Tuesday was a rough day. My baby was getting a tooth and needing a lot of mommy-time. Rather than the 10 AM grocery trip I’d planned, we ended up in the grocery line closer to 5 PM. I was there with my baby in the Ergo* and my dinner in my basket waiting to check out, when a woman (probably mid-20’s) in the next line sweetly asks, “Don’t you do that at home?”
“What?” I ask, somewhat confused. I was just minding my own business and didn’t expect to be addressed (though I had an idea of what was coming next).
“That.” She said, keeping her voice sweet but with a micro-expression of disgust on her face, jutting her chin to indicate my breastfeeding baby.
“Actually, it’s against the law in the state of California for you to question me.” I responded, finding it easy to keep my tone pleasant, even though I could feel the blood rushing to my cheeks.
“Don’t you care about other people’s feelings?” She asked.
“If it bothers you, then don’t look.” I responded.
“But don’t you care about other people’s feelings?” She asked again, batting her beautiful, big brown eyes expectantly at me. (Sorry girlie, you’ll have to save that one for the guys you train jitz with because that’s whole sweet, innocent thing will get you nowhere with me. I used to BE that girl. And then I grew up.) Anyway…
I thought about it for a moment. I seriously considered her question. Do I care about other people’s feelings? Then I gave the most honest answer I could muster:
“No. I don’t. Not right now, I don’t.”
Our exchange was finished and she turned her back on me.
It was honest for me in the moment. But, by my nature, I care very deeply about other people’s feelings. Plus, I’d been nursing all day, hadn’t had enough to eat, and I was just leaving the grocery store at the time dinner should have almost been ready, so my head-space wasn’t as healthy as it might have otherwise been. By the time I got the groceries in the car, breastfed my baby some more in the parking lot, got my baby in the car, and started to drive home, the irrational thoughts started to kick in.
I started to think, what if she’d experienced some trauma like a double mastectomy or not having been able to feed her own baby. Maybe my breastfeeding in front of her triggered her. Maybe I shouldn’t be feeding my baby in public if it’s going to hurt people.
Then I started to think rationally. I can’t be responsible for other people’s feelings. After I lost Kalis I was triggered by pregnant women and women with babies. But I would never ask them not to get pregnant just because of my issues. I’m responsible for my feelings, not them. That girl in the store is responsible for her own feelings, not me.
Also, I couldn’t forget the micro-expression: disgust.
By the time dinner was prepared I felt compassion for her. She must so disconnected with her feminine nature to be disgusted by me feeding my baby. I pray that she comes to fully accept that part of herself (and hopefully does some research) before she ever gets pregnant.
As for my “against the law comment”: I’m not sure that was accurate phrasing, but that’s what came out. Here is what Civil Code Section 43.3 says: “Notwithstanding any other provision of the law, a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, except in the private home or residence of another, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be present.”
And to answer her initial question: Yes. I do that at home. And walking around town, at the mall, in the restaurant, in the car, in front of my dad and brothers, in front of my in-laws, in front of the priest at Mass, (Hey, I figure if Mary can breastfeed baby Jesus in the picture on the wall at church, I should absolutely do it too!) and anywhere else I want. I always ask permission when I’m in the home of others (as per the previous mentioned Civil Code) but I’ve never been denied.
The only places I don’t breastfeed: in public restrooms (yuck) and under a cover (like that would work).
How about you? Have you ever been called out for breastfeeding in public? What did you do? Share in the comments below!
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