April 29, 2007

Making Milk Public Controversy

I don't even know how to preface the article below... the writer's email is included as well as my response to him.

Making Milk Public Controversy

By: Charles Winokoor, business writer

So there I was grocery shopping the other day when, just as I reached for a
quart of skim milk, I noticed the strangest thing.

Women - mothers, to be exact - began dropping to the floor and
breast-feeding their babies. Hurrying out of the dairy section, I found myself surrounded by pet supplies, but again was confronted with a surrealistic sight: Unsupervised
canines and tabbies relieving themselves willy nilly, and then sauntering
off to leave the mess for the night crew to clean up.

Get out now, I told myself, as the sweat trickled down my brow. And wouldn't
you know it, just as I scurried past the Health & Beauty aisle I spied a group of men, shirts off, nonchalantly spraying and rolling their underarms with the deodorizer of their choice.
Decorum precludes me from detailing what I witnessed in the place where they sell the Charmin.

Knocking over a shopping cart with a child's seat, I ran into the parking
lot and headed for my car to make a getaway. As I fumbled for my key, I realized it was too late; I was surrounded.
Waking up in bed, I took stock of my nightmare. What in the world had inspired my subconscious to unleash such nocturnal torment? Then it came to me. It was nothing more mysterious than this week's story about a Hingham mom who managed to cause a stir by breast-feeding her infant in the middle of a store.

Last Friday,
Brockton cardiologist Dr. Melissa Tracy, while shopping in the South Hingham iParty store, dropped to the floor and began breast-feeding her ostensibly starving 2-month-old child.

"Rather than let him become hysterical, I sat down on the floor and
breast-fed him," Tracy told the Boston Herald. What happened next, she said, caused her to feel humiliated. The store manager, a regular Darth Vader it seems, had the gall to admonish her. "He stood over me and said 'You can't do that here,' " she was quoted. "I've never felt that badly before."

Feeling emotionally scarred, Tracy did the honorable and proper thing: She
ratted out the iParty blue meanie to his corporate superiors - who issued a knee-jerk, please-don't-hit-me mea culpa, faster than CBS Radio and MSNBC gave Don Imus the bum's rush.

What she's failed to mention, either in print or on TV, is why she was so
compelled to plop to the floor instead of walking to the ladies room. Would she have jeopardized her child's welfare, his very life, if she had simply made the effort? Or was she more interested in making a point about who she is and what she thinks she represents? During a TV interview, her husband said in his native Germany breast-feeding in public is an accepted practice and one that is "not vulgar."

Not vulgar for sure - but how about annoying? Not the act of breast-feeding,
mind you, but the behavior of well-educated parents who want to impose their version of an enlightened society upon the rest of us, without regard to our sensibilities.

That sort of selfish, guerilla mentality is not just inconsiderate to those
of us backward Americans who are not used to seeing babies suckling while we're shopping for party supplies or dog food, it's also unfair to the companies whose employees are only trying to do the right thing. Now, if any business - be it retail chain, a local independent store or a car dealership - announces a policy explicitly allowing open breast-feeding then that's their prerogative. But one also has to ponder how this type of adult-baby behavior will eventually affect the child.

No wonder there's a legion of kids nowadays who have grown up thinking
they're extra-special, entitled and oh-so-superior; after all, it's been imbedded into their id since they were fed mother's milk. This whole silly episode reminds me, in a way, of the case of the "flying imams," six religious Muslims who were removed from a flight last November
after they insisted on standing up in the plane for evening prayers. They knew exactly what they were doing. They wanted publicity and they got it, in spades.

That's not to say the good doctor from Brockton intended, ahead of time, to use her breast-feeding as a publicity stunt to teach the rest of us a good lesson. From what I've read and heard, she comes across as a decent, sincere individual.

What I do suggest to her and other mothers who act rashly, and then condemn anyone who complains, is to grow up before your child does. And next time you go shopping with your infant in your arms, try bringing along a baby bottle.

Charles Winokoor is the business writer for the Taunton Daily Gazette.

