Dear ROM, Help! Breastfeeding Mom is making my hubby uncomfortable,

Breastfeeding is a topic that I rarely talk about. Ok, there was that one time that I went on National TV to talk about it.  Oh wait there was that one article we did about Breastfeeding Etiquette.  Other than that, breastfeeding is pretty personal thing and a personal choice. I tend to let it go at that.  Than last week  this email popped up in my inbox…

I really hope you can help me. I care for 3 beautiful babies out of my home. One of them is a nearly 2 year old girl. Her mother will breasfeed her anywhere when she comes to pick her up and will do it front of anybody including my husband (she does not cover herself at all). My husband knows it is legal and thinks it is great for babies, but says it gets gross when they are talking and walking and wishes she would wait until she got home to do it in her own house (the other moms complained her doing it when there husbands come to pick up also).I also breatsfed my children but I always covered with a blanket. I really want to discuss this issue with her but don’t want to offend her in any way, I am also not good with addressing these kind of issues myself and feel really uncomfortable having to do in the first place. Please help me out?

Honestly I looked at this email for at least 20 minutes not even knowing where to begin. I absolutely felt for the caregiver.  This situation would make my husband extremely uncomfortable as well.   Ok, I’ll admit it, it would make me uncomfortable, but to avoid conflict, I’d probably just try to calm my husband down.  I thought about letting it go and just ignoring the email, but something told me I needed to give this woman some sort of answer.

So I reached out to one of my favorite Breastfeeding Mama’s Annie from Mama Dweeb and some other amazing Mom’s who are far more experienced in the area than I am.  Annie graciously offered to give us her take so you could get a view point from both sides of the very sensitive topic.

Dear Concerned Mama,

I understand that the sight of a woman’s breast makes men uncomfortable. It really is unfortunate that such a healthy and nurturing activity is still viewed as sexual or strange. The World Health Organization states that breastfeeding at least until 2 years old is beneficial for the health of young children. The minimum age of breastfeeding used to be 3 months, then people started nursing for a year – now more and more people are nursing for 2 years and beyond.

Is there a reason there are males around her when she is nursing her daughter? This mother is working away from her daughter – nursing is her way of reconnecting emotionally after such a time away.  I believe telling her not to do this will offend her deeply.

I hear you say that the men have more issues with the age of the child than the sight of her not being covered. Perhaps you can leave some “reading material” in the bathroom for the men to read – a brochure about the emotional and physical benefits of extended breastfeeding and child-led weaning.

Here is an excellent print out that quotes the World Health Organization as well as many more professionals:

No mom should feel ashamed of meeting her baby’s needs – whether it is a 2 month old or a 2 year old.

~Annie owns the Kansas parenting blog Mama Dweeb.  She writes about natural parenting, breastfeeding, babywearing and other parenting concerns and joys.

While I agree and completely understand everything Annie said, here’s my take…

I am admittedly not a baby wearing, breastfeeding, or a natural parenting type of Mom.  I understand that “Breast is Best”, but seeing someone breastfeeding without covering up makes me uncomfortable as well.   I understand and agree with the arguments that’s it’s natural and it shouldn’t make people uncomfortable.  Regardless, it does and the last thing anyone should feel in uncomfortable in their own home.

I’m also a person who HATES making others uncomfortable,  so I completely understand this caregiver position.  While I know many of you breastfeeding mom’s are very aware that it makes other uncomfortable and you proactively cover up. My plea to the rest of the breastfeeding population is to please take other peoples feelings into consideration.  We all know breast is best, but it does make some of us uncomfortable.  I’m sorry. I’m telling you the Hooter Hider is the most brilliant invention!

So to my Dear Uncomfortable Mama,

I was going to suggest that you take the breastfeeding Mom aside and politely explain to her that it makes your poor husband uncomfortable, but  Kelby from Type A Mom mentioned…

I don’t think I would name the husband, honestly. It seems like it would start a lot of trouble. I think a generic there have been complaints/concerns would be better.

So if you don’t want to throw your hubby under the bus, simply say that it has been brought to your attention that the situation is making other uncomfortable.  Let her know she’s more than welcome to use a spare bedroom or office to feed her daughter, because you know that it’s important for her to connect with her daughter at the end of the day.

Gena from The Morris Bunch wrote a great article on this topic last year.  Make sure you check that out as well.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Some of us don’t want to see an exposed breast NOT because we oppose breastfeeding and NOT because we think breasts are sexual, but because we simply appreciate modesty and manners. When I breastfed in public, I would always either cover up completely or go to a bathroom or out-of-the-way space. For me, one of the joyous aspects of breastfeeding was that it was a chance to have a quiet, intimate moment with my baby. I didn’t need to turn it into a public spectacle. And I simply valued other people’s comfort and my privacy more than I valued my right to whip out a boob and make a statement.

