Breastfeeding, Parenting

Breastfeeding in public: Cheerleading Breastfeeders in the Court

8 July, 2014

I walked passed a mum beautifully breastfeeding in public recently. She was nursing her newborn in the Food Court at the Mall a few weeks ago. (I try and avoid the Mall like the noro-virus- mostly because there is a tiny carousel of horses right in the middle that both the girls could happily kill an afternoon on. Without even KNOWING they played music and spun around. This last time we went a boy set it in motion with a buck his generous dad handed him. Pheweeee. The girls were like MIND = BLOWN. We can never return. They will hold a Sit In on the saddles until I’ve emptied our bank account into the horses’ throats.)

So, anyway. I was at the Mall, forced to go there after looking unsuccessfully for safety pins in no less than 4 shops on the high street. After seventeen hours on the horses I managed to buy the safety pins and we were just passing through the Food Court when this new mama caught my eye. The thought occurred to me that, outside of my own circle of extended breastfeeding friends, I can’t actually remember the last person I saw breastfeeding in public. Truly.

I had an urge to connect with her, as irresistible as my fingers responding to a sign that says WET PAINT, (what, don’t tell me you never lightly stroke the surrounding surface? Oh, you really don’t?) I was pulled towards her by the forces of the Cosmic Breastfeeding Brigade.

BUT! EEP! She looks a but scary! Not really like me at all! Cried my fearful mind.

COME YE! Soothed the CBB and I wandered over to her.

“It’s so nice to see you nursing your baby!”

“Oh! Yeah.”


“Sorry, just thought I’d say I really appreciate you nursing in public as it makes it all much easier for mums, I reckon, um..babble, babble..”

“Yeah, I normally do it in the toilet but I just didn’t today.”

“It’s a bit nicer out here, eh.”


We smiled and had Meaningful Mother to Mother Eye Contact etc and it didn’t end awkwardly AT ALL. Of course, on my way out I thought about how awfully patronising I probably sounded, and how idiotic it was for me to even mention it, it’s such a non issue.

But turns out it is an issue. The latest edition of our local newspaper had as it’s front page “Mother told to leave for breastfeeding in the Food Court of the Mall”… Yep, that REALLY HAPPENED. She was told by staff to stop breastfeeding or to leave. Isn’t that just gobsmacking?

How awful I felt for the mother asked to leave- how horrendously humiliating- and how glad I felt that I did have that encouraging conversation with another breastfeeding mother just a few weeks earlier.

Mystic Meg aside, (Come on, that is WELL WEIRD that I had that funny solidarity chat in the food court of the Mall I never go to, eh?) I did feel like at least it’s not all completely out of kilter. Because other mums will be saying kind things to other publicly breastfeeding mums all over the place- I know they have to me- and every single one of these is a counter weight to all the nonsense and humiliating guff spoken to breastfeeding mums at other times.

WE are the antidote to ignorance! WE are the salve for wounds of embarrassment and rejection!

(Our kind words are SO important and so us our own public breastfeeding and campaigning for more welcoming attitudes to nursing mothers.)


So go on, really, the next time you see a breastfeeding mum, go over and give her a verbal High Five. Leave out the patronising, and no need to glorify it or Boo Hiss at a bottle, but simply let the mother know that she is making the world a kinder place for other mothers and babies. Have the courage to tell a breastfeeding mum that you appreciate HER courage.

I might head to the Mall and let the kids spend their dream day on the carousel while I breastfeed brazenly and cheerlead anyone else doing so!

PS I wrote something like this but better last year…

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  • Tetris 8 July, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Great post! And I remember wanting to run away to the nearby shopping centre when I was three purely because they had a merry-go-round. Whoop! … Needless to say I never did. In hindsight I’m sure that’s a good thing.

    Anyhoo, is a mass breastfeeding protest next on your to-do? A la …


  • libi 8 July, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    Still so needed. Only yesterday one of my Facebook friends posted a question as her status – she’d been told by the doorman that breastfeeding in weatherspoons was illegal. He patronisingly told her that he had “let” her continue because no-one complained but in future she should know that it’s illegal to BF in a restaurant or pub and she should go to the local park to do so??!

    She was asking if this was really the case and considering if he had a point because she had been in too much of a rush to use a cover up! This is an intelligent, strong and well supported woman who had a wealth of friends and family to back her up – yet she still doubted herself in the face of this guys ignorance and superior attitude. Lots of people were telling her to make a formal complaint but it seems a bit much to leave it to dog tired 8week old parents to stand up for common sense. She has so much going on in her life just now -correcting this guys ignorance with written complaints or otherwise seems a big ask for her at this point in her life however important for the rest of society. I guess that’s why support from others who might have a bit more of a distant / less sleep deprived perspective is so important.

  • Katie 8 July, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    I so wish that more of my friend’s openly breast fed. I think that it would have encouraged me not to hide away so much. But then saying that, I wish that I had been more open and comfortable breastfeeding, and possibly made someone else more comfortable.

  • ThaliaKR 8 July, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    I cannot believe people still feel they have to breastfeed in toilets. So appalling that they’re made to feel that uncomfortable. Sorry, that’s totally obvious, but I really hadn’t heard of anyone in New Zealand doing that.

    Good on you, Lucy 🙂 The first time’s the hardest!

