Can breast-feeding activists have it both ways on a plane?

One of the hot discussions this summer centered around the rights of mothers to nurse their babies on a plane.

Breast-feeding advocates weighed in on the issue in the comments section, and in passionate emails to yours truly, insisting there ought to be no discussion at all. Lactating passengers, they proclaimed, should be able to feed their babies wherever and whenever they wanted — even in flight.

Talk of covering up and modesty belonged in a previous century, thanks very much. As one “lactivist” asked in a strongly-worded comment, “Would you rather eat in the toilet, or with a blanket over your head?”

Most of the men who joined the discussion (and there were a few) seemed constrained and a little uncomfortable saying anything beyond that they supported a mother’s right to feed her child and that it might be nice for her to do so in private, in consideration of other passengers.

They did not dare challenge what some commenters referred to as the “breastapo.”

But one brave man did ask a question that deserves to be answered, both by the breast-feeders and by air travelers in general.

“In this age of pervasive camera phones, where virtually everything is captured digitally, would a passenger who photographed a woman not being discreet while breast-feeding on a flight be guilty of violating her privacy — or is taking her image fair game?” asked Dave Mack.

I’m not going to mention where Mack lives or what he does for a living, because I don’t want him to be the victim of a “nurse-in” for asking such a politically incorrect question.

But still — can a breastfeeding mom expose herself on a plane and, at the same time, have the right to not be photographed?

I put that question to the leading expert on photography rights, Carlos Miller. He runs a blog called Photography is Not a Crime.

A commercial aircraft is considered private property, he says. An airline has the right to create its own policy regarding photography, “but the policy should be stated upon take-off or on the ticket or in its in-flight magazine,” he says.

Miller says no domestic airline has a policy expressly forbidding photography on its planes.

“So if a woman chooses to breast-feed while sitting on a plane, she really doesn’t have a legal argument that she has the right to breastfeed without being photographed,” he says.

As a practical matter and as a professional photographer, Miller says he wouldn’t snap photographs of a nursing mom without first asking for permission. But he wouldn’t be required to, and any passenger with a camera phone could conceivably take a shot of a woman’s exposed breast if they wanted to, and without any legal repercussions.

By the way, taking photos on planes is a serious topic and deserves more attention than it’s received. Back in 2008, I wrote about Marilyn Parver, a passenger on a JetBlue flight who taped an altercation between the flight crew and a traveler, and was then asked by a flight attendant to delete the footage, but refused.

I think most passengers are supportive of a woman’s right to feed her baby anywhere, including on an aircraft. A vast majority of air travelers believe that it should be done discreetly. To not cover up is just bad table manners, kind of like (though not the same as) chewing with your mouth open or not using a fork.

One of the most surprising comments I got about breast-feeding passengers came from a female traveler who doesn’t have kids. She says the lactivists are misguided in their efforts to normalize the act of exposing themselves in-flight and in public.

“I fully support a woman’s right to breast-feed so long as she covers her breast in respect of other travelers’ sensibilities,” she told me.

She asked me to not mention her name. That whole nurse-in thing, again.

“Personally, I wouldn’t want to expose my breasts to strangers and really can’t understand what drives that urge,” she adds. “Where do you draw the line? Should women athletes be allowed to strip to their bras, or even bare breasts, if they become overheated? Why should only lactating females be afforded that freedom?”

Good point. If lactating women don’t cover up, then what’s to stop other women from taking off their shirts on a flight? Or anywhere?

I think this is one of those times when you can’t have it both ways. Nursing women cover up not only for their own privacy, but also out of respect for other passengers, a majority of whom would prefer not to see their lactating breasts on a plane. In order to undo that social standard, you would have to erase the entire 19th century, something that’s above this consumer advocate’s pay grade.

Sure, it’s a hassle to put your baby under a blanket. But I’d hate to be the flight attendant that has to get between a teen-age shutterbug and a lactating lawyer who believes her privacy has been violated.

That’s a dispute no one would want to mediate.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Josh S

    In many states and municipalities, it is not illegal for women to walk around topless. (Sometimes they have to be on their own property, even if they are fully publicly visible; other times they can walk through Times Square topless.) So asking the question about “What’s keeping them from taking off their shirt or bra?” is really kind of…ignorant. (And I don’t say that to be mean or insulting, but to point out where being informed of the actual rules makes a difference.)

    Most of the women I know who breastfeed in public without covering are comfortable with people seeing their breasts. Perhaps they wouldn’t like the lecherous teenager to look at them and take photos for whatever purpose later on, but they generally don’t have much issue with people seeing their breast. And honestly, there’s not a whole lot showing anyway. Women like my wife who care a bit more will cover up.

    Most professional photographers will ask permission to take/use a photo when the subject is identifiable. This seems reasonable to do with a mother. And the ‘voyeuristic’ photos that non-professional photographers take with their ubiquitous camera phones? You have to assume that a nursing mother is aware that this can happen anywhere they nurse and have already factored that into their decisions.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I take it your team of moderators are taking the day off from their *other* jobs? They’re gonna have to, if they want to keep this conversation tame. You sure like to step in it, don’t you, Christopher? ;-)

    As for my opinion: I’ve stated it in here before. It makes me ill that anyone can twist into something ugly or nasty the loving act of a mother providing basic, life-sustaining sustenance to her infant. It is normal, necessary, non-sexual behavior for mothers who have chosen to breastfeed their babies. Anyone who thinks otherwise clearly has hang-ups about women’s bodies, and zero concept of the needs of infants.

    As for someone taking photos of a breastfeeding mother’s breasts without her permission, anyone who would do so is simply a pig. Common decency should prevail, and it’s shocking to me that anyone would even consider it acceptable or “fare game”. Yeah, okay, sure…let’s just tell all the pedophiles that they can take photos up your 8-year-old daughter’s skirt. Hey, you allowed her to wear that skirt in public, so it should be fair game for pedophiles to take zoomed-in photos of her little-girl panties for prurient purposes, right? Same concept.

    The slippery slope talk is just bunk. There is no valid reason for women to publicly expose their breasts in situations other than feeding their child, unless they wish to be titillating. (Pun intended!) While it’s kind of absurd and silly that Americans are so hung up on female breasts (you sure don’t see this kind of obsession in other cultures!), it is unfortunately a fact that Americans see them as sexual. Stupid, but a fact. Women know this, so absent a biological reason to expose our breasts, doing so could only be for the purpose of shock value or attracting attention.

