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updated 2/2/2007 1:27:02 PM ET 2007-02-02T18:27:02

Health experts have said time and again that breast milk is best for babies, but mothers who  breast-feed in public have found themselves targets of complaints. Why the outrage?

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Holly from San Louis Obispo, Calif., noted that “any hint of ‘forbidden flesh’ is immediately sexualized, gawked at and fantasized over. Mothers, do you really want every man around you to be thinking lewd thoughts while you are feeding your child?”

On the other hand, George from Orange, N.J., believes that “breast-feeding is the most natural event in the world. All mammals feed their young in this way. …  It should be thought of as something we just do!”

Others wondered why women can't just cover up. Read on for more reader responses:

I would rather see a woman breast-feeding than hear a hungry baby cry any day!
— Caroline, Murrieta, Calif.

Breast-feeding is the best thing you can do for your child, but a breast is a breast. Just because a child is attached to it doesn't make it any less of a “private” area of your body. ...  I think there are many alternatives that would help everyone to maintain their modesty and comfort. Since when is being considerate of those around you such a bad thing?
— Anonymous

I live in Las Vegas. There are topless women, billboards, ads, flyers and other opportunities to see naked breasts. No one cares. That's because it's for sex. Feed a baby (what the breast was made for) and they protest. What is wrong with people?
— George, Las Vegas

I was once at a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., when a woman's 3-year-old child pulled up her shirt and started breast-feeding. The woman didn't even pay attention to the child. When a batter hit a home run, the child was distracted ... [and] held the mother's shirt up, exposing her breast to everyone for nearly a full minute. I think this is an example of what people don't want in public. It’s the blatant exposure of a woman's breast in public, not the act of breast-feeding.
— Lee, Stockton, Calif.

I breast-fed both of my children, and I think people should show a little respect for others around. I did feed my kids whenever and where ever they were hungry. If someone around was not comfortable I would cover, and I feel women should think of others, not just themselves.
— Jess, Ky.

Yikes! I know it's natural, but lots of things are natural. We don't do them all in public. Why do women need to ‘bond’ every time they feed their kid? I know there are methods available to pump milk and put it in a bottle. … It is very unappetizing to be in a restaurant and look over to see someone's business hanging out. ... I hear a lot of assertion of the 'rights' of these women, but what about the 'right' of the rest of us to not see it?
— Anonymous

I can honestly say that when I would see my aunt breast-feeding my cousins in public, I would get uncomfortable but I don't object to it … I know it's best for the baby. I feel the mother should have a blanket or something covering up and not have her breast hanging out for the world to see, but I don't feel that they should have to hide because we feel uncomfortable.
— Natali, Trumbull, Conn.

I have never breast-fed. My two children are very smart and very good looking. They are very healthy and right on target. I am offended when women show their nipples and breasts in public. What is the difference when a man pees in public?
— Jamie, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Learning to nurse your first child can be challenging. When my first son was 2 months old, I was trying to nurse him in a restaurant with my in-laws. I had a blanket over him but we were both struggling a bit to get him started nursing. My mother-in-law told me to go feed him in the bathroom. I was insulted and told her to go eat her dinner on a toilet.
— Christina, Redlands, Calif.

Women have the right to choose when to have children. They certainly should have the right to breast-feed, as Mother Nature intended, whenever necessary, covered or not. Warmly cuddling a baby while bottle-feeding is no less important. In both cases, the child receives unmitigated love. People need to let go of their Puritan hang-ups about sex. A breast- or bottle-feeding woman is not a sexual statement. She's giving a child sustenance and love, period.
— Dwight, Saratoga, Calif.

Part of the reason this is so controversial is because in the U.S. there is really no place to go to nurse your baby. I live in Japan, and there are nursing rooms everywhere — airports, shopping malls, department stores, etc. …. Maybe the U.S. should make public facilities more nursing friendly. Then it might not be such an issue.
—Anne, Kitakyushu, Japan

There is a time and place to take care of your baby's needs. We do not live in the Stone Age. They make products that you can use to alleviate a situation such as this. I say, if you are going out with your newborn, store some breast milk in bottles and use when needed. I don't care to see a grown woman in public, breast-feeding.
— Tom, Toledo, Ohio

No one will criminalize a mother breast-feeding a baby in Darfur. ... So it's insane to criminalize something when it's a necessity to life and it's natural. Is this really and issue? I am surprised if it is.
— Aman, Malaysia

I breast-fed until my now 5-year-old was 6 months old. It wasn't uncommon for me to be seen walking through Wal-Mart or the mall while breast-feeding. And when you have a colicky baby, you don't always have time to go someplace private. I did, however, always cover my breast with a receiving blanket while in public. My husband and I were both uncomfortable with some of the stares men gave me, even when I was covered. Some men, and some women too, seemed to be ogling my breast and my baby.
— Jessica, Odessa, Texas

I have received a few negative looks while breast-feeding in public but no confrontations. I expect them, though, so I am prepared to tell anyone who does confront me that if they don't like it, don't look. If our teens can get away with short shirts, skirts, shorts and low-rise jeans where their pubic bones are nearly showing, then I should be able to breast-feed in public. Breasts are first and foremost meant for nursing, not sexual pleasure.
— Melissa, Portsmouth, Va.

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