Sticks and stones.

“I hope you live long enough to forget half the stuff they taught you.”
— Alejandro Escovedo, “Down in the Bowery,” a song he wrote for his teenage son

On Monday morning, I was in Lincoln Square, land of the NPR breeders and beautiful babies, camped out at Starbucks. Working. Checking my e-mail and reading Twitter.

A woman brought her two children in and had set up shop in the corner, on a bright-colored plastic picnic table. Her baby boy had the biggest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. We were flirting. We were in love. Mom and I had a moment, too: I was happy she was there, happy she’d brought her children. If I didn’t adore children, I’d hang out somewhere else. Because they’re everywhere in Lincoln Square. Seeing is believing.
Minutes later, that soul-mate baby had disappeared under a little green coverlet, pressed to his mother’s chest; she was feeding him, in the middle of the café.

I’d never seen this before, breastfeeding in public. (Which is odd, given that this neighborhood is practically the epicenter of liberal parenting in Chicago.)

And I was weirded out.
I was weirded out.

I didn’t say anything to her. Just cast my eyes downward and tried to focus on my screen.
In an attempt to quietly diffuse my own discomfort, I tweeted this: “Really happy we’re sharing this moment together, nursing mother FIVE FEET FROM ME. #gross”
Oh, mistake of mistakes.

Those 76 characters set off a firestorm of backlash that honestly made me wish I’d never opened a Twitter account in the first place.

And I have become infamous in the past three days among a group of Chicago mothers and their supporters. They wrongfully assume — though possibly rightfully, if based solely on those tweets — that I don’t support their right to breastfeed in public. That I’m part of the problem, part of the intolerance that makes their already difficult lives even harder.
And that is just not the case.

For my first tweet, I will not apologize. The fact that it made me uncomfortable that a woman was breastfeeding not five feet from me at Starbucks, while I was trying to get my work done, is not something anyone can fault me for. That was a gut reaction. As was my tweet.

There were some hilarious lactating-at-Starbucks jokes — “Venti breast milk chai” entered the arena, for example — but for the most part, it got ugly. And fast.

What I am sorry for: letting that conversation spiral out of control. It turned into a shouting match, with me doing most of the shouting. I ended up looking ridiculous and childish. Most of what I said was, in retrospect — retrospect, meaning three seconds after I hit “send” — mean-spirited and ignorant. None of those are actually words I’d ever use to describe myself.

My instinct when someone attacks me is to fight back. And my responses became more irrational as I went. But after a certain point, I almost felt like I couldn’t turn around, couldn’t retreat.
I regret this.

My biggest gaffe that day: “If it’s too tough to walk to a private place or make a bottle before you go for your caffeine fix, maybe you’re not cut out for motherhood.”
Did you hear that? That was me snapping. That was my snarky sense of humor rearing its ugly head, completely out of context, completely un…funnily. A response to someone else who refused to hear my side of things. Stupid, stupid, stupid Paige.

The first woman to unfollow me on Twitter was a woman named Claire, who I hadn’t interacted with much at all until she got angry enough to delete me (without attempting to educate me where the debate was taking place), then wrote a blog entry on her site that called me out publicly. Linked to my site and quoted my tweets.
I actually really appreciated what she said in that entry, even though she made a point of making me look like an asshole in the process, so I’ll link to it here. (Please, if you go there and feel compelled to comment, be constructive. As I wrote this, she e-mailed me to let me know she’d removed all the links to my tweets and blog, but the damage had already been done. I have a lot of respect for her, even more so now than I did when I began writing this.)

Reading the comments there make me want to cry. Maybe I deserve it. But the person vilified in all those comments is not me. I know this, but it still hurts to read. (And for the record, my remorse began about five minutes after that Twitter dialogue ended. I’ve been embarrassed for three days now.) I’m afraid to log into my Twitter account for fear of more of the same. I wrote those things a few days ago. Off-handedly. In the heat of the moment. And I’m sorry.

What I wrote hurt a lot of people — I had no idea it would — and apparently now it’s my turn to be hurt. On purpose. By a lot of people who, if they took the time to read through other things I’ve said, would understand that’s not who I am.
After reading Claire’s post, one woman took it upon herself to find my e-mail through my site and put me in my place.


“We are a nation that is so intolerant of public breastfeeding that it’s imperative we educate, encourage and support each other,” wrote that “Proud Breastfeeding Momma.” “Are you proud of shaming women? For making us feel bad about feeding our children when people are around? You and others like yourself only continue this unwarranted response. It is very mean and very wrong!”

I didn’t understand what I was saying that morning. I have no idea what it’s like to be a mom. And maybe one person actually attempted to educate me as it happened. Everyone else had a pretty similar knee-jerk reaction to mine, albeit in the other direction. Anger fed anger, and shit got out of control.

Out. Of. Control.

So these proud breastfeeding mommas, instead of taking the time to educate a single woman with 1,700 Twitter followers and a pretty healthy blog following herself — a hopeful future mother, who could be a wonderful ally if she were properly educated in a sympathetic, nurturing manner — chose to alienate and further polarize me. Unfollow me instead of engaging me. Call me out in public instead of reaching out to me in private. Shame me for shaming them. We live in a first-world country; “eye for an eye” isn’t really the way we do things here, is it?

Is this how you’re going to raise your children?

