This weekend I was sitting in a park in Paris with Courtney and Emilie, feeding Casper. The three of us were talking about breastfeeding in public, and Courtney then took this photo of Casper and me which started up a discussion: Could we post this photo? Would we post this photo?
When I had my first baby I was much more shy about my boobs than I am today. Yes, I would breastfeed in public, but first I would find a dark corner somewhere and I made sure my boob and baby were covered with a scarf completely. I had the feeling breastfeeding in public was frowned upon, and it should be done in private.
Now, 8 years and 4 babies later, I don’t feel that I have to cover myself completely anymore. I’m so much more comfortable! I feel I am breastfeeding my baby, which is a very natural and beautiful thing to do, and I think I shouldn’t have to be shy about it. I also have the feeling that these last years, breastfeeding in public has become a bit more acceptable; people are getting used to it now and the general feeling about it seems to be more relaxed. Which is so great!
So, I decided to be bold and bare (!) and post a photo of me feeding Casper in a public park in Paris. Is it too much you think? Do you breastfeed in public? Would you? I would love to hear your thoughts about it.
PS Joanna Goddard, who just had her second baby (a beautiful little boy called Anton), wrote a great post about breastfeeding in public here.
PPS Following up on our discussion in the park, Emilie sent me this link — a fabulous poem by Hollie McNish which helped me decide to indeed post this photo here. Nobody should have to feed her baby in a public restroom.
Great photo and great post!
Kudos! I only wish that all people/countries/communities were as tolerant of something that nature intended. No animal gets shamed for feeding their young, why should humans?! Beautiful post and pic. xxx
When you think about it logically it seems utterly ludicrous that mothers should feel like they have to cover themselves up to breastfeed there children. I breastfed my son in public but I used a breastfeeding bib to cover ourselves. Not because I was shy or ashamed I happily sunbath topless but because of other people, I didn’t want anyone to make a comment and more than that I didn’t want to make people feel uncomfortable seeing me, I could go on about it forever but for some reason we’re more comfortable seeing Amy 19 from Essex with her boobs out on page 3 than doing what they are designed for and feeding your own child. I think this picture is beautiful, perhaps we should have a photo of breastfeeding mums ever day in the paper to get people over themselves!
Nadia, therein lies the problem. That people have come to see breast as something sexual. If a show is canceled for it’s nudity, people are shocked and start to criticize all the “prudes”. This group of brainless youknowwhat would rather see a picture of a a girl showing here breasts. If an actress shows her breasts in a film, a photograph is taken of a nude woman, or a woman is painted and her breasts are showing they call it artful and beautiful. But once they see a woman breastfeeding her child in public, that woman is called atrocities, it is shameful, degrading, etc…Go figure.
On another note, I’m glad Esther wrote about this because this subject needs to be debated and talked about more often. I don’t know about other countries, but here in the US, a week doesn’t seem to go by when there isn’t a news story about a mother kicked out of a public place because she was breastfeeding. On of the most recent stories was about a Belgian diplomat and his wife who where kicked out of a country club because she was breastfeeding her baby and it made everyone uncomfortable, the sheriff even showed up. The worst part is that most commenters were on the side of the country club and other customers.
I find people being uncomfortable with public breastfeeding utterly ridiculous. I’m 24 and don’t have kids, but when and if I do, I will breastfeed them whenever they get hungry and if that is at a cafe then so be it, why should I hide to feed my baby? If people get hungry, you don’t ask them to eat in private or to eat in the bathroom.
I love this photo of you two. I think it’s so sweet and it really captures such a tender moment.
As you know, I am a big fan of breastfeeding. How wonderful that we can go anywhere with our babies and be able to feed them anywhere and anytime. So easy!
I agree with you that it’s a natural process and should not be frowned upon in public. If women feel comfortable enough to feed their babies in a park, in a restaurant, on the bus, (etc.!) they should do so without any hesitation.