Dear Mr. Winokoor,

I was out an outdoor shopping mall with a friend and our two babies. They needed to nurse, so we found a nice shaded bench outside and sat down to nurse. We did not make a scene and we did not feel like we had to be on display for all to see that we were 'breastfeeding our babies because we have the right!' or because it's the best way to parent our babies. We were only thinking of our babies needs at that time. It in no way inconvenienced anyone else. Especially those that walked about with their shopping bags around us.

No way would I nurse my baby in a bathroom if I had a perfectly good bench, chair, or even a floor in a store. Check the ladies restroom next time YOU'RE at the grocery store and tell me if you see a nice bench or chair in there. And then, yuck- would you want to eat in there?

Why in the world should I bottle-feed my baby (requiring bottles, a breast pump, inconvenience) when I have (for free) two perfectly fine breasts to feed my child?

I think those that choose to be offended by a mother feeding her baby are doing just that: CHOOSING to be offended. You are trying to place the selfishness on the mother who probably has had little sleep and needs all the support she can get, Mr.!


  1. P.S. I still feel like my response went way too easy on him- there are so many offensive things he's said, so I hope that you will voice your opinion to him, too! I am sure he'll get his share of flaming responses... I did want mine to come across as very rational and calm. It wasn't easy!!


  2. I will be writing as well (once I cool off a bit!)

    I can't believe this! Especially those last few lines!

  3. This fellow never had a child who had no earthly idea about what to do with a baby bottle.

    I nursed all my babies and once when I was nursing my first was asked to leave the military PX because someone was offended. Granted I was swathed with a blanket and no skin was showing. No baby was even showing!

    People are going to get their back up about all sorts of things. Frankly I find some beachwear more off-putting than nursing babies. I think too many people have forgotten what we are about as humans. And also, if the chain of dog food can get so contaminated, who's to say what's in formula.

  4. Nice response! What universe does this guy live in?

  5. I will definately be writing this man.

    Nothings bothers me more than the stupidity and lack of knowledge when it comes to people understanding breastfeeding. It is by far the best thing that we as mothers can do to help start our babys in the healtiest direction.

    God did not give us breast for men, he gave them to us for our children.

    Thank you for putting this article on here, now it gives us all a chance to try and inform this man of why breastfeeding is so important, whether it be at home or out in public.

  6. What an arrogant, uneducated idiot! Urgh, this kind of attitude really boils my blood.

    God gave me two breasts on my chest to feed my children with, not to push up in a Victoria Secret bra for a man's viewing pleasure. I'm sure the author of the article wouldn't have asked a woman with her T&A sticking out in a sexually provacative outfit to go tuck herself away in the bathroom because it was offending his sensibilities. What a loser.

    I have never once breastfed in public to promote breastfeeding to others. I only do so because my child needs to be fed. If he or anyone else doesn't like it or finds it unattractive they can certainly just avert their eyes. Nothing hard about JUST NOT LOOKING AT ME if it bothers you.

  7. I think I've mentioned this before -- our nation has a long way to go in accepting breastfeeding as a way to FEED a baby. It's not this sexual or private moment, but a way for a child to get food....nourishment....gee wiz!

  8. 36 years ago I nursed my then newborn while walking around Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. I was well covered so nothing was exposed since I had come prepared with a blanket. Absolutely no one seemed to notice much less complain even though there were a lot of people also walking around that lake at that time including your father and grandmother, Stephanie. Granted we were in Colorado which seems to be more open to breastfeeding, even then.

  9. Just a friendly reminder that God gave us breasts for two reasons, not just breastfeeding, but for ours and our husbands pleasure too. I know you're all trying to make a point, but cut the guy a little slack. Some women do need to at least cover up a bit when nursing in public. I didn't see him as bashing us as women, but just saying that there is sometimes a better place (and I DON'T mean the restroom!) to feed our babies. If we know our babies are going to be hungry, then can't we be less selfish and just feed them before we leave? Sometimes we do these things selfishly, like going out and dragging our kids along, when we know they have needs too. I am in full support of breastfeeding, and I think it's great if we can feel comfortable nursing in public, just use a little discretion, and don't condemn those who feel uncomfortable. We've all have things that bother us, that are not necessarily right or wrong. Please don't judge others so harshly.

