Breastfeeding Rights: On Being Asked to ‘Cover Up’ By a Home Depot Employee

by Svea Boyda-Vikander on December 18, 2013

I noticed how polished she was. Flirting with a guy who was loitering around the taco truck and asking her again when she got off work. She said, “Nine.” I considered complimenting her on her perfect ankle boots.

I sat down on the gray wooden box that probably holds pylons or road salt (but wait – it’s California – no ice here) and put my shopping bags beside me. Baby Evie wasn’t in her carrier because we had taken the car. My husband and son had gone to Home Depot, and baby and I to my preferred big box store. It’s a craft emporium and sells such craft-making necessities as “Christmas scent” and “One hundred things you might need someday”.

I waited. We were supposed to meet at the Home Depot checkout but I needed to nurse Evie. She had been patiently smacking her lips and making occasional lowing noises since half-way down the Mod-podge aisle. In the thousands of square feet of the craft store, patronized mostly by women, there was nowhere to nurse her. Outside in the new evening there were some wire-frame benches at the bus stop but to reach them I would have had to cross a busy parking-lot street with a baby, a purse, and two full shopping bags in my arms. I’m always scared of being hit by a car anyway.

So I sat on that gray box outside the Home Depot exit and cuddled baby up. I wasn’t wearing a nursing top, just a v-neck sweater and a tank-top underneath. I pulled them both down and latched her on. She nursed contentedly. I found I couldn’t meet the eyes of the well-dressed security woman checking receipts at the door. I found I had already known she would disapprove. Much to my chagrin, I found that I cared. I didn’t want to, but I did.

She asked me to cover up.

In my two-and-a-half years of nursing I have breastfed in public places across Canada and in parts of the US. I have breastfed in front of friends, family, strangers, public officials, flight attendants, doctors, my husband’s boss, and at least one family pet. Nobody has ever asked me to cover up.

She said people were staring.

I asked who. I looked around. I saw no one. I shrugged. She rolled her eyes and huffed. Like, if I want to be a slut, that’s my problem. Which it is. I mean, which it would be.

My heart was pounding. But my baby is hungry. She has been so patient. She doesn’t nurse with a cover and would inevitably pull it off. Why would I have to cover, anyway? I’m not doing anything wrong. My right to do this is protected by law, dammit! And breastfeeding in public won’t become culturally accepted until women start breastfeeding in public. 

Kristie Robin I

As if on cue, Evie felt the (immense) milk letdown coming and pulled off. So now my nipple, spraying like a geyser, was exposed. I pulled her close so it would just spray onto her onesie (babies are supposed to smell like milk, right?). Under the stare of the security worker, I let her latch back on. We nursed for a few more minutes. I stopped it early and gathered my things, walking around to the entrance of the store so I could look for my husband. I just didn’t feel safe.

The moment of breastfeeding is more than just a soft, intimate act. It’s also a moment of vulnerability. It feels primal to me. No female ancestor could fight off a saber-toothed tiger while holding a baby to her breast.* While only I can decide whether or not I want to breastfeed, my success in breastfeeding requires consideration from other people. When I sit down to nurse Evie, I depend on other people not to insult me, ostracize me, sexualize my actions, or invade my space. You know, to take a turn battling those saber-toothed tigers – not to come running at me shouting caveman obscenities.

boobs gif

*It’s reflected in the biology of breastfeeding – for most women, stress inhibits their ejection reflex (instead, I have an ejection reflex like those bullet-shooting ta-tas in Austin Powers, but that’s another GIF altogether).

Because let’s face it: I’m human and if people told me to leave or cover up everywhere I went, I would stop nursing in public. If my husband acted grossed out or jealous when I nursed at home, I would stop nursing there, too (or just get a divorce, but then who would take our kids to Home Depot every week?).

In a culture that fetishizes female bodies, their exposure is not inert. Maybe some people were staring, just as they would stare at a woman wearing a revealing shirt. But I can’t imagine an employee asking a woman who was baring her breasts in that way to cover up. In fact, she might even receive better service. In any case, it’s up to me whether or not I am concerned about people ‘staring’ at me.

I don’t give a rat’s ass about people staring at me. I’m just that kind of gal. I do care about having society’s shame thrust upon me when I am feeding my baby. It was the Home Depot employee who felt uncomfortable and it was wrong for her to project her discomfort onto me. I’m starting a correspondence with the store manager the moment this post goes live. Stay tuned for a follow-up.

Home Depot, you messed with the wrong mama.

Kristie Robin II
Have you ever been told to cover up? What did you do? How did you feel about it?

**Images of breastfeeding at Home Depot by Kristie Robin of Kristie Robin Photography.

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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Brittany Jimenez December 18, 2013 at 6:13 pm

My own husband, in our own house with my guy best friend there, told me to cover up or go in the room. I told him no, well, yelled it, but needless to say my bfing relationship didn’t last past 3 months. Other family members also made me feel shameful and unsafe by designating a hot stuffy room to feed in or suggest formula so I can eat.

