How Society Will Shame You For Being A Nursing Mom

Ever since someone pointed out how much more women tend to apologize than men, I have made a sincere effort to knock it off (unless I actually have something to be sorry for). However, despite the fact that women have been socially conditioned to apologize, more or less, for existing in the first place, not everything requires an apology and we can stop. For example, there are times when you are expected to apologize for being a breastfeeding mom that are, plainly put, bullsh*t. So stop apologizing. No, don't apologize for apologizing! This is what I'm talking about ladies!

I hope you guys are down for a feminist rant, because that's kind of where I'm going for a second: ultimately, any argument someone has against breastfeeding (or breastfeeding in public) will come down to female bodies and perceptions female sexuality. The "standard" body and mode of existing in public is cis-male, and everyone else's body is "other." So anything we do or have that a cis-male body doesn't do or have, is treated as something we have to hide or, when that's not possible, either apologize for or be ashamed of.

Add the fact that breastfeeding has been pushed so firmly into the private sphere for so long that this very basic function of maternal and infant life has often been viewed as subversive when done outside the walls of one's own home, and you have a recipe for constantly feeling like you have to say "I'm sorry." There can often be a lot of shame and, as such, pressure to apologize associated with breastfeeding (and breastfeeding associated issues) in the presence of another person, but please do not say "sorry" for any of it, including the following:

Feeding In Public

Even in good situations, when everyone's being pretty cool, I feel like there's this expectation that we're supposed to be grateful for the fact that everyone is being so gracious and understanding. We have to preemptively apologize to anyone who might be offended by the sight of a mother feeding her child. How about no? How about, "This is normal and necessary and, moreover, my legal right, so how about I stop pretending (or feeling as though) I have to cater to your comfort levels?"

Not Covering Up

While breastfeeding laws and protections vary from state to state, 28 states and the District of Columbia specifically exempt breastfeeding from "indecent exposure" prosecution. All but one permit a nursing parent the right to feed their child wherever they have the legal right to be, public or private (get your sh*t together, Idaho, come on). But even in the 22 places that do not specifically protect a nursing parent from "indecency" laws, no state has ever charged someone with such a "crime" on the basis of their nursing in the open.

So, hey: you're terrified of glimpsing a woman's areola. That sure does suck, but it also sounds like a personal problem so, you know, maybe you should be the one to find somewhere private to deal with that.

Visibly Lactating

People are often massively uncomfortable with the idea of lactation. However, if you're a nursing mom you're almost certainly going to have the telltale wet spots on the front of your shirt at some point. It is what it is, and there's nothing wrong with that: that's what the breasts of a nursing mom are supposed to do.

Being uncomfortable with seeing breast milk through a shirt (or otherwise) is like getting all Puritanical about seeing someone a little sweaty after they've just been on a run. (Seriously: milk glands are probably modified sweat glands, anyway.) And yet, uncomfortably Puritanical they get regardless. Maybe it's because we have built up this idea that breasts are exclusively aesthetic in purpose. Maybe it's because bodies in general are an uncomfortable subject for society, especially female bodies. No matter the reason, it's something everyone needs to calm down about. It's milk, you guys. It's very sweet and also a little bit magic. No need to get weird about it unless someone is, like, spraying you with it and without your consent.

Bringing Your Baby With You Somewhere

So often, the presence of children is frowned upon, even in public spaces where they absolutely have the right to be. Here's the thing: breastfeeding parents need to tote their kids around pretty much everywhere they go, at least for a little while. Babies eat all the damn time. The baby requires sustenance, which means your boobs are constantly getting all milk-swollen (as sexy as it sounds), which means if you don't have a baby drink that milk,it's like, well, have you ever seen a cartoon in which someone puts a kink in a hose, and then the back-end of that hose just gets bigger and bigger and bigger until it is finally un-kinked and just kind of comes gushing out with the force of a geyser? It's like that, only also sorta painful.

Asking For Even Minor Accommodations

For example: scheduling a meeting for 10:30 instead of 10:00 so you don't have to switch up your pumping schedule. Or, even more basic: a place to pump.

Often, these accommodations are legal mandates, yet a new parent (in particular) feels like they have to muster up enough courage to talk about it with an employer. These simple conversations do not need to being with "I'm sorry, but..." or, "I'm sorry, it's just that..." You have nothing to apologize for. As a breastfeeding parent, you have certain needs. It is completely right and reasonable for you to have those needs met.

Nursing In Front Of Children

Because don't you know? Breasts are always lewd and sexual. Children should have as little exposure to breasts as possible. Even to cleavage because, well, I don't know? They'll fall in or something?

Anyway. Innocent eyes must be shielded from your dirty pillows. Plus, how do I even explain what's happening? Just tell them the baby is drinking milk from your breast? Because that's how lots of people and even animals feed their babies? That seems, um, deceptively simple.

OK, but what if a trans man nurses his baby in front of my child: how on Earth will I have that conversation?! Won't they be confused? Wait? I can just say, "Some daddies can feed their babies milk from their bodies?" Oh. That's, yep, also incredibly simple. #Lawyered

Nursing Past An Arbitrary Deadline As Dictated By Them

"I'm all for breastfeeding, but* nursing past [X age] is just creepy/weird/wrong."

"X age" is always different. I've heard one year, two years, six months, even two weeks. It's almost like people aren't basing this on literally anything but their personal opinion.

You don't have to apologize for having a different opinion than the person you happen to be talking to at the time, especially since it's going to change every new conversation you have. You do you, let them feel their feelings: no "sorry" necessary.

*See also "I'm not racist but" or "I don't have a problem with gay people, but."

Asserting Your Legal Rights

Often, people are not well-versed in their legal rights and protections as nursing parents. A lot is assumed, sometimes erroneously. But hey, you're so preoccupied with taking care of your new baby I get it if didn't exactly have the time to pore over annoying legal documents.

However, knowledge is power and empowering, so here is a list of breastfeeding laws by state (and at the federal level): get to know what your government says about when, where, and how you are entitled to feed your child. (In more places than you might think, they could have you covered pretty nicely.) Go ahead and feel free to push them to clarify things that have been left ambiguous (or, in the case of gender specific language, not ambiguous enough). There's no need to apologize when you can inform someone of your rights instead.