    Frankly, if I were repeatedly doing something that made everyone around me feel uncomfortable, I’d want to know. I mean, farting is natural and good for us, but if I made a habit if farting at dinner parties, I’d expect someone would suggest I excuse myself to the restroom. A good friend can gently address the behavior before someone becomes a social outcast. And if that person knows they are making people uncomfortable, yet refuses to modify their behavior in a compromising manner, then you know that their beliefs trump your relationship, and you can decide whether to continue the relationship from there.

    • Theresa says

      Thank you Amy. I must say I agree with you 100%. I would hate to think I was making someone else uncomfortable just for the sake of my own comfort. Who am I to think my feelings or comfort are more important than someone else’s. Especially in their own home.

      • says

        Thanks. Maybe it’s the Southerner in me coming out, but to me it’s just basic etiquette. A lady will make accommodations in order to make others feel comfortable, rather than demanding others make accommodations in order to make her feel comfortable.

  2. says

    I am a fairly modest person and I would hate to make someone uncomfortable with nursing. I think that if I wanted to re-connect withy daughter after a long day apart, I would want to have a nice quiet place to do that. Perhaps a nice cuddly, even semi-private nursing spot can be provided? While I do not think that nursing mothers should be relegated to bathrooms, I also think discretion is useful. I also think that it is possible to nurse discretely without the use of a cover…sometimes the cover just screams I AM BREASTFEEDING MY BABY…THERE IS A NAKED BOOB UNDER HERE!

    • says

      I totally agree about the cover Pam! There are some covers with huge, wild prints. And I can seriously spot those covers across the mall but if a mom is breastfeeding discreetly without a cover I can’t tell unless I am really close.

  3. says

    T- You wrote this perfectly. My daughter breast fed my prince and I was 100% that she should but she did cover up if others were around. At times she would even go into the other room. This gave her and baby total alone time.
    I too am uncomfortable when people breast feed in front of me and I breast fed both my girls. I don’t think we need to apologize for our feelings but I do respect those who respect them.

    • says

      What I want to know, Rachel, is why the husband doesn’t leave. Unless this mom is totally undressing, there shouldn’t be very much actually showing. Why do we feel like moms that breastfeed need to be excluded from conversations with other adults – go to the bathroom please – while they are nursing? What about the moms that come to pick up their kids with 3 inches of cleavage popping outta their shirt? Does her husband have a problem with that?

      If he has a problem with her nursing, I think the husband needs to just take a break to his bedroom for a bit.

      • says

        I just do not think it is appropriate to ask this man to leave his own home because this breastfeeding mom can’t step into a bedroom. No one should make you uncomfortable in your own home. This woman opened her home up to daycare, not a nurse in. I’m 150% pro breastfeeding and I don’t care if you nurse that kid till he’s 16 but if you are in someone elses home it’s up to you to have manners and either cover up or go in another room.

        Lee

    • Theresa says

      Thank you Rachel. This a difficult situation. We’re all trying to live on this one planet together. Why not try and make it a little more comfortable for other when we can.

  4. Megan says

    I hope this isn’t taken the wrong way, but it’s also the husband’s house right? His opinion should matter, even if it isn’t the answer a woman wants to hear. If she can’t wait till she’s home to have that bonding time, i think asking her to nurse in another room shouldn’t be offensive. Since it’s bonding with her daughter, maybe she should focus on that instead of adult conversation.
    The laws in CA say that its legal anywhere except if someone asks you not to in their home. I think this is a fair compromise.
    And i do support nursing till 2.

    • says

      I think before the day care owner does anything, she should probably contact a lawyer, especially if she’s going to ask the mother to cover up or go to another room. Yes, it’s her house, but she has decided to have a day care business there. So, there may be other concerns than it’s her house.

    • Theresa says

      I agree with you Megan. His opinion and the opinion of the other parents who have complained should be taken into consideration as well. Thank you!

  5. says

    I am for nursing in public with or without a cover. Why should we make the baby uncomfortable by covering them so that adults are okay with it? Why should mom’s have to be the one to leave the room instead of everybody else? Do you go up to scantily clad girls/women and tell them they need to dress more appropriately?

    My husband and I are not uncomfortable when we see a breastfeeding mother. I think it’s good to see mom’s breastfeeding and they’re going through so much as it is, we need to back off. If we’re not comfortable with something, we can leave the room. She probably nurses her child, because her child has been away from her all day and needs both emotional support and nourishment.

