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Men and Nursing in Public

No, I’m not talking about men nursing in public (although that might be an interesting post).  This post is about how men should behave around nursing mamas.

Before we had kids, my husband and I worked at a camp and retreat center in NY.  A few times a year, we hosted staff trainings for a group called Intervarsity.  Always, the Intervarsity staff brought babies.  Lots of babies.  And we joked that my husband was jinxed at accidentally walking into a room of nursing mamas.  He wasn’t anti-breastfeeding by any stretch.  We simply hadn’t run much with the “couples with babies” crowd.  He wasn’t sure of the etiquette.  Frankly, neither was I.   

Fast-forward.  My husband can hang with the lactators now.  Many times, he has been in a room full of nursing women.  And he is the man you want in the restaurant if someone criticizes a nursing woman or heaven forbid–asks her to leave.  He would become the public spectacle of righteous indignation.  Recently he even schooled a buddy who complained about women who avoided the “nursing mom’s room” (usually just gross bathrooms with chairs in the corner) and nursed in public instead.  

In this process, however, he has asked the big question:  Where should I look? 

I think most men are fine with women nursing in public but they don’t want to appear to be a pervert by getting too close or accidentally “looking.”  They feel trapped by the whole scene.   

I certainly can’t speak for all women but here is my preference. 

I feel awkward if the man looks everywhere but at me or if he turns away while trying to carry on a conversation with me.  Friend, you don’t have to put me at ease.  I’m already at ease.  If I wasn’t, I would have excused myself to go nurse elsewhere or I would have pulled out a hooter-hider (yes they did name it that). 

I would prefer the guy make eye contact or (gasp) look.  I’m just feeding a baby.  Don’t pretend it isn’t happening.  Ask me how breastfeeding is going.  Or continue with whatever conversation we were having.  If you’re a stranger passing by, make eye contact, smile and move on.  Don’t be such a boob about the whole thing.  It is really quite simple.   

I probably only have 4 men who read my blog so I’m likely preaching to the choir.  Maybe some poor guy will google “men and nursing in public” and find some reassurance here.  To that poor guy–bravo! 

To the breastfeeding mamas reading, what are your thoughts?

4 responses »

  1. I agree. Looking everywhere but at the nursing mom isn’t good. Actually, I just put my finger on what that frantic glancing elsewhere reminds me of. It’s what I do when I am having blood drawn. So, yes, eye contact is the way to go.

  2. Yes. I always felt uncomfortable when people mistakenly tried to make me more comfortable by avoiding looking at me. It made me feel like there was something horrible about what I was doing, in their minds. When people just talked to me normally while I breastfed, I felt very comfortable and supported. If men inadvertently looked at my breast while it was exposed it didn’t really bother me at all – unless they were obviously embarrassed and then I would feel embarrassed for them. I’d much rather have a man that I know show moderate interest in the proceedings than turn away – as for a stranger, staring isn’t a good plan but certainly an encouraging smile is always welcome.

  3. “Don’t be such a boob about the whole thing. It is really quite simple. “

    Ha! I admit to never having a conversation with a man while nursing. No one has been bold enough to speak to me, except maybe my dad. He talks but looks a different direction and I’ll give him a pass. I’ve had men and women stare more when I used the hooter hider. I wish they would just ask me what it is or tell me what is on their minds, instead of trying to quickly look away when I attempt eye contact. When I’m nursing Jack in my car before going inside somewhere, I often try to think about times I’ve seen another woman nursing in public, and honestly I can’t think of any except at Blessingways or AP meetups. That’s a shame.

    I anticipate many more conversations when my giant son is the size of a six year old next year and still nursing. 🙂

  4. I totally agree with you. I’m the only one of my close friends who breastfeed and the husbands of those friends are TOTALLY uncomfortable with the whole idea. I don’t think they are against it, they just are uncomfortable with the idea that they might catch a glimpse of my breast. *Gasp!!* They actually LEAVE the room when I nurse my son. They say it’s out of “respect” for my husband. I just laugh and shake my head, hoping that the more they are exposed to nursing in public the more comfortable they will be.


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