Stop “normalizing” breastfeeding!

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Apparently I hit a nerve.

I wrote a post last night comparing admonitions to breastfeed with admonitions to continue unwanted pregnancies.

I used the following images to illustrate my point:

Every drop don't abort

On Twitter, journalist Tara Haelle commented on the image on the left. She promoted it as “normalizing” public breastfeeding and I’m confident that she is entirely sincere in that belief. But I see it as promoting breastfeeding as “best.”

As I explained, I suspect that many women would be offended by a group that felt itself entitled to comment on women’s pregnancies and whether or not they choose to continue them. The not-so-subtle hectoring at the bottom, “every life counts,” reflects the group’s religious beliefs and the belief that they are entitled to police pregnant women’s bodies.

The piece generated dozens of tweets, many of them furious that I had dared to equate “pro breastfeeding” with “pro life.” However, not a single person could explain what was wrong with the analogy beyond the fact that they found it unflattering to their cause. Haelle herself emphasized once again that she was only trying to “normalize” public breastfeeding.

Normalization is the construction of an idealized norm of conduct and then rewarding or punishing individuals for conforming to or deviating from the ideal.

But we shouldn’t be trying to “normalize” breastfeeding (public or private) in the first place.

Why not? Because “normalization” is just a fancy way to discriminate and shame.

Consider:

Uganda wants to “normalize” traditional sexuality, thereby marginalizing gay people.

Many residents of the Old South want to “normalize” the Confederate flag, sending sending subtle and not so subtle messages about race, slavery and citizenship.

Anti-choice advocates struggle to “normalize” continuing unwanted pregnancies because they oppose abortion.

Therefore:

When lactivists seek to “normalize” breastfeeding, they want to marginalize and shame formula feeders.

This harks back to the definition of “normalization.” As Wikipedia explains:

… The concept of normalization is found in the work of Michel Foucault … As Foucault used the term, normalization involved the construction of an idealized norm of conduct – for example, the way a proper soldier ideally should stand, march, present arms, and so on, as defined in minute detail – and then rewarding or punishing individuals for conforming to or deviating from this ideal. In Foucault’s account, normalization was one of an ensemble of tactics for exerting the maximum social control with the minimum expenditure of force …

Lactivists use the term normalization to construct an idealized norm of conduct – breastfeeding – and then rewarding or punishing individual women for conforming to or deviating from this ideal. Normalization is a tactic for exerting maximum social control with minimum effort.

Lactivists seek to make breastfeeding normative, meaning:

… an ideal standard of or model, or being based on what is considered to be the normal or correct way of doing something.

But in first world countries, where the benefits of breastfeeding are trivial, making breastfeeding normative means imposing some women’s norms on other women. It means telling women what they should be doing with their breasts, instead of leaving that decision to them.

Contrary to the claims of lactivists, women choose not to breastfeed or stop breastfeeding for a host of reasons that lactivists refuse to acknowledge: breastfeeding can be difficult, painful and inconvenient for mothers and it can lead to failure to thrive in some babies. It has nothing to do with formula marketing, nothing to do with lack of encouragement in hospitals, and nothing to do with lack of knowledge.

Simply put, women decide to not to breastfeed or to stop breastfeeding for intrinsic reasons, not extrinsic reasons. Normalizing breastfeeding makes as much sense as normalizing heterosexuality. There is not a gay person alive who isn’t aware that heterosexuality is normative and no marketing tactics or lack of education leads them to be gay. Similarly, there’s hardly an American woman alive who isn’t aware that breastfeeding is “best” and no marketing tactics or lack of education leads them to choose formula. It is extraordinarily demeaning to pretend otherwise.

When lactivists normalize breastfeeding, they are subtly and not so subtly sending the message that women who choose formula are abnormal. That’s what they intend to do.

There’s no reason for the rest of us to join them in their campaign of shame and intimidation.

  • Guest

    Finally – a voice of reason. Thank you.

  • Shannon Riley

    WOW… Dr Amy- you are so completely off-base. Maybe consider a new feminist perspective that would actually support women WHERE THEY ARE. The problem with doctors like you is that you get to hind behind walls of “omniscience” and you could not be further from the truth about the health benefits to both mothers and babies for breastfeeding. Rather, the “un-benefits” of not doing so. The REAL problem is that providers (maybe you..maybe your pediatrician friend) have NO experience in how to help mothers to overcome initial lactation problems. Consider any other clinical case you would have: I have a problem, you’re the doctor.. tell me what to do… BUT you and your ilk hide behind the basic problem that you have NO experience in actually helping breast-feeding moms. Your personal experience at best. Your “I support breastfeeding” claims but when there’s a problem.. how do you handle this? Maybe you could refer them to someone who actually understands this very human and physiologic process? NO!! You don’t. You tell a woman with a goal for her health and those of her babies that she’s “not bad” for just not breastfeeding. What the hell. That is the WORST medicine I’ve ever heard of and men would never tolerate this. MEN WOULD NEVER TOLERATE THIS. You are treating women terribly when you soften their wishes with utter bullshit. Why don’t you consider that you are NOT an expert in this field and maybe someone else is. Good job for saving babies lives at birth and all the stress you’ve had to endure to become that second-to-second girl… shit.. you’ve broken down barriers for women already. But on this: you are dead wrong. Let WOMEN personally decide what is best for them and their family. Don’t let you personal lack of ability in this vain try to mitigate that. You don’t know how to help. You think it’s trivial. But a ton of data says that for overall health outcomes it’s much more than “being nice”.. women know this before they ever give birth and when they are struggling, they deserve much more than your bullshit “permission”.

    • Nick Sanders

      I’m sorry, we men wouldn’t tolerate what now? Having an authority figure tell us to stop beating ourselves up during a period that’s already stressful enough? Please don’t think we are as dumb as the sitcoms say we are.

    • Who?

      So long as they decide to do what you think is best, of course?

      Do provide the ‘ton of data’ of which you speak.

      And explain how you spot the difference in the developed world between two children aged three, one exclusively bottle fed and the other exclusively breast fed.

    • Sarah

      Why do you get to decide what the ‘real problem’ is? Providers level of experience in helping women overcome initial problems is completely irrelevant to huge numbers of women: those with no interest in breastfeeding and those who don’t experience initial problems. What concerns you is not the same as what concerns everyone else.

    • SporkParade

      I suggest you peruse either the comments section here or the Fearless Formula Feeder website. You will hear story after story of babies were harmed or came close to harm by people with “experience” in helping mothers overcome initial lactation difficulties because these same people were completely out of their league when it came to recognizing, let alone addressing, more serious difficulties. By the way, I don’t know about obstetricians, but many pediatricians do have training in assisting with breastfeeding. They’re just not ideological enough to continue pushing it to the point where the baby is wasting away from malnutrition or suffering brain damage from hyperbilirubinemia. If you want to discuss what men would never put up with, I would suggest starting with taking medical advice from people who aren’t medical professionals and whose income is entirely reliant on scaring women away from a perfectly reasonable choice that may actually be best for them and their families.

  • Spiderpigmom

    According to Merriam-Webster, “normalize” is defined as follows:
    1
    : to make conform to or reduce to a norm or standard
    2
    : to make normal (as by a transformation of variables)

    Breastfeeding should *not* be normalized in the first definition of the word for all the reasons perfectly exposed here. But it should be normalized in the second definition. I’ve only been sent to the toilets with my infant son twice, but it certainly colored my experience of what it means to breastfeed. Mothers who wish to breastfeed (not because it’s superior to bottle-feeding or because it’s the norm, just because they choose it) and who are lucky enough to be physically and materially able to, should not be made to feel that the way they choose to feed their baby is abnormal.

  • Lisa

    I’m so ancient (53) that I thought you fed a baby so it would 1) live, 2) grow, 3) be healthy not to draw attention to yourself for being the best at the competitive sport of Mommy-ing. I say “Mommy-ing” because it is all about Mommy and all about keeping Mommy in her job as Mommy. Ditto your “birth experience.” My mother endured a shave, enema, no doula, no husband in the room, nothing. Had to stay in bed on a rubber sheet in August with no a.c. in the northern USA in ’58 for her first birth. Did she love my brother less for it? OF COURSE NOT! Once upon a time, mothers were THRILLED TO BITS to be able to bottle feed. Why?? FREEDOM. They did not see the need to raise their kids as chimps do by wearing them all day. From birth they built INDEPENDENCE for their children so they could be ADULTS–at 18!! Shocking! My mother then carried me and my dead-before-birth twin to within 6 1/2 weeks of due date. She was not allowed into the room with me in my incubator for more than an hour a day at visiting hour. Did she love me less? Did we “fail to bond”??? HELL NO.

    Mommys need to get the HELL OVER THEMSELVES and be Mothers instead. Do the best you can with what you’ve got. Breast feed, bottle feed–WHO CARES! Raise a kid who’ll be an ADULT.

    You may warm up the flame thrower now.