Next time, if there is one, I’m popping out my boob no matter what. I’m just that kind of gal. It’s either all or nothing, at least until I get my groove.

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Svea Boyda-Vikander December 19, 2013 at 1:43 am

Brittany,

I’m so sorry to hear that happened. I think what I’ve learned most from all the replies from this post (here and on FB) is just how much those ‘little’ harassments do impact women’s feelings of safety and confidence with breastfeeding. We are social animals and it is very, very hard not to let other people’s shame intimidate us. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who needs support in BFing sometimes. I think you’re going to rock BFing the next time around… And you did already (three months without support is a damn long time!).

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Ragavati Kandiah December 18, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Thank you for your article. I think it’s sad that people still think this way. I breast fed all of my babies well into toddler hood for a total of about 7 and 1/2 years all together. I don’t remember many instances of people telling me to cover, but on those occasions I felt very awkward. I didn’t feel like I was doing something wrong, I just felt like the people who went out of their way were kind of creepy or may e just disturbed. The worst situation I every experienced was when I was at a local pool with some of. Y good friends. My baby was pretty little at the time. I lifted up the bottom of my bathing suit and was lying next to him feeding him to get him to sleep. Suddenly a man I had never seen before, without saying a word to me covered me up with a towel and walked away. Let me tell you, I am an outgoing woman and it takes a lot for me to feel speechless, but there I was, lying there in silence. My friend asked me, ” Wtf just happened?!” I just took off the towel and kept feeding him. I heard murmurs. I shot dirty looks. This was one of the most offensive things anyone could have done to me. Some people are so disturbed by such a natural and normal act it is disgusting.

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Caroline December 18, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Oh Mama! I’m sorry that happened.

I started preparing to breastfeed at a restaurant one time, I was asked to do so in the restroom. I just didn’t want to breastfeed my baby on a toilet, so I went out to our car (in the middle of winter, mind you). It was, I believe, around 20 degrees outside at the time. I remember feeling very ostracized. I could eat at the restaurant, but my baby girl wasn’t allowed to?

Nowadays, we are a very experienced breastfeeding duo and if wearing a button down shirt, I can usually feed my daughter without anyone noticing, thank goodness.

I really wish that our culture would change to become more accepting of the natural and beautiful relationship of mother and child, nursing.

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Leah December 18, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Good for you for standing up for yourself! I always felt self-conscious nursing in public (and even at home when people other than my hubby, mom or sister were in the room) but I wish I’d had the courage to do what you did. I really hope that more and more people stand up for their rights like you…. because you’re right, it’ll only stop being a taboo when we stop letting it be.

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Juliana December 18, 2013 at 7:05 pm

I always BF in public with a cover on. However, the other day my baby was screaming and wanted his milk right then and there. His cries were breaking my heart, so I just whipped the boob out and fed him. I was sitting at a patio table in front of the mall. I just kept eye contact with my baby as he ate. People walked by and I never looked up to see what there reaction was. I didn’t want to because I didn’t want their reaction to tarnish the beautiful moment I was having with my son. I have had people give me strange looks when I BF with a cover on, like they can’t believe I have the audacity to feed him in public. I don’t understand why BF mothers are expected to run to their cars or a germ infested public bathroom every time their baby is hungry.

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Hannah Cabrera December 18, 2013 at 7:06 pm

I’ve never been asked to cover up yet, but I think if it happened to me…well, I’m not sure what would happen. Because of everything I’ve read and written about the topic, I might be able to quote some good sources on why it’s my right to nurse however and wherever I want, covered or uncovered. I might talk about the benefits of breastfeeding and why it is so important to make women everywhere feel comfortable feeding their babies.

But in all likelihood, I would probably just get really upset, and I might even cry. I think awareness needs to be raised, and I’m so grateful for posts like this!

This is my post on breastfeeding:
http://familiacabrerafairbrother.blogspot.com/2013/09/three-questions-about-breastfeeding.html

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TJ December 18, 2013 at 7:09 pm

My mother in-law.. every time she visited after we had our first baby, she would tell me that it would be best if I went into my bedroom to do it. We usually had other visitors and I hated it! I would go into my bedroom because I didn’t know any better, and by the time my daughter had finished, everyone had left! Kicked out of my own lounge room! The next two kids – a different story. When I need to feed them, the mother in law feels all awkward and leaves herself (but we don’t see her much anymore thank goodness!!)

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Ginger December 18, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Well chalk up two hits for Home Depot (in my eyes). I tried to find a star of Bethlehem for Christmas. All I found was Big Bird and Snoopy. Lowe’s is looking better to me now. The breastfeeding insult is icing on the cake for me.
Well, hang in there mamas, this is the pain of making it normal. I wish I were younger. I wish I could still nurse my children in public. I feel so strongly about it now, that if I could, I may ONLY nurse my children in public. It’s that important!!!

