn’t rude and didn’t say anything to me, but he was definitely embarrassed, which was kind of funny. I have felt weird stares from people when BF at a table in a restaurant, but whatever. I’m using a cover and if they want to try so hard to be offended that they are imagining what my boobs look like, that’s on them.

    • Guinevere

      September 18, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      your baby is amazing. Mine is anti-cover, pro BOOB NOW

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      September 18, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      He squirms quite a bit and unless he’s really hungry, it can be a struggle to keep the cover in place.

    • EX

      September 18, 2014 at 4:24 pm

      My baby seems to think the whole world wants to see my tits. I try to tell her that just because she loves them doesn’t mean everyone else wants to see them, but she doesn’t listen. I try to use a cover but, frankly, it’s a crap shoot whether I’ll stay covered.

    • lea

      September 18, 2014 at 10:49 pm

      Mine too!

      Now that he knows his hands belong to him and he can in fact move things with them, he won’t even tolerate having part of my shirt even touching my breast while he is feeding. He demands the entire thing be uncovered. Thankfully his head is large, and is an effective screen.

      Until he decides to take a break to flash a toothy grin and have a quick chat with me.

    • RW

      September 18, 2014 at 5:21 pm

      The mental image of the dude in your profile pic trying to BF discreetly with a cover is one I am having difficulty erasing.

    • Bleu Cheese Bewbs

      September 18, 2014 at 5:26 pm

      A dude nursing a baby with his moobies is a might disturbing.

    • leighshulman

      September 19, 2014 at 8:24 am

      I also use a cover, but I can’t guarantee it’ll always stay on. 🙂

  5. AE Vorro

    September 18, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    A friend of mine was breastfeeding her baby at a museum and someone asked her to go to the bathroom because there were children nearby. Um. What?!

    • candyvines

      September 18, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      Maybe they were offended that she didn’t bring enough for the whole class.

    • AE Vorro

      September 18, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      Ha!!!! Love it.

    • guest

      September 18, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      I hope she told her where she could go…

    • guest

      September 18, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      I should specify..I hope she told the nosy woman to go to hell. The breastfeeding lady didn’t need to go anywhere. 😉

    • AE Vorro

      September 18, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      Can’t remember – that baby is about to turn 9 🙂 – but knowing her she probably had good comeback and most definitely did not comply with the request!

  6. Jessifer

    September 18, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    I breastfed while in Cuba and while they are definitely not pearl-clutchers over there, there was just way too much inappropriate ogling by men, to the point that I felt very uncomfortable. I don’t mind if a guy sees my boob… but don’t just stand next to me, head completely down and turned in my direction, without even blinking so as not to miss a single moment of it. It’s gross.
    [URL=][IMG][/IMG][/URL] [URL=]GIFSoup[/URL]

    • leighshulman

      September 19, 2014 at 8:27 am

      OMG… that gif. I can’t stop looking.

  7. Personal

    September 18, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Wonderful! Have breastfed everywhere in Germany. Today I nursed my 21-month-old in a café. I have also breastfed both kids in Denmark and Sweden without worries, though a Swedish friend did say it’s less acceptable nowadays than it used to be there.
    When I visit the US, I feel less comfortable breastfeeding in public.
    That’s sad.

    • Airbones

      September 18, 2014 at 5:45 pm

      You shouldn’t. It’s not as bad everywhere as this author seems to have had it.

    • Korine

      September 19, 2014 at 12:38 am

      But many places it IS that bad. This is a big country, I don’t know why some people are trying to pretend its a non issue.

    • Airbones

      September 19, 2014 at 10:12 am

      I’m just telling her not to feel uncomfortable, not that the way we view breastfeeding as a whole is a non-issue. The best way to change public opinion is to breastfeed confidently and prove that it is normal.

    • leighshulman

      September 19, 2014 at 2:21 pm

      I wish that were the case. I am comfortable, and generally, I don’t really care what people think, particularly if I’m doing what I believe to be right. But some people have issues with breastfeeding, and I don’t think they will change.

      That kind of person just seems to be more prevalent in the US than where I’ve lived outside the US.

  8. Marisa Quinn-Haisu

    September 18, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    You can breastfeed in the Sims 4 now. It blurs the breasts though. What’s funny is when a Sim gets pregnant they have a more realistic body now as well. Huge breasts, big hips, giant stomach. I should get a Sim to breast feed in public and I’ll see if another Sim gets pissed off.

    • leighshulman

      September 19, 2014 at 8:23 am

      That is just amazing on many levels. Yeah, let me know if you piss off another Sim.

  9. Sarah Lawrence Hinson

    September 18, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    As a Brit who had children in the US (and struggled to understand people’s reactions when I breast fed my children in public) I can only concur with this article.

  10. ComplainMom

    September 18, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    I live in Toronto, Canada, and I breastfed my 2 sons from age 0-2.5 where ever we happened to be. At first I was embarrassed and hid, until I realized that the only person who was making a big deal about it was me! My second child, I figured out what kind of tops were the most discreet and never used a cover at all. The only person I have ever seen acting uncomfortable was my Dad, haha. Maybe that’s because when I’m nursing I look at my baby (or phone) and don’t even pay attention to whether anybody else is looking. Adults need to get over themselves and realize that babies need to eat or they will die, for fuck’s sake. The US seems like the only place in the world where an adult’s discomfort ranks above a baby’s need for survival.

    • leighshulman

      September 19, 2014 at 8:27 am

      I find there is a very anti-kid sentiment in the US. I didn’t notice it as much when I lived there, but now living in Argentina where people absolutely love kids, it’s more apparent.

      Not just with breastfeeding, but generally, there seems to be more of an issue taking kids to restaurants or any place that isn’t specifically intended for children.

  11. Pingback: If You Don't Like Breastfeeding In Public, You Aren't Alone

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