  • JoannaDW

    Damn autocorrect! That should say, “asked to remove facial coverings.” Plus, it should say, “I want to add that I have seen BF advocates suggest that asking women…”

  • JoannaDW

    I want to add that asking women to cover up is the equivalent of asking them to wear a burqua. I won’t even begin to discuss the ignorance or offensiveness of that comparison, but I will say this: even women wearing niqab or burqa are required to recover facial coverings for ID purposes, like driver’s license photos or because stores prohibit the wearing of masks. No one is being denied the practice of hijab in public, just asked that you make minor concessions for public safety.

    • fiftyfifty1

      “just asked that you make minor concessions for public safety.”

      How is breastfeeding a child in public a matter of public safety?

      • Mattie

        men might crash their cars if they see the tiniest sliver of boob skin…petition for men to not be allowed to drive cars (this is the only thing that may constitute a public safety issue)

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          Wasn’t there an episode of Seinfeld that was like that? Kramer crashed the car because a woman was walking topless (with a bra, I think). Then he sued her, and that brought in that lawyer.

          • Medwife

            There were also serious issues with a woman who wore shirts but no bra. Caused total chaos. Boobs are a scary distracting business!

          • Amazed

            Ha, that’s totally me IRL! When I wear elastic dresses, I often go out with no bra since the dress supports the parts in question well enough and when it’s 35 C, every piece of clothing keeps me hot and sweaty. I garner a sufficient amount of hungry and disapproving looks. I can only imagine what it would have been like if I went out like this before I lost weight, which, sadly, happened first in my bustline. Of course, at the time I didn’t WEAR elastic dresses and going out without a bra was damned uncomfortable. The things weighed me down.

            In fact, about two weeks ago an old lady made it a point to catch my eye and shook her head disapprovingly, moving her eyes to my (covered but un-braed) boobs.

          • Roadstergal

            An American Dad ep, as well. Stan crashes the SUV, then needs to do a CIA-style mission to recover his cell phone from the car lest it show he was taking pics of a busty jogger when he crashed.

      • Sarah

        Yes, I too want to hear about this. Joanna did you perchance trip over a big floppy lactating boob? Drown in a jet of milk whizzing through the air? Enquiring minds want to know.

  • JoannaDW

    A little OT: I don’t think women should be forced to cover up while nursing, and I don’t think women should be harassed or ticketed or jailed for not covering up, but it is common courtesy to cover up, just like it’s common courtesy for men to have a shirt on or for women to not show their undies. You can choose to flout that convention, but what’s the purpose? To piss people off? To get a reaction? Fine, but don’t complain when you get one and it’s not positive.

    I also think that property owners have the right to ask women to be discreet on their private property, like a store. Not to stop BFing, not to sit on a tiny, nasty toilet, but be discreet. And if I have appropriate nursing facilities available, like a comfortable changing room, then I have the right to ask you to use them instead of BFing in the store itself. If you want to normalize breastfeeding, do it on public property like the bus, the park, etc. Not on my private property. Normalization includes being held to normal societal standards, and demanding praise and preferential treatment to not use any discretion when there are so many other options is not reasonable. I’m not BFing and I expect that if my breasts are exposed, store managers might ask me to cover up or leave. Keep in mind, I allow breastfeeding mothers in my home and they can take their tops off and let it hang out. I personally don’t have a problem. It’s really the principle. Nowadays, it’s not enough to be allowed something, we feel entitle to praise and accommodations while doing it.

    By the way, courtesy goes a long way with property owners. When I worked at the thrift shop and I found out that a customer was BFing in her car in freezing temps, I invited her to come and BF where it was warm. As long as she was discreet, she could use the fitting room, sit on our furniture, I would let her have a shawl at a discount, whatever. I didn’t want her and her baby to be cold. The difference? She was considerate of other customers and employees and I go the extra mile for that.

    • Michele

      I have started typing so many responses to this and deleted them. I’ll just leave it with this: Offer of a comfortable changing room for nursing – great! Insistence that BFing woman use changing room for nursing instead of somewhere else in the store that she is allowed to be – not so great.
      I don’t want praise for BFing in public. The only accommodation I want or need is for other people to mind their own business and leave me alone about it.

    • Mattie

      See, I don’t think women should be required to go in a fitting room, or use a special room to feed, or cover up. If they want to, great, but just as you have the right to ask a woman to feed somewhere else she has the right to decline that offer and carry on wherever she is. If she is somewhere she is allowed to be, then the law is on her side. As with most things, it’s about choice and I’m all for women having options so they can do what is most comfortable for them, but if they want to feed in a more public place then it’s impolite to make comments about that.

      • Wishful

        Saying its impolite to make comments seems like real shaky grounds for an argument since the same argument can be made against her right to fed. Also what about photos? After all the mother is feeding in a place that is public she has no right to expect privacy and taking photos in public places and posting them online for whatever purpose you desire is totally legal to. I am not saying that anyone should do this, but it has happened and I think its something women really should consider before whipping it out at the Outback. Anything you do in public can end up on an Iphone and its a click away from the internet.

        • guest

          I think you’d better just stay inside your home, always, forever.

        • VeritasLiberat

          I used to work in a bookstore and when there was a woman who wanted to nurse a baby, I always recommended a particular spot in a back corner of the sales floor…it had comfy chairs, was relatively private, and, due to some fortunately-placed columns, was the only spot on the sales floor that was not under camera surveillance. Everyone took me up on it when they found out that last part.

    • Ash

      Here’s how I see it: what does it really matter? I saw someone wearing a green plaid fedora the other day. I thought it was really ugly. You could say it offended my eyes. But I ignored it and life went on. If I feel a bit uncomfortable seeing a part of a woman’s breast exposed during BFing, I will simply go about my daily business and life will be fine. Why cause this conflict? It’s going to make everyone uncomfortable, both the woman BFing and the person asking them to cover. Live and let live is a much easier way to do it. Who cares.

      You would let her buy a cover at a discount? How kind to assume that everyone wants to buy a shawl just so you don’t have to feel uncomfortable.

      • JoannaDW

        You obviously did not read my comment. I allow women to take their tops off in my home and BF with no discretion.And I don’t own a store either. SHE wanted the privacy, she felt is was the courteous thing to do. Next time, read thoroughly before making sarcastic personal attacks.

        I just fundamentally disagree with how private property is treated by some BF advocates. I don’t think private property owners should be forced to accommodate customers that are unwilling to make reasonable concessions. I don’t think modesty requirements are unreasonable. Don’t like using a shawl? Patronize another store.

        • Mattie

          Unfortunately, the laws that prevent discrimination mean that if you do that you leave yourself open to problems, is it really so offensive to warrant getting in legal trouble over?

          • JoannaDW

            No, but I do think a change in the law and open discussion are warranted. I have a lot of opinions regarding discrimination laws, private property, etc. That lean on libertarian if that helps. They are too detailed to go into here but suffice it to say, I think the rights of private property owners should have more sway than the right of someone to do something with no restrictions when there are alternatives.

            On an unrelated note, I see I have brought out the mommy warriors in a matter of minutes. Mission accomplished?

          • Ash

            If “mommy warrior” includes people who would not ask a BFing woman to cover all of the breast whether in public or private, I accept. If this is the new definition of “mommy warrior”, their numbers have dramatically increased. A conspiracy!

          • MegaMechaMeg

            Dude, I don’t even have kids. This is all very exciting news to me.

          • Mattie

            Me neither, I just think a nipple is just a nipple…and that women should choose themselves what/how/when/where to feed their children, oh and what to wear out and how they express their sexuality and basically all other things about their body.

          • MegaMechaMeg

            I am just a good old fashioned WASPy prude. I dress like a midcentury elementary schooler and I don’t like public nipples in any of their incarations. I figure though that since I am not starting a campaign to stop the hairy old men on my street from mowing the lawn topless it is probably hypocritical to get too bent out of shape over a mother who is, at the end of the day, keeping her kid quiet.
            And on a purely selfish level I have a larger bustline and I have had plenty of accusations of inappropriate dress leveled at me over the years. I can sympathize with the plight of a mother who is doing everything she can reasonably be expected to do and still has people telling her that she is a shameless strumpet.

          • Mattie

            Personally I’d rather see a nice perky boob than a hairy old man nipple…but I do my best to not stare at strangers anyway (even though in summer it becomes especially difficult to avoid the hairy old men nipples).

          • MegaMechaMeg

            Aw, but what about pendulous mid thirties boobs? We need some love too 🙂

          • Michele

            *high five for pendulous mid thirties boobs*
            I swear mine need scaffolding to even approach perky.

          • MegaMechaMeg

            I took my bra off yesterday and I swear I heard sad trombone in the background. It would probably bother me more if I didn’t have a husband earnestly offering at length to act as my after hours hand-bra.

          • Amazed

            Please! We are mid thirties and we’re most certainly not pendulous.

            No wish to reveal ourselves fully in front of the whole wide world, though. It’s bad enough that when we go out in an elastic dress, hairy old men infringe in our space with their eyes.

          • MegaMechaMeg

            Some people are blessed to make it far in life without giving in to the curse of gravity. I made it to 17.

          • Amazed

            I am not sure if I gave in to that terrible curse. My boobs are just OK, but bottom has been headed to meet Mother Earth for half my life.

