There are so many things someone can say to a woman while she's breastfeeding that supports her decision and her body's ability. I mean, let's be real: breastfeeding isn't necessarily easy. It's taxing and sometimes painful and usually exhausting and while it is beautiful and amazing, it's also difficult, especially when our society continues to shame it. If you're a cisgender man who can't experience breastfeeding for yourself, you can still help assist the women who can. If you're a grown-ass man, there are things you'll refuse to say about a woman's body while she's breastfeeding, because you'll be acutely aware that women's bodies have been sexualized to the point that the functionality of a woman's breasts falls second to the sexuality of a woman's breasts.
I was lucky in that I had a partner who not only supported by choice and ability to breastfeed, he emphatically fought for it when we were in public and I was feeding our son without a cover and enduring the looks and judgments and inappropriate commentary of others. He made me feel like I wasn't alone in my breastfeeding efforts, and I can't tell you how helpful that was. The more grown-ass men come to realize that even if they can't breastfeed, they can still be part of the breastfeeding experience and do things that support breastfeeding, the easier women who choose and/or are able to breastfeed will have it. The more grown-ass men help breastfeeding mothers, the more babies will end up benefiting from breastfeeding, in general.
So, in the name of supporting breastfeeding and the mothers who choose and/or are able to do it, here's a list of what a grown-ass man (or any man, hell any person) should absolutely never say to a woman while she's breastfeeding. Sometimes, the best way to learn how you can help is to learn how you could potentially hurt, and adjust your actions and statement accordingly.
"Well, That's Not Attractive"
Breastfeeding isn't meant to be "attractive." Is it beautiful? Absolutely. Is it amazing? You bet. Is it an act done for the benefit of the male gaze? Um, are you out of your freakin' mind? No one cares if some random dude finds breastfeeding attractive or not.
"Maybe This Will Help You Lose Weight?"
The implications of this question/statement are hurtful and disgusting and everything that is wrong with a society that devalues women while simultaneously sexualizing them ad nauseam. We tell mothers that they shouldn't appear "sexy," but we demand that they "lose the baby weight" the moment the have their child. It's just so infuriating and exhausting.
Can breastfeeding help you lose weight? Yes, sometimes it can, but sometimes it can't. While a breastfeeding mother typically burns between 300-500 calories when she breastfeeds, her body also holds onto fat so it can produce the milk her baby needs. Regardless, and most importantly, no grown-ass man (or any freakin' man) should be concerned about a woman's weight or how much weight she is losing or how breastfeeding is affecting her "figure." Just, like, no.
"Your Breasts Will Never Be The Same"
I'm not one to condone violence. Ever. However, if a man said this to me I would be very inclined to tell him that his face would never be the same.
A woman's body goes through so many changes when she's pregnant and when she's postpartum and when she's breastfeeding (if she's willing and/or able to do so) and when she's simply living her life. Some of those changes she will love and some of those changes will take time to get used to. Regardless, all of those changes are not open for commentary or comment.
"You Should Cover Up..."
You should shut your mouth.
"...Because No One Wants To See That"
I breastfed in public without a cover many times and, sadly, heard this very statement many times. Each time someone told me, "no one wants to see that," I couldn't help but ask them what "that" meant. No one wanted to see my son eat? No one wanted to see something natural? No one wanted to see a mother feeding her child?
If the answer to all of the aforementioned questions was still a resounding and emphatic, "No," I was quick to let that individual no that whoever "no one" may be, could look the other way. I wasn't forcing them to watch. It's honestly that simple.
"Don't You Mind Having Your Body On Display?"
If my body is on "display," it's because I live in a society that has convinced people that women's bodies are for visual consumption. It's because the collective "we" has sexualized women for so long, that the functionality of a woman's body comes secondary to the sexuality of a woman's body. Do I mind being on display? Sure, especially when people feel the need to catcall or sexually harass me for simply living, but breastfeeding isn't putting my body on display. Breastfeeding is using my body to feed my child.
"I Won't Be Able To Look At You The Same"
I, um, don't care? The sad part is, if a man is saying this to you, chances are you probably know him. I can't imagine a situation in which a stranger would utter this sentence in a breastfeeding woman's direction, which makes this (arguably) worse than any judgmental thing some random person may say. If a woman isn't supported in her breastfeeding efforts, especially by her family members or friends or parenting partner, her chances of continuing to breastfeed are drastically reduced.
"That Doesn't Turn You On, Does It..."
Please stop sexualizing breastfeeding. Please stop sexualizing breastfeeding. Please stop sexualizing breastfeeding. Please, stop.
"...Because It's Doing Something For Me!"
Not only is this horrible and disgusting and any other synonym for "gross" that you could possibly think of, this is also sexual harassment. No. No no no no no.