Does Breastfeeding Make You Feel Uncomfortable?

By Lisa Rainer

Last week I took my 3-year-old son to a speech appointment at a local elementary school. The meeting was scheduled to last about 1 hour and since it was his first assessment, I wanted to be there with him the whole hour.

The meeting was held in a large classroom that was separated into 4 to 5 different meeting areas so that multiple children could be evaluated at the same time.

When the appointment started my 8-month-old daughter woke up and started crying. I let the speech pathologist know that I would need to nurse her but that I still wanted to sit in the room for my sons appointment.

She said “it would be better to hold off because nursing your baby will make the boys that walk through this classroom feel uncomfortable.” For a moment I felt uncomfortable and a little shocked that another female would ask me to hold off on feeding my baby.

I have three children. I breastfed my two boys for two years each, and I plan to nurse my daughter for 2 years as well. At times during the past 5 years of breastfeeding I’ve had some strange looks, and the occasional times when someone will see that I am breastfeeding and immediately walk away as if they saw something they weren’t supposed to see, but NEVER had someone asked me to hold off on feeding my baby.

I normally would have just nursed anyway but I was focused on getting my son the help he needed for his speech. He wasn’t answering any of her questions, and it was making it difficult for her to assess his speech.

I sat next to my son in an effort to make him feel comfortable and to try to get him to say a few sentences. That didn’t work so we moved to a play kitchen to see if he would play and naturally start talking.

He still didn’t say much and you could tell that he was tired so she recommended rescheduling the meeting for a morning appointment to see if he would be more talkative.

It wasn’t until I got home that I thought more about her request to hold off on nursing my daughter.

What kind of message does that send to kids if adults view breastfeeding as inappropriate or uncomfortable?

How can someone ask a mother to hold off on feeding her child?

Would it have been ok if I had asked to bottle-feed my baby in the classroom?

Don’t people understand that breastfeeding is a necessary and normal part of providing nourishment to a child?

Breastfeeding has countless benefits, beyond just nutritional. It is amazing to me that breastfeeding would be viewed to anyone as unnatural, uncomfortable, or inappropriate when it is THE natural way to feed a baby.

Children shouldn’t grow up thinking that babies drink milk delivered solely by a bottle. I have had so many kids stare at me when I am nursing and ask “what are you doing?” When I tell them I am feeding the baby they ask “why aren’t you using a bottle?”

Usually it’s one of my boys that answers their questions. They’ll say “that’s how mommies feed their babies.” I hope they always view breastfeeding this way.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Have you had a similar breastfeeding experience and how did you handle the situation?

Lisa is a registered dietitian, writer, blogger, health foodie, wife (to her high school sweetheart) and mom of three. Her blog, Healthful Sense, is for people who want to eat healthy and who are looking for ways to make healthy eating a priority for their family. She loves to share simple, straightforward, and helpful information about a healthy diet with anyone who happens to stumble upon her blog.

5 comments to Does Breastfeeding Make You Feel Uncomfortable?

  • I’m used to people who don’t work in child centred professions saying silly things about breastfeeding but even this is rare, most people are very positive and supportive. Your tale here really does surprise me. Our local breastfeeding support group issues Breast Feeding Friendly stickers to local shops, workplaces and businesses who support breastfeeding mums so that mothers know they can feed in these places with confidence. As yet nobody has ever turned us down!

  • Theresa

    Wow! I have sometimes also mentioned in a matter of fact way that I would be nursing the younger one, but at some point wondered if that cold be interpreted as asking permission. It seems the answer is “yes!”. That is so sad. I think the next time I might consider saying something I will think of this and hold off. It might make it more difficult for the other party to “voice their thoughts”. Thanks for sharing!

  • If she had said that in the presence of my kids, they would have told her it wasn’t okay! LOL!!

    But, the world – nay, scratch that, the U.S. – is not a friendly place right now. Did you see this?

  • @Tiffany, I did see that news story – and I think it’s awful and illegal. I can’t believe they are getting away with it. I hope someone sues. They should not be able to make such a sweeping ruling. I can see telling the teacher that she can’t breastfeed her baby while teaching, but to tell her (and everyone else) that they can’t breastfeed on campus AT ALL is just wrong and against GA state law too. — Judy

  • I’m really surprised. This is a person who is trained in dealing with younger children and should know all the benefits of breastfeeding too! The fact is she asked you in front of your son. Perhaps he was upset over his sibling being upset and knowing that his sister was hungry.

    I probably would have done exactly as you did given the situation and then afterward thought of many things I should have said or done. It’s a learning experience not just for you but for your kids too.

    I breastfed my youngest in front of my older two and they were never uncomfortable and know that mommies feed babies.

    Our children today thing babies eat bottles and everyone else in the world think fried potato slices were invented by McDonalds.

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