    But a mother feeding her child? Grow up and get out of the Beavis and Butthead mode.

    Beavises and Buttheads, have at it! I know you will.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Oh God, the lactivist loonies…these idiots need to learn that the easiest way to turn someone off to your cause to behave like a fanatic. See: PETA. (And PETA protesting Pokemon. Yeah…lol)

    First of all, I’m a new dad and I fully support breastfeeding. My GF breastfed our baby girl until she was 3 months old and then she was switched to formula. Don’t send me replies or messages about “needing one full year of boob” or how formula is “evil” or anything like that. I’m not asking for your advice or your supposed “enlightened” insight on the matter. I’m letting you know a fact in our lives so you can see that I do have a bit of experience with this from the guy side of things. If I get a bunch of “baby needs boob advice” or “you’re a horrible parent” replies, I will request the mods delete them.

    That said, I have only one complaint about a BF mom on an airplane. She decided to nurse her 2-ish year old kid with his legs in my lap. No warning, no, “Hey, tight squeeze, I need to nurse.” Nope, just plunked that sucker down with his stinky butt in my face while the kid kicked my laptop. I was pretty PO’ed. That had nothing to do with breastfeeding and all to do with invading another person’s space.

    And the “lactivist” crap needs to stop. Yes, we all know boob is best and all states have laws that protect nursing mothers. But these people need to back off and keep their nose out of other people’s personal business when it flat out doesn’t concern them.

    Case and point: GF works with one woman who decided to make it ALL her business about why GF wasn’t pumping at work. GF started getting nasty little visits from this acquaintance, who would say things like, “You know, formula gives your baby autism and cancer.” Jerkface even started emailing GF unwanted breastfeeding articles and propaganda including horrible images of starving infants in third world countries. Because, you know, they were given formula, not breast milk, and that’s what happens to formula fed babies!

    It got so bad that GF had to go to HR to file a harassment complaint and this person was disciplined for her actions. I kid you not. There ARE nuts like that woman out there.

    So, I’ll bet Chris got some amazingly colorful emails.

  • $16635417

    Just because someone has the right to do something does that mean it’s right to do? (In this case, take a picture of a nursing mother on a plane?)

  • JenniferFinger

    The Emails have probably only just started coming in. As I type this, it is 7:54 am, so people are most likely only just reading this column. But I’m sure it’s going to get busy here.

  • JenniferFinger

    Unfortunately, there are plenty of pigs out there, and plenty of women who would expose their breasts for provocation, lactating or not. I agree with Chris: I think that if you want to do anything in public, you don’t get to have it both ways. I don’t have an opinion on whether or not mothers should nurse their babies, but if they want to do it in public, they have no more right to privacy than anyone doing anything else in public, and that means accepting public mores on what is acceptable outside privacy, just as with any other “natural” act. And in a close environment like a plane where people can’t get away from each other, they need to give those around them even more courtesy.

  • BillCCC

    I think that a person breastfeeding has the same rights as anyone else who is sitting in their seat doing something normal and not bothering anyone. I would not expect that someone would come over and start taking pictures of me is I was sitting in my seat reading a magazine.

    If I saw someone taking pictures of a breastfeeding mother specifically because the women was breasfeeding I would consider it in the same way as someone trying to snap photos of a womans underwear in a mall. If the woman is caught in the background of a family photo or inadvertently I do not have a problem with that.

  • S E Tammela

    You don’t need to put the baby’s head under the blanket.

    Just keep your own bits covered. It’s not rocket surgery, just try it at home in front of a mirror, lifting your t-shirt to latch the baby on, then pulling the shirt down just to the baby’s mouth. Babies have a right to eat, but others have a right not to see your naked torso, and there’s a simple half-way point called “half-covering yourself”.

  • S E Tammela

    Websites are international, and other countries exist apart from yours ;)

    It’s currently 3pm in the EU. We’re a big place.

  • john4868

    Here’s my two cents… If you want to the legal right to do something in public or make the choice to do something in public, you give up the reasonable expectation of privacy by committing the act. Period. It doesn’t matter what “it” is… If you are comfortable doing it in front of me, whatever “it” is, you should be comfortable with me taking a picture of it.

  • john4868

    Chris … Can you hook a brother up and warn us the next time? Looks like not much is getting done around the office today!!! Here come the emails

  • Lex

    I’m a breastfeeding mom, but not a lacticist. I would hope I could breastfeed my baby during flight because it would calm and quiet her. I’m certain other passengers can get behind that! I also cover myself most of the time when in public but if I don’t have a blanket, or its dirty I have gone without. Since the airlines don’t provide blankets anymore keep in mind that it may be a practical choice for mom.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Me + 10ft pole = still not touching this one

  • sarah

    If someone is taking family photos fine – but this article seems to be advocating taking photos to harass the nursing mother, which should not be okay, just as any other harassment of another traveller on the plane should not be allowed.

  • TonyA_says

    I’m sorry but this is not a question of what is socially proper or even, moral.
    This has all to do with rights. The rights given us by our Constitution and to some extent other human rights not explictly stated in our Constitution.
    Article Fourteen gives us the right to Liberty, and by definition, Privacy.
    Roe v. Wade was decided on the basis of Women’s right to privacy.
    A woman has all the right to breastfeed a hungry child and all the right not to be photographed if she does not want to be in any picture.
    A woman breastfeeding her child is simply exactly that, providing nutrition to her baby. Why do people think it is anything more than that? She did not invite all of us to stare at her breasts.

  • john4868

    @TonyA_says:disqus I’m trying to understand your logic while I’m grappling with the difference between a private act and a public act. I fully agree with you that anyone has the expectation of privacy for something done in private or with the attempt to be private (under a covering etc.) Why do you think that some doing something in a public place has a reasonable expectation of privacy?
    Big picture question not necessarily pertaining to just this

  • Tanya

    My favorite saying is, my rights end where yours begin. I think everyone needs to take a step back from this and realize that just because I think every woman has a right to breastfeed, does not necessarily mean that I want to see it. You want to breastfeed, great. Go for it. Just please realize that not everyone is as comfortable with you as you.