It’s one thing if the woman doesn’t feel comfortable baring her breasts in public – but it’s a different thing if she doesn’t feel like what she’s doing is publicly accepted.
Anyway, I’m proud of you for posting this photo. : )
This is a wonderful and lovely photo! Hooray for Esther! (and Courtney, the photographer).
I think this photo is beautiful and there should be more awareness raised to help woman feel comfortable about breastfeeding in public places. I am 33 and am currently breastfeeding my 15 month old daughter. Recently I was at a boot fair where I stopped at some tables from a nearby food wagon. I started to feed my daughter while my partner queued for drinks. A employee came over and told me to stop feeding as it was unhygienic and there was children about. She proceeded to say I should feed her in the public toilets. I was mortified, angry and so upset. I tried to complain but was met with the same small minded attitude. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world.
Oh Lynsey, that is appalling! What an awful woman!!! Unhygienic? She’s crazy!
Thanks for posting this picture! I love the poem recited and written by Hollie McNish. With my first son, I was very uncomfortable breastfeeding in public – to the point that I didn’t really do it. With my second son, I still feel a bit self-conscious unless I cover up. But no one should feel ashamed. I bet if more mamas did what you did at the park, less people would feel ashamed. It’s the best thing for our babies! I wonder if in Paris, where you did it, it’s a bit less taboo than in the U.S.?
Oops, sorry… Lynsey, I meant to respond to your post. What awful people for making you stop breast feeding. Shows their ignorance – nothing unhygienic about breastfeeding! Breast milk has antibacterial and antiviral properties, actually!
I have not been able to breast feed any of my three children due to medical reasons but think that it is so natural. mothers should feel comfortable and confident to be able to feed their babies (in whatever way they can) anywhere, anytime and not feel the need to hide. This is such a beautiful photo – a nurturing and loving connection between a mother and her baby.
Beautiful! it makes me crazy that people think breasfeeding is unsanitary or inappropriate in public. These same people probably think it’s horrifying that a baby comes out a vagina (gasp) Keep posting and hopefully more people will become more comfortable with it. There’s obviously a lack in education around everything related to reproduction.
this is one of the most pwerful things I have ever seen, and I never shied away from breasfeeding in public,,,why should I?! Good on you….http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/07/05/hollie-mcnish-breastfeeding_n_3552062.html
After se7en kids… I guest posted this post: se7en tips on nursing in public… I was so anxious with my first child because I had never seen a mom nursing – let alone in public… It is a learning curve for both the baby and the mum!!! Enjoy it!!!
I breastfeed my 2 kids basically everywhere, and yes.at first I was so busy covering things up but now for my 2nd baby I choose to go bare and.choose to let people to get used at seeing mothers.breastfeed.their babies as a natural thing. It’s a personal bond between us and our babies, so let’s celebrate our womanhood by breastfeeding anywhere anytime!
Wonderful! I haven’t breastfed my toddler in public in Paris but now that I’m expecting another baby I’ve been wondering how comfortable I will be. I hung out with other moms at Petit Café du Monde who had no problem just nursing on the spot with no covers, it was amazing! Not the environment I previously was in.
P.S. Have you been to te free toy area set up at République this summer? I loved it as much as my kids!
Hi Jen, Place de la Republique is amazing! It has changed so much and I hope they will keep it well maintained. I really love Le Petit Café du Monde, I go all the time. It is so nice to have a children friendly place to go to, there are not enough in Paris.
Thanks for your article. I am currently still breastfeeding my first baby and I’ve been so shy about doing it in public and yes have actually resorted to a restaurant’s restroom. I wish I was more comfortable with it and I am sure with my next child I will not be so shy. I agree with everything you wrote, it’s a natural beautiful thing a woman does for her baby and every woman should feel comfortable to do it wherever she wants.
Thank you!! Xox
I just wanted to add- my uncomfortableness was from bearing my breast in public- not the act of breastfeeding. 🙂 just have to get over that one!