  6. says

    Ok, I have to give my opinion. Nursing is a beautiful and wonderful, nutritious, beneficial thing. I have BF’d my girls in some odd places and had to pump in even odder ones (store room at my place of employment b/c it was the only lockable door AND a room with no windows). Culturally, us Americans are not used to seeing boobs just anywhere, let alone with someone sucking the nectar of life out of them. Over time, it’s just not something our society has been accustomed to, so while it is getting more accepted publicly, sometimes there may still be backlash. I think the offering of a comfy, semi-private spot would be the best angle to approach it from.

    • says

      I love the way you put this Maegan! And actually, if the daycare provider used your words when approaching this mom, she will be so much less likely to offend her. Maybe she can use your words and compassion and see if the mom can come up with a solution on her own so it isn’t the daycare provider who is asking her to leave or whatever……(by the way, my favorite phrase you used is “sucking the nectar of life out of them.” LOVED that!!)

  7. Kellie says

    I think there’s one big issue that most are forgetting: this woman is a small business owner. Like any other, she most likely relies heavily on customer satisfaction and word of mouth. Before she makes any decisions as to whether or not to confront this mom, she and her husband need to decide if their daycare business can afford the potentially negative impact of such a conversation. I’m a work from home mom, but if my (hypothetical) daycare provider suggested I hide myself in another room to feed my child, I’d find a new one fast and, in all honesty, would tell all my friends about my experience. I hope Uncomfortable Mama thinks really hard and uses a great deal of caution before confronting that breastfeeding mom, especially if she wants to keep receiving her money every week.

      • says

        Theresa, you have a point. And so does Kellie. But let’s think about this from a business standpoint. What is likely to do more harm – offend a breastfeeding mother or stand up for her? I wonder how many moms or dads would take their kids out of her daycare because she refused to ask the breastfeeding mother to cover up and/or leave vs. how many would not respect her if she did…..very interesting thought.

      • Kellie says

        Oh, for sure! This is definitely one of those situations where you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. As far as I can tell, she really has two options: 1) Confront the mom in question and hope she doesn’t take it poorly (which can mean anything from pulling her child out of Uncomfortable Mama’s care to hiring a lawyer) or 2) Say nothing to the BFing mom and use the current laws on the books to dispel any negative feedback she receives from her other clients- and in turn hope *they* don’t take it badly and find a new childcare provider. It’s a perfect storm of potential hurt feelings and negative consequences!

  8. Monica Lindstrom says

    I am VERY impressed that all comments were respectful and insightful. This clearly shows that the readers of ROM are classy and seem to live by the golden rule. I have to say that this has me thinking back about what I did and I hope I didn’t make those i care about uncomfortable…hmmm, maybe it is better to have baby brain in this instance!

    Remember people, don’t judge, be curious and respectful and live by the golden rule

  9. says

    If it were my home and I was a daycare provider and I had a mom that was going to be stopping by to breastfeed their child, I would ask my husband in advance, where he thinks breastfeeding moms would be comfortable. I would make the spot as comfortable and relaxing as I could for the breastfeeding mom because she was my client. I would try to make her as comfortable as I could. I would tell her that I have provided a special spot for her to enjoy and relax with her baby. As I have other clients coming in and out, I would tell her that she would not be disturbed. This way I would also be protecting my other clients in case they were uncomfortable. I think this would be a win win situation for everyone. Perhaps a comfy chair with some sort of tall room dividers that can be placed in a room during the work week with a little table for soft lullaby music and a bottled water for mom and maybe even some fresh flowers. This would be a nice gesture of making the client feel comfortable. Just because you can breastfeed, just because it is good for the baby, doesn’t mean it is proper to be done anywhere and everywhere. It is healthy to have sex, it is healthy to brush our teeth, it is healthy to run, it is healthy to do a lot of things. We don’t do these things anywhere and everywhere and in front of every one.

    • Theresa says

      Thank you Teresa! I think that’s how I feel. I don’t want anyone to be uncomfortable in my home. My husband, my clients, my guest or myself. I think offering her a quiet place is a great answer.

  10. Anne @GreenEggs&Moms says

    I think people confuse the feeling of being uncomfortable with being against breastfeeding. It’s not the case. I breastfed too but am uncomfortable when other moms breastfeed without covering.

    Yes BF is natural but exposing one’s breast in public (though not fully) is not something acceptable in our society. Maybe it is in other places but not where I’m from.

    This is something that BF moms have to accept.. There are those who will feel uneasy with uncovered BF and NOT the act of BF itself. Oh and am all for the benefits of BF :)

    • Theresa says

      My husband and I were just talking about this Anne. It’s absolutely our culture, no doubt. I’m all for breastfeeding, but I’m like you. It does make me uncomfortable when other moms breastfeed without covering. It’s awful that I actually feel guilty for feeling uncomfortable, but I do. eek

    • says

      Anne,
      You hit the nail on the head! And the reason we (breastfeeding advocates) tend to equate being uncomfortable with breastfeeding with being against it is because we want our culture to finally accept it as normal. We have this dream of moms being able to nurse their babies just as easily as moms with bottles feed their babies. We don’t want to be put in another room away from the company of other adults or regulated to the bathroom. We just want it to be so normal that no one questions it.