    As for the privacy, well, I am with others on this, if you have exposed yourself, even while breastfeeding, then you have exposed yourself. Just like if a woman wears a low cut top, or a top that shows the side-boob. You are purposefully drawing attention to yourself. Just like if I am making out on the plane with my bf, then I am purposefully drawing attention to myself. It is a public space. I would hope people would have more decency than to film or photograph, but it was a choice to breastfeed in public (and not cover yourself appropriately). Since I have been around breastfeeding moms, I know that they can breastfeed in public without flashing everyone around. Maybe it is more difficult on the plane because of the space, but it is still a choice.

  • Raven_Altosk

    *offers a virtual beer*
    You guys probably wanna start drinking now…

  • TonyA_says

    Because a woman does not surrender her right to privacy by breastfeeding in public. They still have a right to liberty, unreasonable search, etc. in public places.

  • frank windows

    In the United Kingdom, it is legal to show a bare female breast on television, and you know what it’s like over there: soaring crime rate, murders on the street in broad daylight, illiteracy climbing… Oh, wait, it’s not like that. Maybe we need to get over our fear of the boob and see this for what it is: one small step in an effort to turn our nation over to the Christian version of the Taliban. Staring is impolite in any social context. If we keep that in mind, I’m sure we can survive the tyranny of these women for whom their children takes precedence over Victorian modesty.

  • Hannah @AMotherInIsrael

    It’s unfortunate that people don’t understand the difference between exposing oneself to feed a baby and exposing oneself in general.
    Anyone who thinks that cell phone cameras will discourage nursing mothers they should think again. Believe it or not, some people think that breastfeeding is beautiful and not porn.
    The best use of a cell phone camera is for moms to record when others are breaking the law by harassing them for feeding their babies.
    When a mom or dad can bottle-feed on an airplane without incident, but a breastfeeding mom gets told to cover up or go into the bathroom, it’s known as discrimination.

  • lookingforknowledge

    You are absolutely right! I nursed 3 children 25-30 years ago wherever, whenever , when it wasn’t as common. Rarely did anyone even know they were nursing and I did not always ‘cover up’. Although my father would leave the room if he did notice. LOL By the last child, even he was not uncomfortable & did not notice. People will do as they wish. Women aren’t always discrete. Babies aren’t always compliant. The argument will rage on.
    But if you are in public, you have no more right to expect privacy than anyone else is willing to give you that right.

  • mszabo

    Oh No, boobies in public, think of the children. Really I don’t see the slippery slope argument here as I am perfectly happy at the bottom of the hill. Should an athlete be able to take their top off to cool down, Absolutely. Why not? If you don’t like looking at boobies, then simply don’t look.

  • mszabo

    Can’t you reasonably exercise that “right not to see a naked torso” by simply not looking? There are lots of things I choose not to look at in life. I don’t think a severely obese person in spandex is attractive, but never in my life have I considered they are violating MY rights for what they are wearing.

  • john4868

    I guess that’s where you and I differ. I tend follow my understanding of SCOTUS rulings (granted I’m not a lawyer) and look at the reasonable expectation of privacy. You have it for something done out of the public eye but don’t for something done in public. In my mind by making the choice to do something in the public eye, you have waived your right to privacy.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Sorry. I’m just back in Orlando after a 20-hour drive, so I’m not seeing straight. I’m sure the comments are going to seem worse than they are.

  • chaos530

    If the “naked torso” as you put it is sitting in the window seat, and you’re looking out the window, you’re going to see her,-unless you have no peripheral vision.

  • Stephanie Baker

    My opinion on public breastfeeding has changed drastically now that I have a baby.  I now understand that babies need to eat every few hours.  If they are hungry, they cry until they are fed.  Pumping a bottle isn’t always possible, as it is a (miserable) time-consuming experience.  It’s difficult to keep up a supply of expressed milk while also caring for children full-time.

    Regarding travel, my baby has ear trouble and needs to nurse during takeoff and landing to prevent pressure from building up.  He unfortunately won’t eat with a nursing cover, because he gets really hot (and I’m sure it’s hard to breathe under those things).  He just starts kicking and squirming and fussing.  I refuse to use that petri dish of an airplane bathroom for my own use, so there is no way I’m sitting on the toilet (with no armrests to support my 18 lb baby) for 20 minutes while he eats. And it’s a moot point anyway, because I have I remain in my seat during takeoff and landing.  I do, however, take reasonable measures to maintain privacy.  I wear a jacket and sit in the window seat, and my husband sits next to me and sort of turns his back to the aisle to obstruct others’ view. To anyone still finds this offensive, the alternative is a screaming baby who will be inconsolable throughout the flight.

    As far as pictures are concerned, I don’t want any random stranger going out of his or her way to photograph me. That is creepy.  Legally, yes, someone can take my picture in a public place.  But it would still make me uncomfortable, breastfeeding or not.  I do take issue with a stranger taking a picture of my baby, whether he is nursing or just sitting on my lap.  If I see anyone photographing him without talking to me first, I will definitely have something to say.

  • mszabo

    I would disagree here. I think there are a couple things wrong here. The expectation of privacy is kinda gone once you put them on display. The line for expectation of privacy seems weighted pretty heavily against someone who wants to remain private. For instance the minute odors coming from your car indetectable by humans or any machine, nevertheless are considered public and are often used to justify searches. So I’d say a breast in full view of the public is certainly more public than that.

  • pplaresilly

    Why is it so important to look at a boob( Breast – for those that need political correctness) with a baby at the end of it? And it’s my personal opinion that anyone taking photos or videos are voyeurs, creeps that get off on that sort of thing (for those that need political correctness) . People please, it’s a baby feeding( being nourished for those that need political correctness) not a sex act or just for your entertainment. And besides, your on a plane you only have to deal with it for as long as the baby is hungry for god sake! LOOK AWAY!!!!

  • Stephanie Baker

    I have one more thing to add.  I take exception to some of the views of the woman quoted in the article: “Personally, I wouldn’t want to expose my breasts to strangers and really can’t understand what drives that urge…”

    To be clear, breastfeeding in public is a pain.  I would much rather be in the comfort and privacy I my own home.  It has nothing to do with exhibitionism. What “drives the urge” is a hungry baby who will cry until fed.  It’s not like I’m dying to take my clothes off in public and use nursing as an excuse to do so. 

  • mszabo

    Then you have voluntarily chosen to give up that “right”. Really the whole “right not to see a naked torso” is nonsense. There is no right in this country to not be offended. I could choose to sit on that same airplane in that window seat in full KKK garb or for that matter in a full Nazi SS uniform and the Jew/Black man next to me would not have his rights violated. This seems far more offensive than seeing a mother breastfeed. Now I suspect as a mostly private company the airline would refuse to board such a passenger although this may be murky as airlines are in part controlled by the government’s airports.