I totally agree with you, Esther! I breastfed my two boys and with my oldest, it felt strange the first times in public, but then it was just so natural…
About what Lynsey is writing, I heard stories like that in Hamburg too. Friends of mine were pleased out of a café, because they breastfed their little ones. Should be a good idea to run a website with all the restaurants/ cafés all over the world, where you´re not allowed to breastfeed your baby! 😉
This photo of you is absolutely beautiful. I wish I had more pics of me breastfeeding my boys.
I have nursed them in public in the States (where our first was born) and in Stockholm (where we live and where our second was born) – and everywhere in between. Since my breastfeeding life started in the US, I got used to using a cover, but sometimes felt frowned upon even though everything was covered. Here in Sweden, covers are rare and openly breastfeeding in public is common and very accepted. It’s one of the things I appreciate most about living here with small children. I think it’s absolutely insane that mothers in some places are expected to feed their children in the bathroom.
Great post and well done you for sharing your photo!
Thank you for this great post and photo! I have four children, I breastfeeded all of them for about 1,5 years and I never had a problem with breastfeeding in public. But it seems as if public still has a big problem with this, which I think is pretty dumb. So I think it is really important to write and talk about that subject. Breastfeeding is something really special, natural and fantastic in my eyes, so there is no need to be ashamed or something like that.
My now eighty year old mother breastfed all six of her children. For the birth of my first child ( twenty three years ago), I was lucky to have my mothers help and reassurance, as well as all the breast feeding tips I needed. Like you Esther, I carefully sought out the most discreet spots and covered up, four children later ( my last baby is two and half) I really was much more relaxed about breast feeding in public. It is SOOO different here in France. I moved here when my second son was one and a half years old eighteen years ago and I had weaned him maybe two months before our move. So those first two breastfeeding experiences were in the U.S. where I found the attitudes towards breastfeeding light years ahead of France. It is perfectly accepted here to breastfeed your baby until say four to six months , any thing longer and you are looked at as needing to have your head examined , and raising a lot of eyebrows. I actually breastfed my last two babies much longer than that. I did it with absolutely no qualms in public up to maybe fourteen or fifteen months, and then went into hiding! For my last two girls , my husband, an extremely rare Frenchman that thoroughly embraces breastfeeding, was really supportive of letting the girls wean when they sort of seemed ready. Well, my last one absolutely loves to nurse in the morning and before bedtime, and knowing, (at my age!) I will never have those beautiful moments with a little one again I am reluctant to pull the plug… At any rate I can hardly believe myself capable of such behaviour, but I avoid at all costs divulging that I still nurse my little one. I am super selective about revealing this SCANDALOUS bit of info. A few months ago my husband and I were previewing an auction and we ran into my (DUTCH) gynaecologist, and his very charming pediatrician wife. My hubby proudly announced that I was still nursing , and we quickly found ourselves embroiled in an incident. My husband was so disappointed by the reaction of the man who had delivered our two babies that since the incident we have actually done a u turn when we have stumbled onto them at expos or auctions. CRAZY.
PS – I just watched that video of Hollie McNish – how amazing!! It made me cry even! (Hormones!) xxx
It great, isn’t it?
Made me cry, too, Courtney in London. I’ll also blame it on hormones. 🙂
I was never comfortable feeding my son in public as he was such a long and difficult feeder who would often pull off suddenly causing a wonderful milk jet to spray anywhere it pleased, so I never did it, preferring to time my outings around feeds or find feeding changing rooms to use. Thankfully when I had his sister she was a dream to feed and so my anxiety about feeding in public disappeared and we enjoyed many outings with no problems. Sadly on several occasions I was either asked to feed in the toilets (in a coffee shop), asked to stop feeding altogether as children were around or people were uncomfortable and the worst one I ever had was when a woman in her 40’s informed me that my breast were for my husband and what did I think I was doing…some people have no idea how mind boggling their reaction to breast feeding is. Well done Esther for the photo, it is lovely to see x x
go you beautiful and natural thing to do.x
I have 3 girls and i breastfeeded the eldest two until they were almost 3 years. I was easy when they are little babies. After the first months they would start making noises when drinking ,i am talking about quit loud moans actually,so people around me said “Now that litle babie is hungry;”
That I dind’t mind ,we could all have a laugh about it. But after the first year I stopt breastfeeding in public because I feel that nursing toddlers is even less accepted . Stupid actually, because I should be proud of myself.So I’am very happy with your post.
