Monday, May 13, 2013


From a terrific article on Public Breastfeeding in The Maneater.
Just the other day a friend of mine, who is also a new grandmother and was once a La Leche League leader when her babies were small, was visiting with me here in the store. Our talk turned to attitudes about breastfeeding - particularly across the generations and here in the Sunny South.

She commented that many of the young mothers in her church don't breastfeed for very long, and that those who do may be asked to go to the Nursing Mother's Room rather than nurse where anyone can see them. On a recent outing with other mothers and adolescent daughters, the topic of breastfeeding came up, and one of the ladies said something like, "Oh, we really shouldn't talk about things like that with the girls around." Really??? Maybe that's why the young mothers in that church don't breastfeed for very long...perhaps if they were exposed to the normalcy of breasts being used to feed babies, they might actually succeed!

I decided to ask our ANM moms for other examples of breastfeeding being considered taboo, and
got some very interesting responses. In the interest of protecting our moms' privacy, I'm just going to use an initial here, not names.

SHHH...We don't Do That Here!

In some families and cultural groups, breastfeeding is considered something that is either inappropriate or should be kept hidden.

S. had a grandmother with an interesting perspective:
My Nana told me that only poor people breastfed because they couldn't afford formula.

T. has a family where breastfeeding is kept very secretive:
My family keeps breastfeeding a secret! One of my aunts kept it so well hidden that even though she nursed three of my cousins (and our family has ALWAYS gotten together on average 2-3 Sundays a month) it took me having my first baby to find out! She was my biggest (and only related) supporter for all three of my children! Even with her support, I was still banished to a bedroom for feedings. I couldn't imagine nursing in front of my grandfather, anyway. He refers to breasts as "bosoms." I am glad that I was able to bring it up to my younger female cousins; all but two had never known anyone to nurse. Now they are finally comfortable enough to come in and keep me company!

K. was at a baby shower where she had this conversation:
From Mommy Letters to Baby.
One woman was telling the mom-to-be about the private nursing room we have at church. I piped up with a "But don't feel like you *have* to use it!" and explained that I nursed my last 3 children right where I sat during church services (usually less than 5 rows from the front, even). The nursing room mom said, "I was too modest to do that..." As if modestly really has anything to do with it. I certainly didn't disrobe! 

You're Still Doing THAT??

Not too long ago we wrote a tongue-in-cheek blog called "How Long Do You Plan to Nurse That Baby?" Unfortunately, here in the South most women do not nurse even the full year recommended by the AAP
Apparently it's even taboo on Facebook!
A. responded this way:
No one in my family has breastfed longer than the first few weeks to a month. So most of my family asked, many times, "Are you STILL nursing?" after he hit 6 months. My mom won't look at me when I'm nursing, and once told me he was "old enough for formula; there's nothing wrong with it." I finally said, "no. No. NO!" I asked her if she had ever even looked at the ingredients of formula. She was shocked when I told her the first ingredient was corn syrup. My grandmother is more "supportive" and just says she has her opinions about it, but knows I've researched it, and that it's my body and my baby. 

B. had this to offer:
My mother complains that I'm still nursing my 11 month old. She says that's why they cry when she holds them.

P. had a supportive family, but commented about a neighbor:
I did have a neighbor ask me why can't I just pump and put it in a bottle now that she's "so old." (her baby is only 19 months old.) Why would I pull a toddler from the source and introduce a bottle at this age?

Gotta Love Those Great-Grandpas!

It seems that some great-grandfathers tend to be more supportive than the women of their generation. 

C. recalled the interesting reactions of both of her grandparents:
The first time I had to nip (nurse in public) with my ENTIRE family, I thought my grandmother was going to turn beet red. My granddad, noticing what I was doing said very loudly because he's mostly deaf," If anybody doesn't like it, they can just get out of here." I needed his support as a new and nervous mom. I didn't even know how much until he said that...not to mention the comic relief of everyone hearing him!

Finally, this discussion made M. remember her baby's great-grandfather:
This reminds me of a sweet comment made to me by my husband's 90 year old granddad. I was a new mom nervously nursing our first baby under a cover. Granddad told me about when he was a boy with several older sisters. Whenever it was time to feed the babies, all the mommies would sit on the porch together, rocking and chatting while they nursed.

Do you have a "Taboobie" tale to share? Leave it in the comments so we can all enjoy it!


  1. I have been fortunate so far (4 months in) to not have any ignorant remarks made, at least within my hearing range. And I haven't been shy about breastfeeding in public, even on airplanes!

    What I want to share is a SWEET remark from my father in law. I was at his house for a visit and nursing on the living room couch while he sat in the recliner in the same room. He said, "I just want to say that I am honored that you feel comfortable enough around us to do that. When I was a boy in Italy, all of the women nursed publicly and I don't see a thing wrong with it. " It meant a lot to me that he (1) acknowledged that I was doing something that made me vulnerable , and (2) commended me for it and made sure I felt comfortable.

    1. Anna, that is absolutely awesome!! Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. I have been exclusively breastfeeding my son for 6 months. Everyone keeps telling me I need to start doing half formula & that when he gets teeth I'll regret it as well. Whenever my husband & I are in public I am banished to the bathroom when my son needs to eat because he grabs the cover & uncovers his face. It is getting very depressing & now that I'm pregnant again I have felt terrible nausea so it physically hurts to stand up in a bathroom to nurse. Because so many people in the south consider breastfeeding 'inappropriate'my husband felt bothered by the thought of me NIP. That's about to change when I have to tandem breastfeed though!

    1. Sounds like your husband needs a reality check about how to support you!! Would he eat his dinner in a bathroom? He certainly shouldn't expect his baby to!

    2. I am exclusively nursing a 5-month-old, and am 13 weeks pregnant. If covering is important to you and/or your husband, you can use a small receiving blanket or burp cloth to cover just the exposed area of your breast but leave baby uncovered. I did this with my 4 older kids, and people typically just thought baby was sleeping. Now I don't bother with covers at all.

  3. Hi Amanda, I was so sad to read your post! Nursing in the bathroom is uncomfortable and unsanitary and unnecessary! I'm here if you ever need a NIP partner. I had a hard time with it too when my baby girl Carina had a cold and would go off and on, off and on. It's hard to stay covered! But we have just as much of a right to feed our babies in public as anyone does to feed themselves. Just remember it takes attitude to change attitudes! :)

  4. Hi ladies! Love this post.
    When my very plump, exclusively breastfed son was 4 months old, 26 inches long, & 19 lbs, my mother-in-law suggested we have him tested for diabetes! By the time I had weaned him at 37 months, she'd gotten used to the idea. Sadly, I was the only person she knew of that nursed more than a few days.

  5. Love this. The supportive Grandpa one especially:)

  6. A (female) friend of my husband's came over to visit when our daughter was about 8 days old. When my husband made a comment about bfing she said, "She's STILL doing that?!"
    My husband and I joked about it later. Our daughter is 9 months old now and the same friend recently came over and I was talking with her about how my supply is dropping. She said, "I wondered how long you were gonna keep that up." I nicely told her I would keep it up as long as I could. I just got a blank stare and a smile.