  10. I sent him an email myself...in it I made it clear he is not quite clued in to what nursing mother deem important. I do not believe a nursing mother is out to make a statement. We are not looking at you and saying, YOU ARE SO IMPORTANT TO US WE MUST MAKE A STATEMENT TO YOU AND PROVE HOW RIGHT WE ARE...rather, we are giving our children life through a blessing we have been bestowed. I also commented on the fact that we are not allowed to comment on a not so straight couple walking down the street holding hands because that would be offensive but he can rant at us for FEEDING OUR CHILDREN! Ok...I was REALLY hot over this article...hope I wasnt' too ugly in my email...that was not my intent...UGH!

    And for the record, I ALWAYS covered myself. I am not showing ANYTHING.

  11. Here Here! You did an awesome replay! Argh! Its so silly why people get annoyed with it! Keep up the good work!

  12. To Stacy:

    The reason I think your argument is bunk is because no one complains about seeing practically naked women on the covers of magazines at the check out in grocery stores, teens wearing sweat pants with words like "tempting" written across their butts, women who wear such revealing tops their bras are exposed, skirts that are so short and ride so low on the hips that the thong strings are exposed. No one complains because being sexually provactive is acceptable in our society. It is an enormous double standard to shame women for nursing babies with their breasts especially since every single woman I've ever known who has publically breastfed has made great efforts to be discreet.

    Really, if anyone is being selfish it is the people who expect that the breasts should only be used for the one purpose you suggested- sexuality- and not for their INTENDED purpose, which is to feed a baby milk. How dare someone deny me the right to feed my child? Why should I care about the double standard sensibilities of people who are OK with me letting my breasts hang out if they can get a good look because they are sexually provactively showcased in a tight top but not if they see a glimpse of my chest above my baby's head as I am sitting on a bench in the mall to feed her when she is hungry? As for feeding before I leave to go places, sometimes that is possible and sometimes it isn't. I have traveled long ways with my child via car and plane- sometimes I cannot help but nurse on the go. I also demand breastfeed and some days she wants to nurse more than other days, even if we are out in public and I wasn't planning on it.

    So, if Little Kim can show up to the Grammy's with a pasty on her nipple and that is OK with the world at large then I expect to be afforded the right to nurse my child where and when I see fit without rude, intrusive people complaining about it. Like I said in my first post, if someone doesn't want to see me nursing then they should just not look. Nothing hard about that- actually, complaining and writing long articles about why their personal comfort supercedes my baby's nutrional needs takes a lot more effort than just averting their eyes.


  13. There are so many ignorant things that enrage me about that article, I don't know where to begin. I would suggest this clown, and anyone who took offense to the most natural act IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD to travel outside this ethnocentric country and experience places that embrace the wonder of not only CREATING a child, but then SUSTAINING it by your own body. Jeez.

  14. Stacey and Mr. Winokoor,

    Breasts produce milk, milk to feed my baby. Bottles carry milk, milk to feed my baby. In both situations, a mother is caring for her child and feeding her baby. Why then, is it not at all disgusting for a mother to stick a bottle in her babies mouth in public? Why does no one feel embarrassed when a bottle is whipped out? I feed my baby with my breasts, another feeds her baby with a bottle, but we are both just feeding our babies.


  15. Great response!

    I fed my baby in the bathroom a few times before I realized how awful tha was and began feeding my baby wherever I needed to. I just covered up and we did our thing.
    Thanks for sticking up for us breast feeding moms!

  16. Wow.. I have to say i nursed my son all over the place and thank god i never got any rash looks or comments because I would have flipped.. The most natural thing on earth.. What does the guy do when he is starving and in a restaraunt?? does he go to the bathroom and eat???