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Life Breath Present December 18, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Good for you starting an email correspondence with Home Depot! It’s important for each of us to speak out about breastfeeding in order to change society’s perception of it being “bad”, while simultaneously touting it’s health benefits. Our society is so confused anyway, but that’s another issue altogether.

Recently, at a family gathering I had a sibling adjust my shirt a bit while I was feeding my son. On the one hand, it bothered me, on the other it didn’t. Usually, I really don’t care about pulling a breast out to feed my child. Thankfully, I haven’t encountered any blatant disrespect of my privacy and my rights so far. I hope it never happens, but if it does. I want to speak out, just as you (and many others) have! :)

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Brianne Crumley December 18, 2013 at 8:06 pm

My mother was one of the people who gave me the least support with breastfeeding. She was always telling me to cover up and it wasn’t appropriate in front of the daycare kids or my at the time 15 year old brother. After two days of being home, my brother really didn’t even noticed when I whipped it out to feed, and the daycare kids didn’t notice either. Unfortunately I worked as a cashier and was not able to keep up with my sons demand after I returned to work. The supervisors were not very considerate or concerned about my rights to pump when necessary in the workplace. But my fits about it opened up the doors for other mothers who had their children after me to have the time the needed to pump. I always brought up the legal issues and they did not believe me until after I had stopped pumping and switched to formula. To this day I have still not had an apology from them about it and that is ok, if I ever had another child, I will politely tell them to kiss my rear end and they wait until I am done pumping to yell at me.

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Kate December 18, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Good job! I’m al lucky enough to have nursed all four of my kids without ever having anyone object to my breastfeeding in public. I always try to give an encouraging smile to women I see. I also do not go to stores who have anti breastfeeding policies or staff members. I do hope that your Home Depot manager apologizes profusely and tells you s/he will have an immediate education plan to his employees which encourages nursing moms and babes. Good luck and Great Job! I am so sorry that someone else made you uncomfortable about doing what is best for your baby (and protected by law!).

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Deborah December 18, 2013 at 9:00 pm

I was in the lobby of a beauty school in Florida near Daytona. One of the women that worked there came out and more told than asked me and my friend to cover up and when I told her we were fine uncovered she said that the male students were having “inappropriate thoughts” and that “everyone would be more comfortable” if we just covered up. I told he that I hadn’t even seen anyen and that If they were having inappropriate thoughts that was their problem. She gave me a trying-to-hard to be polite smile, said “it’s distracting to the students.” And proceeded to drape a towel that she had brought with her over me and my son. As she started to give my friend a towel to cover up I said “no thank you” and uncovered us. Thankfully she walked away after that. My friend and I stared at each other, speechless. Neither of us had ever had that happen.
My sister came out from getting her nails done, we told her what happened and proceeded to change all the babies right there and feed them one more time for good measure.

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Erica December 18, 2013 at 9:04 pm

Fortunately, I have NEVER been told to cover up or stop nursing, and I have nursed 2 children through 2 years of age! So if there is a place to nurse in public, been there done that! And I am in total aggreement that babies should be able to eat when they need to eat, women need to have that right to nurse where babies find themselves hungry at. However, everyone always blames an oversexed culture and the taboo on boobs, but that’s our culture. Other places view women’s thighs or hair as a sexual object, and we are boobs. And breasts are NOT only for breastfeeding, contrary to everyone’s beliefs. They ARE ALSO to delight our husbands with! Face it, breasts turn most men on, and seeing them may cause problems for them. I dont want my husband seeing another women’s breast while she was breastfeeding, I would hope she would do like I have always done, turn your back in a corner, use a light cover up over baby and they get used to be under an object, wearing two layers you can lift one up and pull one down, limiting the skin exposed. I understand breast is best, we have a right to feed in public and babies don’t get hungry in convenient places, remember I have been there done that, but its ok to be modest as we do so.

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kim December 18, 2013 at 9:05 pm

I had both of my children in Italy. My husband was station at Aviano. I was luck because my Italian friends told me not to cover up. The a friend’s house I covered my baby with a blanket. They said no the baby must be able to breathe. Visiting Venice, a woman ask if I was breast feeding. When I said yes, She stop and send a blessing to Mary for my son and myself.

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Jenny December 18, 2013 at 9:47 pm

I always pop a boob out no matter what and try to play it cool when people complain (my parents mostly) but it still hurts my feelings. I shouldn’t have hurt feelings because I am doing nothing wrong, just feeding my baby. Not to mention that people shouldn’t complain to begin with. And I have gigantic boobs too so there is no covering up. One hand lifts the breast off my thigh (literally) while I use the other hand to push the nipple back so the baby can breathe. (In case anyone is wondering, I hold her in position with my legs and yes it is tricky and it sucks that I only have one position breastfeeding that works but at least I have one.) While my husband is around, I always feel safe and supported and no one ever gives me grief while he is there. But when you are alone, especially in public, I definitely get the whole scared instinct when a stranger, usually a woman security guard, tells me to do that in a bathroom or to cover up. I believe in standing up for human rights and I don’t back down to go feed my baby in a bathroom stall but I do cry about it later usually and it is heartbreaking.