You SHOULD be proud of yourseelf indeed. It’s not what I had planned but I breastfed my daughter until she turned 2 and decided she had finally had enough. I was too young and had no clue about breasfeeding so I didn’t know this was actually a really good thing so sometimes I felt ashamed or worried it would never stopp! I so wish I had known better and ejoyed it more, knowing she would eventually not want it any more.
Hi Esther! What a lovely photo! Baby Casper is adorable! I am from Brazil. I have always breasfed in public, even with my 1st son, I did not think twice before doing it. Luckily I was never asked to stop doing it by a stranger, some women are supportive and a few I can see commenting that they would never do such a thing in public, that I was soo wrong for doing it. Anyways, I think (specially in the first months) that if you don’t do it in public you get so isolated because you need to nurse your baby all the time. And also, what do you do with your older child while you need to breast feed? Hide them too? Really, it’s so natural to me and sort of necessary.
I also wanted to asked since I am going to Italy soon. Does anyone know if it is normal to breastfeed in public there? My son is going to be 1 by then ( which is even less acceptable for most people) .
I did breastfeed all my children in public, but tried to cover up a bit. Especially when babies are bit older and get distracted and start looking around , I didn’t feel comfortable having my breast hanging out – and I didn’t feel that people should have to see that either. What I did find was that it was easier to do it among strangers than it was to do it among friends and family. The point is that people that don’t know you only see a mum; whereas people that have known you since pre-mum days feel odd seeing your breasts – which you wouldn’t show to them under any other circumstance – and having to pretend it’s normal (and I have been told this, which I thought was fair enough).
What a beautiful photo, but what a shame that we even have to worry about weather or not to share it. Feeding your baby, wherever you are, shouldn’t have to be hidden. Personally I was always happier to feed in a public place than stuck in an airless, windowless, baby-change/nursing room (usually accompanied by a large, overspilling, stinky nappy bin!). However, I was always more comfortable if the upper part of my breast was covered by a pulled up vest or t-shirt, with another layer to cover my un-lovely post-baby belly. Somehow exposing of the top part of my breast too felt more intimate than just flashing my nipple… My weird!
Go you! I think it’s wonderful to do this, and to post this photograph.
Had to share it on my blog!
good for you! i am currently breastfeeding my third child and think it is the most natural thing. my first time breastfeeding in “public” was when i had been out for a walk in hampstead heath, london – my son was crying so i decided to stop at a bench. my focus was on the baby and didnt notice the old man with his cane until he walked by and i really didnt care. i was prepared for my mom to say . . . shouldnt you cover up? but instead she said “you should have seen the smile on his face. i think you made his day” 🙂 now i am not an advocate of flashing old men but i dont want to be locked at home for a year because im breastfeeding. there are so many great tops and covers that allow you to feed in public and still be discreet (i really like the brand boob). the first two boys were pretty easy born in london but i had my third in much more conservative abu dhabi and was concerned about feeding in public but have actually found it is okay. i do try to be as discreet as i can but refuse to feed on the toilet!!! how ridiculous. most the time no one notices and those that do (usually moms) just give me a smile.
Cute picture and good for you Esther!
