A Dissenting Opinion on The Lactivists

I am going to get in soooooooo much trouble here.

But I am going to have to disagree (somewhat) with the buzz right now among the Mommy Blogs.

Yes, I have seen the clip of the Bill Maher breastfeeding thing. And I have to say, I agree with the gist of most of what he says (even when he makes fun of my beloved iPhone!). Except for the DOG comment, which was obviously made for shock value… so whatever, dude. What can I say? He’s a massive asshole! But a funny asshole!

But before I go any further, let me just say this loud and clear: I absolutely, positively, 100% support breastfeeding. It is a natural, beautiful, healthy thing. I even support mothers doing it in public. Whenever they want.

What I don’t support is sitting in the middle of a restaurant and having to watch a boob in plain view and me trying to finish my meal. Listen to what Bill says. Yes, breastfeeding is natural – but so is masturbation (and peeing and picking your nose and clipping your toenails) but there are also times and places and ways to do it, and there may be people around you who are not comfortable with the sight of you doing it. If I understand the Applebee’s thing correctly, they weren’t asking the mom to stop breastfeeding… they were just asking her to do it a little more discreetly.

I realize some of my prudishness on the subject may come from the fact that I was never able to do it myself.

Declan was a 4 pound preemie and at the time (pre-breast reduction) I was a size H (for humongous) and we could not get the little guy to latch on. To be honest, the whole experience was humiliating and emotionally painful. I would dread our attempts at breastfeeding, when the lactation experts would grab my breasts and shove them into Declan’s face and the little guy would be just overwhelmed with their size and I would be overwhelmed with embarrassment and disappointment that I had to yet again turn back to the evil pumping contraption to extract his milk.

So, yes, maybe I am little biased.

But, sorry, I still don’t really want to see your boobs while I am eating dinner.

This article has 18 comments

  1. Anonymous

    I actually agree with you too. Sure… breastfeed, but discreetly, please!

  2. Nat

    Agreed. I think, although I haven’t seen the clip. I have issues with Laleche and Lactivist, and the pressure they put on women to breast feed. That however is a post in itself. I too had huge issues breastfeeding and switch to bottles after a week.

    In theory, you should be able to breastfeed where and when you need to, sort of like changing diapers pretty much anywhere. But like many other things in life there is a time and a place. For instance, I’m not sure breastfeeding in church is appropriate. If you must do it, then and there, then discretion is key.

    I was never comfortable breastfeeding in front of everyone and their dog. The Man’s father being one of them. I know this is a symptom of our sexualization of breast… but…

  3. Meghann

    You know, I breastfeed Hannah, in public, and I don’t cover up. However, you can’t see anything, but I wonder if I would still be asked to cover up, since people are still uncomfortable seeing the baby, and knowing what she is doing.

    I think most people get angry about the fact that it’s more socially acceptable for a woman to wear a super skimpy bikini that shows more boob that breastfeeding does, than it is for a woman to maybe show a little skin while feeding her baby.

    And I don’t think it can be compared to masturbation. Both are natural, yes, but I still think there is a world of difference.

  4. Meghann

    p.s.-I did want to add I don’t agree with the women that do just bare all when they breastfeed. It would be nice if our society was at a place where that was acceptable. But it’s not, and I don’t think going all “shock and awe” with it is going to help change that.

  5. TxGambit

    I would agree. Discretion is all that I think is necessary. Cover up a little bit, turn a bit so you aren’t in such plain sight, but do it! It is a natural thing.

    FWIW, I have Cs and I still had a lot of trouble with BFing. My dd couldn’t latch on at all and required special nipples on her bottle because she couldn’t suck…. and I couldn’t pump at all… I could only get maybe an oz at best…. So we quit. Got a little bit better with my second kiddo. The thing gained 2 lbs between birth and his 2 wk appt. He gained a few more by his 2 mth appt… but thankfully I had stopped by then because I was a physical and emotional wreck.

    So with the disappointment that was my first two experiences. I didn’t even try with my third.

  6. painted maypole

    this is where i confess to only reading the blogs and not seeing the bill maher stuff… but I have to say that in all the breastfeeding I have done and seen, I don’t think I’ve ever caught more than a mere glimpse of breast, if anything. I don’t think in a public place you can just sit there with your breast hanging out. But I also don’t think you should have to beat a retreat to another room. I don’t think you should DRAW attention to it, but I don’t think that it has to be SO discreet that people can’t figure out what you’re doing. you have to be considerate of the world around you, while also not ostracizing yourself from society for the 45 minutes to an hour that your child needs to eat a gazillion times a day.

  7. aimee / greeblemonkey

    Thanks all for your thoughtful comments. I really appreciate it. Also, Amber has decided to pull this post over to Mile High Mamas so there will be more discussion there about this there as well, I am sure.

    One more note, Maypole… I have to say, not sure if it is because we live in an urban neighborhood, or what – but I have definitely seen a fair share of indiscreet boobage while ladies are breastfeeding out and about.