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Gina Jenkins December 18, 2013 at 9:51 pm

I was asked to cover up on an international flight. The flight attendant came over to me holding a blanket and said, “here’s a blanket for you.” I responded with, I’m not cold, thank you though. To that, she told me it was to cover up whilst feeding. I politely declined again. My husband, then piped up, “have there been any complaints?” To which she replied, “no.” Then he politely smiled at he an said, “then I don’t see this issue and we won’t be needed the blanket at this time, thank you!”
Made me love him even more tha. I already do!
I don’t eat under a blanket or in the bathroom, why should my baby?

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Sabrina December 18, 2013 at 10:07 pm

I was once asked to cover up while nursing in a Carter’s store because a male customer had complained. I promptly got sassy and said I wouldn’t cover up. Then I asked to be told who complained. The manager, a young, obviously intimidated girl said she couldn’t tell me. She told me that I “needed” to cover up, or leave. I stood my ground. She said I could go into the bathroom to nurse and I said only if she’d take her lunch and eat it sitting on the shitter while I nursed. She threatened to call the police if I didn’t politely and promptly comply with one of her 3 options. I said I would wait where I was, just as I was, feeding my baby because I was protected by state and federal law. Then in my best public speaking voice I adressed the crowd in the store- “if anyone has a problem with me feeding my baby, please come to me now and say so. Otherwise, I have no problems.” The manager backed down, no customers spoke up, and I fed my child. After I finished shopping I collected the names and phone numbers of every manager above her and the corporate office. I complained to all of them and suggested to corporate sensitivity training and that they train all employees on laws concerning a woman’s right to feed a child.

I’m not usually one to cause a scene, and I’m totally not the bad-a$$ I pretended to be, but I strongly believe in a woman’s right to feed her child naturally.

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Alexis December 18, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Thank you for sharing your experience. I have been nursing the last 3 1/2 years, my two beautiful boys, 20m and 3 1/2 years old. In the last 3 1/2 years to my surprise, I have never been told to cover up. I have, however had a pretty rough experience with a young man. August 2012, I attended the Big Latch On and while I was there, my sister snapped a photo of me nursing my, at the time, 4 month old. It was actually a very nice photo. Nothing was showing as far as my boobs and tbh you couldn’t even tell he was nursing. Well the moment I saw the photo, I knew I wanted to make it my profile pic on fb. The next week, one of my girl friends said she needed to talk to me. Keep in mind, she doesn’t have any kiddos of her own yet. She told me my profile pic was “disturbing” for some older married men. She was just looking out for me. In my opinion, that is their fault for looking. Nothing was showing, nothing. I am heart broken and told her that she has no idea what it is like to breast feed here in the U S of A. There is a bunch more to the story but it doesn’t need to be shared. Needless to say I did take the profile pic down.

We just need more awareness! I truly believe that the more and more mamas stand up to do what’s natural, the more and more it won’t be such a struggle! :)

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Lydia Serafino December 18, 2013 at 11:31 pm

http://youtu.be/0Azka8pEuFM

I apologize for the novel that follows:

I have been asked 2 times, and complained about at work once. The first was at weight watchers… my friends (joking) when I ranted on FB said it was because “if they aren’t allowed to snack during a meeting, why should my baby?” Apparently two women in their 60s-70s complained to the Speaker/Instructor THREE WEEKS before she came up to me on a week I hadn’t breastfed during the class… Enraged, my mother (an IBCLC/RN) and I informed her that I was protected by law. She told me to cover up and sit in the back if I had to breastfeed.

I called WW Customer Service. I guess it’s up to each location’s instructor if they want to break the law by asking me to cover up, but they assured me that as breastfeeding promotes good health (and they probably didn’t want to deal with a lawsuit or refunding the money I’d paid to them that year) they would escalate it to corporate. I asked for a call/update. Months later? Haven’t heard back.

The next week, the old bags rolled eyes, and whispered nasty things about me. I went up to the instructor after class. Told her that I had spoken to Customer Service and they had told me I was authorized to tell her that she could face legal actions. And that WW had no rules about breastfeeding during a meeting. She again told me to cover up in the back. I told her I wasn’t going to do that. If my son was hungry, I would feed him. No matter where I was sitting, no matter if I had a cover with me or not. She rolled her eyes as I handed her a “NE State Legislation on Breastfeeding Card” and said she’d talk to the ladies in annoyed voice. I never went back.

Personally, I usually cover up. My husband is from a Conservative Christian Family, and while I don’t care, he does (though he is ok with me not covering if I forget it or blankets at home…) I was just offended by the clear “move to the back of the bus”… apparently breastfeeding has been elevated to our generation’s segregation movement.