            Where does that place me?

          • Mattie

            Well, I had to have a think, and while ladies with bigger breasts make me a little jealous (cursed with teeny boobs here) I’d still rather see them than hairy man boobs. If I have to choose boobs to stare at then I pick Laura Prepon in Orange is the New Black…I have the biggest crush on Alex lol

          • MegaMechaMeg

            Unfortunately we don’t get to choose :-). We are stuck with old men. Forever.

          • Sarah

            Oh yes. If giving no shits about someone’s fee-fees about BEING EXPOSED TO FILTHY BREASTFEEDING NIPPLES makes you a mommy warrior and a lactivist, even some of us formula feeders by choice apparently qualify! TAP would be so proud of me…

          • Mattie

            I also think the law needs to be changed, but I’m on the side of desexualising female breasts/nipples, so that women can be topless in all the places men can be topless without discriminatory (and hella old fashioned) indecency rules that are basically just a big fat double standard.

          • JoannaDW

            I personally am offended by topless men.:) Thank you for your comments.:)

          • Mattie

            Life must be exhausting, is it just the nipples, or the skin around them too…in the case of breastfeeding is it the baby’s head…what do you think of boobie beanies?

          • Poogles

            “I’m on the side of desexualising female breasts/nipples, so that women can be topless in all the places men can be topless ”

            That’s the law in my city 🙂

          • Mattie

            Amazing!! Where do you live? lol

          • It’s the law in all of New York state, if not necessarily in practice.

          • Michele

            I didn’t know that believing that people should mind their own damn business about how other people’s babies are fed made one a mommy warrior nowadays.

          • Mattie

            just a feminist =P

          • JoannaDW

            It’s dishonest to pretend this is about how a woman feeds her child. No one is saying “Ditch the breast or leave.” Because that isn’t their business or their right. What IS their business is how they conduct themselves, or expose themselves, while feeding on THEIR property. This applies to all store patrons and BF mothers are not some special exception. If how you feed your child isn’t the business of property owners, then their feelings about your lactivism aren’t your business either. And most mothers in real life (not mommy warriors who are mostly privileges women) BF discreetly in public all the time, are proud of it but are also considerate. Some people don’t get why nipples are offensive. I don’t get what’s so offensive about being asked to use discretion. I’m not even offended by nipples. Lots of my friends BF openly, they BF openly around me and in my home, I accommodate them, and I have experience working in a health related field. My issue is the sense of entitlement some lactivists feel to not just do what they please, but totally on their terms, even on turf that isn’t theirs, even when those around them try to accommodate. I would never and have never harassed anyone for doing anything, in public or private, but we all have the right to express disapproval of someone’s behavior in the appropriate forum. And we can choose to ignore it.

          • Sarah

            Why would anyone care whether you think they should use ‘discretion’ breastfeeding? You can, of course, whine about it in whatever forum you like, but by the same token, people are quite entitled to tell you exactly what that makes you.

          • Megan

            What if a store owner was uncomfortable with gays in their property? Would you support a law making it ok for a store owner to ask them to shop in a certain part of the store?

          • Dr Kitty

            Maybe you get icked out by boobs, maybe you get icked out by tattoos and facial piercings, maybe PDAs between gay or interracial couples give you the heeby jeebies, maybe hijabs or turbans or yarmulkes give you the screaming meemies, maybe you have an aversion to velour and just can’t deal with people in leisure suits, maybe people chewing gum brings you out in a stress rash.

            Don’t know, don’t care.
            Avert your eyes, act like a grown up and keep your opinions to yourself.

            Unless these people are actually doing something unlawful or dangerous (and just existing within your eyeline doesn’t count) you don’t get to police their appearance or behaviour.

        • Ash

          State of Wisconsin:
          “SECTION 1. 253.16 of the statutes is created to read:

          253.16 Right to breast−feed. A mother may breast−feed her child in any public or private location where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be. In such a location, no person may prohibit a mother from breast−feeding her child, direct a mother to move to a different location to breast−feed her child, direct a mother to cover her child or breast while breast−feeding, or otherwise restrict a mother from breast−feeding her child as provided in this section.”

          Don’t want a BFing woman to adhere to your modesty standards? Do not operate a business in Wisconsin.

        • guest

          And for the nursing dyads for whom covering up means baby won’t feed? Just fuck ’em, I guess.

          • Mattie

            if a baby won’t subscribe to a outdated notion of ‘modesty’ which is basically designed to shame women about their sexuality, feed into a culture of victim-blaming and force them to limit what they wear, where they go, and what they do…then that baby should staaaarve

          • Nick Sanders

            The first few times, I read that as “dryads” and was utterly confused.

          • fiftyfifty1

            Good point. What *about* the dryads?! IIRC they don’t have shirts. What if they need to buy something at a thrift store? Should they just be asked to leave?

          • guest

            Them too!

    • MegaMechaMeg

      I personally think breastfeeding is gross. Like on a pure emotional level I get really weirded out when I see it happening.
      I am an adult though and I understand that someone else feeding their child as they see fit has absolutely nothing to do with me and my emotional state. So I appreciate when women cover up, but at the end of the day you gotta do what you gotta do to get the baby fed and if feeling uncomfortable is the worst thing that happens to me that day then it obviously was a pretty great day.
      I can’t help being uncomfortable, but I can help being an asshole to complete strangers, and I bend over backwards to be supportive of my friends however they are feeding their children. All I ask of the universe in return is that I not be expected to pretend that the way you feed your child has anything to do whatsoever with your skills as a parent.

    • Sarah

      When you talk about private property, what exactly do you mean? If it’s your home and nobody’s there except you and people you’ve invited in, yes by all means you should have the right to enforce your asinine ideas of what constitutes courtesy. However, you mention thrift shops, which leads me to think you feel you should have the same right on property you own but are using to engage in business with the general public. Am I right? Because, if I am, then no. If you want to use your property to do business with the public, you don’t get to treat it in the same way as your private home into which the general public aren’t invited. You want the right to decide whether people can breastfeed on your property, you keep it actually private. Those are your options.

    • fiftyfifty1

      “on their private property, like a store.”

      Sounds very libertarian. Libertarians say that store owners should be able to discriminate against anyone they want and for any reason. They argue that it will all turn out fine in the end, because some other store owner won’t discriminate, and that other business will prosper on the almighty free market.

      To which I state bullshit. Look how well that worked for African Americans—centuries of being excluded from stores, restaurants and hotels. It took making such practices illegal to change anything. The free market did not a damn thing to help.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        Sounds very libertarian. Libertarians say that store owners should be able to discriminate against anyone they want and for any reason. They argue that it will all turn out fine in the end, because some other store owner won’t discriminate, and that other business will prosper on the almighty free market.

        And I call double-bullshit, because why is it so important to let them start a business if they are just going to fail anyway? If the Holy Free Market is so guaranteed to drive them out of business, what’s wrong with saying, “Nope, don’t even bother. You aren’t going to make it any way, and all you are going to do in the meantime is unnecessarily (and unwisely) discriminate against members of our society.” The answer, of course, is that they don’t actually believe that the free market will drive them out, and they don’t care.

        The ONLY reason to oppose anti-discrimination laws is to allow people who want to do discriminate to do so. That’s it. To allow discrimination. Businesses who don’t and don’t want to discriminate are not affected by anti-discrimination laws. Only those who want to discriminate are affected by them.

        The “the free market will drive them out of business” argument for opposing discrimination makes no sense at all.

      • Mattie

        The reason it doesn’t work, is because society is generally pretty homogenous…so people will discriminate against the same people based on the norms of society. Kinda like how the ‘breast is best’ campaign developed from pretty tame to ‘baby friendly’ hospitals with no formula and babies starving because people don’t want to supplement.

      • VeritasLiberat

        Actually, there were laws that MANDATED segregatipn in the American South. It didn’t matter what a store owner or restaurant owner wanted to do; they had to enforce segregation as a matter of law.

    • Lisa

      YES women should be discreet. Today it is not merely about “breastfeeding” its about a women’s right to completely unbutton her shirt allow boobs to be free in the air, get people to look at her, and oh…right…feed the child. No she doesn’t need a Burka or blanket over her. But just as we eat fast food in the car uncomfortably, so too can baby deal with having only Mom’s exposed nipple and a little surrounding skin and not both boobs exposed and on display. Just because MOMMY has no problem letting everyone see her perfect 32AAs doesn’t mean it is right or welcome. Feed the kid and shut up about it. It isn’t about MOMMY.

      • Angharad

        Does this happen frequently?? Maybe it’s the region I live in but I’ve seen plenty of women breastfeeding in public and have never seen anyone go completely topless while they do so.

        • Carolina

          I think it exists in the minds of those who don’t like public nursing. I’ve never seen it, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never done it.

  • guest

    Before I had kids, I heard about a nurse-in targeting some business that had turned out and shamed a woman for breastfeeding in public, and I thought that was so awesome and had a vague desire to be a part of something like that when I had kids of my own.

