Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Name is Yummy Mummy & I Breastfeed in Restaurants

There. That's out.

I admit it. I can put down half a cow while not even realizing that a child is hanging off my left boob in a nice restaurant.

My tits are machines now. Completely utilitarian. Baby-soothing bottles protruding out of my chest, always full and always at the ready. No longer imbued with any kind of pornographic meta-messages, except to my husband who has generously shared my breasts with Edie until he lost nearly all claim to them, I barely am aware that a toddler has pulled my shirt down to my belly button to lovingly inspect the nipples. While the whole world looks on.

That I breastfeed in restaurants seems weird except that it is so much a part of my every minute that doing it in a booth to comfort the child or giving her a little because it's handy, seems so natural, so us, I barely even think about it.

I try to keep my breasts under-wraps as much as I can in public and God knows my husband is like running after me tucking pieces of towel and cloth across my chest to preserve whatever sexual appeal and mystery they may have left, but I admit, you could be sitting across from me in a nice restaurant, lifting your fork full of escargo to your lips and in the corner of your eye catch a glimpse of my nipple. That could happen. It probably will.

Which brings me to the mild uproar over at Chow recently on Helena Echlin's Table Manner's column which introduces the topic of breastfeeding in restaurants. Here my 10 Favorite Wack-a-doodle comments from that post. And my responses.

10. Yes, I think it's rude for a woman to just whip out her boob and feed her kid in a restaurant. But, when I can tell they are being discrete (the nursing blankets, etc.) it really doesn't bug me. Probably because I don't see the actual process. I don't know if breast milk has a smell, but the idea makes me gag. The vomit that often ensues after a baby eats is enough to ensure I wont be finishing my meal.

YM: Can anyone really see baby vomit three tables over? If you can, you are spending way too much time looking at me. Eyes back on the foie gras, lady.

9. Stay home and feed your child in the privacy of your own home. Nobody wants to witness the intimacy of you bonding with your child in order to feed it. And nobody wants to have dinner in adult settings like restaurants when there are babies there. You decided to have a child, not everyone who went to dinner at the restaurant. And nobody thinks it is cute to see your hooter in your kids mouth. Stay home and cook for yourself and your family until the child can order for itself and have a glass of wine.

YM: Dooh! This guy's pissed. NYS law says you have to deal with my breast in my kids mouth, dude. Thems the breaks. Please stop calling them "hooters". This isn't a bar.

8. I think the mother-child connection can survive a two-hour hiatus known as dinner at a restaurant. Do you really believe the relationship between a mom and child suffers because mom missed one natural feeding because she went out for a couple of hours? I mean, really? What do you think happens to the baby when mom is at work? When a mom goes to work, does that mean she's severing the mother-child connection?

YM: Thanks for schoolin' me on the ways of the mother-child bond. Glad you're stickin' to what you know.

7. I was one of the original posters who frowned on it in the other column, but I mainly object to rude yuppies who think motherhood gives them the right to ignore everyone else, except to the extent that they serve as handmaidens.

YM: I am zee handmaiden. I meelk zee cows and...What is she talking about anyway?

6. Personally, I do think, as long as you're breastfeeding—for how long, a few months, a year tops?—you should try to stay out of nice restaurants with the baby as much as possible. You did sign up for the gig, presumably, aware that there would be temporary sacrifices to be made. I don't think a nice restaurant where people are conducting business or celebrating privately or what have you is the place for a baby, *whether or not* it's feeding. The potential is always there for disruption: wailing, pooping, etc.

YM: Duh! Another romantic interlude foiled by a pooping child! Little bastards.

5. I agree completely that there are family restaurants where it seems less out of place. If you simply must get have the nice meal and aren't cool with pumping, then the special clothing also ameliorates the problem, for sure. It at least shows you give a shit about other people. You don't have to fully agree with other people's concerns to respect them, and many of the responses of you mothers show you do try to meet your/your baby's needs and acknowledge others' concerns too. That's what polite society asks of any of its members, I think.

YM: Yeah, I'm not wearing a "Hooter Hider". Sorry.

4. I'm pretty sensitive to smells too, and I would be bothered by it within "smelling distance". But would I say anything? Hell no. Why? Because I would be crucified for it. That doesn't stop me having a problem with it.

