This post is about how men should behave around nursing mamas.
Before we had kids, my husband and I worked at a camp and retreat center in NY. A few times a year, we hosted staff trainings for a group called Intervarsity. Always, the Intervarsity staff brought babies. Lots of babies. And we joked that my husband was jinxed at accidentally walking into a room of nursing mamas. He wasn’t anti-breastfeeding by any stretch. We simply hadn’t run much with the “couples with babies” crowd. He wasn’t sure of the etiquette. Frankly, neither was I.
Fast-forward. My husband can hang with the lactators now. Many times, he has been in a room full of nursing women. And he is the man you want in the restaurant if someone criticizes a nursing woman or heaven forbid–asks her to leave. He would become the public spectacle of righteous indignation. Recently he even schooled a buddy who complained about women who avoided the “nursing mom’s room” (usually just gross bathrooms with chairs in the corner) and nursed in public instead.
In this process, however, he has asked the big question: Where should I look?
I think most men are fine with women nursing in public but they don’t want to appear to be a pervert by getting too close or accidentally “looking.” They feel trapped by the whole scene.
I certainly can’t speak for all women but here is my preference.
I feel awkward if the man looks everywhere but at me or if he turns away while trying to carry on a conversation with me. Friend, you don’t have to put me at ease. I’m already at ease. If I wasn’t, I would have excused myself to go nurse elsewhere or I would have pulled out a hooter-hider or udder cover. (yes they did name breastfeeding covers that).
I would prefer the guy make eye contact or (gasp) look. I’m just feeding a baby. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening. Ask me how breastfeeding is going or ask questions about the process. Or continue with whatever conversation we were having. If you’re a stranger passing by, make eye contact, smile and move on.
Don’t be a boob about the whole thing. It is really quite simple.