To be combative and hyper-defensive, racing to judgment on anyone whose opinion differs from yours? All that healthy breast milk, suckled defiantly in public for all the world to see, won’t do a lick of good (so to speak) if you poison them with the negativity I’ve seen in the past few days.

I’m a proud feminist. I’ve written about it on several occasions: here and here, for example.

And I’m very supportive of mothers. I hold doors. I pick up dropped binkies and cast-off blankets and run after a fast-departing Maclaren. I understand babies cry. I understand little girls are going to play their tiny pink harmonicas and little boys are going to get uncomfortably close to me with food all over their faces. And I understand that most parents don’t feel the need to apologize for that, because their children are perfect in their eyes; after all, kids will be kids.

And I think they should be able to feed their children.

I may not have understood where feminism applied to breastfeeding on Monday, but I do now. I’m all for public breastfeeding. If it makes me uncomfortable the next few times I see it happen, maybe I’ll just keep quiet about it. I’m going to be in this position myself at some point. I want to have children, and they will need to be fed. Possibly at Starbucks. I don’t know what choices I’ll make at that juncture (though I can say I’m already looking forward to a big, fat epidural, and I won’t apologize for that either). These women have given me an inkling of the challenges I could face — though, who knows what the climate will be like in 10 years, or whenever I finally grow up enough to be able to take care of a puppy, let alone a child — but I hope I choose kindness and tolerance, education and support, when confronted with people who challenge me. And I hope I can remember how I felt as a single woman who was a total outsider to the difficulties of motherhood. Because that’s important, too.

Mothers, don’t forget what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. You have your rights, yes, but a little patience with people who don’t understand where you’re coming from wouldn’t hurt. Self-righteousness doesn’t look good on anyone. Not me and not you.

Nothing happens in a vacuum these days. In a world where we live out huge parts of our existences online — and some people choose to hide anonymously behind their computer screens and smart phones — words become our sticks and stones, and they do hurt. A lot. And they’re frozen in time to haunt us for as long as we’ll let them.

Will anyone who read Claire’s post read this and try to understand me as a person? As JQ, the Proud Lactating Momma, wrote, I won’t hold my breath. But it’s not like me to back down from something like this without saying my piece, and I’ll end that piece by saying I hope I can approach situations like these with a bit more empathy — and maybe fewer tweets — in the future.

Maybe you will, too.


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55 Responses to “Sticks and stones.”

  1. Megan Says:

    Well said. This whole thing has really irked me and I think your response is perfect.

  2. Claire Says:

    Thanks for everything you’ve said here, Paige. I was wrong to call you out, without first approaching you privately. Doing so came from a place of anger and hurt.

    I totally get feeling grossed out by breast-feeding. I probably would have felt similarly, before I became a mom. I just don’t think I would have been as vocal about it. And it was really the later tweets that spurred me on to address the issue. But you know that.

    I think we’ve (myself included) all learned a lot about putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes and taking a breath before hitting send.


  3. Anonymous Says:

    I have to ask, where exactly does the snarkiness end? It’s not ok for you to make sarcastic remarks on twitter but it’s ok for people to bash you elsewhere? Screw that. No, I am not a mother and no, I do not want to see babies suckling on the teat in public. I just don’t. I understand it happens, and I understand the need. Granted it sounds like this child was covered by a blanket, so great, but often enough, there is no covering. How many concessions have to be made because someone CHOSE to have a child and CHOSE to breastfeed? I get what you’re saying, and I also understand the backlash. Perhaps the method you chose to express your feelings wasn’t the greatest, but what would be? In the end, you are entitled to your feelings and should be allowed to express those feelings without having to feel shamed or attacked.

  4. Heather Says:

    Oh yeah. Definitely a big feminist issue–the new Multicultural Center at WIU actually has a lactation room to accommodate nursing mothers. There are laws that apply to this subject for employees:

    I would consider myself pretty feminist–though certainly not baby-fond–and I have the same knee-jerk reaction. Although possibly this is due to the one time I saw it in a car in the middle of Chicago–uncovered completely.

    As with everything in life, it’s all about dialogue.

  5. Helena Says:

    Well said, Paige – I have respect for anyone who can admit to being wrong (in part) and still stand up for themselves.

  6. Pattie Lee Says:

    Great response, Paige. I apologize if I came off as bitchy in any way on Monday with my tweets. I was trying to show you the other side of the story, however poorly, in the limited space given by twitter. I feel responsible in this as well. If I had backed off after my initial tweet perhaps things wouldn’t have gotten so out of control. I just wanted you to see how… out of place… that tweet seemed to me. I never expected you to be grossed out by something so….natural. Perhaps if I was a mother I’d have said things better. I’m sorry this spiraled into insanity, and I’m sorry for any part I played in this as well.

    • Paige Says:

      Oh, Pattie, clearly you said things NO better than a whole host of mothers who ended up making me feel like a troglodyte. You only made me think. Thank you.

  7. Tweets that mention Sticks and stones. | -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Paige Worthy, Paige Worthy and Paige Worthy, Paige Worthy. Paige Worthy said: @observacious Hope you'll read this — my take on what happened Monday — and let me know what you think. […]

  8. DenaS Says:

    Frankly, I did my best to express disagreement without lowering myself to personally attack you. I still believe that breastfeeding in public, around food or not, is fine. If you felt that any of my comments got personal or attacked you, I apologize because that was not my intention.