YM: The stink of breast milk is overpowering, indeed. In like some kind of reverse world where flowers smell like skunks and kittens smell like buffalo.

3. Babies are not quiet while they feed, and some of us find the little weeweewee nummy noises less than appetizing.

YM: If I've said it once, I've said it a million times - I can barely think with all those suckling noises coming from that 2 week old.

2. But seriously, I feel that infants (or any non-toilet trained child for that matter) should not be brought to public places that don't have changing tables provided in the restrooms. It's a big hint that the babes aren't welcomed.

YM: Let's just keep all the ankle biters locked up in the house, shall we?

1. The idea, however, of seeing a three year old nurse, quite frankly, just disgusts me completely. I've asked my friends and family about this, too, to see if I was the odd one out, but they all agreed. It's your business if you want to nurse a three year old, but please do it at home. If a child is old enough to eat food off of the menu in a restaurant, when out at a food establishment, that's where he or she should be getting his or her meal. Certainly, the child can wait until getting home to nurse, unlike an infant.

YM: Okay, Edie and I are bent over hysterically laughing. She just pulled my boob out of her mouth long enough to look up and me and say, "Hey Mommy! If that lady were the Queen of us, we'd never be able to leave the house!" And then she pooped.

Oh, you kids keep me young...

xxoo YM



SaintTigerlily said...

As a grown person who used to be a child who, as the stories go, nursed until a ripe old age I will NOT disclose here - I say go for it. Everybody wants to forget they are animals when they are eating truffles. That is their problem, not yours.

Jen said...

I love your responses. I nursed my 1st son til he weaned himself at 22 mos (5 wks before his little brother arrived). As #2 is my last, I plan on nursing him as long as he wants. I have flashed many a resturant patron, including but not limited to: a group of business men enjoying lunch, my 21-yr-old sister's friends, and a group of senior citizens. Obviously I am not going to lock myself or my children in the basement at home until some unspecified age. I know adults that don't behave as well as my toddler! Those freaks who get all riled up about breastfeeding need to remember that going out in public holds some risks. Maybe they should be the ones staying home!

BTW, it never occurred to me that it was possible to nurse at the grocery store until I saw your educational photo essay! Thanks for the tip. :) I've gotten quite a bit of practice since then. I'd have to say my most impressive feat is breastfeeding while hiking. I never realized how coordinated I am!

the girl in the white bathrobe said...

Excellent post. Those folks at Chow make me want to go out right now and breastfeed during someone's power lunch!

I guess they were cursing me when I did this:

Chez Panisse with baby

and this:

All the great restaurants in Kauai, with poop


Man, the anti-BF and let's just say it anti-baby contingent irritates me.

I'm sorry, but the only time I can smell breastmilk is when I'm up against it, nose to skin or clothing.

People are angry, angry idiots. Now I'm angry. Hope I'm not an idiot.


Back to munching on my escargot.

Great post! Found you via comments on Her Bad Mother.

BlueLadyBoots said...

oh, kim -- don't get me *started*. nothing enrages me quite as much as someone having an opinion (okay, a negative opinion) re- public nursing. keep your eyes on your own foie gras, indeed!

it's like a (seemingly huge) segment of the population doesn't have the capacity to grasp that breasts' original purpose was that of sustenance. yes, they have been sexualized (the root of which was capitalism), and how lovely for any/all who want to enjoy them as sex objects, but that anyone dares to say anything about a mother giving her child comfort and/or food, per the evolution and/or design of the breasts, just kills me.

my 3-year old and i are enjoying extended nursing, and i have had the great privilege of being with her enough to make this possible. over this last 6 months to a year, i have gradually decreased our nursing when we're out and about (so that we rarely nurse away from home currently), not due to shyness or a lack of belief in the appropriateness of public nursing -- far from it. rather, i do not trust myself to remain composed in my daughter's presence should anyone have the utter (no pun...) gall to show any sort of disapproval. fortunately our neighborhood in northern manhattan is pleasantly crunchy, and mine is not the only toddler nursing in the playground (so at least we still have this nearby comfort zone).

did you happen to catch bill maher's take on public nursing last september? this blog talks about it --

his audience thought the rant was hysterical. guess they were part of that aforementioned segment. heavy, heavy sigh.

under separate (comment) cover, i am going to send you an e-mail that was forwarded to me in 2006. i like what the women says about why we, as nursing mothers, *should* be nursing in public -- and openly, at that.

thanks for your post, and your blog in general. always interesting, funny and informative.