    After I had twins, I still supported breastfeeding in public, but not for me. I preferred to tandem feed so that I didn’t spend *all* day breastfeeding, and doing so required a special pillow and exposing a whole lot of myself. I was also once faced with trying to breastfeed on an airplane next to a complete stranger (older male who did not speak my language) and it was mortifying. I tried to use a cover, and it was a miserable failure.

    So, yes, it would be nice if there was wider acceptance for women just doing what they need to do to feed their babies in public. But it would also be nice if there was more provision of privacy for those who want it – airlines do nothing for nursing or bottle feeding mothers.

    And as for nurse-ins, I still think they’re great for shaming businesses who have *policies* against breastfeeding on the premises. BUT. They should include all types of feeders, because businesses should allow all types of feeding. And targeted feed-ins should be a last resort. Say the 16 year old cashier makes a shaming comment to you at a big box store. He or she is young and doesn’t need a big, public shaming – it will likely have the opposite of the intended effect. Try speaking to the manager in a friendly manner first. If the manager is a dick, go higher up. If the store actually has a *policy* against allowing women to breast feed, it’s time to break out the big statement campaigns. I’m just not happy with making a big public deal over something that was an individual’s mistake. Our culture is fucked up, but great big shame-a-thons picking on people one by one don’t seem very “normalizing” to me.

    • Medwife

      I never thought of how nice it would be to invite bottle feeding moms to nurse in too. It’s not really necessarily about breasts. It’s about mom-baby dyads needing to leave the house and have active lives, and the fact that when babies have to eat, they have to eat. If the food is in a secure container, be it breast or bottle, and the food is not spraying all over people or property, then mind your own freaking business.

      • guest

        And maybe the organizers would welcome it as well – I never heard of one taking place near me to find out. But I would totally support the effort in cases where it’s protesting a clearly anti-breastfeeding establishment. Heck, I’d put some of those boob hats on my kids if that would help.

  • sarah

    So I chose to formula feed but I have no problem with normalizing breastfeeding. Why does normalizing breastfeeding imply that formula feeding is abnormal? Why can’t breastfeeding in public be normalized without it being EXCLUSIVELY normalized? Why can’t breastfeeding advocates seeks to normalize public breastfeeding and formula-feeding defenders seeks to normalize formula-feeding in public? Why can’t we just normalize ‘feed your baby any safe way you like”???

    • KarenJJ

      What does “normalising” breastfeeding mean to you? Does it mean making judgements about a feeding method, commenting on it, singling people out for doing it and telling them about your feelings about what they’re doing?

      I think the comparisons to “inspiration porn” are spot on. Disability could be “normalised” I guess, if it was just normal for someone to be in a wheelchair, be deaf, whatever and people were happy to let them be themselves without the pedestal, without the “wow aren’t you special and doing something amazing” when you’re just living your life. So when you’re just getting yourself around town or reading a book or feeding your baby or whatever you’re doing you just become part of the general scenery without the attention of the general public.

    • fiftyfifty1

      breastfeeding ADVOCATES vs. formula-feeding DEFENDERS. Seems to me that that language alone shows that one method is already held up as the norm while the other is abnormal.

    • Cobalt

      The definition of normalize is to make standard. Standard should be fed well, not fed certain way.

      “Support” much less exclusive than “normalize”.

    • Amazed

      Why do you ask US? We don’t say, “Take your disgusting boob in” when we see a breastfeeding woman. We don’t run to FF mothers to hand them cards saying, “Thanks for feeding your child and even doing it in public despite the breastfeeding Nazi always on the watch.” We don’t stick our noses into other women’s cleavages.

      Breastfeeding advocates, though, think it totally fine to stick their noses right there. They think it cool to denigrate every woman around who FF or has FF her baby by showing just how out of the best practices her choice was, by praising breastfeeding mothers but not them. Frankly, I think that breastfeeding advocates has turned into a pack howling for their right to wave their lactating boobs around and be constantly praised for it as a joint part of the package. It no longer suffices to be praised in the media, in Baby Friendly Hospitals and so on. Now, complete strangers must be totally cowed into awe of the miracle that their boobs are.

      Why don’t you ask this question to THEM?

    • DaisyGrrl

      I’m guessing you didn’t read the post all the way through. Normalizing behaviour is a way of imposing an idealized mode of conduct on others. It’s a form of social control. Why should we be idealizing breastfeeding over any other form of feeding to the point that we’re exerting pressure on women to conform?

  • Wombat

    Between this and the fake dollar bill ‘your tip is JESUS’ hand outs I almost want to start carrying cards around to respond.

    Not sure of the perfect all purpose snark, but I’m sure it’s out there somewhere.

    Perhaps ‘for every set of these you print you could have donated to charity and maybe actually had an impact’? Too mean I suppose.

    • DelphiniumFalcon

      I say be mean. I’d be all out crude and overtly snarky. Something like:

      Thank you for choosing me for what I assume is your one “Give a Fuck” of the day! However, if you really want to give a fuck, please donate to one of the following charities instead: (insert list of charities here)

  • nomofear
    • RMY

      I just want to scream at them that women can be and often are doctors these days. Midwife vs Dr isn’t a women vs men thing.

      • anotheramy

        “Women can be and often are doctors these days”. After my then-5 year old saw the pedi, he said “mom, why are all doctors girls?” 🙂

        • nomofear

          I also hate the assumption that woman-led care (doc or mw aside) = warm, caring, cuddly – and that all women want that. Once I understood the absolute risk in giving birth, I didn’t give a s*** if nurses and docs were nice, just that they were competent. I’ll get the warm and caring from my family, thanks.

          Also enjoyed the bit where the male doc talks about women coming in with babies dead inside of them who continue to praise the midwife who (probably) let that happen. Having read things here, I see that as part and parcel of the brainwashing. Sad.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “the bit where the male doc talks about women coming in with babies dead inside of them who continue to praise the midwife who (probably) let that happen.”

            Yes, that same part struck me. The doc says that if he has a similar outcome he would be sued, and yet the women not only don’t sue but actually defend the midwife.

            The author takes that comment as proof that the doctor is so clueless about close supportive relationships that he doesn’t engage in them, and can’t even understand them.

            I immediately thought, Oh he understands these relationships well enough. He sees the snakeoil manipulation for what it is. He’s just too ethical to do the same thing. He has professional boundaries.

          • Angharad

            Not to mention I would rather have a living baby than a fantastic friendship with my care providers. I can find my own friends and honestly I like to keep some professional distance between myself and the people who give me vaginal exams. One of my friends is a labor and delivery nurse at the hospital where I gave birth. I told her to come say hi but that I really would rather have someone else attend the birth. She was very understanding.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            This is an interesting comment. I’ve never understood the idea that you want a friend as a HCP. I think it’s is exactly the opposite. I want someone who is a complete stranger.

            Seriously, do you want your friends doing a gyno check on you? Or for me, when I think of a rectal exam, I don’t think of a friend doing it (wife maybe, but friend? Nah)

            When it comes to talking about my most personal aspects of my health, I want to do it was someone as impersonal, not my friends.

          • Inmara

            Yeah, I wish that my HCPs are polite, kind and considerate when they’re dealing with me and my health problems, why would we need to go beyond that? Also, as example from Jezebel post shows, when you establish friendly relationship with HCP, it’s much harder to criticize your “friend” and see him/her as service provider who has to stick to some kind of standards. This leads to situations where woman may suspect that something is wrong but doesn’t speak up in fear of offending her “friend midwife”.

          • SuperGDZ

            Well, I can believe that male OBGYNs might consciously cultivate a cool and reserved manner. When someone is up to the elbows in your genitals it doesn’t take much for a warm and familiar manner to come across as creepy.

      • Gatita

        The overwhelming majority of residents graduating from OB-gyn programs today are women. So much so that programs are actively recruiting men to maintain some balance.

    • Wombat

      Putting aside the fact that the entire assumption of ‘man=doctor, woman=midwife’ is totally incorrect, I’d venture to say it’s equally if not more insulting/backwards to insist that women holding themselves to a lesser, less educated, more folksy standard is a good, progressive, or fair thing.

      We not only can be and are doctors, but we can be and are equally trained and awesomely knowledgeable (in our area of expertise) providers as well.

      Edit just for clarify’s sake: that is, of course, the figurative we. I’m medical support personnel at best, and even that feels a little overstretched personally c:

  • Eater of Worlds

    Stuff like this reminds me of inspiration porn, where people with disabilities are held up on pedestals for doing what every able bodied person does, like work at a job.

    • Gatita

      Yes, this! I thought the same thing today. Would you think it okay to hand a person in a wheelchair a card thanking them for being out in public so they can normalize wheelchair use? (If the answer is yes you would, you’re an idiot)

      • sdsures

        Or the opposite: I was out grocery shopping, and it was near the end of the day, so milk cartons were mostly at the backs of the shelves closest to the floor. I had to get off my scooter (no problem), get on my knees and reach for the carton (again, no problem).

        A lady beetled over to me and boomed, “Oh, you poor thing, I hate to see you struggle. LET ME HELP YOU!” (Or else, what?)

        I said no, thank you I can do this myself. She wouldn’t leave me alone.