When my daughter was born I had no clue about anything. I didn’t read any books about motherhood nor did I attend any childbirth courses (or whatever their name is). Mostly because I expected everyhting to come naturally, which kind of did since I ended up breastfeeding with no problem at all and until she turned 2. I had planned to cover up in public but my daughter never allowed me to. She would kick any blanket, scarf and even those pregnancy bibs that have a whole at the top so the baby can breathe and see you but she just hated them. There wasn’t much choice for me so I decided I wouldn’t care either. Since I live in a country where the weather is always nice, I don’t spend much time at home so I ended up breastfeeding in family parties, the park, the mall and right in the middle of the pasta aisle at the supermarket.. I of course got frowned upen often but I really had no other choice (other than staying home, which of course wasn’t an option) so I decided that whoever had a roblem with it could just look the other way… I do not regret this and if I ever have another baby I am really to do it all over again!
* I meant, “I am ready to do it all over again.” Sorry.
Excellent post & gorgeous photo! Thank you for sharing. I think it is the most beautiful & natural thing. Humanity at its finest. Women should proudly and confidently breastfeed babies in public. I love breastfeeding and feed my 15 week old on buses, trains, in restaurants, parks, etc… soooo hassle free when all you have to do is adjust your shirt 🙂
I LOVE this post and the beautiful picture accompanying it. I often cover myself while breastfeeding in public because I have large breasts and have been shamed about that a good bit of my adolescent and adult life. But I look at this picture, and it’s what I look like in essence. Nothing to be ashamed about! Today I breastfed in front of my husband’s family all day long and I didn’t cover myself and no one even cared. This posts makes me feel braver and prouder about feeding my daughter and my own body image. Thank you.
We live in Australia, but I recently completed my “breastfeeding Tour of Europe” with my almost two year old daughter. The locations in which we fed were many and varied, ranging from planes, trains (including a packed Parisian Metro train at peak hour!) and buses, to parks, museums and monuments, to restaurants and pubs. Though we are usually down to feeding just morning and night (and sometimes during the night) in our normal, daily lives, the many and varied strange environments, the jet lag, the sometimes overtiredness and sometimes boredom found us breastfeeding, on some days at least, a whole lot more frequently. All in all, I was grateful that we were still breastfeeding while we were away – it is a very easy and effective way of calming an upset child and it meant there was always something nutritious and willingly consumed available when it took longer than anticipated to get home, or when the shops didn’t open as early as they do back home.
In spite of myself though, I can’t help but feel a little self-conscious at times, feeding a toddler, both here in Australia and abroad – particularly one who is now able frame her requests to breastfeed as: “Let’s find a comfy spot for boobie in this place” (hey, it is vast improvement from screaming “BOOBIE” at the top of her lungs, repeatedly, regardless of her surroundings, which is what she was so fond of doing at around 18 months old!) But for the most part, I have found that no one bats an eyelid – including in the UK. The one and only time anyone has ever said anything to me about it was one of the gallery attendants at L’Orangerie in Paris … we were breastfeeding in the middle of one of the rooms filled with Monet’s Waterlillies paintings (I figured, if I had to sit down still for a while, I might as well take the opportunity to admire the art work) and he didn’t ask me to stop or to leave, just to cover up – and even then, I suspect he only asked me to do this because I happened to be wearing a light-weight, drapey shawl. Had this occurred earlier in my breastfeeding journey, I probably would have felt really embarrassed and self-conscious, but I just rolled my eyes and made a half-hearted attempt to cover up.
In Australia, it is illegal to discriminate against a breastfeeding mother in any way. However, the issue of breastfeeding in public has been a subject of some recent controversy following comments by a well-known morning television presenter to the effect that breastfeeding mothers should be a “discrete” when feeding in public: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/tvs-kochie-faces-mother-of-all-protests-over-breastfeeding-row-20130119-2d003.html In addition to the range of obvious rebuttals, a less often made point, and something the likes of this particular tv presenter need to realise, is that it isn’t always the mother’s choice when or where she breastfeeds, or even to be still breastfeeding at all. It wasn’t my preference to be breastfeeding in the middle of a room surrounded by Monet’s paintings and if I had the choice, I likely would have decided against it. People should also appreciate that a calm, quietly breastfeeding child is far, far less likely to offend anyone in the vicinity than a screaming, hysterical toddler, such that they should be grateful that the mother has the ability to so readily pacify her child anywhere and anytime.