  9. Suzanne Says:

    I, too, am a “proud breastfeeding mama” (or an alum, I guess, since I nursed my babies — sometimes in public — about eight years ago). Just wanted to say that I was shocked and bothered by your original tweets, but am impressed by this courageous post. It takes a strong person to admit they were wrong and apologize.

    I’m just sorry you’re left with a bad impression of breastfeeding advocates. We’re not all angry, defensive, accusatory bitches. Seriously. I’m a strong supporter of a woman’s right to breastfeed wherever and whenever, the same way a bottle-feeding mother can feed her child. But both sides would be so much better served just lobbying for discretion. I nursed my babies on planes, in restaurants, in bookstores and yes, even in coffee shops. But I was always careful to be as discrete as possible (opting for corner or high-backed booths, unbuttoning my shirt from the bottom so the top was covered, etc.). While I can’t be sure that people weren’t complaining behind my back, I can honestly say that I was never approached, criticized or asked to leave or go to a bathroom.

    I loved Claire’s blog post. Like this one as well. Appreciate the truce. Wish these debates could always end so well.

  10. Kim Z Dale Says:

    I am sorry you got attacked. You have a right to be uncomfortable. This just happens to be a very sensitive subject for many, and that 140-character limit can make “discussion” dangerously curt.

    Before becoming a mom I thought breastfeeding was something that you either did or did not do. As a result, I was ashamed when my attempts to do it myself involved many doctor’s appointments, tears and an eventual, difficult decision to supplement with formula. Once I got over my initial shame and started talking to other mothers I realized that I was not alone. They may have had different problems than I did, but many women struggle with breastfeeding physically and emotionally. Part of the challenge is that newborns can need to feed as often as every two hours, which can create a lot of mothers trying to deal with their own modesty, their concerns about others view, and their desire not to be trapped in the house for three months. Often suggested alternatives to public breastfeeding are often disgusting (bathroom stalls) or awkward (backseat of a car). Particularly if someone is struggling with other aspects of breastfeeding the potential for being glared at or even actually confronted in public can make them decide to quit, which is unfortunate for both mother and child.

    Normally, I don’t respond to tweets with which I disagree. I either ignore them or unfollow (although I rarely do the latter for a single outburst). Your tweet happened to be one of the first I saw that day when I logged in, and it happened to make me cry. Literally. I’m sure being pregnant and a raging sack of hormones had something to do that. But I being pregnant I do wonder if I will have an easier time breastfeeding this time around. If I am able to do it, I hope that I am comfortable enough to do it in public (which I did very few times with my son…mostly while trapped on airplanes). Part of that comfort will have to come from me, but it won’t help if I feel disapproval from others around me.

    I hope everyone has learned something constructive from this. In my free time (which is minimal with a toddler and a job) I have been working on a play on this subject to show varying opinions about breastfeeding (some moms don’t like public breastfeeding either) and hopefully let people learn more about the other side without having to experience it themselves.

    As for the tweets that occurred on both sides of the subject, I’m pretty sure this is why they say “Don’t tweet angry.”

  11. Maureen Blandford Says:

    Paige, as my wise sister explained to me once, our 20s can be a time of hard lines, strident confidence in our view of right and wrong, and black and white assumptions. It’s a time for fearlessness about broadcasting opinions. Cocksure. Many years out of college, paying your own way, making your own decisions – it’s its own sinister kind of confidence on autopilot. And then life knocks you around a little bit (or a lot) and suddenly it’s: “oh. shit. yeah. There’s a perspective I hadn’t considered.”

    You tweeted before you thought. And you made a couple unfortunate mischaracterizations. We’ve all been there. I still cringe about some of the opinions I hurled about in my 20s and early 30s. Cringe. Still. And I’d bet most of the women who swung back have their own cringe-worthy experiences.

    The important thing is, and always will be: You. Owned. It. Bravo, girl. Saying ” jeez I’m sorry” is one of life’s best skills.

    FWIW – I’m pretty sure when I was pre-kids, I was also uncomfortable by public breastfeeding, covered or not. And even tho I barely nursed my own sweet girls, I’m sure I make moms of babies a little squeamish because when I see a nursing mother in public, I’m so in awe of the beauty, I actually gaze in wonder. And have to stop myself for going in for a closer look (creepy, I know). : )

  12. Angela Says:

    Paige I would have done the same thing you did, tweeting your feelings. I would have been insanely uncomfortable and it’s NOT wrong to express how you feel. I’m sorry a group of hormonal (and no, don’t tell me hormones don’t play a role) latched on (pun intended) and got all over your case. What the hell is wrong with expressing yourself? Not a god damn thing. You weren’t putting anyone in danger, you broke no laws, and you didn’t even make the woman there in the act feel uncomfortable. From the sound of it, she had no clue you were even uncomfortable. I’m positive this was not her first time breastfeeding in public.

    Bottom line – people who use the internet to try to vilify others need to have it done to them in order to see the pain it causes. It’s the equivalent of bullying.

    And if any of you breast feeding champions want to email me, go ahead. This isn’t even about Paige; it’s a bigger issue of people trying to censor their neighbors. Try again.

    • Maureen Blandford Says:

      Oh, Angela my dear, really? (you’re in your 20s, aren’t you?) You know what happens when you assume, right?

      Your being uncomfortable = it’s fine for you to hurtle assumptions (hormones create public breastfeed compulsions?)

      What does “I’m positive this was not her first time breastfeeding in public” mean? A. There’s no way you can be positive. No. Way. and B. You act as though this is a sin or a crime.