  • TonyA_says

    You are referring to evidence that will hold up in court (in a trial) under the 4th Amendment since we have a right against unreasonable searches …
    So reasonable expectation of privacy in your example usually refers to your trash containing evidence or cups containing DNA that can be used against you.
    But you have rights to privacy granted by the other amendments. See

    Some States have given women EXPLICIT rights to breastfeed in public. New York has this for example:

    Civil Rights
    § 79-e. Right to breast feed. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breast feed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether or not the nipple of the mother’s breast is covered during or incidental to the breast feeding.

    With respect to taking pictures of women nurse-feeding in public, I cannot see why anyone thinks he or she has the right to do that without the consent of the mom. Remember you are taking a picture of 2 people – the mom and the baby. Neither consented to the picture.

  • TonyA_says

    The point is you have a right to a REASONABLE expectation of privacy. IMO that should include an expectation NOT TO BE PHOTOGRAPHED if you don’t want to.

  • Daniel Weaver

    As the oldest of seven kids, and having a mom that BF all of us, I still don’t get why some moms want to fluant their BF practices by not covering up. My mom usually, but not always, covered up even in our living room – lots of kids running around, and baby could focus on eating without distraction while covered. If the babies are used to being covered while eating, not only will they likely not mind, but it may even be easier for them to focus on eating. Why then do moms feel the need to fluant their feeding? I think it should be fine for moms to breastfeed in public and I think moms should cover up while feeding.

  • Michael__K

    Would you photograph a celebrity on your flight without asking for permission first?

    Would you photograph a fellow passenger with a severe disfigurement?

    Would you photograph the laptop screen of a neighboring passenger?

    I don’t suppose there are explicit airline rules against any of these things either. Should that really serve as an invitation to photographers?

  • allamarane

    Nothing like a hot topic before morning coffee!

    A lactivist mom sat on the aisle across from me on a half-full Southwest flight. Midway through the flight, she turned to the older man sitting in the window seat and hollered that she was going to bf and if anybody didn’t like it, they could move. She turned her child’s meal into a huge production (complete with her own commentary track) that seemed designed to grab as much attention as possible, all the while daring us to complain about her “exercising her rights”.

    As a woman who spends a lot of time with small children and their moms, I wholeheartedly support their decision that breastfeeding is right for their family. Most bf moms I’ve encountered have been discreet and their approach is that bf is a normal part of their day. No muss, no fuss. They also understand that it’s *not* a normal part of everyone’s day.

    I wouldn’t take photos of people going about their normal day, even if it’s legal. Performance artists and protesters are fair game, but I won’t give them any more attention.

  • Chasmosaur

    As a childless woman who supports public breast-feeding rights, I will say there is something I’ve noticed.

    Many of the “breastapo” (interesting term that) I’ve encountered are frequently breast feeding children well over 1 year of age. Usually a 2 or 3 year old – children who have teeth and are, in fact, capable of requesting and eating solid food.

    So feeding an infant? Yes – breastfeeding is a legitimate choice, and quite honestly, most of my friends breastfeed so discreetly you don’t even know they are doing anything but holding their infant to their chest. But many lactivists make people uncomfortable, because the child in question is frequently old enough to undo their mother’s shirt and remove a breast from the bra. (I’ve seen that more than once, that’s not hyperbole.) If the child is old enough to do that, then they are old enough to skip breast feeding on a plane, where quarters are tight and breastfeeding a larger child may actually intrude on someone else’s space. (Someone on here has told the story of a toddler mostly being in their lap, not the mother’s – that is horribly rude.)

    Because here’s the deal – you are on a plane. It’s easy to say “don’t look”, but on a plane, your vision is limited. Here’s an example: a few years ago, I was trapped in the back row next to a 50-something German couple who were engaged in indiscreet groping. The woman’s shirt was half off with the man’s hand in her bra, and her hand was down the man’s unzipped pants. (That I was flying to tend to my terminally cancerous mother on a 9 am, 9/11 anniversary was the only reason I didn’t tell them to get a room – if I started, I probably would have had a breakdown of some point since I was highly emotional – didn’t feel the need to freak out FA’s or an Air Marhsal.) It was, in short, live, in-flight porn. And it was not well-received.

    I had been looking out the window with my iPod on – once I simply turned my head forward, their movements were in my peripheral vision. (I was in the window, they were in the middle and aisle.) I was surprised to say the least when I took a quick look over to see if anything was wrong (I was thinking stroke, seizure, heart attack, etc.) and saw what was happening, I looked up and saw that the two people waiting for the bathroom were contorted and attempting to not look; the people across the row had put up magazines and newspapers to block their view. There are only so many places to put your eyes on a plane when there is something uncomfortable in your view. I ended up having to physically turn my body in my seat and crank my iPod up – not something my ears or joint-diseased hips found particularly comfortable. (Though telling my Mom the story while I was waiting for my connecting flight made her laugh hysterically, so at least there was that.)

    (Yes, this did actually happen – I’m not that creative that I can make something like this up. They had waited until the FA’s had left down the aisle for snack/drink service. It lasted for a very uncomfortable span of minutes, whereafter they just buttoned up and acted as if nothing had happened. I chalked it up to the surrealism of my week.)

    And really – considering men can be labeled perverts simply for being in the presence of women and young children (a friend of mine who is a SAHD was accused of being a pedophile when he brought his daughter to a new playground; cops were called – and incredulous the mothers had done so – and it was the last time he went to the playground), you can’t blame a modern American man for being uncomfortable when a woman exposes her breast in tight quarters. Who knows what he’ll be loudly accused of?

    It comes down to common courtesy, and THAT goes both ways – or at least it should. Rarely seems to these days.

    You should be polite to a woman discreetly breastfeeding an infant on a plane – if nothing else, they may be doing so to help the baby equalize ear pressure so it isn’t screaming, so good for them. But if your child is old enough to eat solid food and needs to be arranged across two seats to be breast-fed, do what everyone else does and bring appropriate snacks and buy water or juice boxes at the airport. You’re making a political statement, not providing your child with their sole source of nourishment. And with all the security theater involved in flying these days, we really don’t need any more political statements when flying.