  • Marta 8 July, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    I always feel so surprised when I read on this and other brestfeeding friendly blogs how awkward it can be to breastfeed in public. I nursed my two kids everywhere, never though much about it. In the train, the park, the mall, the restaurant, the street… Never ever used a toilet to do so. Never cared about my niples showing (and I’m a reserved type of person)… I never even though it could be noticed as something undesirable to the public. But now this lectures come to me here and there, and I start to realise I don’t see many people (apart from some close friends) nursing in public. Still, it happens, sometimes I pass trough a mother who is nursing, although more and more they cover the breast (and the baby) while doing it. I used to believe it was not an issue, here in Portugal. But I came to know there are some projects being born here that promote public breastfeeding. So now I’m paying more attention to it, as I believe that stopping a mother from breastfeeding (anywhere!) should be a crime.

  • Ali 9 July, 2014 at 8:52 am

    I genuinely don’t understand why people are offended by breast feeding… seriously can someone explain. Is it the bare boobs? Coz you don’t really see them ( not like in a page 3 way… unless ive been doing it wrong!!) I honestly do not get it!
    I was asked not to feed my daughter in a restaurant once, the very embarrassed waiter asked me very nicely to stop. I explained that I could, but my hungry daughter would scream very loudly and cause more disruption ( which I would secretly delight in!) So it was his choice. He muttered something which I can only assume was his humble apologies and I carried on. The world didn’t end, so I’m not really sure what the fuss was really about.

  • Catherine Kilgour 9 July, 2014 at 11:27 am

    Breast feeding in public should be so common that people don’t even blink when we do it.

    It sure is nice when a private area is available to breastfeed in because some babies won’t stay latched on if they think there is something happening they might be missing out on. The seats are normally more comfortable too than standard food court chairs.

    I totally don’t understand how or why anyone would consider feeding their babies in the toilets.

  • Natasha Batsford 9 July, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Or if you feel too shy to speak to them, send me a mail and I’ll post you some little cards for your wallet that say “thank you for nursing in public, you make it easier for other mothers to do the same”.

    No catch, or charge 🙂

  • Sian 9 July, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Well done Lucy. I’m sure this mum appreciated your encouragement even if it was a bit awkward at first. When I breasted in public, I found the disapproval of it was often a generational thing. For example, I was once in the dentist’s waiting room when Teleri started crying for milk. As I started unbuttoning my top, my mum exclaimed ‘you can’t do that here!!’ in a horrified tone! Allie’s parents also seemed embarrassed when I fed in restaurants, but I carried on regardless because I truly believe in the benefits of breast feeding. You end up developing such a thick skin! The only time I remember feeding in the toilets was at the Rink whilst the feeding room was being re-decorated. This was when Gwen was tiny and I didn’t have the confidence to feed in the coffee shop. I soon got over it! In my experience, you do it to avoid the stares and awkward silences – people don’t know where to look when your boobs are on display, they find it a major distraction!!

  • Jessica B 9 July, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    I nurse my 12 week old baby anywhere and everywhere. I have never had anyone say anything, or even give me a look (but I do live in Brighton, liberal Sodom that it is).
    The thing that has had the most negativity on my confidence nursing in public is my mom (who breastfed all three of us) repeatedly asking me when I’m going out if I “have a little blanket to cover up with” because “it makes some people uncomfortable”.
    I put it to her, and everyone else who thinks that women shouldn’t breastfeed in public, that the KNOWLEDGE that that little baby has a nipple in it’s mouth is what makes people uncomfortable, not the actual amount of flesh on display.

  • LKD 17 July, 2014 at 11:09 am

    I’ve been so lucky in this regard. I live in NYC, in an area where people look at you a bit strangely if you AREN’T breastfeeding in public. I’m kidding, but it does sum up the atmosphere of our neighborhood.

    I truly can’t imagine being persecuted for nursing but have endless sympathy for women who have to put up with any level of disdain for being human and feeding their children. It’s just astonishing.

  • becky 20 July, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    oh Lucy! Keep being brave. My uptight mother in laws used to give me an awakward chair in a solitary room upstairs to breast feed so ‘the men’ wold nt feel awakward) no instead i felt uncomfortable isolated and seperated. She would look out of the window or anywhere else other than at me if it was just me and her and I was breastfeeding. RIDICULOUS !!! we women neded NEED to cheer each other on.

  • collette 4 August, 2014 at 9:13 am

    I am writing this one handed and on my ph, while I breastfeed my little man. I have only started this bf journey, and boy its been hard. Because I was super unwell at the beginning, Micah and I have had to battle just to get to fully breastfeeding without top ups or anything. In fact I still have a healing wound. Anyway, what I an trying to get at is just how courageous you have to be to push through the beginning of bf and not give up, let alone worry about silly comments. People should be giving rewards and high fives. So here is to future me and anyone who needs a boost!

    • Lucy 4 August, 2014 at 11:33 am

      Absolutely! And good on you Collette for boshing through that threshold. HERE IS MY BIGGEST HIGH FIVE EVER!!!

  • Kitka 13 August, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Enjoy this catchy and amusing song about breast feeding in public :))

  • Lisa 14 August, 2014 at 12:03 am

    Wow, how horrible that it’s not accepted. I breastfed my first two kids anywhere and everywhere. In Australia you are allowed to breastfeed anywhere – it breaches discrimination legislation to prevent someone from breastfeeding regardless of the location, whether you’re on a bus, in a food court or a fancy restaurant. I never realised we were so enlightened down here!

    I heard a story from the US recently that a mum was asked to leave a Victoria Secret store because she was breastfeeding her baby. Can you believe it?! A brand that glorifies boobs, and they won’t let them perform their natural function!?

    Good for you for offering encouragement. My third child was unable to breastfeed and after breastfeeding my first two for a long time I felt very conspicuous giving #3 a bottle in public.