      We live in a civilized society where we strive to think before we speak and are honor-bound to consider the feelings of others. The Constitution certainly gives us the right to free speech. Emotionally-evolved people are careful as to how they exercise that right.

      Your response is irrational and littered with inaccuracies. But you certainly have a right to say what you want, when you want. My hope for you is that you learn consideration.

  13. SarahWW Says:

    Your post here is a mixed bag of confused impulses; I imagine it contains all your varying inner reflections.

    The impulse one to criticize other women for your own error, for their lack of nurturing when you are guilty of not only the same but worse; to scold them, really, for being what you were incapable of being yourself, is embarrassing to read.

    You are not a very mature person. You can not even see the irony of your rebuke.

    A mother breastfeeding discreetly in a public place discomfits you, and even if the feeling is real, you have no excuse for it. It’s your own private problem, and where it came from it something you ought to work out yourself. It isn’t gross, and you aren’t standing on any high ground. That’s just the way it is. Apologize, learn not to attack when at fault; certainly not attack others for faults you exhibit yourself, and you will be a woman, my girl.

    A brief disclaimer, I never breastfed in public, and am past the issue now. I have no axe to grind on the subject, except to say, you are totally and completely in the wrong, and the responses you got were fairly just. You say it is your policy to give as good as you get. Yet you don’t like it when the favor is returned. You might think about that a little bit.

  14. Liz Says:

    I’m a friend and long time reader of Claire’s blog and saw her post yesterday. Thanks for your response, Paige. As a nursing mom, I am often uncomfortable nursing in public but sometimes it has to be done. I try to feel tough about it to make myself more comfortable, but truthfully I’m cringing inside. My 2 yr old daughter never took a bottle and I’m too busy with my son to even try.

    I have to say that in my mom-haze, I overlook many things because I am so busy trying to do my job as a mom. I can’t say I agree with your feelings on this subject but I respect that you have them. Hopefully we can all learn from this and try to be more open towards the other side. Your post has made me think a lot about how I need to try to be more understanding of people who are not in my shoes, while I hope they do the same for me. So thank you for that.

  15. Chris Says:

    Very eloquent response Paige. The humorist in me wants to say ‘what, tweeted before you thought?’…. wow, you must be the only one who’s ever done that! We can all be caught in moments of feeling that would rub other people the wrong way, whether we state them, state them publicly, or not. There are fine lines to anything, no pun intended.

    I was in a restaurant once about to be seated beside a very rambunctious table of two kids and a baby. The mother happened to be breastfeeding, but that wasn’t the point. When the hostess asked if the table was okay, I politely said something like ‘can we sit somewhere else’. I didn’t speak loud enough for the mother to hear, but it was obvious that we didn’t want to sit there and I was given a very dirty look by the mom. I genuinely felt bad that I’d offended her. It was a Sunday and they were very busy parents and it was probably all they could do to drag themselves to that restaurant to avoid cooking at home. I did have compassion. It had nothing to do with how I felt about kids, or mothers, just that we didn’t have kids and wanted to sit quietly. The look I got honestly made my womb feel bereft!

  16. pfft Says:

    I enjoy reading your blog. I truely enjoy reading, from time to time, ego driven blog bits. Especially the classy kind, but Paige, don’t become delusional. You wrote this post to redeem yourself, to re-establish your blog norm but how can one possibly believe this blog post is from the same person that repeatedly retorted F.U to tweets, amoung other things.

    @JessDowney Maybe they’re just extra-swollen with all that milk. I hear it’s painful. LET IT OUT LADIES.

    Not at Starbucks. Not five feet from me. FU. RT @Piratealice: @paigeworthy nursing your baby is not gross. it is a natural&beautiful thing.

    Seems like the real Paige can be smoked out when you add a lil’ fire…and she’s far from classy.

    Not only did you fail with this post, you still tried to stick up for yourself when really it wouldn’t have been better to just say, “I’m sorry.”

    • Paige Says:

      You’re wrong.
      I did not fail with this post. I’ve made my simple “I’m sorry” apologies, both publicly and privately, to the people I needed to, and this post is my way of explaining what happened from my perspective. I needed to write it. You don’t have to think I’m classy; there will always be people who feel that way.

      All those things I said on Twitter that day came from the same ugly place I’m apologizing for. The real Paige is all those things — and doesn’t need to be smoked out — and she’s HUMAN above all other things. Of COURSE I wrote this post to save face. Are you crazy?

      Know this: I’m genuinely sorry I said those things, but my apology doesn’t mean in any way that I’m okay with the way some those women attacked ME in response. And I’m done defending myself to you now, Pfft.

  17. Ninja Says:

    You aren’t sorry and that’s fine but don’t pretend. It’s annoying. And do you fail to see the irony of attacking the people who (may or may not have) “attacked” you for posting something rude and insensitive in the first place? Or is that lost on you too? Obviously you aren’t aware of the secret mommy society on the interwebz either. I’d suggest doing some more research before you tweet about things you have no clue about.

    Furthermore, I also love how you say that you are getting an epidural even though I’m almost certain you have zero education about childbirthing choices. Just watch……when you’re 40, you’ll be freebirthing in a pasture and posting your lactating mams for all the interwebz to see.

  18. SarahWW Says:

    The attacker doesn’t like being attacked. Engagement is what she deserves. Kindness, tolerance, understanding. Because, you see, she is herself, and she has REAL feelings that need tender care, unlike other people, who are supposed to know better, and not follow her very own instinct to “fight back.” She is human, of course, but they have no such excuse.

