Breastfeeding in Public: 3 Etiquette Rules for Men

Modern Manners Guy supports a woman’s biological right to breastfeed in public. What he doesn't support is the reaction of unenlightened guys to this most natural act. Here are 3 rules for what to do if you encounter a breastfeeding woman in a public place. (Hint: Don't ogle!)

Richie Frieman
6-minute read
Episode #267

In honor of International Women's Day (March 8th), I want to talk about a topic that's long been considered taboo - but shouldn't be.


I for one am in awe of women’s bodies. Before you say anything, I am not talking just about the beauty part. I’m referring to what women put their bodies through for children. After being a professional wrestler for 8 years, I have a pretty good threshold for pain. But I’ll take a thousand shots to the head with a steel chair over giving birth any day. So after the awfulness of childbirth, I don’t care what a woman has to do feed and take care of her baby. They get a free pass for anything!

That's why I proudly support a woman’s right to breastfeed in public.  As a father of two, I understand how important it is to feed babies breastmilk (even the House Call Doctor says that it's the absolute best thing for their health). Granted I can’t say “I feel your pain,” but what I can say is that I don’t see why people have such a big problem with public breastfeeding? .

It always amazes me to witness the reaction some unenlightened people have to women breastfeeding in public. They seem to consider it as a burden on them. Really?  Does that weird old man ogling from across the room have any idea how much the woman would rather not be doing this right now? No, he does not. Do the group of obnoxious teens texting “OMG Look. At. Her!” have any clue how uncomfortable breastfeeding in public is? No, they don’t. And if anything, let’s hope the experience reminds them to “wrap it up” until they’re a bit older.

So, before you wince or get nervous about seeing a woman wearing a nursing shawl at your local Panera Bread, check out my top 3 quick and dirty tips on how to handle public breastfeeding:

Tip #1: Newsflash - It’s Natural!

True story:  I was having lunch at a restaurant with a colleague earlier this year, when in mid-bite of his sandwich he looks over at a young woman breastfeeding, rolls his eyes and says to me, “Does she really have to do that here?” I replied very flatly, “Actually, yes she does.” He wasn’t buying it. To be fair, this guy is 29, not married, doesn’t have any nieces or nephews, and for him seeing a woman breastfeeding in public is about as shocking as watching a unicorn gallop into the restaurant and demand a ham on rye.  So, I had to be considerate of his naiveté.  Still, it shocked me that a young man, could have problems with a woman breastfeeding in public - in the year 2013, no less! I looked at the young woman, with her flower print cover hiding her chest, cradling a baby with one hand, while eating a bagel with the other (like a pro, I should add) then told my colleague, “Buddy, it’s just a part of nature.”

You don’t need to be a licensed physician like my friend House Call Doctor, to know that breastfeeding is just a part of life for a new mother. Nor do you need to be a producer for National Geographic to realize that this same act is done in nature by many other mammal species. So get over yourself and accept it. When you see someone breastfeeding in public, your first thought should be of admiration. There should be no snickering or grumbling that she should "leave that at home." In fact, if I ever dined at a restaurant, and the manager told the woman feeding her baby that she had to leave, I’d walk out with her. 

What, do you expect a woman to stay locked in her house until she’s done breastfeeding? Get real, folks. The mannerly thing to do when you see a woman breastfeeding in public is to simply go about your business. If it really bothers you, pack your stuff and move to a booth or table that isn’t facing her. You can easily move, she cannot.