You Are Not the Center of the Universe

20130901_115139Often when I post about a woman who has been harassed while breastfeeding in public or a blog post advocating for the fair treatment of breastfeeding women I see comments such as these:

“I breastfeed in public and have never been harassed.”

“You all must be do something different than me because I have never experienced this.”

“People don’t say anything to me because I don’t just whip it out.”

“She needed to be more discrete and classy about it.”

Let me explain something to you. Your personal experiences do not change someone else’s. Just because something hasn’t happened to you doesn’t mean that it hasn’t happened to someone else. You are not the center of the universe. Further, when a woman is a victim of harassment of any kind it is wildly inappropriate, inaccurate and unsupportive to suggest that she did something to bring that on.

I have never been robbed. That doesn’t mean that someone else hasn’t been. That doesn’t mean that the person who was robbed did something to bring the robbery on. That doesn’t mean that I behave in some way that is better than someone else that prevents me from being robbed. That doesn’t mean that robberies don’t happen every day. Just like the harassment of women. Turn on the news. It’s all public domain. It’s luck of the draw. The stories are not being made up.

We are not the center of the universe. We are not the axis upon which Earth spins. Things are happening all the time to people that don’t happen to others. Breastfeeding women are being harassed, asked to go to the bathroom, asked to cover up and a million other things. If you want to ignore the facts and live in blaming-the-victim-ignorant-bliss then that’s fine, but your argument smells a bit too much like “she shouldn’t have been wearing that short skirt.”

I have never been in a serious car accident. I have never been raped. I have never been abused by my parents. I have never been to Mexico. And you know what? I have never been harassed while breastfeeding in public. Does it make sense then for me to deduce that these things do not happen in other peoples’ lives? Does it makes sense for me to tell myself (and everyone on the internet) that I am doing things right and everyone else is doing things wrong?

20130820_120530There is no right or wrong way to breastfeed. Your opinion about how someone else should breastfeed is inappropriate. It’s actually very hurtful to the breastfeeding cause as a whole. If you choose to breastfeed in a certain way then we are all here to stand up for your choice. No matter what it is. We do this for everyone. This is the heart of this cause. Women should feel empowered to breastfeed no matter where they are no matter how they want. Despite what you or anyone else thinks. Despite how you yourself would choose to do it. “I support breastfeeding, but (as long as you cover, as long as you are discrete, as long as my husband/kid can’t see you, as long as you stop by 1 year old, as long as you act classy, as long as you don’t just whip it out, and whatever nonsensical limitations you want to try to put on someone else based on your own personal feelings) means you do not support breastfeeding.

Instead let’s try being grateful for the positive experiences that we have. Let’s try being thankful for the lack of negative experiences we have with a certain situation. How about:

“I am so lucky; my support and good thoughts go out to those who suffer.”

“I am so happy I have not had to deal with that type of harassment. I will continue to confidently breastfeed in public to do my part to stand up for other women.”

The reality is everyone has different experiences in the world. Believe them, support them, stand up for them.

Abby Theuring, MSW

Comments

  1. Love this! I personally choose to feed uncovered in public, and I know those who are more comfortable with being covered. If you are feeding your baby, don’t apologize! However you do it is fine. Judging those who NIP – not okay. Harassment – not okay. Feeding babies – very okay!

  2. I was once REVERSE harassed about Breastfeeding at a friend’s baby shower. As I discretely made off to the bathroom (where it was quieter and less distracting to my infant), my friend’s mother blocked the way and instructed me to sit down in plain view (among many people who I really didn’t know at all). She then proceeded to make a noisy point of telling me that everyone there was in support of breastfeeding and that I should not be embarrassed. I tried explaining that 1) it was getting chilly out (it was an outdoor event) 2) my child wouldn’t be able to feed well if too much was going on around her 3) I could use her support when it came to my personal breastfeeding decisions.
    The point of my story is to say that we all need to support each other’s decisions, whether that be to nurse in public, in private only or to breast feed (or not). Getting pushy about doing things ‘my way’ is destructive to the relationship a mother has with her child during feeding and can be harmful to her self esteem as well. Feed on!

    • I know!
      I started breastfeeding in public without cover and luckily I’ve never had a bad experience, but since my DD turned 4 mo she gets so distracted I now need to go somewhere quiet and a little dark when possible. Last week a friend of mine criticize me for that without even asking what had made the difference.
      We never really know the story behind anyone or behind any situation. What we need is respect.

  3. This is so very true! Excellent post. Until we support one another and stand up for one another these things will continue to happen :)

  4. I breastfeed in public uncover! My now 18mo old baby loves it! I am also guilty of harassing my sister in law that hides in a room to feed her baby! I will be more supportive of her breastfeeding style. I am sorry, but I think that breastfeeding in public brings awareness and hopefully we can prevent been harast by strangers. Whatever way you like to breastfeed? Go on ladies!