    • Paige Says:

      I’m approving all these comments, Sarah. I don’t like hearing that other people don’t think my apology is good enough, but that’s their prerogative. Here’s the thing: The attack happened earlier this week. This is my attempt to make peace. It has to stop somewhere.

  19. Wardell Says:

    Hi Paige I just want to say from what little interaction I’ve had with you that you seem like a very cool person to me, I think the situation described here just illustrates part of the downside of public social networking. The most whimsical, tong-in-cheek comments can be pounced on by fanatics who will try to berate you or bait you into a public altercation. I guess sometimes you just have to have thick skin and learn to ignore cretin types of people. It also helps to have more exclusive accounts for times when you just can’t be bothered with the crap.

  20. Don Hall Says:


    Nice post (as always).

    Here’s where this whole thing rubs me the wrong way.

    Is breast feeding a natural thing? Absolutely. So is evacuating your bowels and masturbation but I would argue that those who prefer to poo or whack themselves off in a Starbucks are hardly an aggrieved or oppressed minority. And neither do I think breast feeding moms are an aggrieved minority.

    Here’s the thing. I smoke. Lots of people find it to be irritating or even gross. I can feel oppressed and picked on by this or I can smoke where I receive the least amount of vitriol. If I choose to smoke in a Starbucks, they’ll kick me out.

    Is Paige somehow “against motherhood?” Be real, OK? Is she “an enemy of all women who think it’s completely reasonable to feed their children in public from their teet?” Be serious. Paige was in a public place and was wigged out by an act that is outside of her comfort zone. And she TWEETED about it.

    Did she glare with disdain at the woman? I doubt it. Did she throw her coffee at the child and smash her scone on the table in outrage? No. She TWEETED about it.

    Mammas? Get over yourselves. There are far more pressing issues in the world that involve actual, for real, discrimination and pain than your oppression at the hands of Starbucks patrons.


    • kate Says:

      Why does everyone compare breastfeeding to going to the bathroom? If one can not tell the difference between a child eating a meal and someone “evacuating bowels”, then I weep for our future. Breastfeeding is not easy we do not do it for fun. We are speaking up for our childs right to get a healthy meal whenever they need it. Bottom line you are allowed to eat in public and babies have this same right.

      • Paige Says:

        Bottom line, Kate — and if you don’t get this by now, you really just haven’t been paying attention — we liken it to other “private” acts as a way to try to understand. We’re not comparing eating to pooping; we’re comparing one act we believe might be better conducted in private, away from other people, to another. It isn’t necessarily right, but that was at least my line of thinking.

      • Rachel Says:

        But it seems to me that you ARE comparing breastfeeding to pooping. I am not sure why people so often go to this comparison, but I have heard it so often I’m too tired to even respond at length to it. They are not at all the same, but I can’t really blame either of you for these ridiculous opinions because the truth is that our whole culture is so far removed from this natural and wonderful act that it does make some people uncomfortable. It’s not really your fault that you didn’t grow up seeing breastfeeding, and it is so interesting that you note that you don’t think you have ever witnessed breastfeeding in public. I don’t think I had ever witnessed it either, before I started doing it myself. I hope that I would have been compassionate about it if I had, perhaps surprised, but respectful of that parent, but then again, I might have felt uncomfortable. It’s not unthinkable. I also had a lot of strong opinions when I was in my 20s and can feel a lot of embarrassment now about things I said or did, so I can understand your position. Luckily, there was no such thing as twitter when I was in my 20s, so the times when I opened my mouth and said something I regretted were ephemeral, and hopefully long forgotten. I still haven’t learned to think before I speak, but I do try really hard to think before I type. Or at least before I push send.

  21. Jerilyn Says:

    I have four children, ages 18, 16, 14 and 2 (oops). I nursed all of them, two even into toddlerhood. While I was a nursing mother, I didn’t think twice about nursing whenever, wherever. I am sure I even made lots of people uncomfortable. Heck, I nursed IN CHURCH, in front of CLERGY (under a blanket, o’course) and thought “screw ’em if they’re squeamish, they have wives and kids and said wives have boobs who nursed said kids and hell if I’m hauling a hungry baby out of church to sit in a metal folding chair in another room when this pew is mighty comfortable.” Or something like that with slightly less venom, I AM SURE.


    Here’s the thing (and I’ll speak for myself): having a baby removed my sense of modesty for a while. After pulling out my boobs 180 times a day (give or take), I know I just didn’t care who saw them. I’d spend 9 months being poked and prodded by anyone wearing latex gloves, followed by a few days in the hospital wearing nothing but an ill-fitting nightgown while well-meaning lactation specialists handled my milkbags and tried to tell me my baby wasn’t latching on correctly. There is nothing like having a baby to remind you that your sexy bits are also very utilitarian and un-sexy at times.

    Looking back, I always cringe a tiny bit when I look back and think of all the places I nursed and who I nursed in front of. (Really? In the lobby of the tire store? In front of MY DAD?!) (Also, if I had a dollar for every time one of my teenagers had to remind me that I had a boob hanging out after nursing the baby, I could afford their therapy.)

    Honestly, I’m all for women nursing in public or whatever it takes to get their babies the best possible nutrition and for baby and mother to have a healthy, happy relationship (even if that means formula). I just wonder if other nursing moms operate under looser modesty impulses or if that was just me. (Ok, maybe just me.)

