…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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Breastfeeding in Public: Eye Candy or Not?

This summer the pedestrian mall between Herald Square and Times Square in New York City is home to a unique art installation, Sidewalk Catwalk, promoting the fashion district.

The mannequin below was designed by Kenneth Cole.  Its tongue in cheek message made me think of the topic du jour…Breastfeeding in Public.

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Lily O’Brien’s Chocolate Cafe near Bryant Park is just a few blocks away from the “eye candy” above.   A New York mother claims in a law suit filed this week  that she was harassed there last summer while breastfeeding her 5 month old infant.

In the past 24+ hours her story has been trotted out on all the local media. Read more here.

Cathal Queally, the Irish candy man proprietor of Lily O’Brien’s Chocolate Cafe, told the local NBC interviewer that it was a misunderstanding.   He said he grew up with sisters and was surrounded by breastfeeding women. He added that the target audience for his confections are mothers and children.  Indeed, there were signs welcoming breastfeeding mothers on his store front window.

It is Breastfeeding Awareness Month so any buzz on breastfeeding gets traction.  The comments on the blogs, news articles online and those solicited from New Yorkers on the street were mixed.

A cynical analysis might be that the entire episode is being “milked” for all it is worth by the parties involved.  On the whole. the impact of this publicity seems positive.

The media news blitz is educating the public about the law allowing mothers to breastfeed anywhere, rallying other breastfeeding mothers to have confidence to openly breastfeed and publicizing an establishment now very openly declaring that they are breastfeeding friendly.

I still find it quite amazing that breastfeeding in public ruffles so many feathers.   Breasts are mammary glands perfectly designed to feed human babies.  Their function as eye candy is contextual.

We have lost touch with the naked truth.  As the Kenneth Cole mannequin reminds us…Underneath it all you are all naked.

Human bodies are works of art in their own right.  When a mother breastfeeds her baby that stark beauty is expanded into a very sweet and tender tableau…

Eye candy in the eyes of the beholder.  What do you think?

3 comments

1 Maggie { 08.18.10 at 4:54 am }

My husband and I frequently comment on the amount of sexuality in primetime and pre-primetime television. We’re always aware of what we’re watching or flip by on TV and what time it is…it seems to be getting earlier and earlier, meaning more kids are awake and have access to, in our opinion, age-inappropriate material. Everyone, whether their conscious mind catches it or not, must see 3 shots of celebrity (or otherwise) cleavage everyday, girls wearing jeans so tight they’re obviously not wearing any underwear, men wearing low-slung shorts with their boxers hanging out…”private” parts are not so private anymore.

Why, then, are so many people uncomfortable seeing a woman breastfeed in public? I think it’s just that: in public. People want to be able to regulate where and when they see skin. If Person A is walking to the post office, they’re probably not thinking about seeing a woman nursing, and if they do see it, it’s *gasp* shocking!

I think that anyone that has a “problem” seeing a woman nurse in public has their OWN issues and are not readily capable of considering the pure essence of the act. I wonder if those take issue with public breastfeeding would think differently if they sat down and had a conversation about it with their own mothers. Did THEIR mothers nurse? Did THEIR mothers feel supported or unsupported during the time they nursed? Did THEIR mothers see people walking by, rolling their eyes, while sitting on a park bench, trying to nurse privately?

If I had to choose, I’d choose to not nurse in public, but I certainly don’t mind doing it. I look for the most private, quiet place I can find and use a nursing apron…and I take those measures purely for the comfort of my daughter and myself, not for the comfort of any potential passers-by. I’m not out to make any one uncomfortable, but if someone sees me, can figure out what’s going on and they get to thinking…well, that’s just an extra perk! :)

Maire, I am so thrilled I found this blog. I love reading your posts and commenting while my daughter takes her morning nap!

2 Andrea J. Stenberg { 08.18.10 at 11:24 am }

It’s been many years since I nursed anywhere – public or private. I usually tried to go in private but if I wanted to leave the house, I had to get used to doing it in public.

The first time I ever nursed in public was in the grocery store. My son was in a growth spurt and nursing every half hour. I tried for two days to get out of the house to do groceries. Finally, with literally nothing to eat for supper I ventured out. I nursed him in the car then ran into the store.

I got half way through shopping and he started to cry (or should I say scream). I was carrying him in a sling so I went into a corner of the store and got him going. I proceeded to finish my shopping & thanks to the sling, no one knew what was going on inside the sling except for a couple of older ladies who gave me a “we know what you’re doing smile”.

When I realized I could discreetly nurse in public, it freed me to go where ever and when ever I wanted. After the grocery store I nursed in restaurants, planes, a cruise ship, a bench in the mall and even once on television (local cable so maybe three people saw it).

Frankly, nothing showed, certainly less than most teenage girls show at the mall. You’d have to be looking awfully closely to have seen any skin at all. For the most part, it looked like I was holding my baby close.

The nice thing was, I never had anyone complain or be offended. In fact, I’m sure my quietly nursing baby was much less noticed than a screaming hungry baby.

3 Máire Clements RN IBCLC { 08.20.10 at 12:13 pm }

Thanks for sharing your adventures with nursing in public Andrea. I am thrilled to hear that nobody complained or was offended to see you nursing your baby. I agree that when breastfeeding is done discretely, it is far less revealing than some of the fashions worn by young teens. The quietly nursing baby looks like it is being hugged by his/her mom and can definitely go unnoticed in a public space.

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