        I held my tongue but I wanted to say, “If you don’t want to see me ‘struggle’, as you put it (which BTW, I’m not), then don’t look at me!”

    • demodocus

      My husband got a doozy after a concert once. “Oh what a wonderful world” said the old lady. “You can read the Braille and sing at the same time!” Because reading your music and singing at the same time is so weird, right?

    • sdsures

      I’m disabled and get the inspiration porn a lot. Also unsolicited advice that maybe because I am disabled, I wouldn’t make a good mom. RARGH!

      • Gatita

        Yeah, someone I know on Facebook posted that women on antidepressants shouldn’t have children. At least she got thoroughly spanked in the comments.

        • sdsures

          Hey! I *like* being spanked. 😉

          Seriously, though, there are options – the OB can go over the patient’s risk-benefit stuff when it comes to anti-depressants and pregnancy, as well as all other meds.

  • Ash

    OT: sad story of an in hospital intrapartum death on Reddit. Everything changes in an instant…

    https://np.reddit.com/r/legaladvice/comments/3cgjzs/la_son_delivered_dead_then_resuscitated_from/

    • Monkey Professor for a Head

      So sad. And certainly a reminder of how quickly things can go wrong when it comes to birth – anyone who defends home birth by saying that if anything goes wrong they’ll have warning and can transfer does not know what they’re talking about. My son had the cord around his neck too and was dropping his heart rate with pushing – I don’t think I’ve ever known such fear. I’m glad my midwives called for back up early, and I’m thankful for the episiotomy that got him out quickly. I’m so lucky that my son is alive and whole, but stories like this remind me what could have happened.

    • Poogles

      Things like this are the main reason I want a Maternal Request CS (especially since I only want 1 child).

  • Guesty

    Where’s the card thanking me for wiping their butts? I WANT A BUTT-WIPING THANK YOU. And you’re welcome. My pleasure. I wiped my children’s butts just for you.

    • sdsures

      I want a thank-you card* for wiping my own butt BECAUSE I AM DISABLED AND INSPIRING!

      *Costa Gift Certificates also accepted.

  • Dr Kitty

    Those cards are just…yuck.

    I nursed in public because I just DGAF what random strangers think about me and my parenting decisions.

    The “credit” for more women nursing in public isn’t because more women are seen nursing in public, it is because people are keeping their opinions about nursing in public to themselves.

    Frankly, I don’t care if you approve, disapprove, want to congratulate me or shame me for nursing. How and where I choose to feed my baby is none of your business. Keep walking, the opinions of perfect strangers carry no weight with me.

    Anyone who did this to me IRL would get
    “Why do you think that I would care to hear your opinion on this?”
    Or
    “I’m sorry, I don’t believe we have been introduced, and I make it a rule not to take unsolicited reading material from perfect strangers”.

    I can be very rude while remaining perfectly polite and ladylike. It’s a skill.

    • I can be very rude while remaining perfectly polite and ladylike. It’s a skill.
      One I’ve noticed that Anglo-Saxons have honed to a fine art.
      Me, I just offend people.

  • somethingobscure

    I breastfeed because I want to and it’s worked out well for me. But when I get randomly praised for it, it makes me feel so objectified. The objectification in turn makes me more self conscious and worried about it. Why would a stranger handing you a ‘congrats on the lactating boobs’ card make anyone feel normal? All that does is draw more attention, and honestly I would be really creeped out.

  • DelphiniumFalcon

    Before commenting on someone feeding their baby, please answer the following question:

    Does the liquid in question resemble raw sewage in smell or appearance?

    If you answered “No” then it’s none of your damn business.

    • Mattie

      or you know…gin =P

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        Ah but how do you know it’s gin?

        …no, seriously I don’t drink so I don’t know if it has a really strong odor or something.

        • Mattie

          I’m not sure, I’d imagine you’d notice something odd about the baby if it was being fed gin…but who knows haha

        • Kesiana

          Actually… I knew a high-schooler who, no joke, openly drank vodka in class by putting it in a baby bottle. The teachers just thought it was water…

          • Mattie

            and they didn’t question them drinking water out of a baby bottle? Like…why a baby bottle, could they not just put it in a water bottle?

          • Kesiana

            Nope. Apparently, they thought it was “cute.”

            (I should add that I have no idea if she did this more than once, so maybe someone would have wondered if she made a habit of it.)

          • Mattie

            very strange lol

          • Poogles

            Yeah, that’s what a friend of mine did once in high school – straight vodka in an emptied water bottle.

          • Mattie

            haha it’s not the alcohol I found odd…just the baby bottle, high school is hard

          • We were taught how to give injections by injecting oranges with saline — until one of my classmates ran over to the dorm and brought back a bottle of vodka. Later, we had really good orange juice…

          • KarenJJ

            Same reason why watermelon is such a popular treat in Australia at the cricket. Plus the hat factor.

          • Roadstergal

            I hear the best ideas on this site.

          • Roadstergal

            There’s a local concert venue we regularly attend that will only let you bring water in if it’s frozen. Easy check to make sure nothing fun is in the bottle.

          • Poogles

            Clever…hoping the local music festivals don’t catch on to that one, lol 😉

          • fiftyfifty1

            Ha! That was my trick at a little hole-in-the-wall Brazilian restaurant near my home. No liquor license, but plenty of lovely alcohol-free tropical drinks. The rum came in in a sippy cup….

          • demodocus

            Hopefully when they bring a sippy to a toddler, they bring the correct one, lol

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            Highschool is such a weird time… Be weird but don’t be too weird or we’ll ridicule and/or beat the ever loving shit out of you!

    • Roadstergal
    • guest

      Even if it does smell like raw sewage, it might just be nutramigen. 🙂

  • demodocus

    If anyone had ever given me such a card, I’d have told them to $#@( off. I do not need *your* affirmations.

  • Amazed

    Such a cute little card would do wonders for the woman who’s FFing her infant next to the noble card-winner, I’m sure. And it’ll totally encourage the woman with a hungry, FF-ed baby to whip out the bottle.

    Yeah…

  • Mattie

    I think we should normalise minding your own business unless you see something that puts a child in immediate physical or emotional danger, and then contacting the relevant authorities rather than taking the law in to your own hands.

    It’s not very catchy.

    • Cobalt

      #normalizedecency

  • sdsures

    Slightly OT: I notice that in your recent posts you’ve had a quote in larger font blocked off on the side. I like that. Please keep doing it.

    OT: Do moms who bottle-feed expressed breast milk, or FF, get such praise? They also fed their kids.

    • fiftyfifty1

      “OT: Do moms who bottle-feed expressed breast milk, or FF, get such praise? ”

      Hell no. The flyer makes it clear that you don’t even get praise for breastfeeding in “a secluded corner”.

      • sdsures

        “Hell no. The flyer makes it clear that you don’t even get praise for breastfeeding in “a secluded corner”.”

        I can’t come up with a polite response to that.

        • Azuran

          What if I don’t want to breastfeed in front of stranger? I WANT those secluded resting/nursing room.

    • Megan

      When I was pumping most people assumed I was feeding formula and I got rude comments but that’s just my experience.

      • sdsures

        There’s a name for people like that, but I don’t think Dr Amy would approve of my no-filter expression of it.

    • demodocus

      Sometimes I’d get a comment about bottle feeding, often asking what I was giving him. I swore I’d tell the next one “Whiskey”. I got far more “positive” comments when I nursed. I used quotations there because I didn’t find them positive.

    • Rosalind Dalefield

      In New Zealand, there have been cases where people bottle-feeding babies, whether with formula or breastmilk, have been openly harassed.

      • Chi

        Yep, I can attest to this via personal experience. I live in a smaller city in the North Island, and our local shopping center has had a few upgrades over the last 5 years or so. One of which is the construction of a snazzy ‘parents room’ with a playpen for older mobile children (complete with a tv and various books) a beautiful change bench (with 2 stations) with easy disposal of soiled nappies, and 2 cubicles with COMFY leather chairs to nurse in and curtains to draw for privacy if so desired.

        One time, my daughter was wet and hungry so I took her in there to change her and decided hey, since I’m here, may as well feed her as well. So I settled into one of the chairs and whipped out her bottle and proceeded to give her her lunch. I didn’t close the curtain cos a) I wasn’t showing boob and b) I wanted to keep an eye on the pushchair which I’d parked beside the playpen because there wasn’t enough room for it in the cubicle.

        A woman came in with her bub, noticed me and came over and told me in a snarky tone that the seats were MEANT to be for breastfeeding mothers and therefore I had NO right to be in one.

        I told her that this was a PARENTS room, designed to give PARENTS a safe space to feed and change their children. I then asked what her reaction would have been if I had been a dad feeding his infant in here and why it makes a difference that I’m a mother and bottle feeding. When she didn’t answer me I just smiled and said that how I feed my child is none of her business and it isn’t her place to dictate where I can and cannot do so. I then pointed out that the second cubicle was available for her use so what was the problem in the first place?

        She muttered something about how I should be breastfeeding and started heading to the other cubicle.