  5. I think we need to be more supportive and less concerned about things being done “my way.” If one of my friends wants a quiet room to nurse her babe then so be it. If she wants to whip it out in front of me then all the power to her. It’s what’s best for her and her child!!

  6. I love this post !!! It talks only the true . My daugher is 26 months and I still breastfeed her. I hearded so many of those coments in the past … But at the end what matters is my princess

  7. Agreed! I admit I have asked Mother’s nursing in a bathroom if they were told to do so or if they are comfortable in there and I normally get the answer that they aren’t comfortable out in the main public area. So I just say “ok, right on. If you’re cool with it so am I. Thanks for breastfeeding your kiddo!” And I leave them alone. Not my choice. Theirs.

  8. Kimberly Voland says:

    I choose to cover in front of certain family members only because I personally am not comfortable feeding my son in front of them. They are not big supporters of my bf’ing longer than 6 months or past teeth. They have even joked around saying that when he starts to talk they are going to teach him phrases to embarrass me. Other people (friends and family) I don’t mind nursing without covering. I do nurse in public without covering too, but I do it discretely. I understand that there are many uneducated people out there. A lot say things like “oh you are a pervert” “how can you enjoy something that hurts” “doesn’t he bite” “after 6 months your milk isn’t good for him anymore” “you look foolish nursing in public, you should take that to the family restroom or back out to your car” “what do you think that is going to do to him socially” I’ve heard all these things. That was with my first son. This time I’m not taking any crap. My motto is breast is best and if anyone wants to try and tell me different, go ahead because anything they have to say is uneducated irrelevant. I had someone tell me the other night, haven’t you heard of a bottle? Why yes I have, I don’t pump because I stay home with my baby, therefore he will nurse anywhere and everywhere I go. Breast is best. When he’s hungry he will get boob enough said. I think everyone at the dinner table agreed with me. It shut that person up real fast. I don’t care to embarrass other people, they deserve it! I am first and foremost a mother, my priority is to take care of my sons. My oldest is 5 and what I have pumped I give to him. He loves it. He doesn’t tell his friends that he drinks mama milk, but he knows that he is getting the best :) My youngest is 9 months old today. He is definitely and boob baby :) He gets excited for feeding time, especially bed time. How can you not want your child to have the best, to be healthy, happy, and the bond? I can tell you that there was no other choice for me to bf. I knew before ever having kids that that is what I was going to do. Both times we had rough starts, but it all worked out in the end. I hate to hear that women are bullied to not nurse or made to think that they can’t, their milk isn’t enough, or they had to go back to work and their work place wouldn’t help them continue to do what is best. I understand that some women, their milk never comes in, they get infections that they can’t get passed or they have to take medications that isn’t good for baby. I totally get that, but when a mother is capable of nursing and is told by family and friends that their milk isn’t enough or they should stop after teeth or at 6 months bc their milk isn’t good for them anymore I get so mad. I have had people tell me all this stuff. I also can’t stand a mother having a child and no motherly instinct kicking in. Her only goal is to hurry up and lose the baby weight and be able to go out and drink. And those being the reasons why they don’t nurse. But that is a whole other subject. My point is, we aren’t the center of the universe, but our kids are our center of our universe and therefore doing what is best (bf’ing) for our children is more important than worrying about making other people uncomfortable. Oh sorry for my rant, I’m just very passionate about this and had to get this out :)

  9. <3 love it!! and shared it, too. :D

  10. Britt wills says:

    I was discretely nursing my one year old in a hallway of the crystal bridges art museum. I had a cover on and a stroller parked in front of me. I was instructed to stop by a museum official which causes my hungry daughter to start screaming so they could relocate me across the museum in a nursing suite. (Fancy word for coat closet) I was escorted while people on walkie talkies acted like I stole a painting. I laugh about it now, but I was horrified.

  11. I LOVE this post. SO true. I have been lucky and in 5+ years of nursing I’ve never been bothered by anyone about it (other than family), but I know it happens a lot. I almost wish I would be approached just because I’d rather it be me than a newer or less confident breastfeeder. I feel like I’m comfortable enough now (finally; it wasn’t always the case) that I wouldn’t be intimidated and I feel like I could keep calm and help educate the person about breastfeeding and nursing in public.

  12. The only thing I’d add is that it’s helpful to mention that the majority of women don’t get harassed for NIP, I always worry a new Mum will read these stories and think, “oh I’d be mortified if that happened to me, I’d better hide in the bathroom”.

  13. Amy Terry says:

    Being a large-breasted woman (lucky me…grrrr), I always felt extremely too self-conscious to breast feed in public, and too scared to throw a blanket over me because I always wanted to make sure there was adequate air pocket for my daughters to breath (these dang boobs are no joke) :) That being said, I always escaped to either a nursing room (which all too often don’t exist in public places), or would retreat to my car and feed them. HOWEVER, I could care less when another woman breast fed w/o cover. I mean seriously, to each their own! For me, it came down to my own insecurities with larger breasts and not wanting to call even more attention to them.

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