  8. carrie

    You are right, and at first, before I saw the actual clip, I thought Bill Maher was being an ass (because what I read only referred to his comment about being “lazy and not prepared” which I thought was rude and completely off target — not funny, to me).

    But having successfully breastfed three kids for over a year each, I have to agree that the “lactation extremists” ruined it for me, the kind of mother who didn’t want to advertise nor bare all her boobage to the passing perverts in public places. I just wanted to feed my babies comfortably and without offending anyone or giving anyone jollies.

    I don’t think you can compare breast feeding to masturbation though, but hey – it’s comedy and it’s not a press conference! People need to lighten up a little bit and take it for what it is: COMEDY!

    Thanks for this post!

  9. Anonymous

    I don’t agree with you, but I appreciate that you spoke your mind!

  10. Mrs. Chicken

    I’m kind of in your corner on this. I couldn’t breastfeed either and it is totally humiliating. The nurses acted like I was willfully refusing to make it work.

    So I’m a little gun shy about lactivists. I was treated badly by some women who breastfed exclusively and it left a bad taste.

    And I also think you can kind of cover up. You know?

  11. Tree

    Without witnessing the particular incident at Applebee’s ourselves, we only have the he said / she said aspects of what transpired and how much breast was actually on view. It’s difficult for me to get behind either Applebee’s or the mother at this point. And I am not sure I can even lay down a line of saying I find bf’ing in public acceptable if x, y, and z. I have not seen very many women bf’ing in a restaurant, but when I have, it has been discreet and was not shocking. I remember being surprised and a bit in awe.

    Bill Maher’s comments are outrageous and somewhat offensive, but designed to make the audience think critically.

  12. Doodaddy

    I was a little surprised at Maher, actually — the dog thing, especially — until it struck me that he probably would like to sit and have a meal while watching bare breasts all around him… just not breasts doing that

    The contrast between breast as toy and breast as baby feeding device is probably what ticks him off.

  13. aimee / greeblemonkey

    Teresa, all really good points!

    And Dd, I am not surprised. Bill says stuff for shock value all the time. And like I said, he’s an asshole – but I still think he is hilarious.

  14. sue

    I haven’t watched the clip, but agree with you. I’m 100% supportive of breast feeding, but it would be nice to be appropriate. I, too, had a premie and couldn’t breast feed (we were in different hospitals), then with my second he never would latch on. Finally, just saved myself the grief and bottle fed the last two. However, I really am supportive of women who can do it – I just think, as you pointed out, there is a way to be inconspicuous.

  15. crabapple

    Amen, sister. I totally agree that as long as women are discreet, public breast feeding is fine. It’s unfortunate that it seems like it’s the women with a point to make who want to sit right out at public events or places with no attempt whatsoever to cover themselves even a little, and then make a fuss about it. I fed my children everywhere, just using a small blanket as a a “modesty” screen. I didn’t feel like I needed to make any political statements about boobs, nor did I want to make anyone uncomfortable.

  16. Shelly

    I breastfed both of my children, whenever and wherever they were hungry. And, starting out was a struggle with both of them, but I was determined to make it work.

    There were many times, especially with C, when he would pull the blanket off of us. I was embarrassed the first couple of times, but quickly got over it. I figure if people have the choice of listening to a baby scream, or seeing a little bit of skin (much less than a lot of bathing suits show), they’d choose the latter.

    I did not watch the Maher clip.

  17. Alpha DogMa

    Well, I am a woman who CHOSE NOT TO BREASTFEED, child #2. Yes. I chose. THE HORROR! My point being: I respect anyone who chooses to break from the mob mentality of La Leche League.

    So I salute your dissenting voice. And I do agree.

    I also want to echo something I mentioned at Lawyer Mama’s blog: were we suppose to take self portraits of our boobs while feeding? Because I breastfed child #1, and it never once occurred to me to whip out the camera. Did I miss a memo?

  18. Strawberry

    Greeblemonkey, I respectfully disagree. There are a lot of babies who will not allow their mothers to cover up and breastfeed discretely. My second daughter is one of these babies, and it is very difficult. Yes, breastfeeding discretely is nice in theory (and it is *always* my goal), but it can be nigh-on impossible in practice, if the baby is so minded.

    I feel for you when you describe how it was to try to breastfeed — to be exposed like that, handled, and humiliated. Perhaps from that you can imagine how it is for a breastfeeding mother of one of these will-not-be-covered-up babies. If we are a society that accepts public breastfeeding, discrete or not, then she can feed her baby relatively humiliation-free, even though she can’t cover up. If we are a society that tells her she *should* be covering herself for our sakes, then breastfeeding becomes a trial she must endure, fighting with her baby not to expose her breasts, and feeling guilty, embarrassed, condemned, and humiliated when she fails.

    I understand that others would prefer not to see. I would MUCH prefer not expose myself. But I would be grateful if society as a whole would evolve enough to allow me to breastfeed in peace, whether or not I have to expose myself to do it.

Comments are now closed.
Send this to a friend