Well done to you for contributing to the cause of raising awareness about the natural act of breastfeeding and the (often unavoidable) need to do it in public.
I think breastfeeding is beautiful and I breastfeed my baby everywhere I go. But! I think it is an intimate process of bonding too, so wherever its possible, I try to find a secluded spot to breastfeed. I love looking into my baby’s eyes and love the way she looks at me, touches my skin, strikes my back with her tiny hand. I do not like when the process is interrupted or watched by a stranger. Sometimes it is not possible unfortunately. I also think that covering a part of breast which is “not in use” is easy. I understand why someone especially childless would feel uncomfortable (not the best comparison, but there are many talks around now about topless men appearing on the streets of London during these hot days – doesnt appeal to most of us at all). Dont misunderstand, but I feel the question here is not about comfort, but personal attitude. I say YES to breastfeeding in public places, but I feel my breasts are not for strangers eyes.
i was just at dinner yesterday with james (bleubird) having this discussion while breastfeeding francesca at the table. it’s so interesting how feelings on this differ from state to state here in the US (and even city to city) – i’m with you wholeheartedly on breastfeeding in public places!
I am a new mom to a beautiful 4months old baby girl, exclusive breastfeed, no bottle or paci. I live in Indonesia. Here, majority of mothers give formula to their babies. In fact, most of them think that only few women can breastfeed. I never see anyone breastfeed in public, nursing room is ONLY available at departement store. I rarely breastfeed in public, when i do, i cover the whole thing and my baby hates to be covered. If i didn’t cover, it would be the strangest view to others.
I really admire your guts to breastfeed in public. I say YES to breastfeed in public, if people aren’t straring or giving the weird look. Hopefully more mother do breastfeed here in Indonesia.
I am a French mom living in Australia. I have breastfeed my two boys (now 4 and 2) until they weaned themselves at around one. I have fed them everywhere, on demand, including when we traveled to France, China and Thailand. I have never covered my children while doing so; I did it discreetly wherever I was sitting (planes, restaurants, museums, cafes…), and I don’t recall anyone telling me to hide or stop. I have however had to constantly explain to my family and friends back in France why I was breastfeeding for “so long”, and I would be very interested in reading more of your experience on breastfeeding in France. I am so glad you posted this image. I always read but never comment but not this time, so thank you!
So much to say on this subject… A lot has been said here already. I am breastfeeding my second child and I don’t know how long it will last (the first was breastfeed pretty much regularly until I became pregnant). I was so afraid of weaning that I let him choose and it went well for both of us. It’s so important to feel comfortable when you breastfeed (you do it so often!!), but it is really annoying when other people’s prejudices, histories, experiences, narrow-mindedness get in the way!
Here is a nice experience – a waitress bought a pizza for this mom who chose to breastfeed in public:
Thanks for posting about such an important ‘mommy’ topic.
Awesome post, Esther! Thanks for the help and hopefully the confidence you are actually giving to young mamas that feel uneasy breastfeeding in public, it’s such a natural and beautiful thing in the world. Beautiful pic:)
Beautiful! There’s nothing more pure and innocent than a baby & mama’s nursing connection…wherever they travel…indoor or out. Whoever has a problem with that has a problem herself, regardless of whether she chooses to breastfeed or not.
Thanks for publishing that photo… I have lots of pictures breastfeeding my kids… its been three kids and six years breastfeeding, so imposible not breastfeeding in public!!!!. Usually I feel comfortable with it, but sometimes people give theit opinions, and that upsets me.
Its a right for the baby and also the mum.