Breasts are multifunction devices

I made the mistake  yesterday of following the #breastfeeding hashtag on Twitter. Most of it was good reading but there were a few comments from people who objected to breastfeeding. I have never met anyone personally who claims to be offended by breastfeeding so this was new for me and quite astonishing. These people think their personal sensitivities come before the basic survival needs of a young infant. I think this view is complete and utter bollocks. They have no right to prevent someone else from taking care of their young. They need to develop a bit of tolerance. Objecting to someone caring for their infant has got to be the height of absurdity. We live in a society where we’re constantly reading about parents abusing and neglecting their children. Let’s support the ones who want to do the right thing and supporting them does not mean it is right for you to prevent them from doing exactly that.

I used to breastfeed my babies in public spaces. It’s very difficult to avoid when babies are small as they feed every two hours and no-one wants to be house-bound. If someone had asked me to cover up I would have felt indecent,  humiliated, and mortified and probably would have lost a lot of confidence and stayed at home for a good while afterwards. Breastfeeding didn’t come naturally to me at first. Like most other new mothers I found it very difficult and quite painful but I stuck with it because I had a lot of support from people around me.  Being told that what I’m doing is indecent or shameful is the antithesis of supportive and *very* damaging for the mother and society as a whole.

Breasts are multifunction devices. They may provide sexual pleasure for both men and women but they also happen to provide nourishment for young infants. When they perform this latter role, they are not fulfilling their other role in any way. Breastfeeding is 100% nurturing. There’s nothing sexual about it. If people find it offensive to see someone nurture their infants then they need to ask themselves why? And they certainly shouldn’t force these warped views on other people who are simply trying to live their lives and do the right thing by their children. I wonder whether these same people are up in arms when they see women showing a bit of cleavage or tight-fitting clothing? And whether they’re being consistent and tweeting about the indecency of naked breasts in newspapers and women’s magazines?

I rather like what Barbara Ellen said in the Guardian about this –

Where public breastfeeding is concerned, it should be about other people resisting the urge to control nursing mothers and instead learning to control their own behaviour, in particular their need to gawp.

Claridge’s and Farage don’t seem to understand that breastfeeding is a woman’s own business; it remains an entirely private matter, even in a public space.

Happily, breastfeeders tend to be human-size – they don’t fill entire rooms or eclipse suns. Even in a crowded restaurant, it’s fairly easy not to look at a woman breastfeeding and to gaze elsewhere. Thus, if someone chooses to stare and becomes offended, isn’t that their own doing and their own fault?

People who drone: “It’s not about the breastfeeding, it’s the breast” need to resit their biology exams. This is how breastfeeding is done, there’s no other way. It’s unreasonable to expect the female sex to apologise for the plumbing nature gave them – for not being able to make the milk conveniently spurt out of, say, the end of their index finger.

30 thoughts on “Breasts are multifunction devices”

  1. Yes, I agree with what you say at the end; if someone is offended by the sight of a mother breastfeeding, they should probably ask why. It says more about them, than anything else. They certainly can’t be offended by a child eating, so it has to be that there’s something else about the process that they find offensive. We should be aiming to make if socially unacceptable to be offended, rather than acceding to those who are.

    I may have told this story somewhere online before, but we were visiting the Air & Space museum in Washington DC when my daughter was about 6 months old. She needed to be fed and so my wife went to a desk in the middle in the main auditorium and asked where she could breastfeed. The person let her sit behind the desk. After she’d finished, we headed off into the museum, only to discover a dedicated breastfeeding room about 20 yards from the desk where she’d just been sitting. We never did find out if the person didn’t know that there was such a room or just liked the idea of someone breastfeeding behind their desk 🙂

    1. That’s so nice to hear of the good experience your wife had and I imagine there must be more of these than not. I get the feeling that the negative examples like this one at the London hotel are a minority and I hope this is the case. Not once in the whole time I was breastfeeding my children did anyone ever ask me to stop or cover up. On one occasion I even had someone compliment me and that made me feel good about what I was doing.

      1. If I remember correctly, when we were living in the US, there was quite a campaign to promote breastfeeding, and I don’t have any memory of anyone ever being offended. I think it’s probably similar in the UK and, as you say, what happened in the London hotel was just an anomaly. I hope so.

  2. I really feel like WTF at those people who are offended by breast feeding. Breast milk is the best thing a child can get and afaik it helps them for the rest of their life with things like providing immunity etc.

    The quote from Guardian makes perfect sense. If people are offended, they better look elsewhere if they can. But yeah, this world is a place to all sorts of people so I am not really raged at these offenders.