  • TonyA_says

    Exactly! I can’t understand why some people cannot see the distinction:
    Breastfeeding in Public is NOT indecent exposure.
    Even exposure of a breast is not necessarily indecent exposure.
    For it to be indecent , there has to be some lewdness.

    Breast-feeders do not intend to expose themselves to annoy or offend the public. They are feeding their babies.

    Finally everyone, including a woman breastfeeding, always has the right to privacy of their body everywhere [unless they are incarcerated in some instances]. A breast is part of a human body. Why does anything think they can KNOWLINGLY take a picture of anyone’s body (parts) without permission?

    There are a lot of things and behavior that irritate us when we are in public. Simply ignore them and go your merry way. No point in getting a heart attack over this issue.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yeah, apparently some feel that it’s “fair game”. Or maybe that only applies to breastfeeding women’s breasts as they feed their children.


  • LeeAnneClark

    That mom was just an attention-seeker. She is certainly not representative of the vast majority of mothers who want nothing more than to provide life-giving sustenance to their infants, and to be left in peace and not treated to gasps, snickers, or intrusive photography while they do so. Her attention-grabbing behavior had nothing to do with breast-feeding, and everything to do with her just being an attention-ho.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Had I been that guy, I would’ve put on a seriously violent anime on my laptop and accidentally unplugged the headphones during the hardcore cussing, violence, and even smut.

    But then, I’m a jack@$$ (MOD EDIT).

  • naoma

    I am a woman and in the interests of “modesty” isn’t it possible to breast feed without exposing the entire breast? I did not breast feed — daughter was allergic to my milk. But if you expose you are free game for anyone who wants to take a picture. Heaven knows WHY they want a picture, but cover up!!!!

  • LeeAnneClark

    And I still don’t understand why anyone would consider a woman feeding her infant as “flaunting”. Not every baby will eat when covered up under a stifling blanket, especially if it’s hot.

    Just using the term “flaunt” indicates that you feel that a woman feeding her child is doing so for the purpose of provocation. Did it ever occur to you that her sole purpose in exposing her breast is to FEED HER CHILD, not to “show off her gorgeous boob”, and that what you THINK about her feeding her child didn’t even enter the equation?

  • LeeAnneClark

    The Beavis & Butthead mentalities CAN’T look away. They see a nipple, they get all titillated and can’t stop themselves from staring. Or, apparently, whipping out their iPhones and snapping shots. They now seem to think it’s “fair game”, if Christopher’s poll is to be believed.

  • john4868

    Sorry had to clean it up a little bit

  • LeeAnneClark

    So I should be comfortable with you taking a zoomed-in picture of my 5-yr-old daughter’s panties when she bends over to play in the sand box, because I brought her out in public wearing a skirt?

    I should be comfortable with you taking a photo of my disabled child’s shriveled leg, because I brought her out in her wheelchair for all the world to see?

    I should be comfortable with horny teenagers taking photos of my derriere because I chose to leave the house, and let them walk behind me?

    Common decency, John. Taking photos of someone, especially of such an intimate nature, without their permission, is rude, disgusting, and sick. Legal, yes…but does that make it right? And does that mean I should be “comfortable” with it?

    No lottery win today. :-(

  • LeeAnneClark

    Your completely valid, reasonable and appropriate opinion is far too logical and mature for the Beavis & Buttheads. They feel if you flash your boob while feeding your child, they should have a right to stare, drool, and even photograph it with impunity.

  • mszabo

    And I would say that is unreasonable from a legal perspective. You certainly do not have the right not to be photographed in a public place. I think this is pretty clear. Heck I’m sure the front page of one of the entertainment magazines is running an embarrassing photo of a celebrity taken without their permission.

    Frankly I think it is morally tasteless to take someone’s photo without their permission. I don’t think we should as a society embrace this behaviour and certainly we would likely agree the guy who takes this photo is a douchebag, but you brought up the Constitution and legally I don’t think this is a close call.

    For that matter I’d tend to think the constitution only really dictates the actions of the government in relation to its people. So any argument involving the Constitution may not apply when talking about two private citizens.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yeah, I’m sure that the main reason women choose to breastfeed in public is because they are trying to “draw attention” to themselves.

    It has nothing to do with the fact that their infant needs to eat, and the only source of food for the infant happens to be her breast, and she happens to be in a public place with no opportunity to completely hide the process of feeding her child.

    As for “rights”, nobody is forcing you to look. Don’t want to see it? Be respectful and keep your eyes to yourself.

  • mszabo

    Technically speaking this was legal all the way until 2004 when the Video Voyuerism act was passed. A little reading shows even then without actual nudity in the photo cops can’t do much to stop it. I saw a story about a man caught red-handed taking a photo up a 10 yr old’s skirt. Fortunately/Unfortunately it was a ‘skort’ so the cops did NOT arrest the guy.

    Certainly the guy is a pig and I’d say. Acceptable behavior?, Clearly it is not. However legally, and this is what Chris is mentioning in his post, is a different standard.

  • Chasmosaur

    Also, some babies simply don’t want to be covered while breast feeding. It is not always an option.

  • LeeAnneClark

    The very fact that you compared a couple HAVING SEXUAL RELATIONS IN PUBLIC to women breastfeeding their children indicates exactly why this is such a hot topic, and why there are so many disturbing viewpoints posted in here: people seem to be unable to separate breasts from sex.

    Just for the record, performing sex acts in public is illegal. Breastfeeding your infant is not. I’m sorry you were exposed to that on such a painful day. I understand you weren’t in an emotional position to do anything about it, and I don’t fault you for it. But had it been any other day, I would hope you would have notified a flight attendant that there was a criminal act taking place beside you. I guarantee you the situation would have been addressed.

    I don’t disagree with you about breastfeeding older children. But that’s a different topic altogether.

  • LeeAnneClark

    No, you can’t always completely cover up. Read Stephanie Baker’s excellent comment above – she explains why.

    And I’m sorry but the suggestion that a woman who is doing nothing but providing life-sustaining nutrition for her infant is FREE GAME for anyone who wants to take a picture is sickening! And you really can’t figure out why they’d want a picture? Wow. Well, I can’t exactly explain it in this forum, but…um…I daresay it would be for the same reason that a pedophile would take a zoomed-in photo of a little girl’s panties. Use your imagination for what he’ll do with it, dear.

    Taking photos of a breastfeeding mother’s breast is not any less disgusting or intrusive.

