Even though breastfeeding is arguably one of the most natural acts a woman can do (if she chooses and if she's able) it's often shamed, judged and ridiculed. If a woman breastfeeds in public sans cover, she's an inappropriate attention-hoarder; if a woman breastfeeds in public with a cover, she's ashamed of her body. If a woman breastfeeds for an extended period of time, she's crude; if a woman doesn't breastfeed long enough, she's selfish. Our culture—which has, sadly, been ridiculously successful as sexualizing women's bodies to no foreseeable end—has created a society that sees breastfeeding as more embarrassing than it is natural, but that doesn't mean you have to be embarrassed, too.
Just because a person—whether they're a stranger or trusted family member—has a particular reaction to you choosing to breast feed or pump breast milk or any experience associated to either, doesn't mean you should lower your head in shame. I chose and was able to breastfeed and regularly breastfed without a cover in public places. I wasn't surprised when people reacted in a way that suggested I should be embarrassed by my actions, nor did their reactions work to make me feel ashamed for feeding my son whenever and wherever he needed, because I know that breasts are both sexual and functional. And when I'm breastfeeding my son, they're functional.
So honestly—and while I'm more than aware that this is easier typed than done, and it can be hard if not impossible to shift your emotions when you're made to feel "on the spot"—there's absolutely no reason why you should feel embarrassed about these nine very common breastfeeding moments.
When Someone Points Or Stares
If you make the choice to breastfeed in public sans cover, this is (sadly) bound to happen. The social stigma associated with unapologetically feeding your child with your body has left many people feeling more than entitled to tell mothers when or where or how they can feed their children. However, their false sense of entitlement shouldn't end with you feeling embarrassed. Just because some relative stranger can't disconnect the sexuality of breasts from the functionality of breasts doesn't mean you should ever feel self-conscious about your body or the way in which you feed your kid.
When Your Boob Pops Out
You have to uncover your breast in order to give your baby access to the vital nutrients they need, so yeah, your boob is probably going to go rogue and make a solo appearance when you didn't necessarily want it to and/or plan for it to. Hey, it happens. We're all adults (or, well, I'd like to think so). A breast being flashed while a mother is trying to feed her baby, shouldn't evoke the same reaction as a breast being flashed at any other time. Society needs to disassociate itself from the constant sexualization of women's bodies, and if the people around you can't do that for whatever reason, well, that's on them.
When You Lactate Unexpectedly
It's normal, it happens, it's nothing to be ashamed of. "Let down" can cause a woman to leak breast milk, a reflex she has absolutely no control over that can be stimulated by hearing her baby, thinking of her baby, or even hearing someone else's baby cry. We tend to get embarrassed when our bodies secrete natural fluids from parts that society has sexualized ad nauseam. Our culture doesn't collectively freak out when we secrete salt water from our eyeballs (unless you're Michael Jordan, who will never rid himself of that meme) so we honestly shouldn't freak out when a woman's breasts lactates.
When You Leak Breastmilk During Sex
The same hormone that is responsible for the let down of your breast milk is released when you experience nipple stimulation or even an orgasm. When your body recognizes the increased production of said hormone, and you're breastfeeding, you're bound to leak some boob juice. It's just science, you guys. There's no reason to freak out; you're not "wasting milk" and you're not gross and you're not anything other than a breastfeeding mother who is enjoying herself with her partner.
When/If You Get An Infection
Although it's estimated that only 1-3 percent of women end up getting a severe breast infection, known as Mastitis, while breastfeeding, the reasons why are relatively common and completely out of any woman's control. Bacteria—usually from the feeding baby or babies' mouth(s)—can end up clogging a milk duct, causing an infection that requires antibiotics. Again, just like leaks, our society tends to shame, judge, and react rather ridiculously to health concerns on parts of the body we've collectively sexualized. An infection on the hand or foot doesn't garner the same response as a very normal infection on a breast or genitals. After all, the flu is an infection, and you wouldn't feel embarrassed about getting the flu, right? Well, you shouldn't feel embarrassed about getting a breast infection while you're breastfeeding, either.
When You Accidentally Shoot Someone With Milk
Yes, accidentally shooting someone with a stream of your breast milk is a thing that happens, or at least can happen. And if it does, honestly, you shouldn't feel embarrassed. Actually, feel proud: this is hilarious and a magnificent story that should be told and retold for years to come. Do you, mom.
When Someone Walks In On You Pumping
Pumping isn't necessarily intuitive, which can make it a difficult (not to mention boring, sometimes painful, and definitely laborious and awkward) act. Having to pump in a place of privacy when you're at work only exacerbates all of those breast pumping traits. So, really, if someone walks in on you pumping when you're at work (or anywhere else) just brush it off. I mean, you're literally pumping life-sustaining fluids from your body. That's amazing. If someone is lucky enough to witness that act, however awkward and painful and boring and laborious it may be, they should just thank you.
When Your Baby/Toddler Searches For Food Via Someone Else's Breasts
A baby will naturally crawl towards their mother's breast, directly after they're born. It's called the "breast crawl," and it's an intuition science believes every baby is born with. If a mother chooses and is successful at breastfeeding, a baby will continue to seek out a breast when they're hungry. Of course, sometimes, this will happen even when they're not being held by their mother. To a baby, a breast is nothing but a food dispenser, and it honestly doesn't matter who is attached to that food dispenser when that baby is hungry.
When Your Kid Yells "Boobs" Or Something Similar
If you're choosing and are able to extend breastfeeding, chances are your toddler will yell out something that could be seen as inappropriate, but honestly isn't. Again, and it's sad that we have to be conscious mindful of this, but a child does not sexualize bodies the way our culture does. When they say something like "boob" or "breast" or the like, they're doing so because they're hungry, not because they're inappropriate.