    1. Yes, there are all sorts of people in this world and if people can’t control their feelings then they ought not to make others feel bad by sharing it with them. Breast milk is the best, I agree 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on steelcityman and commented:
    I read this article about the recent behaviour of some morons who had their sensibilities offended by the recent breast feeding ‘incident’ at Clarridges ( forgive me if I’ve spelt it incorrectly, it’s not a place I frequent…in the words of Robert Treswell…”It’s not for the likes of us”.
    Rachel is a blogger extraordinaire and well worth the effort of following her words of wisdom on her WordPress blog …. give it a whirl…you’ll be hooked. Anyway….Rachel’s blog ……

  4. Hi Rachel…I hope you don’t mind but after reading your blog about the multifunctionallity of breasts and the recent ‘incident’ at Clarridges…I just had to reblog the entire article. Words of wisdom indeed…magnificent article. I follow and read everything you write and this particular blog, I thought, was the jewel in your crown. Keep writing, I’ll keep following. Have a grand Christmas.

  5. I did not breast feed as there was a concern about a medication I was taking. I feel I missed out on a wonderful experience plus providing the best. I probably would have been one of those that cowered and hid in the closet to cover the act. That’s just the way it was. Today I hope to think I would be out there exposing myself. I wonder.

    1. I have no doubt that you’d have been out there exposing yourself and not only that, you probably would have been writing a song about at the same time. Multitasking 🙂

  6. I find it utter madness that people question breastfeeding, it’s the very essence of human survival. If historically we didn’t do it, humans would be flipping extinct! I fed all of mine, discreetly – (for my comfort not anybody else’s) and wherever it happened to need doing. Luckily I was never approached for doing so but my response would have been a less than polite ‘Go f@£k yourself.’ While I’m ranting I’ll add that in times like this it really pisses me off that people who are pro feeding are helpfully labelled as the breastapo. What a crazy world we live in!

  7. Where sight is concerned, one can always look away. On the other hand, noise pollution is more difficult to avoid, Some idiot with a gas guzzling, exhaust roaring tin can with his over inflated bass sounds hanging out for all to admire, is a much more real offense than breast feeding. Such person should not be handed a napkin but strangled with.

    That’s my rant for the year. Same time next year ? 😛

    1. You know how fond I am of cars so you have a sympathetic ear here. Can you believe there are people who do things to their cars for the sole purpose of making them noisier?? Why? What strange people.

  8. I absolutely agree with you Rachel, I breastfed all three of my children anywhere and everywhere if needs be. A crying, hungry baby waits for no-one! How anyone can be offended beats me. I was only given a sharp rebuke once, in a cafe. I was hidden away, it was very quiet, when one of the staff, an older woman, came over from behind the counter and asked me to go feed my baby in the toilets. Can you believe it? I was totally humiliated and mortified. When I went into the toilet there was no chair, nothing. So I had to sit on the toilet seat to feed my baby and I wept while doing so as I felt so awful, as if I’d been disgraced by doing something ‘dirty’. I was incensed but too upset to say anything. Today I would have handled it very differently and told her to eff off and carried on until I was finished. But that’s not the point. Great post, thanks Rachel.

    1. Oh Sherri that is so awful. And a woman too! She should have known better. And also that no one stuck up for you in the cafe and they all just let this horrible person send you to the toilets like a naughty child. It makes me so cross!!!

  9. Per recent research (article), It may not be the case that there’s no connection between breastfeeding and sex. But even if so, that’s no reason to ban it in public or to make women uncomfortable when doing it. The other “logic” leads to the burqa.

    A subject I’m very interested in and need to do a lot more reading on is the “conservative” (not really the applicable term, but it’s how they label themselves) disgust response that gets directed against perceived out-groups. Indeed, apparently it’s what such people use to create their perception of out-groups. Adverse reactions to public breastfeeding are a neat fit.

    An obvious further factor is the desire to exert control over reproductive-age women (who, from a functional biological perspective, ought to be the most powerful part of human society).

    1. That’s a great article, thanks! It has made me wonder whether part of the negative reaction by certain men to breastfeeding can be explained as a form of jealousy. Perhaps they don’t like the attention given to the infant. If this is the case then these men are likely to make poor partners and fathers and should be avoided by reproductive-age women.

  10. Hey, you can use highlighting to get it to snow anywhere here. But oddly it continues to not accumulate. Melts on contact, I suppose. 🙂

      1. No problem at all, I just thought it was interesting that it appears in highlighted areas.

      2. I think it’s supposed to appear over the entire page but probably disappears on the white background. I was only going to have it for a few days but I quite like it now 🙂

  11. Hot off the press:

    “Boosting length of breastfeeding could save NHS more than £40 million every year

    “Doubling the number of mothers who breastfeed for 7-18 months in their lifetime and helping others to continue for at least four months could save the National Health Service more than £40 million every year, suggests new research.”


  12. Almost 40 years ago, I was breastfeeding my baby whenever I needed to and sometimes in public – I can’t believe it is still an issue for some people! Just absurd!

    1. I can’t believe it either. I wonder whether it’s better tolerated today than 40 years ago? I hope it’s better today. Some people just want to make life miserable for everyone else.

  13. Very great post. You have clearly mentioned that the mentality of people is at fault. One should see a mother in that position and if he thinks otherwise, he is definitely mentally pervert.

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