  17. You go, girl. You've gotta be FUH-REAKIN' kidding me. This sort of stuff really gets under my skin.

  18. To Kiki, Jess, and those who misunderstood me:
    I certainly stated that I have no problem with breastfeeding in public, in fact, I breastfed my son too, and I'm planning on doing the same thing again when my baby is born this August. I think we all just need to take a deep breath, and cool off for a minute.

    Sure there are those idiots out there who have stupid ideas about breastfeeding, but let's not get our panties in a knot over it! We can only do our part, which is to feed our babies in a safe and discreet manner. Just because other women feel the need to show their breasts to the world in skimpy clothing does not mean that a breastfeeding mom needs to. I personally DO take offense to those scantily clad women prancing around wearing next to nothing. It bothers me a lot, because I know that there are guys out there who just can't handle that. So, I think that to do our part in making this world a better place, we should stop making this a war zone, and just love those around us; our babies and those who may not understand our point of view. Speak in love, not out of anger. Us moms get really riled up over these issues it seems, and it doesn't do anyone any good.

    I don't think that breastfeeding is a disgusting thing that needs to be hidden. I do believe however, that I am to care about others like I care about myself and my family, so if that means that I have to cover up, or find a more comfortable place, then I will. My baby will be fed, and those around me won't have any issues.

    And Jess, I only stated that breasts were created for more than one reason, not that they are exclusively sexual, or excusively milk machines! After all, how did we all get prego in the first place? It wasn't by thinking motherly thoughts! I certainly believe that BOTH uses are important. Whether you like it or not, God created us to please each other sexually too, within a healthy marriage. If the only purpose of breasts is to nurse babies, then why don't we only develop them when we are pregnant?

    I hope I can challenge women to think outside of the box for a while. Don't jump to conclusions about others so easily. I actually feel a bit hurt by some of the comments made here, because they are made out of anger toward me for not saying exactly what you think I should say. Please reread my comments, and hopefully you will see that I really do believe that breastfeeding is a wonderful thing.

  19. LOL Steph yeah I think you went a bit easy on this man. :)

    NOW I see some of his points and then I want to smack him upside his head with others.. UGH.. telling breastfeeding mothers they need to grow up before there child does.. HONESTLY!!!! This makes me want to smack him.
    I am a mother of 4. the 1st 2 I bottle feed and the 2nd two I nursed. Out of the two I nursed I nursed the 1st one for 29 months and I'm still nurseing Little Man who will be turning 2 years old in May. I nursed Sweet Pea(the 1st one I nursed) In public all the time, I never used the blanket it just screamed look at me I"m nurseing and I didn't want to drawl attention to myself.. I"m not very breasty so her head and my shirt took care of covering me very well and I was never flashing a boob to those around me.. Most of the time I would be nurseing her and noone would know i was doing it they just thought I was holding her close or something. Little Man came along and let just say he wasn't a baby you want to be nurseing in public.. he was the sort that would pop off the boob to look for every little sound he heard.. So I found myself trying the blanket thing, He would have no part in that either he didn't want his head covered at all while he ate, so I found myself looking for a room where noone was, or a bathroom if I must(though in a public store if my car was closer that is where I go only because of the ewwwww factor of some public restrooms) There has been time I was not around a open room, a bathroom or my car so I had to nurse him in public just with my other hand ready to cover quickly if he was to look around. I have never set out to nurse in public to prove a point(well I did that a few time infront of my MIL who didnt like the fact that I wanted to nurse I was just a little evil that way LOL)but in public I don't like nurseing infront of men, I would rather be out of there sight, but there are time that can't be helped.
    So that is what makes me want to smack the man..

