I've been nursing my now-toddler since he was born and, so far, have had a great experience. We got the early support we needed in order to establish our nursing relationship and, when we've gone out in public, the majority of people we've met have been very supportive (or at least have minded their own business). Still, we have also encountered our fair share of people who, either out of ignorance or a totally unfounded sense of familiarity, have blindsided us with some of the creepy things people say to moms who exclusively breastfeed their babies.
I just don't get it. Between our own experiences, and those of moms I've met through various breastfeeding support groups (or as I affectionately know them, my "breast friends"), I've been pretty amazed by the incredibly weird things people either think about breastfeeding or feel comfortable enough to say out loud. Most of these statements and questions are things that, if people just took an extra heartbeat or two to think before speaking would realize, are clearly either totally inappropriate, even in jest, or just flat out make so little sense that they shouldn't be uttered by anyone hoping to maintain even the slightest appearance of intelligence.
Fortunately, these people are very much in the minority, and most experiences of nursing in public are no more eventful than munching a sandwich by yourself. Unfortunately, people willing to say things like this really are out there and, sometimes, even in our own families. (Extended families and in-laws, amirite?) New mamas who want to nurse their babies in peace should keep an eye out, and think about memorizing a few clever comebacks just in case. After all, the only thing worse than having a weird encounter like the following, is thinking of the perfect response after you've already walked away.
“Can I Have Some?”
Ugh. If I had a dollar for every irritating dudebro who said that to me ( and always with a perfectly punchable eyebrow raise) since giving birth, I could pay off the rest of my student loans in one fell swoop. No, you're not cute making comments like this. No, we don't know each other like that, so hold your jokes. And no, you can't have some, unless you're my child (or a child whose parents are searching for donor milk.)
“I Wish I Could Suck On Boobs All Day!”
A salesman actually said this to me while I nursed my baby in a ring sling. (Guess who missed out on a large sales commission that day?) Yep, new babies nurse a lot, but they're not thinking any of the same thoughts as that guy was, because babies aren't that weird,and because breastfeeding isn't sexual.
“Does That Turn You On?”
Does kissing your children goodnight turn you on? Of course not, because it's possible to use the same body part with different people, and experience totally different sensations and mental associations. Turns out, breasts work the same way, because they're regular body parts whose primary function isn't sexual. The more you know.
“Do You Feel Like A Cow?”
No more than I feel like a dog, or a sheep, or an orangutan, or any other mammal, because we are all just mammals doing what mammals do.
“How Does Your Husband Feel About That?”
One, not all nursing mothers are married. Two, not all nursing mothers are married to men. Three, why would my husband object to me giving our baby the best possible nutrition? Four, why the hell would I have married a man who felt he had any right to have a say over anything I choose to do with my own body?
“Isn't It Inappropriate To Breastfeed A Baby Boy?”
Um, what? Yes, I and several other nursing moms I know have actually had people say this to us. There are so many different types of wrong happening here: the false assumption that breastfeeding is sexual; the heteronormative assumptions that falsely sexualize all physical contact between male- and female-bodied people; the idea that it is therefore inappropriate for mothers to nurse their sons; and the complete failure to realize that if any of the last three things were true, that all baby boys would have starved to death before the invention of formula, and the human race would no longer exist.
My head literally hurts from this level of foolishness.
“Wow, Your Kid Really Likes Those Boobs!”
Way too many straight, cisgender men have said this to me, in that elbow-to-ribs guffaw kind of voice people normally whip out at bachelor parties and trips to Hooters, when they'd see my son reach for my breasts when he was a slightly older baby. Through gritted teeth, I'd respond, "Of course he does, because he likes food and comfort." (I may or may not have dished out a "F*ck off" and an eye roll on the side, for good measure.)
“Are You Worried That Will Make Her Gay?”
Yes, people actually ask this, according to more than one of my friends who have daughters. For the last time, breastfeeding is not sexual; there is nothing wrong with breastfeeding a daughter; there is nothing wrong with being gay or lesbian, and sexual orientation is something people are born with, not something that happens to people based on what their parents do.
“Aren't You Worried About Sagging?”
Nope. For starters, I'm more invested in what my body can do than what it looks like. Also, if I was worried about sagging breasts, I would have avoided being pregnant in the first place, since it's mostly pregnancy hormones that make breasts sag. Also, gravity, time, and genetics play a part, and I don't have any control over those things, either.
“You Should Do That Somewhere Else”
No, you should mind your own business. Nursing moms have a right to feed their children anywhere they and their children are allowed to be, and they don't need to cover up or feed in a nasty public bathroom just to spare busybodies the trouble of keeping their eyes on their own affairs.