        I admit I got a little pissy at that point. I told her that she did NOT know my situation, that she didn’t know WHY I wasn’t breastfeeding and it was, again, none of her damn business. I told her she had NO right to judge me for my choices.

        And fortunately at that point my daughter had finished her meal. So I burped her and put her back in the pram. Before the woman could respond, I stormed out.

        I haven’t been back since if I can help it. All trips to the mall are planned for after meal/naptime.

        • guest

          What are bottle feeders supposed to do, feed children standing up all the time?

          Do you think she goes around scolding people on the bus who sit in designated elderly/disabled seats? A) there’s nothing wrong with sitting there when no one with a special need is present and there are other seats available, and B) need isn’t always visible. I’ve had a sprained ankle that didn’t require crutches before that made it very difficult to stand on a bus or train, but was nevertheless okay to walk on a bit. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

          • MegaMechaMeg

            Well, obviously if you don’t care enough to breastfeed you don’t want to hold your child while it has a bottle. All formula feeding moms are lazy and selfish and will prop the bottle while they play Candy Crush. #sarcasm

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            I prefer Cookie Jam myself.

          • guest

            Bottle feeding always required more of my attention, personally. When I was tandem nursing twins it was hands-free after the first month or two, and then I played Angry Birds on my iPod while they nursed.

            I tried to gaze lovingly into their eyes, but they both liked to nurse with their eyes closed.

          • Chi

            Oh apparently we’re SUPPOSED to feed them in the food court. Or anywhere else, just not in there because it’s a sanctified space for breastfeeding.

            Never mind the fact that my child was getting to the ‘having a cry because she was REALLY getting hungry’ stage and walking out to the food court and trying to find a seat that would accommodate the pushchair would have delayed it even more.

            That space was cozy and convenient and my child had a need. How is it different because I used a bottle and not my boobs?

      • sdsures

        *facepalm* I hope the parent has the good sense to tell those people to mind their own beeswax.

  • fiftyfifty1

    THANK YOU!

    Thank you for mirroring my choices back to me. There is nothing I crave more than validation and you are providing it. You thought you were just feeding your baby, minding your own business, but in reality you were playing a vital role in my self-absorbed drama.

    Breast Milk
    Every opportunity to relive My Glory Days, years after the fact, counts.

    • Rosalind Dalefield

      LOL, very well written.

    • sdsures

      Breast Milk has a personality now? It can have its feelings hurt!

  • Zoey

    This whole thing also reminds me of when I got into an argument with some local lactivists over the creation of special nursing rooms in malls or other public facilities. The lactivists were very opposed to these rooms, because they believed that women would feel like they had to breastfeed only in these rooms, and not out in public where breastfeeding could be normalized. So it wasn’t even enough for you to breastfeed your child to them, you had to do it such a way that other people could see you doing it. They felt the same way about stores that sold nursing covers.

    I found it so weird that they actively opposed things that might actually help more women to breastfeed (which is supposed to be their goal), but it makes sense if you think about their goal as not helping individual women to breastfeed, but rather as normalizing breastfeeding based on the Foucault definition.

    • Amy M

      Yeah, by what most people think, breastfeeding and bottle feeding are both normal. It would be abnormal to just latch the baby onto a cow, or to give the baby beer in the bottle. But lactivists actually mean “elevate” when they say “normalize” and then anyone breastfeeding has to jump on the bandwagon and breastfeed aggressively, to prove that breastfeeders are martyrs who are superior to formula feeders. (Note: I’m talking about extreme lactivists here, not your average mother who breastfeeds.)

      That’s insane, that lactivists would oppose a clean, private place to breastfeed. But like you say, they don’t care about helping women, they care about showing their superiority, and if they are in a private room away from the public, how will anyone know they are the good kind of mom?

    • Young CC Prof

      You know, sometimes the mother is perfectly willing to feed in public, but the baby won’t eat in public! When my son was around 4-5 months old, he went through a phase where he wouldn’t eat if there was anything more interesting going on, which made it difficult to take him places. A nice little booth where I could turn down the lights would have been awesomely useful.

      • fiftyfifty1

        What?! This sounds suspiciously similar to breastfeeding in a “secluded corner”. How can we remind formula feeding women that they are NOT NORMAL if you slink off to feed in a little booth?

      • Megan

        My daughter is still so distractable I can barely bottle feed her in public! Can I use the room too? 🙂

        • Cobalt

          Feeding is feeding.

    • Gatita

      Reminds me of anti-abortion activists opposing birth control.

    • Liz Leyden

      My local airport has a special room for nursing moms. When the local paper wrote an article about it, a local MD wrote a letter to the editor decrying the room’s electrical outlet for breast pumps, because pumping isn’t breast feeding.

      • Mattie

        If anything, it’s MORE important for women who pump to have somewhere private and clean and heck even comfortable, with electricity and perhaps a surface on which to rest their extra bottles/bags. What was that doctor smoking?

        • guest

          Seriously. I once pumped in a public restroom. It had no counters or chairs, so I had to balance in the accessible stall, trying to keep the bottles and flanges from touching the floor or anything else. I had to have my own battery pack, because no outlet. It’s pretty fiddly to undress, screw and unscrew all the various parts and hold the flanges in place while standing with no clean counter to use. And then get everything out of the stall to wash in a semi-clean public sink.

          And horror of horror, why was I pumping at all? Because I was attending an academic conference and left the babies with my parents for twelve hours at age six months. If I hadn’t pumped I would have been in extreme pain and leaking all over the place.

          I suppose a truly “normal” mother would never miss a feeding, not ever, for any reason.

        • Liz Leyden

          I suppose breastfeeding Moms never need to charge their cellphones while nursing.

          • Mattie

            Well yeh but if it’s between a mum that needs an outlet to pump and a mum who just needs to charge her cellphone then it’s more important that the pumping mum have somewhere to go. We have established that these rooms are great for all kinds of feeding but certain facilities within them may be more important for certain groups than others. Like a microwave may be more important for someone who needs to heat a bottle than it is for someone who wants to make a snack while they nurse lol

      • DaisyGrrl

        I’d be writing the doctor a thank you note for letting me know they can’t be trusted to care for patients. If that’s the nonsense they’ll spout off publicly, imagine what they tell their patients!

  • Taysha

    Never saw why it was anyone’s business where I put my boobs.
    I’ve had friends break down because they couldn’t continue breastfeeding and they felt they had failed their kids. Their kids are healthy and loved. No mother should ever be made to feel like a failure because others decide how her life should be.
    Kids grow. Kids don’t give a flying how you feed them. Before you know it, they’ll fish out mangy cereal from the floorboards and feed themselves.

    • Guest

      Floor noms are the fifth food group!

      • Megan

        And if my crawling baby had her way, dog food from the dog dish would be the sixth food group!

        • Taysha

          Cat food has more protein. Just saying…

          • Megan

            I’m sure she’d try that too! 🙂

          • Mattie

            if your baby is eating it anyway, then kitten food has even more protein =P

          • sdsures

            *gigglefit*

        • sdsures

          How about fish food? Ferret food? Bird seed?

          • Megan

            If it was within reach I’m sure she’d put it in her mouth! She’s not picky!

          • sdsures

            Good for her. Well on the way to beefing up her immune system. I played in the dirt on the farm where I grew up. I wish all kids had that sort of opportunity.

          • Megan

            Yes. My mother is horrified that I don’t sanitize everything she touches.

        • Rosalind Dalefield

          I have a photo of my eldest son chowing down on the kitty biscuits. He couldn’t even crawl at that stage either, he was still walrussing.

  • Amy M

    I thought we (Americans) lived in the land of individualism. Why is “normalizing” a good goal? If everyone did everything the same way, this place (USA) would be pretty boring, and many Americans chafe at the idea that they might be “following the herd” so to speak. There’s not much difference between “See? I’m just like everyone else” and “See? Everyone else is just like me.” Even if you are the bellwether, if you (coerce) everyone into copying your actions, eventually, you are indistinguishable from the crowd.

    • DelphiniumFalcon

      I was going to say something similar. What is this “normal” they keep speaking of? Normal nursing, normal pregnancy, normal birth, normal childhood (vaccine preventable) illness.

      Define “normal.”

      • Mattie

        OT (well sort of) I am on a facebook group for hypermobility support (UK) and one lady asked if HMS/EDS affects immunity, because her child gets ill all the time, has had rubella, measles, whooping cough and gets colds, flu etc… when asked whether she had the child vaccinated, of course not, they cause problems.

        • fiftyfifty1

          The child has had rubella, measles and whooping cough? All 3? My that is either extreme bad luck or a very poorly immunized herd.

          • Mattie

            Just checked and OP’s child had whooping cough and rubella, in comments were some more anti-vaxxers who’s children had had measles (one child had had measles 3 times, I didn’t know that was possible). Also OP refuses the DTAP vaccine as it’s the ‘most dangerous’ despite the fact that a child in Europe just died of diphtheria

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            one child had had measles 3 times, I didn’t know that was possible

            I call bullshit, but if it’s true, where’s all this “lifelong immunity” that is supposed to result from getting the disease?