      I wonder if there will ever be a day when this is the case?

      • says

        And I get that you want it to be the norm; however, to answer you question, as long as people are diverse that day may never come. People all think and feel differently about certain things and BF in public splits them right down the middle. And again, am not against BF itself or BF in public but I do prefer that if the latter were to be done, it would be done discreetly.

  11. says

    The husband is entitled to his feelings and I give him kudos for speaking to his wife about them. Some men would love the chance to sneak a peek! (JK) And the BF mom is entitled to nurse her child. So how do the twain meet? Since the husband’s home is a business, his needs take second place. He can excuse himself as soon as he says hello to the BF mom. I’m sure he can find something else to do. Then she’ll have privacy. I’m not sure how to deal with the other parents though. That’s a dilemma.

    I was a BFing mom, but never felt comfortable nursing without covering up out of respect for myself and for others. If my daughters were squirmy, I’d go to a private area. And I’m totally pro-nursing.

  12. says

    There are two or twenty sides to every story and I commend you for presenting opinions from both sides to this mom (non-breastfeeding mom and breastfeeding moms). I think if we approach any situation with respect for both sides and compassion a resolution can be agreed upon. I breastfed all four of my children for varying amounts of time depending on my work situation, my mom is a lactation consultant. I get it. For me, I preferred the calm bonding with my child, so I was not comfortable chatting with others. It was our moment, their nutrition and nurturing. I’ve nursed in the back seat of our cars, I chose this over flushing toilets and aromas of bathrooms. I hope your reader will update you about how the conversation goes and how it will be handled in the future. I think that will be a helpful thing to share.

  13. says

    In so many other cultures women have never gone through a period where formula was the more popular choice (probably because of cost) and so nursing remained the norm and women in other cultures simply have not had to “re introduce” the normalcy of breastfeeding. So, with that being said, women who breastfeed in public and don’t purposefully expose their entire boob to draw more attention than is needed are doing our children a favor so they grow up seeing breastfeeding as “normal”. I recall my sister in law commenting to me when I nursed my 4 week old in her home “I hope it is not bothering you if Brianna (my 3yo niece) is curious. I want her to see breastfeeding as a normal way to feed a baby. Our kids these days generally think all babies feed from bottles because that is what they see.” That really opened my eyes to being comfortable nursing anywhere my baby was hungry. Personally, when my kids got to be 2 years old and I thought they could wait, I would have them wait til we got home. But, if mom has been at work all day, that extra 15 mins to get home may then be enough to get the 2yo distracted and then not be interested in nursing when they arrive home. Nature has created the situation for babes to call to the breast for a reason. It is helping them to be stronger and healthier both physically and emotionally as they grow up. The key here is education. The more educated people are and the more it is witnessed, the less uncomfortable it will be for those who find a level of discomfort with it. I know what I’m about to say is a big leap for some people, but I think it is comparable and am going to say it anyway…. There was a time where black people could not use the same restroom or drinking fountains as white people. Laws were passed to be help widdle away at segregation and discrimination. Perhaps at first it made people uncomfortable to have black people sharing “their” bathroom or drinking fountain… too bad. It was now the law. It took time. And sure in some places there is still race tension. I was one of those moms who TOTALLY made comments about moms nursing in public before I had my own children. I never thought I was going to be crunchy or bed sharing or nursing all night either. It doesn’t matter our parenting styles. As models for our children it does us a huge service to get out of our own way in being comfortable. Like so much in this world, it is a matter of choosing mind over matter and moving on. So, while I understand the initial discomfort… I firmly believe that the more we are exposed to the practice of nursing being done in public without hindering covers, the more comfortable future generations will become with breastfeeding in general.

    • says

      Joann, I agree with you. Breastfeeding needs to be seen as normal, and when we ask a woman to cover up or go to the bathroom, it’s as if we’re subtly telling her, “What you’re doing for your child is disgusting and/or inappropriate. How dare you feed your baby without a cover.” In our culture, formula is the norm and as a result, I believe breasts have become only sexual objects. People forget that their’s another function to them.

      I remember my mother nursing my younger sister. She did it in front of us without any hesitation. In fact, I remember watching the Cosby show, and she said, “Ouch.” I asked her, “What’s wrong?” She said, “S. bit me.” So being the older sister {4 years old at the time}, I went over and told her, “Don’t bite mummy! She’s trying to feed you.”

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