  22. Cindy Says:

    You are all missing the bigger picture problem. In 2010 it is okay to air any issue on social media, tell any story about a stranger and friend alike or verbally attack one another with no more thought than hitting the return button. Uncaring entries on social media end in countless suicides and more devastated lives than we know about. Do you read or listen to the news?
    Whether you are for breastfeeding in public or not, think of the repercussions. Those breast fed kids will be reading all of your blogs and tweets in a couple years, think before you write. We all have feelings, think before you write.

  23. Jaime Says:

    What an interesting post to read today! I missed all this business on twitter, but one of my earliest lessons in motherhood social school was that you don’t make statements to other mothers regarding breast vs. bottle just like you don’t discuss politics or religion on first dates. A word to the wise, don’t make any comments about discipline methods, family bed sharing or vaccines/autism either. And you better stop talking about epidurals or other elective childbirth choices because that really doesn’t go over so well either.

    Having nursed three children, breastfeeding is one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever experienced and really was a large impetus in removing the self-importance that me, like many women, harbor in our unmarried, child-free, career-focused twenties.

    I can understand being uncomfortable. And I hope you get to experience it from a mother’s point of view in the future.

  24. Meghan Says:

    I’m impressed by your self reflection and honesty, but the whole paragraph about feeling entitled to an education by these mother’s leaves a bad taste in my mouth. When people are attacked, they attack back – just like you brought up. Anybody who was looped into a #gross category wouldn’t really be interested in educating such blatant nastiness. If you approach life looking to learn, others will teach. If you start conversations with nasty hashtags, you’re only digging yourself a hole. Sounds like you learned a valuable lesson though.

  25. Megan Says:

    I’d like you to know that I had a dream that I was breastfeeding my cat last night. Clearly because of this but also because there’s probably something wrong with me.

  26. Angela Says:


    I had a much longer comment typed out but in the interest of letting sleeping dogs lie, I deleted it and will just say this: commenting on a twitter feed about being grossed about over someone breastfeeding within spitting distance from you does not cause suicides. Hyperbole, party of 1, please.

  27. MDmomx5 Says:

    Paige- I commend you on making a public apology. Saying “I’m sorry” is really a skill everyone needs to learn. If this leads to a more open dialogue-which it appears it has- than that’s even better. I have taught my kids feeling are just that, feelings it is what actions we take WITH the feelings we have that matter. I do not be grudge you at all for feeling uncomfortable-when we see things we are not familiar with it is a common reaction. It would have been one thing to tweet “Bfing mom 5 feet from me. I know it shouldn’t but makes me uncomfortable”.

    But you didn’t.

    Much of the backlash you got was from your aggressive demeaning words. As nursing moms we are always having to defend breastfeeding to everyone: family, friends, healthcare professionals & strangers. I can tell you after nursing 5 kids over 13 ½ years it feels like we are constantly being maligned in public & private. Breastfeeding moms are in the minority: in the US only 12% of moms are exclusively BF at 6 months as per the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation. But 74% of moms say at birth they want to breastfed. What happens to the 62% that want to but end up not exclusively nursing? There are a multitude of reasons, but negative judgment from others is one of them. So when we see yet again somebody blasting away at a breastfeeding mom it gets our ire up. I get incensed anytime somebody tries to put parameters on a breastfeeding dyad, no matter if it is how, where or for how long breastfeeding happens

    The idea of consideration for the viewer is always brought up in the discussion of nursing in public. The problem comes in that each person has a different views about what is acceptable when it comes to nursing- in another room, ok around other women but not men, in the presence of only baby’s siblings but NEVER other kids. How is a mother suppose to know what each individual around her has deemed the appropriate manner to breastfeed & whose definition does she adhere to? That is why most breastfeeding laws specifically do not include anything about discretion because it would be a moving target.

    Hopefully many people learned some lessons about discretion-the kind we need today in the world of instantaneous communication.

  28. The Fan Spins On Says:

    Ya know, I have sympathy for you. I do. I personally feel uncomfortable when other women bear their breasts in public. Maybe that’s not politically correct to say anymore, but that’s my reaction when they pull ’em out.

    I’d feel the same way if men started pulling penises out in public.

    And all these people with nothing better to do than attack you over an honest reaction really need to get a life.

    Take care,
    The Fan Spins On

  29. Alexis Says:

    My discomfort with public breast feeding disappeared FAST on day #4 of my year in China when the mother standing next to me in a museum popped a squat, whipped out her milk vessel and breastfed right there in front of the cultural relics exhibit. I. was. shocked. While this Chinese mom might have been an extreme example, this incident caused me to seriously reflect about breast feeding (in public).
    I’ve realized that there is probably no human act as natural as breast feeding a youngster (well, perhaps certain acts that created said youngster). Feeding babies is more natural an act for a mother (and father, albeit less directly) than manicuring her toes or styling her hair.
    Because of the socialized discomfort/stigma of the act, I’m afraid that, for me and others, unexpectedly seeing a feedin’ momma is akin to spotting a stranger with spinach in their teeth (do I say something?!?). How do mothers prefer others to act while they are breastfeeding. Should I avert my eyes to allow some privacy? Act totally normal?

    • Paige Says:

      By the way: I would definitely tell a stranger they had spinach in their teeth. Just like I instinctively tuck the tag back into their shirt if I see it’s popped out. I really do like making people feel more comfortable, being their ally. I hadn’t thought about it this way.