    NOW.. I know and I have meet some die hard BFing mama who are out to prove a point to all the world, who will just pop those babies out there for all the world to see(and i"m not talking there hungry child) So I can see where a person might get that impression and want to write something like that.
    The reason I bottle feed my 1st 2 children was that is what I thought everyone did that is how I was raised, everyone in my family and my DH family did that.. BUT my biggest reason was.. while I was PG with my 1st DH and I was in a grocery store and right there infront of everyone a mother sat in the middle of the floor lifted up her shirt where DH and I got a eye full of everything(she didnt have a bra on either) she just didn't pull out one side she lifted up her whole shirt and started to feed her baby fulling explosed in public. This isn't hear say I saw it with my own two eyes and so did DH.. I was so turned agaist BFing at that point that I never even gave it a 2nd thought.. It took almost 6 years to have some cyber friends convince me to give it a try.. and when i did choice to try it on my 3rd child. I promissed myself I would never feed in public(LOL so much for that promise) Then my little sticker sweet pea refused a bottel from day one until she was 2 1/2 years old.. she wouldn't even take milk out of a sippy cup if the milk didn't come right from mommy she wasn't drinking.. Now I wouldn't even try to force a bottle on a baby if I was there. BF is just so much easier then pumping and bottle feeding..

    MY DH while he doesn't mind me feeding infront of him, he doesn't want me feeding infront of other men, so if i can go some place He would rather I do. if I can't he understands and no biggie.. he looks at it the same way as if I was wearing a shirt cut down to my belly button, he wouldn't mind me where it at home infront of him but not out for the world to see ;) He also doesn't want to see other nurseing mama's tatas.. so if a mother is nurseing her baby he would never ask that mother to leave but he would leave the room. not because he thinks it gross but because he is uncomfortable with it.. So I get that.. and I try to think of others while nurseing in public as much as I can.. so if a bathroom is around and my child is not screaming bloody muder and wanting/needing to nurse right then and there.. I'll think of others and try to go some place more privite.
    Now guys.. I'm an extended BFer.. So Yes I know my chest is there to feed my babies.. but I have to agree with Stacy on this one, I'm a women also and I happen to like the way they fit nicely into those cute victoria secret bras ;)
    BUT I'm only showing those to my DH.. not the world.

    I guess my point is.. this upset me because of the way the man came across. oh and that last comment set me on fire.. but seeing what I have saw, and knowing women who feeds there babies in public to make a point.. I can also see where he is coming from(to a point).

  20. I was in Paris, France 8 years ago with my hubby and our 7 month old who was exclusively nursed. He being our first child, I always worried where I nursed and tried to find as many totally private places as possible. One day on our trip I sat down to have my portrait painted by a local artist on the hill at Mont Marte. The baby started screaming with hunger and no he did not take a bottle. I asked the artist if I could stop so I could go nurse my baby and his response was quite different from what I experienced in North America. Breastfeeding and breasts in general are viewed much differently over there. Breastfeeding was no big deal but a very natural process of life. The mothers there don't cover up or hide to feed their children. It is very comfortable and natural and relaxed. That's there and as they say... when in Rome!!

    Now I know things are different here. I would never just open up my blouse and plop out a boob and nurse while people pass me by (I didn't do that in France either). I do believe in modesty! I've seen that behaviour out of more "natural" types or those who want to make a statement. You wouldn't expose yourself like that at any other time, why now?

    I am thankful though that more and more places up here (In Canada) are renovating their malls, stores and areas for breastfeeding moms. Large, bright rooms with couches and all the necessities you would ever want and need.

    I can't help but think... what if she took a different approach? Instead of tearing down the employee or store, protesting the place, making a scene... she would have encouraged them (in a positive manner) to improve their store by making it more family friendly. Helped them achieve that.

    (The same thing goes for putting change tables in the men's bathrooms!!)

    What's the old saying... you can catch more bees with honey?! :-)

    I believe more can be achieved this way in so many areas of our lives.

  21. after reading my post.. about my DH leaving a room if a mother is nurseing.. That is more like if we are at a church funtion or a party of sorts where there are other rooms to go. If we are at a resturant he wont' get up up an leave.. or anything like that LOL.. Now if we are shopping and a mother is sitting in one spot of the story he will walk to a different part and go back for what he wants in that spot later.
    I don't find that offensive either.. I find that kind. I almost wish all men would do that. Because there is nothing I hate more then to find myself sitting in the middle of a store and have people trying to shop reaching over me or have a man walk by and sort of stop and stair for a bit.. It's like move on already. I'm not doing this for you.

