If you're a parent who has chosen to breastfeed your child, unless you cloistered yourself in your home until your child was weaned,you have almost certainly had to nurse in public at some point. At the very least you've had to take feeding your kid into consideration when you've made your plans or been out in the world. There's also a pretty good chance that someone asked if you really "need" to breastfeed in public. Maybe it's the fact that a female body is probably involved, maybe it's because there's a parenting opinion to be had, or maybe it's just because the person loves the sound of their own voice. Either way, the very simple, basic need for a mother to feed her child often garners unnecessary questions and commentary.
Often, when caught in the moment, it can be hard to come up with a witty, empowered, or entertaining retort to this nonsense question. I mean, let's be honest here: this is a question the same way "should you be eating that?" or "do you think that's appropriate?" is a "question." And so, to help my fellow lactating comrades, I've compiled a list of responses, ranging from matter of fact to ridiculous, for you to use as you will.
You're welcome, and enjoy:
If you choose to answer at all, you do not have to answer beyond a simple "yes." That's it. There's no need to justify anything, no need to apologize, and no need to get into your legal right to feed your baby. They asked and you answered so the exchange is as done as you want it to be.
If they're going to troll you, troll them back. "No, I don't have to do this at all. In fact, I'm just frivolously breastfeeding to bother you. Frivolously breastfeeding is totally a thing, by the way." Give them a big grin, as though daring them to do anything about it. Because, legally, they can't, and that will drive them nuts.
"I Was Actually Trying To Flirt But Apparently You've Got No Chill"
"Because what better way to casually flirt than by flinging out a boob and letting your baby eat from it, right?"
Hey, if they're not going to be swayed from the idea that any exposure of any amount of breast tissue is somehow a sexual provocation, play into that belief in the weirdest way possible.
"Shh! Quiet, You Fool! I've Come From The Future & You're Blowing My Cover! The Robots Are Going To Strike At Any Moment & I Have To Be Right Here When They Do! Now Go! Flee! Save Yourself!"
Because, honestly, I find the idea of someone being judgmental about a parent breastfeeding in public to be so outlandish and ridiculous that it inspires me to be even more outlandish and ridiculous.
Hold Out Your Hand & Ask Them To Provide You With Formula As An Alternative
OK. I've come up with one solution to feed my child that's working for everyone involved. You seem to think there's a better solution out there — do you want to help me attain the means to follow through with it? Oh, you don't? So, really, you want me to live my life based on what's makes you the most comfortable. No thanks!
"You're Drawing More Attention To This Situation Than Either Me Or My Child"
Seriously, dudes. We're just sitting here. You're the one being all loud and pearl-clutchy about it. If anyone is staring it's because you're making a scene.
Take Your Baby Off Your Breast, Hold Them Up To The Persons Ear, & Let Them Scream
Following the interloper around until they leave. Oh, you don't like listening to a screaming baby in public? Well, if I could just quietly breastfeed them in peace you wouldn't have to be bothered but, well, you've made your feelings on that issue abundantly clear. Gosh this must really be a horrible catch 22 for you. Oh well.
Just Sob "I'm So Sorry!" Over & Over
Again, follow them around until they leave. If they feel like you owe them an apology, give them such an apology that they will hesitate before they ever passive-aggressively demand one ever again.
"I Heard You'd Be Here & Obviously Breastfeeding My Child Is All About You"
It feels like some people think that, right? "No, I don't have to breastfeed here, but I hacked into your phone, figured out past on triangulating cell towers where you would be at this very moment, situated myself in your line of vision and stared nursing my baby. Yes, all for your attention."
Say "It Needs To Feed" In A Really Creepy Voice
Make direct eye contact. Do not blink. Gently stroke your child. They will probably walk away. If they press on just keep repeating it in exactly the same way until they get freaked out enough to leave you alone.
"No Way I Want To Miss Out On This Amazing Conversation?!"
Because you have done this to yourself, Bucky! I've just cancelled all my current plans and now we're doing this, because you clearly have a lot on your mind and I have so much social and legal education to drop on your interloping ass.
"You Seem Really Upset About This Maternal Act. Tell Me About Your Mother..."
If they're going to be overly personal and presumptive, you do the same by getting all Freudian on their ass. If they scoff, reply with a thoughtful, "Oh, well that's interesting." If you can, jot a few things down in a nearby notepad while mouthing "Oedipal complex." If they ask you what you think you're doing, just say, "I'd much rather talk about you. That's why we're here today, right? Now, tell me the first memory you have from your childhood," or, "Let's do a little association. When I say 'milk,' what's the first word that comes to mind?"
Act As Though You Didn't Know Your Child Was Nursing
"Hmmm? What do you? Ahhhh! What is going on here! How did this happen again?!"
"How Else Can I Scandalize Upstanding Citizens & Corrupt The Youth?"
Then just tent your fingers like Mr. Burns or rub them together nefariously like the Hamburglar. Throw in an "excellent" or "robble robble" if you're so inclined. (Or you can go with the villain that best suits your personality.)
I feel like this worked on the playground in elementary school, which is about the level this person is probably operating on, so may as well dust it off and try it out again.
Act As They They Have Allowed You To Finally See The Light
"Gee! I've never thought of it that way before! 'Do I really need to breastfeed in public?' Oh my gosh! It's all so simple! Thank you! Thank you, my friend, for allowing me to see the error of my ways! This conversation is going to change my life, my child's life, and, dare-I-say, the world! Please, share your message with the masses! Go! Run! Tell them all now, before it's too late! You cannot keep this important and earth-shattering revelation to yourself!"
Pretend You Can't Hear Them
No matter how loud they are or how close they get. Just point to your ears, make a face, and shrug while mouthing "sorry."
"Yes! I Would Have Gotten Away With It, Too, If It Weren't For You Meddling Kids!"
I'm usually the Velma in any given situation, but sometimes it's fun to be the creepy old amusement park owner who wanted the insurance money.
Keep Asking "Why?"
Go ahead and get philosophical. Not only will this probably annoy them, but it will force them to confront their hang-ups about breastfeeding, women's bodies, public spaces, parenthood, and all of the other issues that they (clearly) desperately need to sort out.
"Do Any Of Us Ever Have To Be Anywhere?"
This is when you can get super philosophical. Feel free to use your really stoned hippie voice for this one (or, alternatively, your really intense Philosophy 101 professor who has a ponytail and leather patches on his tweed jacket voice).
"Do You Have To Be Out In Public?"
Because this is just as valid a question to ask anyone as it is to ask a parent nursing their child. Us breastfeeding moms don't go around probing you for reasons you're out and about, or why you're doing what you're doing, so what gives? My sitting here nursing my child is just as permissible (and appropriate) a public activity as you playing Frisbee or drinking coffee or whatever it is you're doing.
"Yes, & I Have Every Right To Do So"
Because you do. This is even better if you carry around a microphone with you so you can drop it and end the conversation.