A few weeks pass, and I am at a craft store. In the back, tucked away so it’s quiet, is a “crafting corner” where you can take your purchases and craft. I was doing so when Theo demanded his meal. No cover, no problem! I’m not in plain site of customers anyway (just the two employees- both female- at the employees’ computer/desk in the craft area)… so I latch him on… conveniently, my travel system stroller was already positioned between us and the employees and the open area that led from the shopping aisles to the crafting area.

One of the female employees approached. “Ma’am I need to ask you to cover up. We have MALE customers.” Well, armed with confidence from the WW experience, I looked her in the eye and said “Nope. I’m protected by law. I can feed him wherever I am legally allowed to be. Besides- I’m feeding him in the back with my stroller in front of me, where your male customers can’t see me.” She huffed, walked back to the desk, and said something quietly (with affronted body language) to her coworker.

I at the time worked in a low-traffic store, and had gotten permission from my direct manager to bring my son in to work until he was 6 months and active… after being back a month I was breastfeeding him in the back when a sales rep (for our neighboring city!) came in to get her jacket that she had left (in the back). She was the only one who entered the store while I was feeding him, and the only one who came into the back room. Corporate got an anonymous complaint. Gee, I wonder from whom? Luckily that day I was covering for my manager, and she played it off to Corporate that it was a one-time incident (I’m sure to cover her own a**)… never mind that if he wan’t there I would have to pump anyways, or if he was brought in they would be required by law to allow me time to breastfeed…

I was told I couldn’t bring him in anymore… I found childcare for the next few weeks with my in-laws, and told her that at the end of the month I was going to have to be “as needed” until I was no longer breastfeeding as he was my priority. During that month, I found pumping to be harder, more inconvenient, and more “immodest” as far as workplace etiquette goes… not to mention the several ounces I lost when jumping up as a customer came in, I knocked my container over… I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I was done with that month…

My boss needed me to work once or twice, and then “had it covered” for the next 3 months whenever I asked so I quit asking… in 7ish months total since I went “on call” she hasn’t needed me or informed me that I am no longer an employee… and I haven’t asked.

When it comes to breastfeeding, you have to take a stand… who is going to fight for your children, if not you?

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Britta December 18, 2013 at 11:51 pm

I always use a cover when in public or around anyone besides my husband and my kids. I’m pretty conservative in that way, and would also never dress in low cut tops. I actually would ask a woman dressed inappropriately to cover up. I think breastfeeding is completely natural and normal, but I don’t understand why using a cover is so hard. I’ve done it with 3 kids now… Because I do use a cover, I refuse to go to my car or the bathroom to bf my baby! My husband doesn’t want others to see my breast and although he’s a big supporter of bfing he doesn’t want to see other women’s breasts. I think there needs to be respect on both sides. Just my two cents. :-)

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Mrs. BWF December 19, 2013 at 12:04 am

I don’t see why it’s a big deal for a woman to not use a cover.

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Mama Brave December 19, 2013 at 12:24 am

My son will not nurse under a cover. Should I allow him to scream, kick, cry and make a big ruckus in a restaurant or store just because he’s hungry and I’m forcing him to nurse under a cover? I used to feel the same as you until I had my second baby who hated to be covered.

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Lauren Q December 19, 2013 at 12:36 am

You have to realize that many babies simply will not feed under a cover. Are these babies supposed to go hungry in the name of modesty? No.

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Kay December 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm

My second son would not nurse under a cover, or if anything else was touching his head. He also refuses to wear hats, maybe it’s a claustrophobic thing.

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Gina December 19, 2013 at 9:55 am

This says it all: “I actually would ask a woman dressed inappropriately to cover up.” If you have no problem telling people when they don’t meet your arbitrary standards of modesty, of course you wouldn’t be supportive of women feeding their children in the way that works best for them. It is none of your business how adults choose to dress or choose to feed their children. None. Of. Your. Business. And not only is it none of your business, but you have absolutely no authority to tell anyone how to conduct their lives.

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june's mama December 19, 2013 at 5:51 am

Good for you mama! I’ve never been asked to cover up, but I still (2 EBF babies later) can tell you I have a hard time BF in public. At home, no issues, but for some odd reason it’s tough for me in public. I still have to find some secluded corner of the mall, or leave the restaurant in search of that perfect place. I will think of you and your courage next time and hopefully find the strength myself to be more open! Well done!

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Monica C December 19, 2013 at 8:50 am

I was told on a 10hr British Airways flight from London to Phoenix to stop feeding my 6 month old baby on take off (who was under a cover) because I was offending people (who???) and that I might also smother my baby (what???). When I complained all I got was an automated email saying they staff acted in the interest of all passengers and that I should look for alternative ways to sooth my infant on take off and landing. No apology! I cannot stand that it is ok to have breasts on display for fantasy and sex but not for feeding! This society is wrong!

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Audrey December 19, 2013 at 9:12 am

Can I ask what the laws are protecting women who choose to breastfeeding in public in the U.S are? I know that in Australia we are protected under the sexual discrimation act and I was always prepared to quote it (not that I ever needed to). Is there similar in other countries?

