I knew before I had my first child that breastfeeding was something I really wanted to try to make work. I read books, I talked to women who had successfully breastfed their babies, and I made myself aware of my state's breastfeeding laws. What rights did I have, and what limitations were in place? Turns out, to my delight, there weren't all that many restrictions in my beloved New York, but it did get me thinking: where are places you should never breastfeed? As I spent some time pondering certain nursing restrictions, I realized that the list is short, but vital.
I know there's a pretty good chance that you've heard a lot of opinions on where is or is not a "good" place to nurse your child, along with how long and how often and whatever else is involved with breastfeeding. In fact, pretty much every decision you have ever made that has involved your body (especially the parts of your body that traditionally designate a person as female) has likely been subject to scrutiny and criticism because welcome to the Patriarchy, everyone! Where you get condescended and undermined and you get condescended and undermined and everyone gets condescended and undermiiiiiiiiiiiiiined!
While the vast majority of places other people will tell you not to breastfeed are based on nothing more than their priggishness or personal comfort levels, there are some places and situations that are best (or necessarily) kept breastfeeding free. Trust me. No, really.
In Front Of Other Children
Because, as we all know, breasts are highly and exclusively sexual and a child viewing your dirty pillows is going to turn them into a pervert. Or it's going to traumatize them. Or make them gay (which is something that can totally happen and is just so absolutely horrible). I, for one, am horrified that anyone would expose a child to such profane filth. What are they going to think? How can you explain it to them? How in the world will you... OK. Wait. Yeah, I seriously can't keep up this nonsense, even as a satirical joke, to make a point.
Look: despite whatever your uptight Aunt Mabel has to say about breastfeeding in front of a child, please know that there is nothing remotely inappropriate about it and it's honestly not all that difficult to explain ("When babies are born their mommy's bodies make milk that the baby can drink. Some other babies drink from a bottle. Different people choose different things.")
This isn't that kind of list, you guys.
Bathrooms are releasing bodily fluids that must be appropriately and immediately disposed of. They are not a place to feed a child or express a child's food. You wouldn't want to eat cloistered in a bathroom, would you? Let's at least afford babies the same courtesy by not asking them to, either. This is to say nothing of the mothers who will be doing the feeding! Have you ever tried getting comfortable holding a child (or balancing a breast pump on your lap) while sitting on a toilet?
Spoilers: it's decidedly uncomfortable, not to mention potentially stinky.
A Moving Car
Every now and then in my mom travels, this kind of a question will come up:
My family and I are going on a road trip with my 3-month-old. We have to reach our final destination within four days, which means nine hours of driving per day. What do I do when I have to breastfeed? Would it be terrible if I took them out of their car seat while we were driving? Maybe when traffic is slow? Pulling over every few hours for 20 minutes is just not an option.
OK. I'm saying this without sanctimony but yes it would be terrible if you took them out of their seat while you were driving, even if traffic is slow. In addition to being very dangerous it is also illegal. Leaning over your secured child (while you are either unbuckled or loosely buckled in your seat belt) is also not a particularly safe option, as you would exert a tremendous amount of force on your child if you were in a crash. In short, if pulling over every few hours (or using a bottle) isn't an option, then neither is your road trip.
Because there's no air up there, you guys. How are you going to breathe? Duh. Stop and think for once.
Cramped In A Car When You'd Rather Be On A Nearby Park Bench
Many breastfeeding mothers I've talked to find themselves second guessing whether or not they are "allowed" to nurse in a particular location, leading them to cloister themselves in uncomfortable or inconvenient locations. While particular laws about breastfeeding vary from state to state, mothers are explicitly permitted to breastfeed their children in any public or private location in every state (and the District of Columbia) except Idaho. And even in Idaho there's nothing on the books that says you aren't allowed to breastfeed freely. So go, my precious lactating butterflies: go far and wide throughout this nation with the knowledge that you have the right to nurse there if you wish.
An Aerialist Class
While it's certainly tempting to want to hang upside-down from high up and impossibly long silks, if only to see if you your infant's latch is strong enough to hang on to your breast, I'm pretty sure this is something experts agree is a terrible idea. (Also: ouch.) Don't worry: you two will be able to come up with a fresh and memorable America's Got Talent-worthy acrobatic act soon, but maybe "while breastfeeding" isn't the appropriate gimmick.
A Roller Coaster
As with aerialist classes, I'm sure a great many of you are clamoring to nurse your little one while riding a roller coaster. I just can't think of a more natural environment to want to feed a baby. But, sadly, it's just not a great idea. For starters, even toddlers aren't tall enough to meet the height requirements. For another, it's one person per seat. Safety first, people! And, finally, I imagine it would be really hard to maintain a proper latch with all those bumps and loops (or, at the very least, would make your baby unbearably gassy). Though this does give a whole new meaning to the term "milkshakes."
Out In The Open When You'd Rather Have Some Privacy
While you are absolutely entitled to nurse anywhere you have the legal right to be, you are under absolutely no obligation to nurse in public, either. Much has been said about "normalizing breastfeeding" by making nursing visible in every day life. That's awesome! I myself am a proponent of this approach. But different people have different comfort levels and approaches to how much of their body they want shown in public. Let's also not forget that some babies are easily distracted, so nursing in a crowd can be deeply frustrating for everyone involved.
As such, no one should ever be shamed for quietly (or loudly) moving somewhere more secluded to nurse. They do not owe anyone an explanation, and they are not somehow doing a disservice to the "sisterhood" or fellow breastfeeders. They're feeding their baby in a way that works best for them — the decisions they make should be respected and unquestioned.
At The Beach
This is just me, folks. You're welcome to, of course, but I definitely don't recommend it if it can be avoided. One word: sand. It gets frigging everywhere. Not only is your baby going to be dribbling the stuff for hours afterwords, but your nips are potentially going to get super irritated.
Honestly, you guys, I love the beach, but can we admit that it's also really inconvenient to do a lot of stuff there? I'm talking about things that sound lovely and carefree but are actually kind of irksome? Eating at the beach ("Sandy watermelon, anyone?"). Sex on the beach (there's nothing quite like a vagina full of sand and kelp in your hair). Running on the beach (your calves and ass are going to hate you for days). Go ahead and add "nursing on the beach" to this list.
Anywhere You Are Watching A Scary Movie
Because you are going to jump, which startles your baby, and a startled baby is a baby that bites down. Or rips away from your nipple without unlatching. It hurts. Just trust me.