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Breastfeeding in a restaurant?


We just came back from dinner, very nice place, upscale yet casual atmosphere, out on the patio. Sitting next to us was a 6 top, 3 older people, 1 young couple, one child, one infant. The mother was breastfeeding for most of the meal, no coverup, no discreteness, just pulled down her strapless dress and latched the baby on. While I didn't find it "offensive", I wondered why there was no concern for anyone else around her, mostly couples or foursomes out on a saturday night "date night", spending a lot of money on a nice meal. It just seemed to me that it would have been very easy for her to drape a little blanket over her shoulder. I'm not looking to discuss whether children/babies belong in restaurants, just wondering what others think about this....it just seemed a little out of place to me...

  1. Such a complicated question. On the one hand, I would defend to the death this woman's right to breastfeed at a restaurant table. On the other hand, I would be grossed out if she took off her shoes. And if she can expose her breast to feed her kid, can I expose mine just 'cause I feel like it? But ultimately, I think, it comes down to this: you don't like it, don't look.

    1. I'll agree with h that, don't like it, don't look is probably the best policy. Personally, I would rather that she was a bit more discrete, but that's me.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Nocturnalbill

        I would rather she not do it at all. To quote a conversation from a Doonesbury strip when when a mother is breastfeeding her baby for the first time: "Mother: It feels perfectly natural, in fact I have this urge to do it in public. Father: "A common urge but you have to fight it."

        I asked a recently breastfeeding friend of mine: She says it's really not appropriate, that there is this in-your-face style some breastfeeding mothers have. "Leave and do it in private. I mean, my GOD."

        1. re: jmckee

          i'm curious if you feel your breastfeeding friend somehow has more right or knowledge in this matter than others... just curious as to why it was mentioned

      2. I'm a little surprised that no one at her table, especially the older folks, didn't suggest a little modesty. On the other hand, she may be afraid of making the baby claustrophbic, so I guess as long as some drunk didn't try to make it a buffet, no problem. Or a waiter could have offered a dinner napkin as a drape...

        1. Highly inappropriate at best.

          1. This is not my personal view, but the argument for not covering up more is: "I am not ashamed "

            2 Replies
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              Because there isn't anything shameful about a quarter (at best) of an exposed breast.

              ETA: I'd rather the baby be fed on time than have it scream b/c of hunger, ruining my dining experience a helluvalot more.

              1. re: linguafood

                ^THIS. Not to mention, many, many babies will not eat with something over their head, making them hot and sweaty and making it difficult to breathe. Unless you BF your baby that way every time at home, trying to do so when out once and awhile DOES NOT WORK. They refuse to eat, flail, scream, etc. Imagine trying to thread a needle while your hands are under a blanket. I mean, you need to see what you're doing, and the baby needs to breathe. It's just a little skin, and I guarantee you at ANY restaurant there are women showing a lot more skin than this one, and not for reasons of feeding their child. If you don't like it, don't look.

            2. it's been a long while since I was in the position of the mother, but I *always* put a little sweater or blanket over my shoulder if I needed to feed my baby "in public" (the only time I recall needing to was on an airplane). I don't think it was appropriate for her to do what she did, but then again, I'd never say anything to her or a waiter about it. I'd just look away. But I think there are likely people *much* less accepting than I am about it.

              1. Out of my 3 kids, only one ever took a bottle. The other 2 were strictly breastfed & so that meant that sometimes, we were in public. I am all for breastfeeding, and don't think women should be shuttled off to bathrooms to do so. That said, I don't see any reason why a woman has to take down the top of her dress & not cover a little. It is really easy to either wear a shirt designed for nursing, or a shirt that you pull up from the bottom - the pulled-up cloth will keep the top covered & the baby gets fed. Or toss a lightweight blanket in your bag & pull it over. Neither my babies nor my friends' babies ever objected to that while nursing. Maybe there is a claustrophobic baby out there, but I have never met one.

                Problem is, if you start putting limits on where/how you can nurse or how much to cover up, it turns into a breast vs. bottle war & gets ugly fast.

                1. Being politically incorrect........
                  If it took most of the mealtime, there was a suckling pig at that table<VBG>

                  All kidding aside. There is a time and place for everything. You write it was a CASUAL ATMOSPHERE, and you were out on the PATIO. Somehow this cancels the objections of interfering with a Saturday Date Night.

                  If I was on such a date spending $100+ per head insiode a fine dining establishment with, china, linens, crystal and atmosphere, I would find the presence of the child and infant objectionable. BUT I would have no problem with their presence on the patio.

                  This is 2010 and I see no problem with breastfeeding in public in a casual atmosphere. The cover up you suggested is for the mother's benefit, not yours. You don't have to watch the feeding.

