Shamed for Breastfeeding
This is my one and only story about being made to feel uncomfortable while breastfeeding in public. I have been breastfeeding for a total time of 6.5 years. In general, people are supportive of breastfeeding.
In July 2013, my husband and I along with Graham (who was 6mths old) spent the 4th of July in Washington, DC. We watched the Independence Day Parade in front of the Archives building and then headed over to the National Gallery of Art.
As we walked through the galleries at the National Gallery of Art, Graham became rather fussy. The museum echoes and Graham has never been considered a quiet baby. It had been extremely hot outside, so I knew he would be needing extra feedings. I decided to sit down on one of the gallery couches and feed him — a gallery room with maybe 5 people walking through it.
As I started to feed G, a security guard approached me and said, “Ma’am, if you could be a little more discreet that would be appreciated. Not everyone wants to see that.” He didn’t say it in a nice, friendly manner. He said it in a rude — you are rotting people’s brains — manner. Reference the picture above…I don’t even have breasts. I replied, “Sir, it is my legal right to breastfed my child how and where I wish.” He then told me that he was aware of that and walked back over to the corner. A docent walked into the gallery and the guard “informed” the docent that what I was doing was legal so he shouldn’t say anything to me. The docent just nodded his head like, “Yes, I already knew that.” I continued to feed Graham and, as I sat there, I looked around the gallery. What was pictured behind me? A naked man. Literally, a NAKED MAN!
We continued to tour the galleries but as I walked around I couldn’t help but feel violated. It wasn’t that he asked me to “be more discreet” it was that he said, “Not everyone wants to see that.” “That” sir is me feeding my baby the best nutrition possible, “that” is me bonding with my child, “that” is saving myself money, “that” is me being a mom. So, after running all these thoughts through my head and questioning whether I was really doing something wrong, I decided that the encounter with the security guard couldn’t end the way it had. I left Tyler and Graham and walked back over to the gallery where the encounter occurred. I asked the nice docent to have the security guard called back into the gallery.
The Guard and I discussed how belittling his words can make one feel and how fragile a new breastfeeding relationship can be. That some babies simply won't nurse under a cover and that I was minding my own business silently sitting in the corner of the couch feeding my child as nature intended. He ultimately agreed with me and mentioned how the museum should do a training on breastfeeding.
Now, I don’t really know that my conversation with him had any impact but I do know that I can walk away feeling like I helped him understand the impact his comments had on me. I am, overall, disappointed by the fact that during our entire trip that summer the only place anything negative was said about my breastfeeding happened to be in our nation’s capital in a National Museum.
The trip to D.C. rounded out normally enough. We enjoyed watching the fireworks on the University of Maryland’s campus (very family-friendly and easy to navigate with a baby), walking the National Mall, meeting up with my brother and some friends, some AMAZING Indian food at the Smithsonian’s annual heritage festival, and touring the Library of Congress.
This happened to me in 2013. I just read about a similar situation in the National Gallery of Art in Australia last year. It saddens me to think another mom went through that same humiliating ordeal when simply feeding her child.
Photo credit: Wicklund Photography