  • Lisa Riffe

    I say this as a mother who nursed – women SHOULD be able to nurse wherever they need to. BUT – please use a blanket or shirt to cover up. I did this as a matter of course anytime I nursed at a mall, restaurant, etc. I didn’t feel this was forced on me – I just wanted to feed my daughter and not bring too much attention to myself or potentially embarrass others in the process.

  • Chasmosaur

    *sigh* I’m just talking about having something uncomfortable in your eyeline that is deemed publicly inappropriate. Should I perhaps talk about all the people I’ve seen who pick their nose or take off their shoes and cut their toenails? Because then I am just apparently trivializing breastfeeding (when I’ve discussed this before). Or how about diabetics checking their blood sugar? That’s also about public exposure of bodily fluids. Then I’m just being extreme and going overboard. For breast feeding activists, there is no argument that can win.

    Breasts – for better or for worse – are deemed sexual objects in Western culture. No amount of complaining that they are mammary glands changes that. I originally trained as an evolutionary biologist, so I can assure you, I know that they are simply mammary glands. And as someone who has more recently done research on improving search engines – where pornography terms come up as a major search category – I can also assure you that breasts as sexual objects are here to stay in the US. No amount of lactivism will change so major a cultural change.

  • john4868

    @leeanneclark I have three daughters. If they have a reasonable expectation of privacy that’s violated, I have an issue. Otherwise no.
    For example… Pervert snaps an upskirt pic using a lipstick cam as my daughter walked by … She had a reasonable expectation of privacy walking through the mall or wherever. Dude and I will have an issue. Guy snaps a pic as my daughter flashes her friends at the mall… My daughter and I have will have a one sided discussion. My issue is with her not the guy with the camera.
    Common decency goes both directions… If you don’t want me to have a real picture of something, why is it ok that I be forced to live with the mental picture?

  • LeeAnneClark

    But what if it’s hot and your child won’t latch on while covered up under a stifling blanket? What if the blanket slips off while you are attempting to help your child latch on (you often need both your hands for that)?

    In either of those cases, do you believe that the people who might actually catch a glimpse of your breast should feel like it is FAIR GAME to start snapping photos?

    Apparently, 1576 people (76% of Christopher’s readers who answered the poll) do.

  • Raven_Altosk

    No worries.

  • LeeAnneClark

    And you have hit on the very reason why this is such a hot topic in here:

    “Breasts – for better or for worse – are deemed sexual objects in Western culture.”

    By the way, I’m not a breast feeding activist. I’ve never even done it – my children were adopted, so they were formula-fed from day one. And had I been able to, I most certainly would have done my best to cover up when it was possible to do so, for the very reason stated above: because Western culture can’t seem to separate breasts from sex.

    But this article, and the poll, is putting forth the concept that by breastfeeding children, women are making themselves FAIR GAME for prurient, intrusive photography of their breasts! That is sicking.

    As for the comparisons of all those other bodily functions: They are invalid. The only valid comparison is of someone eating a sandwich. Some bodily functions are simply inappropriate in public. Others are, or at least should be. The child is EATING, folks, not defecating!

  • LeeAnneClark

    Here’s what’s bothering me about your statement…you said:

    “Guy snaps a pic as my daughter flashes her friends at the mall… My
    daughter and I have will have a one sided discussion. My issue is with
    her not the guy with the camera.”

    First of all, you’re comparing a girl purposely “flashing” an intimate body part at the mall with a woman breastfeeding her child? One of the key points I’ve been trying to get across in here is that this is an invalid comparison! Someone who chooses to publicly expose body parts for the purpose of provocation is NOT the same as someone performing the personal, natural act of feeding an infant. The “flashing” girl is doing so to draw attention, so she should expect that her act will do just that – draw attention.

    The woman is not attempting to draw attention. She’s not “flashing”. She’s feeding her child, and has a reasonable expectation that she will be left alone and not subjected to intrusive surreptitious photography – same as your daughter as she is walking (not “flashing”) through the mall. Anyone taking photos of her breast is doing the same thing as the pedophile using the lipstick camera to get a shot of your little girl’s panties.

    See the difference?

    You mention common decency, so clearly you understand that there is something called common decency. Do you consider it “decent” to secretly snap photographs of other people as they go about their personal business? Do you consider it “decent” to snap photos of the diaper-clad derrieres of children playing in the sandbox without their parents’ permission? Do you consider it decent to snap surreptitious photos of the crotches of bathing-suit-clad children swimming at a public pool? Taking photos of a breastfeeding woman’s breast is the SAME THING. Remember, you are also photographing her child, without her permission. Legal – yes. Decent – no. I would hope as a father, especially of daughters, you would understand that.

    The law doesn’t guarantee that you won’t see things you don’t want to see out there in the world. Morbidly obese people are free to wear spandex. And you might see it. Sorry, that’s just life. Don’t want to see it? Don’t look.

  • Steve Larson

    Your “logic” illustrates the point of the 76% in the poll exactly. You argue that an exposed breast for the purpose of breastfeeding should be seen as the most natural thing in the world. Fair enough. But then if someone decides to take a picture of this natural everyday occurrence (which was compared to eating a sandwich), you call that “sickening”. That is the whole argument about having it both ways. And comparing it to an upskirt photo is ridiculous. Again, if something is out there as normal everyday behavior, then having it captured on film shouldn’t be viewed as “sickening”. As another poster said, I would feel uncomfortable having a stranger take a photo of me or my family in public just because it is creepy. But that should be true whether someone is breastfeeding or eating a sandwich. There is nothing to make it sickening or to be compared to a pedophile.

  • Trudi

    Holding a nursing baby to your breast isn’t a shameful thing and most mothers wouldn’t be offended at someone photgraphing it – as a mother nursing her child. Women don’t generally think of their milk-filled breast as erotica that someone’s going to just die to photograph! At issue is the mindset of Americans who seem to believe a woman’s breast is a sex toy to be kept silent and hidden away. Well, it can be, at the right time, but when a baby is hungry, it isn’t the same thing at all. I’m astonished by the animosity people feel towards nursing mothers. In a country where people can see tampon advetisements, condom commercials, barely there bikini shots, and much more how can people STILL be so offended by a woman who produces milk to feed her baby? If she’s on a plane and the baby is hungry, she can pull her shirt up for the waist, attach the baby and no one needs be wiser. It’s the fact that she’s doing it that people are offended by, not that they can actually see anything, but they know they might. Of course, we all know if you see a woman’s breast in public you may go blind. What a dumb thing to keep getting upset over! If you get your jollies photographing a nursing mother, then do it. If you are doing it to make her look like a whore, then shame on you.