                  Changing the subject slightly.........
                  we currently have a foster baby (7 months old), because she was placed by the state and the mother was receiving WIC benefits, the baby does as well. Last week I had to go to the WIC office and get the baby's 3 month supply of checks to buy her formula and baby food. I was asked to fill out a form about her feeding and eating habits and had to meet with a WIC nutritionist. It is highly unusual for a man to be at WIC. I went into the office and the nutritionist started reading the form without looking up at me and in a very accusatory tone, asked why I was not breatfeeding the baby?

                  I looked at this government dimwit and said, "If you could figure out a way for me to breastfeed the baby we'd both make millions. What about the fact I'm a man don't you get?" The stupid reply, "The question is on the checklist, we have to ask" This baby was taken from the birthmother at birth and had never lived with a lactating female.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: bagelman01

                    There is a time and a place for everything, I don't think this was the place. Just because it was on a patio, it was still an upscale place, people paying $75/head for dinner, yes, saturday night date night. I'm not discussing whether or not the children being there was appropriate, just whether or not she should have been more discrete, which based on everyone else's reply, I think is a "yes".

                    1. re: bagelman01

                      That is pretty funny and sad story at the same time.

                    2. The reality is that some babies don't do well under a blanket/coverup. Given the choice between a bared breast and a screaming, hysterical baby for the duration of the evening, I'd much rather have the former. That said, if the baby is old enough to be eating solid food, I think the mom should bring along a snack for the baby instead of breast feeding.

                      1. I don't think it's relevant whether this was Denny's or the Savoy Grille, There are plenty of post-maternity clothes that a new mother can wear that keeps breastfeeding discreet. I think the OP felt that this woman was a little indiscreet in public.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: smartie

                          Thank you for using the correct "discreet."

                          1. re: smartie

                            i agree it doesn't matter how low or high end the place is.
                            breastfeeding is normal and natural and breasts are not shameful or offensive. denny's or savoy grille, it is ok for her to breastfeed

                            don't look if you are so easily offended

                            1. re: thew

                              So I can expose my breasts at any time or place I feel like?

                              Sometimes it's difficult to just "not look". The woman may be right in my line of vision, for example. Should I have to crane my neck for my entire meal just to avoid seeing a stranger's tit? I'd probably ask to switch tables, but that's not always possible, especially on a busy Saturday night,

                              I think it's about respecting yourself, your child AND your fellow diners. It is quite simple to feed your child without making anyone else uncomfortable, which is what someone with common courtesy would do (and this is coming from a currently pregnant female).

                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                  Would you be as offended if you were dining within plain view of a woman wearing a low-cut top that exposed a good amount of cleavage? Or is it the presence of a nipple of the act of the baby feeding that you find more offensive?

                                  I mean, breasts are on display all the time, it's just a matter of an extra couple inches.

                                2. re: thew

                                  No they're not shameful or offensive, but they also sort of suddenly don't become non-sexual because someone had a baby either, and I don't mean that in any weird pervy way. I would expect people might look if I exposed my breasts in a restaurant, why would that change simply because I'm getting ready to feed a baby?

                                  I agree with what invinotheresverde said.

                                  1. re: im_nomad

                                    your post seems to imply sexual = bad.

                                    1. re: thew

                                      Sexual in my bed (or shower or kitchen counter) = good. Sexual in a crowded restaurant = bad.

                                      1. re: thew

                                        God no. I guess I skipped a beat there. Many arguments about the issue bring in the "that's the [only] thing breasts are for!" etc.

                                        Too long of an argument for me to get into today.

                                      2. re: im_nomad

                                        I think the problem lies in the overall prudishness of the US (not that England is any better), combined with HYPER-sexuality. That a breast, exposed for feeding an infant, would have ANY sexual connotation is beyond me. And I like breasts, and find them sexy, too. Just not when a baby is sucking on them. Then, it's a NATURAL way to feed your child.

                                        As someone else said - plenty of women expose PLENTY of skin all the time, and somehow, when it's *meant* to be sexual, that becomes alright.

                                        Sorry, but this particular European just. doesn't. get it.

                                        1. re: linguafood

                                          i come from a small island of the coast of american (manhattan) and i don't get it either

                                  2. Queencru is right that some babies don't do well under a blanket. My son hated it. But, there are still ways to shield others from seeing the baby's feast. I breast fed for a long time, and always managed to jimmie up a away to try to hide it. Sitting at a certain angle, a draped shawl that didn't touch him, etc.

                                    I would never stop a woman from breastfeeding in public, nor do I think it's inappropriate in any restaurant setting (fine dining or not, though I would expect parents to typically leave a baby home for a fine dining type of place). However, I think a considerate person tries to be cognizant of the fact that other people might not be accustomed to seeing a random woman's exposed breast, and will act considerately by covering up a bit. In return, those who may not like it likely will be much more tolerant if they know their feelings/sentiments are being accounted for.

