I finally got a weird remark about breastfeeding in public!

Recently, kind friends invited us to a progressive nonprofit’s fancy annual awards dinner. We initially said thanks but no, we have nowhere to put the children, but the kind friends arranged for free childcare for Noah and said of course we could just bring the baby (see: kind friends). So we got to go, and it was fun.

I certainly represented for the breastfeeding progressives. Simon ate a ton at the party. I got several friendly nods about this, the biggest and friendliest from a man in a motorized wheelchair who probably knows a thing or two about people acting like you’re an inconvenience or an oddity in public spaces.

But I also got a weird comment! This was by far the most negative comment I’ve ever received about breastfeeding in public. Which is pretty darned good, given that I have breastfed in the following places without using a cover or retreating to a private room:

  • bars
  • restaurants of every description
  • at a professional meeting, which I was leading
  • parties
  • the crowded steps of a farmers’ market, with my elbow and part of the baby touching the stranger next to us
  • a school bus full of kindergarteners
  • sitting on benches and while walking through an aquarium, a zoo, and many many museums
  • airports and airplanes
  • grocery stores (again, both sitting and walking, with the baby in a sling)
  • malls
  • college campuses
  • outdoor locations of all kinds
  • countless coffee shops and tea shops
  • sofas full of extended family members
  • hotel lobbies at academic conferences
  • public libraries
  • the state capitol
  • oh, yeah, and anywhere I’ve ever been during my years of nursing

So anyway, we were bundled up, taking off to get Noah and head home. Someone else on the escalator asked how old Simon was. Then she said:

I felt so sorry for this one woman, she was nursing her baby at the back of the hall, and I wondered if she didn’t know about the ladies’ lounge.

I was tired and taken aback and just didn’t respond at all. But … I’m pretty sure that was me? (We live in Minnesota: this could have been a flagrantly passive-aggressive communication. Or maybe she had seen someone else breastfeeding and missed us, or didn’t recognize me in my coat. Who knows.)

Unless various grassroots activists and political luminaries were giving speeches in the bathroom too, I’m not sure why I would have been hanging out in there all evening?

And let’s face it: the offending breastfeeding person (whether it was me or someone else) probably knew about the bathroom. In what universe can a person at a five-hour event remain unaware of the setup of the restroom? Especially a person who is caring for a baby in diapers?

Also, who says “ladies’ lounge”? I mean really.

I’m so grateful that she said that to me–me, for whom this is an amusing anecdote to share on my blog–and not to someone who might have felt shamed.

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  1. Hillary
    Posted 4 January 2013 at 2:00 PM | Permalink

    The ladies lounge? Kind of tells you a lot right there. Were there powder attendants in there too?

    Anyways, I had to laugh at your “finally” remark, because I felt that way for a long time. I breastfed in so many places, for so long I had almost braced myself for it. But I only really had one bad experience which was on a packed flightline van and it was horrible so we don’t even need to talk about it. ;-)

  2. Posted 4 January 2013 at 7:16 PM | Permalink

    Good for you, Molly! I’m happy to hear you did not let the comment of this one woman get you down. I especially enjoy your wonderful list of all the places you’ve fed your babies. Kudos, Mama!

  3. thriftymiller
    Posted 4 January 2013 at 8:06 PM | Permalink

    i guess i’m new to this, but i wouldn’t have taken offense to that. i suppose it could’ve been passive aggressive version of “what is wrong with you for breastfeeding in public?”.. i hope not, and i’m aware that it is possible.. but i think the unfortunate reality is that a lot of women just wouldn’t be comfortable with breastfeeding in public for whatever reason, and so they assume that you aren’t either, and therefore assume that you were made uncomfortable by your lack of knowledge of a more private “comfortable” place, by not being accomodated in a “ladies lounge”.. yes, it’s closed minded.. but i think you should be careful not to take offense. people don’t understand how to talk about (and how NOT to talk about) things they dont understand.
    a friend of mine was breastfeeding at a wedding with another pre-breastfeeding mother nearby. . the mother of the bride, whom my friend did not know, came by and asked my friend “are you comfortable here?” and my friend replied “yes, thank you” and the mother of the bride went on with her socializing. the other mother sitting nearby said “i can’t believe you stood up to her like that” and my friend said, “stood up to her? she was asking if I was ok!, what was there to stand up to?” the other mother insisted that the MOB was being rude. A few minutes later, the MOB walked by again and stopped and said to my friend “If anyone gives you any trouble here, let me know and i’ll take care of it, thank you for taking such good care of your baby, i wish there were more women in the world like you” come to find out, the MOB was a long practicing midwife.
    it’s very easy to get defensive and take things out of context. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. :)

  4. Posted 4 January 2013 at 11:47 PM | Permalink

    Definitely weird to tell a story about a “poor mom” to the very poor mom herself! I do wonder if she was talking about something other than the bathroom though. I don’t know if you read my mom’s guest post on my blog last month about the “women’s lounge,” in an airport. It was, in fact, a separate “lounge” area just for women (and children) that was not a bathroom. I actually sought one out at our family’s trip to Silver Dollar City last year, because I was FREEZING and needed to nurse Alaina. While previously scornful of, “nursing rooms” or “mother’s rooms” since they usually seem to be bathrooms, I was very glad for the warm room with rocking chairs and nice pictures that I found. It wasn’t a bathroom, but was a separate building near the bathrooms. That’s the only time in nine years of nursing that I’ve needed anything like that, of course!

    So, after sharing these tales, now I sound like a negative-breastfeeding-experience apologist or something, which is too weird for me, but these other non-bathroom “lounge” experiences came to mind when I read her phrasing!

    • Posted 5 January 2013 at 12:01 AM | Permalink

      Oh, and btw, I HATE it when someone comments on one of my posts, basically missing the whole point and just picking on one point in an unasked for and unneeded critique! Sorry to be *that person*! ;-P

  5. Posted 5 January 2013 at 5:13 PM | Permalink

    In almost ten years of breastfeeding (not consecutively), I’ve really only had one or two negative comments. I’m not sure why, when others seem to have negative comment after negative comment.
    Anyway, I agree about being thankful she said it to you instead of a new mother who may have been feeling uncomfortable! A few months ago a clerk at our local health food store asked how long I was planning to nurse my 18 month-old. I thought it was odd, but I just shrugged and said I didn’t know..probably until he or I got tired of it. When I left, I thought about how I might have taken that comment if I was a new mom unsure of nursing longer than infancy. Eventually, the clerk and I talked about it. I had spoken with a friend who worked there about how that could be detrimental to someone else. In the end, she was just curious and thought it was cool that we were still nursing (she had troubles with her little ones). We talked about different ways to discuss breastfeeding with mothers that were more supportive, such as “It’s wonderful you’re still breastfeeding! How old is your baby?” :)

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