  • Dutchess

    I completely agree, America has this obsession with sex and making it taboo. Someone kills themselves LIVE on Fox news and nobody bats an eye, someone shows a nipple during a half time show and the country explodes.

  • Analytical Armadillo

    If a woman is sat in a tiny mini skirt – does someone have the right to zoom in and photograph her thighs? If it’s a tiny top can he get in her cleavage and take a pic? ps how many bare breasts have you ever seen when a woman is feeding?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Sigh. I give up trying to explain the concept of common decency to these breast-obsessed folks. The Beavis & Butthead types are going to continue freaking out when you see a breast, equating breastfeeding with sex acts, and thinking it’s okay to snap intrusive photos of a woman’s body parts.

    I realize I’m fighting a losing battle, because the very concept of common decency is gone in this country.

    So go ahead, snap away at those poor women doing nothing but providing life-giving nutrition to their infants. We all know what they’re going to do with the photos.

  • Angelawr

    What I dont get, and yes I am a parent and yes I breast fed my daughter, is WHY would a woman want to expose her breast to feed her child. She has the right to feed her child whever she wants and whenever she wants, but she should show some respect for HERSELF by being discreet about the process. Is it really an issue? Are woman so distasteful these days that they think it in anyway approrpriate to just pop their boob out and let others see her feed her child? That just seem rude to her, her child and to others around her. Be discreet and this wont be an issue.. ever…

  • BostonKiwi

    ” The only valid comparison is of someone eating a sandwich.”

    Following that thought process, is there a problem with someone taking a photo of a child eating a sandwich in a public place, or on a plane?

  • trskms

    Do it discreetly. D-I-S-C-R-E-E-T-L-Y. This is not difficult. I breast fed three children, and no one ever saw my breast.

    It is not necessary to you or to the baby to let it all flop out for everyone to view. That is, as Chris stated so well, simply bad manners.

  • trskms

    Simply not true. ANYONE can feed a baby discreetly. As someone pointed out, you don’t have to cover the baby’s head to do it. However, children are trained to what is expected. If you allow the baby to toss off the blanket or shawl and learn that this works … it is YOUR fault, not the baby’s. You’re the parent. Teach them that this is required. My kids learned, and they all tried pushing off the blanket and fussing. I just calmly put it back: Over and over until they accepted it.

    But, I also knew (when it was really hot) how to cover just ME and keep the baby’s head and mouth free. So, it simply is not true that it cannot be done.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Do YOU want strangers taking a photo of your child while eating a sandwich, without your permission?

    I know *I* don’t!

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Very nice response. Imho, what makes this such a hot-button topic is that there are extremists on both sides that simply refuse to see the obvious. It’s not indecent exposure like some would claim. But it certainly isn’t eating a sandwich, either.

  • LeeAnneClark

    And another thought on this:

    Imagine yourself on a plane. A woman in the seat behind you starts breastfeeding her infant. You whip out our iPhone and begin trying to photograph her breast.

    What do you think is going to be her reaction? How about the reaction of the other passengers? How about her HUSBAND?

    Can you envision any scenario in which you DON’T end up with a black eye when you do this?

    So, you know full well people are going to object, and be disgusted with your behavior. So what do you do? You try to be sneaky. You palm your phone and try to do it surreptitiously.

    Why do you do this? BECAUSE YOU KNOW IT’S WRONG. You know in your heart that you are violating basic standards of common decency in attempting to photograph the breast of a woman as she feeds her infant, without her permission.

    But go ahead, keep on trying to justify something that every single person in this forum knows is wrong.

    Jerry Sandusky did the same thing in court yesterday in which he continued his protestations that he didn’t do anything wrong. We all know the truth. And so do you, even if you don’t want to admit it.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Trudi, get ready. Your comment is too mature for the Beavis & Butthead troglodytes who, like you said, think a boob is a sex toy. It’s also too reasonable for the folks with such tender sensibilities that the very flash of a nipple could send them into paroxysms of panic, resulting in the horrifying image burnt into their memories for eternity.

    That’s who you’re talking to in here.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yeah, and that’s so easy to do on a crowded airplane. :::rolling eyes:::

  • LeeAnneClark

    And how do you propose that a woman be discreet when she has a crying, squirming infant in a tight middle seat on a hot, bouncing airplane?

    Trust me, the vast majority of breastfeeding mothers are not concerned with offending the delicate sensibilities of the tender flowers who might catch a glimpse of her nipple. She just wants to feed her child in peace. And not be photographed by perverts while doing so.

  • LeeAnneClark

    THANK YOU for posting the link!

    Every single person in this forum should go look at the photos. If you find yourself feeling either sexually aroused or offended…YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. Not the lovely mothers using their breasts as nature intended, to provide life-giving sustenance to their infants.

  • TonyA_says

    The meaning of discreetly is personal.
    My wife did the same as you (nursed 3 baby boys). She covered because she did not want others to see her breasts. That’s her decision. But I cannot expect every woman to make the same decision.

    As a male, all I can say is that a woman has a right to her body and her privacy. Other than that, what a woman does is none of my business. :-) More power to women all over the world !

  • TonyA_says

    Someone deliberately taking an unauthorized picture of a mother (and her breast) breastfeeding her baby is a PERVERT. What legitimate reason could that person have to take a snapshot of a woman (breastfeeding) he does not even know?

  • TonyA_says

    Politicians and celebrities are considered “public” people since they make a living being known. The rest of us have a right to be anonymous in public places. I challenge you to take a close up picture of mother (who does not know you) nursing her child and see her reaction. She might call the cops on you and file a complaint of harassment. What makes you think strangers have the right to take a picture of anyone’s private parts without express consent? In fact, in many States that explicitly give the woman the right to breastfeed in public and private places, taking a picture and disturbing the woman might be infringing on her right to breastfeed and breaching the peace.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Tony, I am liking you more and more with each passing day. :) By the way, your explanation earlier today about reasonable expectations of privacy was about the smartest comment in this article.

    And this one is too. Everyone in here knows full well that taking a photo of a woman’s breast as she feeds her infant is intrusive, disgusting and perverted. But they sure are trying hard to justify it!