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Svea Boyda-Vikander December 20, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Hi Audrey,

Good question. The laws in the USA vary by state but it is legal to breastfeed in all public parts of the USA. Some states have specific protection for breastfeeding mothers and breastfed babies (which helps when the mother needs legal recourse to continue to nurse without harassment), but some simply say it is not illegal. This is a technical but pretty interesting summary of BFing laws: http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/breastfeeding-state-laws.aspx . I linked to the California legal code in the post and I know that somewhere out there is a printable ‘breastfeeding license’ that mothers can print out but I couldn’t find it with my google-fu. Hope this helps!

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Denise December 19, 2013 at 10:15 am

Why doesn’t anyone make those comments to me while I BF in public?! And my daughter is just about 2! Nothing discreet about nursing a toddler. :) I have a whole speech prepared for when/if the day ever comes! haha.

I love that this mama went back and had a photographer take pics of her breastfeeding at home depot.

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Svea Boyda-Vikander December 20, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Denise,

I admit that a part of me was excited (in a very angry, adrenaline-pumping sort of way) to have this happen to me! Because now I really know what it’s like when other people talk about their experiences being asked to cover up. So I get ya on that one. ;) The pictures are actually not of myself, though I thank you for thinking that I am that brave. In fact, I contacted the photographer, Kristie Robin, who lives in an another city, about this post. She brought one of her BFing friends to Home Depot to surreptitiously take these pictures outside. Kind of badass if you ask me. Love it.

Thanks for reading.

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Aileen December 19, 2013 at 12:15 pm

I was asked to cover or go into the locker room at the YMCA. Cover. In the 80-something degree pool room at the YMCA. I had a child in the pool getting swim lessons who I was not allowed to leave per the YMCA’s own rules (nor would I want to). You couldn’t see anything, as I was wearing a sling and the inch or so of skin that would normally be visible was hidden by it. I told the woman she was not allowed to ask me to cover OR to move, as I was allowed by law to nurse wherever I was allowed to be. The issue escalated to the director of the YMCA in that area, and I stood my ground. Even thinking about it now, my pulse quickens. I received a begrudged apology, but I knew walking out that it would happen again if the situation arose. If my child hadn’t been my 3rd nursed babe, I probably would have taken her off the boob and tried not to nurse in public again. Which, as we all know, can totally damage the nursing relationship. It’s just one of many booby traps nursing moms fall prey to in this country.

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Sarah December 19, 2013 at 2:32 pm

I worked a daycare a few years ago, so I could be near my newborn son while I was making money to support us. During my breaks, I would head to the nursery and sit in a rocker and nurse him. I’ve always used lightweight nursing covers, even though we hated them. It wasn’t long before I was called to the office and was asked to nurse in a storage closet instead. The owner of the daycare said it made people feel uncomfortable. An administrator who was particularly incensed over it told me that she didn’t nurse her daughters so she shouldn’t have to see me nursing my child. They even told me that they usually force mothers to leave the property to nurse, but since I worked there I could use a closet. I very calmly informed then that state law allows me to nurse anywhere I’m legally allowed to be, and that they should consider revising their policies because while I’m nice enough to let it slide, they would likely be sued in the future. The owner got a little fidgety over that part. They refused to let me nurse my son in the nursery, and so I quit. As badly as I needed the job, my son needed me, and I decided to stand up for his rights. Later a friend who worked in that daycare said that my actions made huge changes. The owners changed the policy, and now frequently women who are nursing will whip their boobies out without shame, right in front of the owners (pastor and wife of a very very conservative church!!) and the owners know better than to reprimand. I love it! I laugh every time I picture the look on their faces. It makes me sad that women have to go through all these feelings and little traumas over feeding their children :( I wish I had more boldness to nurse without cover. However, I must say that there have been plenty of strangers walk up and pull my cover off to marvel at my nursing child. Its surprising but heartwarming!

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Amy December 19, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Great article. I’m sorry you were made to feel this way. I am constantly seeing posts from friends who’ve been shamed and told to cover up while breastfeeding. I’ve been fortunate enough, even now with my 4th child, to only have people ask if I’d like to go in another room or to politely tell me where there’s a cover or another room I could go to. I just smile and say, “no thanks, I’m fine.”

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Y. Chatz December 19, 2013 at 9:48 pm

This was a real LOL post! Loved it. I personally follow some strict religious modesty rules, and am still BFing happily at 11 mos. It helps that I have no “FOMO” and am happy to go to another room for some quiet time with my daughter when she refuses to stay covered. At the same time, I’ve nursed on the plane a couple times – while I try to get m hubby to block me as much as possible, I know that I’m showing more skin than I ever would otherwise and I don’t really care. Because BFing is so not a sexual thing. Before I had my own baby, I remember feeling shocked by my friend’s display of nipple in her parents’ living room while she was latching her newborn. But now, when I see other mommas nursing in public, I’m always just happy they’ve been able to have the joy of BFing.