          • Mattie

            Hasn’t there been research showing measles infection actually lowers immunity for a considerable time after, so maybe it is possible to get it multiple times (although I do question that myself too) eh best to get the vaccine anyway lol

          • Young CC Prof

            Unless there was a lab test, the likeliest explanation is that it wasn’t all measles. Still, who even knows?

          • Embrace Your Inner Crone

            Could have been German measles or roseola also.known as baby measles

        • DelphiniumFalcon

          …wouldn’t whooping cough potentially lodge a rib out of place or something depending on the type of hypermobility syndrome?! O_O Or is my ignorance showing?

          • Mattie

            it’s possible, it depends on how bendy the child is I guess. I know I get excruciating pain in my intercostals if I have a bad cough, also a lot of children with HMS/EDS have problems with asthma or other breathing issues…so really vaccination is crazy important

      • sdsures

        Or “natural”. *facedesk*

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I thought we (Americans) lived in the land of individualism. Why is “normalizing” a good goal?

      “Individualism is good! As long as we all do it together.” – Frank Burns, MASH

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I have no idea how common something has to be to be considered normal. Would they consider being left-handed normal? I do, but it is relatively rare. How common is red hair? 10%? Is that normal or not?

      And who the fuck cares?

      • Mattie

        My blood type is B- (only 2% of the population in europe shares my blood type) am I normal? Or even better, I’m asexual, I believe that’s 1% of the population…totally abnormal =P

      • Box of Salt

        Bofa, about 10% of the world is left handed, but only 1- 2% have red hair (hair color from Wikipedia; handedness from multiple sources explored due toI having a kid who is cross-dominant).

  • Gatita

    When I was breastfeeding and it was becoming clear that it wasn’t going to work out long term, I would’ve completely lost my shit had anyone given me a card like this. Stay the fuck out of my business. Not your place to give me that card like a dog being given a treat for performing a task correctly. You don’t know my life and why I’m making my choices.

    • Angharad

      Yes! This exactly. 1) I don’t need to be patronizingly praised for feeding my baby. 2) If a woman is going to be switching to formula, the praise can sound like condemnation of her plans, especially when worded like “Oh, it’s so great that you’re giving your baby the best start in life! Every drop counts!”

  • Zoey

    I am totally supportive of creating a societal norm where people know to STFU and let women choose when and where to breastfeed their baby without any sort of judgement or shame. Women should be able to feed their hungry baby wherever and whenever they choose without harassment.

    However, I’m not onboard with the broader goal of normalizing breastfeeding by “abnormalizing” any other feeding method (totally not a word, I know). A society where we point and whisper or ask intrusive questions to women that choose to formula feed is no better than one where people get asked to cover up while breastfeeding.

    You can achieve the first goal without the second goal. But we all know that’s not what lactivists actually want.

    • Amy M

      It would be something like: Congratulations! You fed your baby in public! Or, maybe: Congratulations, you saw someone feeding a baby in public and you kept your opinion about it to yourself! Maybe there should be cards like that.

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        Maybe we need to create a smartphone app for achievements like in video games. I probably shouldn’t give them ideas.

        I guess instead of having an e-penis for dick measuring contests with gamer scores these women could have whatever the female equivalent is with their “Mommy Score.”

        And like in the gaming community, anyone who incessantly brags about their score is promptly labled a “douche nozzel” or some similar epithet and avoided.

  • Guest

    I can see their point. Normalizing breastfeeding as a way to help women who wish to breastfeed easily do so without commentary by those who observe it. Much like normalizing interracial or gay marriage (do people even comment on biracial couples much anymore?). Making it so women who want to breastfeed do so easily and without public scorn is great.

    But the idea of thanking a woman for breastfeeding? Seriously, it’s just feeding a kid. I’d be rather offended if someone complimented me for breastfeeding my kids (and I’ve done it previously with two, currently with the third). Telling me my kiddo is cute, fine. Compliment away. She’s dimple-icious for sure! But complimenting me for breastfeeding (or baby wearing or using cloth diapers or feeding homemade baby food, all of which I do because it works for me)? That’s just weird. It’s like complimenting me for driving a red car instead of a grey one because red is safer and more visible (no idea if it’s true, just roll with me). Dude, they are both cars and both get me where I want to go! Who cares what color it is??

    • namaste863

      And choice of car color is entirely up to personal preference. Who cares if one person likes red, and another prefers green? It’s nobody else’s damn business. Actually, I saw a bit on the News a while back that pointed out that about 70% of cars these days are black, white, grey, and silver. I was thinking “How boring and monochromatic.” Thanking a woman for Bfing in public is weird and every bit as invasive as shaming her for BFing in public. They’re just two opposite sides of the same shitty coin.

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        If a random person came up to me while I was breast feeding, leaned over and said something like, “I just want to thank you for breast feeding in public!” Number one, I’d be like “Who the hell are you?” and number two, my boobs are for my baby and husband only, thank you. Not for your public commentary.

        It’s like people who rub pregnant women’s bellies without asking…

        • Mattie

          “It’s like people who rub pregnant women’s bellies without asking…” SO CREEPY

          When a close friend was pregnant with her third baby she asked if I’d like to feel the baby moving, it was so special and awesome, but like I didn’t think I had the right to do that every time I saw her…or even ask her, let alone go up to strangers.

        • demodocus

          That’s one advantage of most people thinking I was just getting fatter. Plus their later shock was amusing.

    • demodocus

      I was once complemented for my then-virginal state. My first thought was “It’s not difficult if no one has offered to change it.” How freaking inappropriate is it to ask your neighbor’s 16 year old if she’s had sex? (It wasn’t creepy in the asker-wants-to-change-this sense, just the wth one.)

    • Angharad

      Speaking from personal experience, yes, people do unfortunately still comment on biracial couples. Sometimes to their face. And they comment on mothers with babies who appear to belong to a different race. Which is all completely off topic, but one of my pet peeves.

      • Mattie

        what annoys me is that when someone comments on someone’s race or sexuality, people get mad at the commenter but when someone comments on a mother’s choices that’s seen as like ‘fair game’ which sucks

        • DelphiniumFalcon

          It always seems to me that a woman’s reproductive status and mothering behaviors are some of the last “acceptable” subjects that can be openly commented on or criticized without question.

          People don’t ever stop to think “When are you going to have kids?” Or “Why don’t you have any kids yet?” can be an extremely invasive question. Especially for a woman who may be unable to have children but wants them or is going through infertility treatments.

          • Mattie

            That’s true, it’s especially true with celebrity couples and I think stopping that (having famous couples call media out on it) will help to change that kind of thing…maybe.

        • Poogles

          Well….someone’s race or sexuality is not something within one’s own control, whereas mothering choices, ostensibly, are within the woman’s control.

          • Mattie

            Except they’re not always, because sometimes things don’t work out how you would like, or how you planned, and assuming you know the reasons for a stranger’s parenting choice is basically the same as assuming that you know their sexuality or that they chose to be that way (sexuality is still viewed as a choice by far too many people).

          • Poogles

            “Except they’re not always”

            I agree, thus the “ostensibly”.

          • Mattie

            Apologies, I think I thought that meant something else 🙂

          • Poogles

            Oh, no issue at all 🙂

      • Monkey Professor for a Head

        My husband is Indian and I’m white, and in the 8 years we’ve been together we’ve luckily only had a couple of negative comments to our face. But I’m sure that it varies depending on where you live and who you interact with. The most common comment we get is about how beautiful our children will be!
        If we were to get comments from strangers about how great it is that we are “normalising” interracial relationships, I would be super uncomfortable. I mean we’re not doing it to make a point, and it’s really not anyone’s business anyway. I’d feel the same way about getting comments when I breastfeed in public.

  • Amy Tuteur, MD

    Furious discussion continuing on Twitter. Feel free to join.

    • mostlyclueless

      Can you screenshot some of it for those of us not on twitter?

  • Ellen Mary

    That isn’t what Tara meant, Foucoult’s definition. And like it or not, Formula feeding became normalized in the 1950s & has stayed that way. Breastfeeding is still seen as niche or exotic. If we never see anyone breastfeeding in public, the public becomes less tolerant of it. So by BF in public, each woman creates an atmosphere where mothers will have greater freedom to feed how they see fit in public. In case you hadn’t noticed, most of the public believes that you can just pump breast milk into a bottle of you need to leave the house & if you choose to do otherwise you are an immodest exhibitionist.

    • Trixie

      People BF in public all the time. No one is saying women should be stopped from BF in public, least of all Dr. Amy.

      • Ellen Mary

        Read the comments of any BF article. The overwhelming majority feel that it should not be seen. I have had friends you would least expect harassed, a paramedic for feeding a newborn, a friend BF @ the YMCA childcare, etc. Those are just the ones that made the news. I am not talking a snide comment, I am talking a cease/desist or leave from management.

        • Taysha

          You and I have read very different comments. Most of the comments I’ve seen have been “I would never poison my child with formula because I’m not lazy”

          • Amy M

            I think it depends on the article. If the article is about a woman kicked out of a restaurant for breastfeeding, all the others who have had similar experiences come out. If its about “everyone should breastfeed” OR “formula is just fine, you know”, then the lactivists are there, to let everyone know they are better than formula feeders.