  30. “Fatties” and the women who hate them. | Says:

    […] it’s me dispensing ill-informed Haterade to mothers breast-feeding in public. Then it’s a rash of suicides by young gays and lesbians […]

  31. Zorbs Says:

    I never got the chance to BF in public, every time I tried to whip out my boob, my husband or someone would whip out a bottle faster. I would protest, “but it’s legal!” but the bottle wielder would say, “I’ve got a bottle! much easier for you!” and I’d take the bottle. That said, I wouldn’t have been at all comfortable to do the deed anyways, and I actually 100% agree that BF in public is squicky, and in hindsight, I’m glad to have not done it.

  32. Ashley Says:

    There’s a hard line to draw there, because it’s often an argument of someone’s right not to look at my nursing child versus my right to nurse said child. (That said, I think neither; I just consider the baby’s right to eat, lol.) As a nursing mother, I will nurse my son wherever I need to now, but at the same time it’s never been my intent to to make anyone uncomfortable. (I’m a serial apologizer, though; I apologize for my kid getting too close to people, for him making loud noises, etc.)

    Breastfeeding mothers do need to expend more time with education and less time with knee-jerk reactions; my biggest issue with breastfeeeding advocacy on the whole is that women can get dogmatic and judgy without thinking about how little these tactics do for the cause of normalizing breastfeeding. (And I say that as someone who considers themselves an advocate.) The issue is that we want so hard for people to understand that it’s not gross, that we forget that lots of people don’t have the personal experience to draw on, be that breastfeeding themselves or being exposed to it via friends, family, media, etc.

    So, tl;dr aside, I do want to apologize that you had that experience; I’ve been that breastfeeding mother on Twitter, trying to explain to someone that no, what they witnessed was not gross, and I regret it. While I like to think I was relatively polite, I know that she didn’t leave the discourse with a different perspective.

  33. Katy Says:

    I am a breastfeeding momma and have just a couple of comments…It’s fine that you are grossed out by breastfeeding. We all have things that gross us out that don’t bother others. I prefer to use a cover when I am in public, but sometimes my little guy just won’t have it…in those cases I assess his need and either continue or stop depending on his need. I am sure it has been awkward for those around me at times when I have been feeding my baby (like in coach seating on an airplane!)-sometimes it’s awkward for me too. I usually hope that people would prefer to be a little grossed out than listen to my baby scream because he needs to eat….Once a person has made the decision to breastfeed, one cannot just make the baby wait-we would consider it abusive to make a bottle feeding baby wait to eat because of xyz- it would be the same to not allow a breastfeeding baby to eat because we are in public…On another note, my baby had food allergies to dairy and soy eliminating most formulas as an option and what choices were left were outrageously expensive (and we had limited budget)…I had to breastfeed VERY often for a month to help him gain weight which resulted in him refusing a bottle (of breastmilk) or a pacifier. This meant I had no other option but to feed him in public or not leave my house until I could feed him solids…All of this to say, it would be nice to see civility, kindness, and less judgement passed from either side of the debate.

    • Paige Says:

      Thanks for weighing in, Katy. I feel like I understand both sides of this now and am happy to keep hearing other perspectives — and I agree we all need to be more civil, a bit kinder and far less judgmental of one another.

  34. Karen Says:

    I came here through a link from a link from a link, Kwim? I don’t know or follow you or your followers. I just had to chime in and agree that while the apology part of this post is commendable, the “but they were mean to me instead of educating me” part isn’t. Nobody owes you an education, and being called “gross” is actually a pretty good reason to get up in arms. Especially when followed up with more of the same, louder and meaner.

  35. Paige Says:

    @Karen – Thanks for commenting, Karen.

    I think I’ve gone over this enough.
    No one owes me an education; I’ll agree with you there.

    I’m just suggesting that maybe these women, who are supposed to be raising children to be kind, forgiving, well-adjusted members of society, would consider practicing what they preach. My attitude was shitty, and what I said was inexcusable. But they’re going to encounter far worse from their children when they hit puberty and might benefit from leading by example.


  36. RealTime - Questions: "Have you ever been kind of grossed out by watching little kids eat?" Says:

    […] […]

  37. Reverb 10: Fritter. Says:

    […] Will there be angry backlash? (Ahem.) […]

  38. Lisa Says:

    I’m glad I missed all the initial uproar. I’m also glad Twitter and smartphones didn’t exist 10 years ago, when I was on my 20s and thought breastfeeding in public was gross. I never once said a word, but on two distinct occasions (once in an upscale restaurant and once on a short plane ride) I definitely gave the evil eye.

    Oh, how I wish I could apologize to those mothers! It’s been 6 years since I first breastfed my firstborn, and as he was a colicky, refluxy preemie, I nursed him everywhere we went, for two years. Inside outside upside down, you name it. In our climate a cover is a joke, and he wouldn’t have taken to it anyway. He refused a bottle (pacifier and thumb too) so it was all boob all the time.

    Recently I was on a plane with my 3 (5.5, 3, and 3 months at the time) with no other help, and seated in the center row right next to a middle aged man. He was awesome- talked to the baby & helped me with the older 2. Since it was a 6h flight, I nursed the baby several times. I did do my best to cover up since the baby was still too small to fight the blanket, and I didn’t want my seatmate to feel uncomfortable.