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Danielle December 19, 2013 at 10:30 pm

So sad to read this. I work at Home Depot and rest assured that this is not a company policy! Just one ignorant woman who should have kept to herself. If I ever saw a coworker haressing a woman for taking care of her child I would definitely say something! I’m so sorry this happened to you.

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Kayla December 20, 2013 at 11:02 am

When my daughter was born, my family was not supportive of my breastfeeding her at all. I was always asked to leave the room, sent upstairs away from everyone and made to feel like I was doing something wrong. And every time age cried, my dad insisted it was because she was starving because breastfeeding her wasn’t good enough and I needed to give her formula. I was a very young mother, barely 19 when she was born and I didn’t know any better. So I secluded myself when they told me to and eventually started giving her formula, because they made me think I was starving her. She wasn’t hungry, she had colic, and formula made it worse. I only breastfed her for 6 weeks, but I never stop wishing that I had done it longer. Next time I have a baby, anyone who tells me I cannot feed her anywhere or anytime she needs it, does so at his peril. I will not let the small minded opinions of ignorant people effect my child’s health again.

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Jessica December 20, 2013 at 11:55 am

I had an experience like this last week. I was at Walmart with my husband and mother in law when my little one started to freak out..instinctively I knew she was hungry. Being new at nursing (she was only 3 weeks at the time) I told my husband I was going to the back of the store by the washrooms to sit on a bench to feed her. I found a bench at the back, sat down and pulled my stroller up in front of me, more for a place to rest my feet than as a shield from others, and proceeded to whip out my boob and nurse. As it happens, the area that I was nursing in not only had the store washrooms but also the staff room door. Staff were coming in and out (I’m assuming it was a shift change) and the majority of them smiled and said hi, a few if the younger employees saw me and then proceeded to avoid staring and looked at the floor..but it was an older woman who shocked me the most. She was heading into the staff room when she saw me… She smiled at first, but then when realizing I was breast feeding approached me and asked if I wouldn’t be more comfortable in the bathroom. Without skipping a beat I asked her if she had ever ate her lunch while sitting on a toilet hiding in a bathroom stall. Her face dropped. Shocked..she said no and you could immediately see the shame on her face. I dont think she MEANT to offend me… But she did. She apologized immediately (tba.k god bc I really didnt want to have to complain about her) and that was the end of it. I am happy to say that I was back at that same Walmart yesterday and again had to feed Sophia and proceeded to the back bench with my bearded in tow as my hubby continued shopping. I saw that same woman again, and this time she just smiled, asked how old Sophia was and gawked at how much hair she had (born with a full 2 inches of dark brown hair!!) I was happier to see her this time!! I am not ashamed to feed my child wherever I am, and if me feeding her makes someone feel uncomfortable, that is on THEM, not me!!

*note* I only go to the back as it is the only place with a bench and I am a very heavy breasted woman and need both hands to feed her, walking around is just not an option. I WISH I could walk and feed! Props to those mommas who can… Please teach me how you do it!!!

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Toni December 27, 2013 at 7:21 pm

I had to use both hands when my babies were tiny, but by the time they were a few months old, they were able to nurse without me needing to use my hands to move the breast away from their noses – so perhaps time will take care of this issue for you.

I have never had any problems like that described in the post. The closest I got was when I was at Walmart with a friend and my baby wanted to nurse. The friend freaked out and kept trying to shield me from the security cameras (no one else was around, and even if they were they probably would not have noticed what I was doing – most people just thought I was holding my baby close to me when I would nurse in public). I told her that what she was doing was going to attract their attention because they would probably think I was stealing something. I thought her behavior was humorous.

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Toni December 27, 2013 at 7:25 pm

One other note. My spouse and I worked in a nursery in church when my oldest was a baby and only two of the children (ages 1 1/2 to 3 years) noticed what I was doing and came over to investigate. Both were nursing babies. In fact, the mother of one later asked me if I breastfed. When I said yes, she told me that her toddler had told her that my baby got “num-nums” (their word for breastfeeding). When I told this experience to someone years later, they became offended on behalf of all the children in the room and said I shouldn’t have been nursing around little children. Huh? Go figure.

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Kay December 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm

I haven’t been asked to cover up, though one person did tell me that there was a special breastfeeding room in the mall I didn’t know about. Actually one person even came over to me and said good for you, one time as I BF my 2 month old on a mall bench. “You’re doing the right thing, wish there were more mothers like you.”

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Toni December 27, 2013 at 7:27 pm

I was in a family-owned store with my first baby when the male owner came up to me and asked if I nursed my baby (it was a small town; most of us knew each other). When I said yes, he commended me. I thought that the unexpected support was nice.

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eloissa December 26, 2013 at 3:07 am

Staff at a children’s hospital tried to give me a hard time about openly breastfeeding. At some point i stopped caring about them. I fed my baby. Babies are more important than squeamish people. My mom tells a similar story of feeding me at her cousin’s house and him freaking out. It was the late 80′s.