    Ok i have wrote a book tonight I'll stop commenting now..

    how rude am I, sorry Steph for such long comments. :)

  22. REferring to Kc's comment: I dunno, when men immeidately go to another room, it makes me feel really awkward like I'm doing something private or I'm exposing myself in front o f them or something. I really like it when they act like nothings going on and, of course, dont' stare! LOL! But, sometimes I don't think men are staring to see boobs. I think they are just surprised and don't see babies nursing alot. And, I wouldn't expect a man to do that more in a church than a restaurant. Jesus was Breastfed wasn't he? LOL! JMO.

    Steph-What in the heck? The comment this guy made about kid's these days feeling extra special and oh-so superior and blah..blah...blah... was there a point? Is it because we breastfeed on demand, that he thinks kid's turn out with that kind of attitude? I didn't get that part...or the rest of his whining at all!!!! LOL!

    Are you going to email him a link to your blog so that he can read all the comments??

  23. Stacy-

    I am not angry, I am simply frustrated. How can you expect nursing mothers to not get upset over this when fairly often we are confronted with articles which denigrate public nursing? I have seen debates on TV (Dr. Phil maybe?) as well as that famous rabbi who gives advice to families in trouble about this topic- the rabbi actually goes so far to suggest that breastfeeding hurts the marriage because the breasts should be reserved for the husband's pleasure! Or the woman who was told she was not allowed to nurse her baby on an airplane a few months ago? I would bet that during the time that I've nursed I've either watched on TV or seen an article promoting this discriminatory attitude towards women who choose to nurse in public at least once a month.

    I stand by every single comment I wrote and I think we are going to have to agree to disagree. As long as there are people who are nervy enough to write against my right to publicly breastfeed I will continue to fight for mine and my daughter's right to do so. It seems to not matter how discreet women choose to be when they nurse, someone is always going to complain about it- THAT is what I have a problem with.

    The thing that strikes me the most about this entire discussion is that most nursing mothers realize that nursing breasts are not sexual. Because most people in the US have not seen a woman actually breastfeeing in the last few generations, yet the sexualization of the woman's body and breasts has increased dramatically, people are uncomfortable seeing the breasts perform any other function than one that makes men happy. If we continue to sit in bathrooms and huddle under blankets this negative attitude will continue on, because it makes it appear like we agree that we need to be in hiding. Likewise, I have no problem if a woman is not comfortable publicly nursing- her choice but I do not want her personal feelings on the matter to direct my own behavior. I have no motive while I am breastfeeding anywhere except to feed my daughter, but it is a perfectly normal and acceptable thing to do with my body and hopefully at some point our society will mature and evolve enough to respect their function (like most places in the world who already do!).

    I guess what made me so incredibly frustrated with your comments is that you expect a nursing pair to be overly solicitous to our detractors when we are not receiving much support from anyone other than our own tight-knit community. If we don't stand up for ourselves and our children's right to eat when they are hungry despite our location, I can assure you that no one else is going to step in and do it for us. As long as people (especially MEN) choose to write these sorts of articles I will continue to voice my opinion. I will not cave under the guise of "kindness" and "unselfishness" when I am not being selfish or unkind by publicly nursing my daughter.

  24. So...okay. I emailed him. I'll probably post it later this afternoon, but for now I'm off to take a final exam.

  25. All I can say is, I breastfed 4 children and thought it was a beautiful way to care for my children. I do also know that breasts ARE sexual and ARE intended for the pleasure of my husband - check your Bibles ladies. Stacey is on the mark here and yes, some women are choosing to be offended and lash out. What would Jesus do???? We'll all stand before Him one day and answer for how we treated others. If someone offends you, you have a choice to make - bottom line.

  26. Alright, ladies... I thank you so much for the awesome dialogue we got going here in the comments! I think it's great! But I am going to close comments now and encourage you to continue the discussion on your own blogs if you wish!!!


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