BlueLadyBoots said...

as promised, here's the forward --

> To: PNOC@yahoogroups.com
> From: "NLAVEZZO"
> Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2006 13:34:52 -0000
> Subject: [PNOC] breastfeeding response, definitely
> explicit - read at your own discretion.
> Having grown up in a culture where breastfeeding,
> the non discreet
> sort, was the norm, I truly think that mothers in
> America are not
> fully contributing to bringing down the barriers of
> public breast feeding.
> We can be discreet if we are the shy and retiring
> type, but if you
> aren't, then for the sake of children all around the
> world, for the
> sake of eliminating hunger, for the sake of early
> childhood nutrition,
> for the sake of the rights of kids, for the sake of
> other mothers,
> then SHOW YOUR BOOBS. Society isn't going to think
> breast feeding is
> ok, as long as they are associated with turning men
> on.
> We shouldn't be satisfied with covering up and
> nursing. we don't hide
> our lettuce as we eat it, or rather our fork. If
> men were nursing, it
> would suddenly be a paid job. Men would get
> promotions based on their
> milk production, and maybe even slapped on the
> behind after every
> successful letdown.
> Come on women who can handle it! The boob needs to
> be bonded to by
> children so they can know what breasts are for. If
> you are in a post
> office and there are kids, feed your kids so that if
> they want to come
> say hi, they have to do it with your beautiful
> nourishing miraculous
> breast in the picture. Sure, out of respect don't
> embarrass others,
> but at a certain point, are we really FREE nursing
> if we cant pull out
> our boob at any time and place that our kids are
> hungry? why do we
> have to go to our cars, or the public restroom to do
> it (my mom told
> me never to take food into the bathroom!)
> Sorry if this is a bit much, but we will be much
> more effective if we
> (and with our husbands/children's fathers
> encouragement) actually
> PUBLICLY nurse, rather than put pen to paper. How
> much more
> difference would it make, if for every signature,
> there was a
> delicious nipple in an infants mouth where society
> could see it.
> Families, we need to socialize society to accept it.
> Why are we ok
> with buses with women in underwear (if that), but
> not with nursing?
> Again, if you aren't a woman who is comfortable with
> this, and prefer
> your definition of modesty, that is fine, because
> the whole point is
> to be comfortable. In order for you not to feel
> uncomfortable by
> being discriminated against, then I for one (any one
> else?) am willing
> to show as much skin as I have (if it would help I
> would wish it was
> more) in order to help change the tolerance level.
> Sincerely, for the sake of CHILDREN around the
> world, I do this!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I could rant, but I won't. I don't think I have the energy today.

I breasfed everywhere. Including walking around a supermarket and at restaurants. I didn't cover up and hell, by the time I had been b'feeding for a whole week I didn't care WHO saw my boobs.

But I am really curious (because I only have Tassie to go on) have you had the same looks and reaction to feeding Edie in Australia as people seem to get in the US? Because aside from my sister in law (who is stupid) I have never had anyone tell me to cover up or stop feeding.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I breastfed everywhere, including a political rally with a visiting presidential candidate several years ago. No one said anything except for my sister in law.

I remember being kind of reticent to breastfeed my first born in front of my Dad two days after the baby was born. He looked he square in the eye and said, "Never, ever be embarrassed to nourish your baby anywhere." That was the last time I was hinky about nursing anywhere.

And I just have to say 'WHAT?!?' to the person who thought they would be grossed out by the smell. HUH? Methinks someone has a VERY overactive imagination.

Melissa said...

Everybody wants to forget they are animals when they are eating truffles.

Never, ever be embarrassed to nourish your baby anywhere.

Amen to both of you.

Kim, I think you know I am childless, but regardless, you may plant me squarely in the pro-BF anywhere the hell you feel like it camp. Both those statements above pretty much sum up my position on it.

And because I am passionately a naturalist at heart, about many things, I actually think it's far from annoying, gross or embarrassing; rather, it's an amazing and awesome thing (albeit a bit hard on your nipples after a while he he). I think people who believe otherwise are rather sad.

Anonymous said...

You guys rock!

But what is it about sisters-in-law?

Shannon said...