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eloissa December 26, 2013 at 3:37 am

Reading a wonderful book called “childbirth without fear” by Dr. Grantly Dick-Read and some other books published in the 50′s and 60′s i have noticed that the older generation have weird aversions to breastfeeding that may come from a sort of “conspiracy” between formula companies and Dr’s on their payrolls, much like modern pharmaceutical companies and their bought-and-paid-for doctors. It is sad to jear that so many women have been shamed into using formula. One i jad to deal with nurses in a hospital giving my baby boy formula against my wishes. Breastfeeding is only natural and we can change society’s strange aversion to it. I no longer trust hospitals and i hire a midwife for home water birthing.

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Dorie January 1, 2014 at 3:27 pm

I stopped using a cover after I kept having strangers come up and try to peer into the cover to see the baby. I was always surprised that the nastiest comments I got about my public breastfeeding came from middle aged women, not men. I had one woman tell me that her husband had a problem with pornography so she would need me to go somewhere else so I wouldn’t cause him to sin. I smiled and told her to suck it.

The only times I would try to be discreet was at church but even then, I would just go to the nursery and would not use a cover. Someone said something to me about it once but I told them that “nurse” was in the name of the room so I was pretty sure I was okay.

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Amanda January 6, 2014 at 1:07 pm

This saddens me. I work at a home depot in CDA, Idaho. After reading this I told some of my coworkers about it and they were appalled! Even one of my male coworkers, who also told me about seeing a woman feeding her child without a cover while walking around. Was he embarrassed? Yes. Did he say anything? No. He turned away and left her to her shopping. I’m sorry this happened.

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Susie January 7, 2014 at 10:15 am

I’m a 57 year old grandmother, whose daughter (who has 4 children, the last two are twins) has always breast feed her babies. When I had my daughter back in the 70′s…, the RN who did my paperwork ask the usual question if I would be breast feeding or bottle feeding. I remember telling her I was thinking about breast feeding because all the books I had been reading said it would be better for the baby. She ask me if I was sure that was the best thing for me since I wouldn’t be able to ever leave home or go out as long as the baby was on the breast. Of course that kind of scared me, and since I was young and didn’t know any better… I certainly didn’t want to be restricted to home for any length of time, so I opted to bottle feed my daughter. We lived next door to my mother-in-law at the time and when I told her what I decided on, she agreed that was best decision because if I came to their house next door, I would have to go in the bedroom or bathroom to feed the baby. When I ask her why, she said that it would be inappropriate to expose myself in front of her husband. Me being young and naïve, ask if might make her jealous or uncomfortable if I did it in front of him… to which she replied, that it would be presenting myself as being slutty to expose myself in front of a man who wasn’t my husband. We never had good karma between us after that. If I had of known then what I know now, I would have never given it a second thought to feed my baby where and when I wanted, and would have flopped my boob out for the world to see. !! Some people are just ignorant.

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Maggie January 13, 2014 at 7:20 pm

I breastfed my daughter until she was almost 2 years old. I never even considered formula or bottles, it was time for my breasts to earn their keep! I didn’t ever try to nurse in public because as a plus-sized woman with huge breasts it took two hands and a stack of pillows to get in the right position. My daughter also refused to be covered and I had no way to do it anyway since both my hands were always occupied. She was also very easily distracted and would pull off to look around at the slightest noise, leaving me fully exposed and spraying milk everywhere! My hope with this baby is that things will go a bit more smoothly, and I’d be more than happy to tell someone off who had a problem with nursing in public!

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George Sanders March 4, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Maybe I am just more open minded about Breast feeding than most, I personally see no reason why a Mother can`t not breastfeed in public without people making such a big deal about it. Breastfeeding is not only healthy for the child but allow both Mother and child to bond. Whether or not a Mother chooses to cover up or not should be her choice not because someone may be offended. If any finds it offensive they should just keep going, just because you have free speech does not always mean you should say something. Just keep going about your Business and stop Harassing Mothers doing what is a very natural and personal. I praise all Mothers who Breastfeed.

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Jenn March 4, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Absurd! I am a woman’s health nurse and am all for the breastfeeding- power to the boobies!!! People oogle over models and inappropriate entertainment, yet do not support the natural act of breastfeeding. I nursed my daughter for months, and she got to the point where she would pull it out herself, and it didn’t matter where! :)

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Jessica March 10, 2014 at 9:24 pm

One of the favorite things I’ve heard recently and been using quite often is “You do not have the right to NOT be offended”. We’re all going to encounter things we don’t like. Shut up and look away if you don’t. If it is truly something heinous, like genocide, yeah, get up in arms and do something about it. But lifestyle choices? Suck it up and look the other way (this goes for people who rag on moms for bottle-feeding instead of breastfeeding too).

BTW, I also seem to be one of those people no one ever makes comments to, which makes me sad, because I never get to school anybody.

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