                                    I had a close friend who asserted her rights to breastfeed in public defiantly, letting her breasts hang out simply b/c she could and almost testing the world around her to disagree. But I found that this was pretty much her attitude to everything in life, not just her breasts!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Cachetes

                                      Yours is the best reply so far. I had a friend who would nurse her baby so unbelievably discreetly people weren't even sure she was doing it. She accomplished the important part (feeding) while still being respectful of other people's feelings. I absolutely think if a baby is hungry it should be fed, and mom should not have to be housebound for months.

                                      I'd love it if our society didn't freak out about a little titty, but a considerate person thinks of others' reactions, rational or not.

                                    2. I am very firmly on the side of if you don't want to see it, don't look. While I do feel that we overdo the family worship in this country--I would personally prefer to see tax incentives that encourage people to limit their family sizes--once you take on the task of bearing and raising a child you deserve some slack. It's just a boob, after all. That's what they're for.

                                      Full disclosure: have two grownup kids of my own, and a grandchild. Breast fed both my kids, and yes, I would have covered up with a blanket. But that's just me.

                                      1. You mention that she "pulled down her strapless dress," and this would have exposed more than if she had been wearing a blouse or t-shirt. I often fed my babies in public 30 years or so ago, but always wore a blouse or top so that very little of baby and breast was exposed. I'm sure that being taken out to dinner was a big treat for that young mother!

                                        1. my son ate in the best of restaurants-

                                          1. This would be a non-topic in Germany.

                                            12 Replies
                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              Yes, that is perhaps the most perceptive comment here, linguafood.
                                              From my point of view, a breast used for breastfeeding instantly becomes a very practical and necessary part of mammal society, and is in no way erotic or obscene in any way.
                                              People need to compartmentalize their thinking more, particularly in regard to breastfeeding.

                                              1. re: Tripeler

                                                I've lived in the US for almost 10 years now, and continue to be baffled by the American fascination/obsession with boobs and/or nudity. It is astonishing, to say the least.

                                                1. re: Tripeler

                                                  You can make the same argument for male gentials. You don't think the male gentials are only used for one thing, do you? They are very practical and a very necessary part for most animals (not just mammals)

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                    I think the reaction would be quite different if someone tried to 'feed' their male genital to an infant in a crowded restaurant. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

                                                    If you are referring to peeing, I'm not quite sure that comparison flies so well.

                                                    (Countdown to deletion of post in 10, 9, 8, 7 .....)

                                                    1. re: linguafood


                                                      I were refering closer to your second. The logic between men and women restroom. What is the big deal for a man to walk in a woman restroom and start peeing. It is all very natural. Nothing sexual. You don't like it, don't watch it. Mind your own peeing, don't look at his.

                                                      Look, the whole supporting argument for I read so far are (1) it is natural and it does not have to sexual (2) if it bother you that you need to look the other way or see a doctor. I see both arguments work for a man wanting to use a woman public bathrom.

                                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                        Sorry, but I see absolutely no correlation between those two.

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          i agree. co-ed bathrooms should also be no big deal. it wouldn't bother me at all.

                                                          i can remember quite a few dance clubs over the years with unisex bathrooms. no one got hurt.

                                                          these are cultural repressions, not universal rules

                                                  2. re: linguafood

                                                    And it would be a huge topic in Mexico. I've spent a lot of time there, and there are babies and kids everywhere, but no public breastfeeding that I've ever seen. While the US may seem prudish compared to some cultures with regard to the human body, it is in no way unique.

                                                    I'm not defending or deriding the US, just making an observation.

                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                      Lingua,........ A non-topic in Germany? Maybe yes maybe no. I lived in a small town in the Pfalz region in the late 80s and I have to say if a mother decided to bare her breast and commence to feed her infant/toddler in a local konditori or restaurant; there would have been wagging tongues for days among the hausfraus.

                                                      1. re: ospreycove

                                                        I lived in Hamburg in the mid-70s and don't recall seeing anyone breast-feeding in public. Bare breasts on beaches and on network TV, however, were quite common.

                                                        1. re: ospreycove

                                                          Ah yes. Rural vs. urban. There might be a difference, tho it's not the late 80s anymore, and anyone getting offended by AN INCH OF A BREAST has some serious issues. SERIOUS issues.

                                                      2. I will add that I really don't know whether it is right or wrong for her do a) do it in public like that and b) not at least show some modesty.

                                                        I however would not like to see it.


                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Davwud

                                                          For some, feeders this could be a PC expression of empowerment. My problem is, "Oh no should I order the milk fed veal scallopine or the stuffed breast of Veal?"

                                                        2. We've had to remove a number of angry responses from this thread, and the discussion as a whole is increasingly unfriendly. We're going to lock this topic now.