          • Cobalt

            Yup.

          • Ellen Mary

            Has anyone ever been asked to leave the premises of a public restaurant for bottle feeding? No.

          • Taysha

            How does that make it “the overwhelming majority”?
            Minus ten points to gryffindor for presuming I bottle fed.
            Ten points to myself for the times I have told people to leave breastfeeding mothers alone (what, isn’t that what mothers do for each other? Help out?)

          • Ellen Mary

            Please, I barely know your screen name, never mind have any notions about how you fed. Women do not get asked to leave the room or any public space for bottle feeding. And you know that.

          • Taysha

            “Has anyone ever been asked to leave the premises of a public restaurant for bottle feeding” Assumes I bottle fed
            But no, no one’s ever asked me to leave the restaurant. I have, however, voluntarily removed the screaming children to quieter venues (and even then, the restaurants I’ve been in were fantastically accommodating over colicky children)

          • momofone

            I got flak in a hair salon for bottle feeding my four-month-old–and it was breast milk, though the people sharing their unsolicited opinions didn’t know that. They went on about how I was “taking the easy way out.” Why be concerned about busybodies’ opinions? It just smacks of victimhood to me.

          • Megan

            “Why be concerned about busybodies’ opinions? It just smacks of victimhood to me.”

            Are you saying that it’s my own fault (or any new morher’s fault) if a stranger’s ridicule upset me? I don’t want to misinterpret your comment. Regardless of whether I should care about their comments or not, they were hurtful and made me feel ashamed at a time when I was hormonal and trying desperately but “failing” at breastfeeding. I certainly never tried to paint myself a victim but the comments did upset me.

          • momofone

            No, not at all–I think I need to edit to be clearer. What I meant was that EllenMary’s focus on what other people think smacks of victimhood to me. I’m sorry that my comment came across that way.

            I was upset when it happened, but it ended up being a turning point too, in that it was when I shifted away from explaining what I was doing, to just doing what I needed to and doing the in-one-ear-and-out-the-other thing. (I’m not saying anyone else should do that, just that it was what worked for me.)

          • Megan

            Thanks. Now if I were to get a comment I wouldnt care but as a new mom I already felt like I was failing my baby when I couldnt EBF. I just wish people would leave moms alone. The vast majority of mothers want to do the best they can for their baby and are already “educated” about feeding methods.

          • Megan

            And women who breastfeed in public are protected by law so that they can’t be asked to leave. So we’re back to harassment by strangers for both choices and that’s not ok regardless. How people feed their babies should be a complete non-issue, so how about we all “normalize” minding one’s own damned business?

          • Ash

            re: law, in the US I believe every woman can BF wherever she is legally allowed by law except Idaho (Idaho has no such law on the books)

        • momofone

          The “overwhelming majority” are the choir to which someone is preaching if that’s the only source for your claim. I just don’t get caring whether someone who is not my child’s other parent is supportive of the decisions I make as a parent.

    • momofone

      But we are not bound by what “most of the public” (I’d be interested in your sources for that claim) believe, assuming that claim is correct. Do what works for you. When I was breastfeeding, I always found it intrusive that some people believed that meant I bore the responsibility of “normalizing” it. Parents bear the responsibility of feeding their babies. How and where and what are entirely up to them.

    • Megan

      If formula feeding is so “normalized” then why have I faced ridicule by complete strangers for formula feeding my baby? What needs to become “normalized” is that people mind their own business when it comes to how other moms feed their babies.

      • Ellen Mary

        Have you ever been asked to leave by management? A stranger is one thing, a person in authority over a space is another. Ridicule is unacceptable, but it is a horse of a different color to be formally ejected from a public space by authority figures.

        • Taysha

          Actually, as it’s a federal offense to eject a nursing mother, you can really lay it on thick with management.
          So…go nuts, dear.

          • Ash

            (USA) there is a federal law re: breastfeeding on federal property.

            There is also federal law about Break Time for Nursing Mothers.

            There is no federal law for all of the USA for if the woman and her child are otherwise authorized to be present at the location.

          • Megan

            You are correct. It is governed by state laws. Thank you for correcting.

            All states protect breastfeeding women except South Dakota, Virginia and Idaho. In South Dakota and Virginia breastfeeding women are exempt from public nudity and indecency laws though. Idaho is the only state with no law at all to protect breastfeeding women.

          • Liz Leyden

            Even in places where eating is not allowed? When I lived in Boston I remember news stories about breastfeeding women being ejected from pools and courtrooms, both places where no one is allowed to eat.

          • Megan

            It depends on the state but usually if you are legally allowed to be present there, you are allowed to breastmilk feed your baby there.

          • Megan

            That was supposed to just say “breastfeed your baby”. I swear, I need to learn how to turn off autocorrect!!!

        • Megan

          I was not asked to leave, no. But just because breastfreding moms have had that kind of treatment doesn’t mean it’s ok to shame formula feeding moms either. No one should face ridicule for heir method of feeding. It should be a total non-issue.

        • Megan

          And incidentally, I received praise for the times I breastfed in public.

        • Trixie

          No. I have not.

        • demodocus

          Neither have I, and I nursed my kiddo all over the place.

        • FEDUP MD

          I nursed both my kids for extended periods, the last over a year, many times in public with no cover, and no one ever said anything to me, or even gave me a stink eye. And I live in the Bible Belt.

    • AL

      Umm no, I hadn’t noticed. I felt crappier when I had to give my oldest son a bottle of formula than when I publicly breastfed my 2 younger kids. By baby #2 and #3, I usually didn’t even bother covering myself up because it was too damn hot. I don’t know where you live, but where I am I felt more comfortable breastfeeding in public than I did giving a bottle because I felt more judgy eyes on me when I gave bottles. Unfortunately, lactivist propaganda does a good job of shaming women before their kids are even born to let them know that you are inadequate if you don’t breastfeed.

      • Ellen Mary

        Whether or not you ‘feel uncomfortable’ you will never be asked to leave in a formal manner. Police don’t have to pull over ever speeding driver to police speeding, likewise if only every 10th woman is formally harassed in her BF career, it still has a policing affect on all women.

        • Taysha

          formally harassed as opposed to publicly harassed? Or having comments thrown in her direction how she must be lazy for bottle feeding? Or stupid, since she obviously didn’t research enough to breastfeed?
          Having someone in your face about your choices is harassment, regardless of where it comes from. You are implying that no woman is allowed to breastfeed in peace in a public space when I have seen them by the dozens, undisturbed.
          maybe you want to bring it up with your local authorities if it’s such a pervasive event where you live.

          • Ellen Mary

            No, I am saying that not every driver who speeds is pulled over, but when anyone is pulled over, everyone slows down. Likewise I am saying that some peer level stranger talking to you is bad, but being formally ejected from a space by the management/owner of that space is worse. Because a stranger talking to you is harassment, but in the moment, you have to defer to the preferences of the manager/owner.

            And yeah, it was more common when I didn’t live right up on a major university, but most women can’t just relocate to a college town if they want to live their lives & BF.

          • momofone

            I’d check that if I were you; you don’t have to defer to a manager’s preferences if you’re within your legal rights to be where you are. But if you’d rather be the victim, you can choose that too.

          • Mattie

            I do agree that legally women have the right to breastfeed wherever they themselves are legally allowed to be, but nobody wants to get in a fight when they’re just trying to feed their baby.

            I am all for ‘normalising’ and telling people about the laws that protect breastfeeding mothers, maybe if more people who broke those laws and harassed women were prosecuted then it would send a stronger message

          • Taysha

            No, you don’t. By law, you don’t. And you can nail them for discrimination.

        • AL

          Every 10th woman is formally asked to stop breastfeeding publicly? Where are you getting these stats or are you making it up? Did you do a study or survey? If so please link us to these stats.
          If someone told me to stop breastfeeding I would tell them nope, because I have every legal right to per my state laws. But please don’t make it out like it happens all the time. It doesn’t. I breastfed both my younger kids in public ALL THE TIME until they were 15 months and no one cared. The only time someone ever commented was by an older woman who comically said “My have times changed! When I had my baby all the moms had bottle in one hand, cigarette in the other.”

          • Fallow

            Yeah, no one ever commented when I breastfed in public. It was almost like no one cared what I did, or like they had better things to do than get up in a strangers business, or something. Shocking, I know!

    • OttawaAlison

      Really? I don’t think it was ever fully normalized insofar that all moms did it and didn’t BF. I mean I was born in 1977 at a time when most women didn’t breasftfeed, but 25% of women did breastfeed. That is still a large number, it never completely disappeared. My mom BFed all of us. She didn’t do it as a statement at all.
      I know there are people still uncomfortable with seeing women breastfeed in Public, but where I live, it is pretty much just as frequent or more frequent for younger babies as bottlefeeding is.

    • fiftyfifty1

      So what’s your point Ellen Mary? That since at one time some women were made to feel bad about breastfeeding that the rightful way to correct the problem is to praise breastfeeding women and hold the up as the ideal?