    What I’m trying to say is, breastfeeding is, very simply, between mother and child. It is not done with the purpose of arousing anyone, or to make anyone else feel uncomfortable. How bystanders feel and react is their own issue and not the mother’s or baby’s problem. Yes, most of us will try to be as discreet as possible, but if we’re not doing it how bystanders prefer, it is simply because we’re focused on our kids instead of everyone else.

    I have never attached anyone on Twitter for anti-breastfeeding sentiment; the one or two times I’ve responded (because the issue hits home- either taking place in my area or involving a preemie) I have been positive, tweeting “That’s great for mom & baby!”

    PS a backup plan for the epidural is a great idea. First time worked great, second time not at all. And 45 minutes waiting for 2 anesthesiologists to try repeatedly while you hold perfectly still through back labor ctx is hell. 3rd was a beautiful blissful home waterbirth, decided on during the failed epidural attempts with #2.

  39. Lesbian Blogger Says:

    I couldn’t get through your whole post. Not yet. I’ll come back. But I’m too emotional right now and I like to take my time with things that make me feel like REACTING and not RESPONDING.

    But, I had to post a comment, an answer, to this:

    “So these proud breastfeeding mommas, instead of taking the time to educate a single woman with 1,700 Twitter followers and a pretty healthy blog following herself — a hopeful future mother, who could be a wonderful ally if she were properly educated in a sympathetic, nurturing manner…”

    Yes, Paige… that is what (part of what) I’ve been doing when I am nursing my babies and children in public. Educating. Educating you and anyone else who notices… in a respectful and nurturing manner. I find (and found) this sad at times. My job as a mom, especially a new nursing mom, was hard enough. Suddenly I found myself as a “lactavist…” or a spokeswoman… or … whatever? How is it my job now to educate? Don’t I do enough in addition to the 599,000 other things we do as women and mothers in today’s age?

    “Is this how you’re going to raise your children?”

    Basically. Yes.

    Live and let live. Love and share the planet peacefully.


    I have to add also – get ready for a wild ride if/when you become a mother for WHATEVER way you decide to feed, hold, carry, put your baby to sleep… you will be judged, criticized, and scrutinized. By other mothers.

    It’s hard. It’s cruel. It’s isolating.

    It makes me hate being a mother.

  40. Link parade! Says:

    […] of all, thank you all so much for reading my post yesterday. I’m pretty sure that besides the breastfeeding fiasco of 2010, yesterday’s post got the most hits I’ve ever had in a single day. The comments and […]

  41. Sarah Parisi Says:

    I missed all the hullabaloo & just came across this post.

    I am a proud breastfeeding mother (breastfed the first 18 mo ’til he self-weaned, still breastfeeding my 19 mo) & I tend to get very defensive when anyone suggests the slightest bit of discomfort with public breastfeeding. I was very self-conscious breastfeeding in public with my first, but I was lucky enough to have lots of support. Still, I think if anyone had approached me in public (not that you did anything like that; I’m just saying) I would have been seriously traumatized. Now that I’m much more comfortable with it and confident, I feel the need to stand up for those timid, new-to-breastfeeding moms out there for fear that if I (& others) don’t, they may not have the support they need and will feel shamed into quitting. Of course, sometimes I, and others, get too defensive & self-righteous & tend to over-react to an hint of discomfort.

    I recently was involved in a nurse-in at a business that kicked a breastfeeding mother & child out. I was happy to be supporting the right to breastfeed in public and the store owner & his friend were real a-holes, but one of the breastfeeding mothers began arguing with them & a screaming match ensued – while she was holding her young baby. Despite the fact that she was completely right in everything she was saying, I did question what she was doing. Maybe a “missing the forest for the trees” kinda thing? Was a screaming match, even for the right reason, really the best thing for her baby?

    The truth is, I would have been uncomfortable seeing public breastfeeding before I was a mother. You just don’t see it that often. I came from a large family of breastfeeders and always planned to breastfeed my kids, but I never really saw it past my childhood. I would have probably turned red and been really uncomfortable if I did see it, so my reaction might have been the same as yours was. I have the right to breastfeed in public & you have the right to think it’s gross, whether it’s a momentary feeling or not. You didn’t tell the woman she shouldn’t be doing it.

    Probably if I read the original tweet I would have been offended, but reading it in this context I can see it a little more clearly. We’ve all been in a position where we’ve done or said something we’ve almost instantly regretted & it is hard to back down. I love that you posted about this & did it so honestly. I hope it helps to educate others.

    I know I will keep it in mind. If breastfeeding mothers hope to normalize public breastfeeding, they have to be willing to educate and have an open dialogue, and not constantly be on the attack. My hope is that someday there will be no discussion of a mother’s/child’s right to breastfeed in public, AND that people won’t feel uncomfortable seeing someone breastfeed because it will be so common. I think both goals may be achieved with a kinder, more tolerant approach. I know that’s the example I want to show to my kids.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    • paigeworthy Says:

      Oh, Sarah, you’re glorious. Thank you for this comment and such a
      wonderful reminder to ME that there are a lot of really smart, open and
      tolerant women out there. I consider myself a huge advocate of
      breastfeeding now more than ever, after this experience, and there’s
      definitely a reason I link to this post so often. It’s not to be all,
      “Oh, look at what a buffoon I was!” Because really, who does that? I
      love that I could turn a negative into a positive for myself and that
      it’s still making people think about nine months later. Quite the
      gestation period if you ask me 😉

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