Those self-righteous, judgmental, ignorant commenters can go take a flying leap.

I breastfed all three of my babies when we were in restaurants. Out in the open....at our table.

They talk as though we take our tops off and sit there all nekked!

I've breastfed in supermarkets while walking down the aisles, I've answered the door for a UPS delivery guy with a baby attached to my boob.

It's life! Babies need to eat and be comforted. Boobies aren't just for men to nuzzle and play with! LOL.

Good grief, people need to get the stick out of their uptight hiney-holes!

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you didn't choose to include THIS quote from the article's comments:

I think a little common courtesy from both the mother and other diners would go a long way. If both considered the other person's feelings over their own, this would not be an issue. It's not that the mother is wrong, or other uncomfortable diners are wrong. Everyone is entitled to determine his or her level of comfort with the subject, but should also realize that the other's perspective is neither right nor wrong, it's just different.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes! This comment is quite sane and the person writing it sounds level-headed and not ridiculous.

And that's why I didn't post it - because (1) it's not funny and (2) I was posting my "ten favorite wack-a-doodle comments". This one was not nearly wack-a-doodle enough, by my standards.

But thanks for reminding us that there are folks out there (myself included) who believe that a little give and consideration all around is a good way to live your life.

And thanks for reading and commenting! I appreciate your perspective.


Anonymous said...

Does one really want to know the opinon of the feedee if they don't get fed?

That really is the only question.

One could argue that a baby may not be proper in some resturants, say The French Laundry, but neither are some spouses. (I'm thinking my ex here who wasn't known to be proper).

SaintTigerlily said...

Oooh, I wonder if Keller will ever work with breast milk.


Too weird?

Anonymous said...

Awesome as usual, YM, and so funny. Thank you.


Tall Kate said...

This is a brilliant post. Amen, sister.

Anonymous said...

I think you are wrong. You don't need to stop nursing but you don't have to do it anywhere and everywhere. And your kids don't seem very well behaved anyway so why are you taking them to "nice" restaurants when they don't have proper table manners yet. People forget that eating out is a luxury.

Fred Stesney said...

Of all the thing that a child could do in a restaurant to be disruptive, breastfeeding is at the bottom of the list, right above sleeping. It's not about breastfeeding, it's about babies - some people just don't want to be around them. I know because I used to be in that camp.

Now we only take our son to family-friendly restaurants. If the place doesn't offer high chairs, we don't go in.

MommyLisa said...

OMG totally HILARIOUS!!! I bow at your wit to the idiots who say these things. I breastfed boo boo la la until she was 22 months old and NEVER once worried what any idiot thought about me doing it anywhere.

And my 90-something grandmother was so PROUD I did it, she told ALL her friends!

P.S. I once breastfed my baby while walking down a fairway and GOLFING!!!

Yes the SIL factor, I am worried about mine and her timidity to breastfeed when its even just her and I!!! But, everyone has to do what works for them in the end.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous -

Thanks for leaving your comment. I'm just fine with folks who don't share my point of view.

I will say this in the spirit of discussion - the only way my kids will learn how to behave appropriately in restaurants is to practice. That's why we take them to eat out. I can't teach them about life through osmosis. They have to go with us and experience it for themselves. And that's what we do and without apology.

And for the record, my kids are awesome just the way they are.

You are still welcome to come by and comment any time.


Anonymous said...

Great post. I'm on vacation for two weeks, I come back and am thrilled to read all those new posts. After just reading this one I just had to think of this French couple in my Hotel in Malta. The hotel had an in-house Spa and as I totally relaxed already, slowly walked to the counter in this Spa, to make an appointment for a massage I overheard them say this:

" Hello, I thought this was a Spa. This is not a Spa. There should not be any noise in a Spa. These children here are making noise. There should not be any children here it all."

The hotel actually allowed children to be in the Spa only until 5 pm, after that the Spa would still be open until 10 pm, so you did have the opportunity to enjoy the spa in silence...

Roxanne Beckford Hoge said...

Okay, I'm about a year late, but I had to share. I am totally not into Hooter Hiders, either. http://tinyurl.com/cnf66e -- and I love the email about nursing more in public. I feel like I either wrote an article like that once, or meant to.

Anonymous said...

i what u tobreast feed me i wasnt beast fed when i was ababy i what to a big baby