    Reminds me of Jerry Sandusky yesterday in court, continuing to insist he did nothing wrong. Yeah, sure, we believe you, Jerry. Just like we believe that these people in here are taking photos of breastfeeding mothers for artistic purposes. My teenage son said the same thing when I found a Hustler magazine under his bed…”I’m looking at the photos for the artistic value!”

    Sure you are, kid. And I guarantee you the dude photographing the young mother as she feeds her infant during take-off is using his secretly-snapped photos for the same purpose.

  • y_p_w

    My feeling is that a private moment should remain just that. Perhaps one isn’t concerned that others might catch a glimpse of a nipple, but to record for posterity someone else’s private moment without their permission is voyeuristic and wrong.

    I’m not concerned when I go to use the urinal trough (which are increasingly harder to find) and someone else catches a glimpse. I’m not terribly concerned when I’m in a public place and for assorted reasons I need to change my kid’s diaper pronto even if others can see the naughty bits. However, I’d be highly upset if someone intentionally whipped out a camera to record the act.

  • DavidYoung2

    Given the pervasiveness of cameras these days, anything you do in public may end up on the internet. If you don’t want it seen there, don’t do it in public. It’s not an issue of right or wrong or whatever. It’s just the way it is, like the sun comes up every morning. Whether you like it or not matters not a whit.

  • MarkieA

    Here’s where I have a problem. Some of the cutest, most adorable pictures I’ve seen are of children eating, running, falling down, laughing, etc. In today’s politically charged environment, these images will never be captured. I guess one could snap the picture THEN ask for permission to keep it, but I’m guessing even then permission would be rarely granted. I take pictures wherever I go. Most times, people “get in the way”. I haven’t had the misfortune, yet, of having someone confront me about a picture I took. I’m not sure what I would do if I’m taking a picture of a fountain in the center of the park and an angry parent confronts me for being a “pervert” for taking a picture of his daughter frolicking in the water. I do know that I absolutely have the legal right to take such a picture, but is it worth the argument to enforce that right? I guess I’ll make that decision when it happens. And I know it’s just a matter of time.

  • MarkieA

    Just because you repeat something several times doesn’t make it true. Where are you getting that, “The rest of us have the right to be anonymous is public places.”? It sounds great, but it’s not true. If you are at a concert, for example, you have no expectation of privacy. If you do, you’re delusional. Anyone can take a picture of you there, legally. I suggest that you visit Carlos Miller’s website. It’s very eye-opening.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Hey now, LeeAnne, I might be Beavis, but I’m not against nursing! Just rude parents who put their kids’ feet on my laptop without any warning. :D

  • KarlaKatz

    Hmmmmm… So, if the line to the bathroom is 3 deep, I should have the right to squat over a paper cup and pee? Really? It’s as natural a bodily function as squirting breast milk into a baby’s gaping maw.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Sorry but as a parent, I don’t want strangers taking photos of my children without my permission. Period. You may be taking them for innocent reasons…but you may not be. How would I know? It may very well be perfectly legal, but those are MY children, and I don’t want you taking photos of them that may end up photoshopped into a child porn site. So yeah, I’d stand in front of you too.

    But compare that to someone trying to take a photo of the breast of a woman as she feeds her infant. Can you really imagine any scenario in which that person isn’t a pervert?

  • LeeAnneClark

    LOL I’m against that too. And I can guarantee you they wouldn’t be in my lap for long. ;-)

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Just two cents from one of the lawyers. The basic rule, absent a specific statute to the contrary, is that in a public place, there is NO reasonable expectation of privacy. You can be photographed, filmed, spied upon, etc. with impunity. This includes a public street, your car, a hotel lobby, basically, anywhere that you can be viewed from a public area.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I think you are misapplying the statute. The Video Voyerusm act would prohibit you from videotapoing a naked breast in say, a bathroom. It doesn’t apply to a park bench or any other public place where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    From a legal perspectivem very doubtful. Discrimination is based upon similiar situated circumstances.

  • Extramail

    Why is it too much to ask a breast feeding mother to cover herself while she nurses her child ANYWHERE? Is modesty a forgotten art? Why does a nursing mothers’ right to nurse in public trump my right to expect not to have to possibly see her breast when she does? We only have an individual right when we all have a collective right.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I’d actually be more worried about the kid puking all over me when she burps him.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Easy solution, LeeAnne. Have the FA’s re-arrange the seating order so that all the passengers in that row are women. Since women with babies aren’t allowed in exit rows (pretty hard to open the emergency exit while you’re juggling a baby), there would not be any issues with seatmates having to give up premium seats. Problem solved.

  • AlexisCarmen

    Chris, I’m usually a big fan, but you missed the mark completely on this one, and veered into ignorant male territory (Pop 7 mil.) . I’d invite your wife to read your post, and then comment…. You’ve taken the sacrifice that women make to their own modesty as being exhibitionism. I’m not sure how to explain what the comparable male equivalent might be, and will leave that up to your own very intelligent imagination, along with that of other posters (some of whom, no doubt, may have also been nourished at their own mothers’ breasts – quelle scandale!). FWIW, I do not have children, and don’t actually like children (esp. on long flights) but I understand how generations of us as human beings have been nourished, sustained and brought to maturity thanks to our mothers’…..choices in public. Losing the sense that this is “natural” is a loss for us all.

  • AlexisCarmen

    Chris, I’m usually a big fan, but you missed the mark completely on this one, and veered into ignorant male territory (Pop 7 mil.) . I’d invite your wife to read your post, and then comment…. You’ve taken the sacrifice that women make to their own modesty as being exhibitionism. I’m not sure how to explain what the comparable male equivalent might be, and will leave that up to your own very intelligent imagination, along with that of other posters (some of whom, no doubt, have been nourished at their own mothers’ breasts – quelle scandale!). FWIW, I do not have children, and don’t actually like children (esp. on long flights) but I understand how generations of us as human beings have been nourished, sustained and brought to maturity thanks to our mothers’…..choices in public. Losing the sense that this is “natural” is a loss for us all.

  • Ann Lamoy

    If you see a nursing mother in public, what is preventing you from looking away. Do these nursing mothers possess some magical powers that draw your eyes and make in incapable for you to look away?

    I get that on an airplane, people are a captive audience as it were. But nursing generally doesn’t take that long, and you can surely avert your eyes for the time needed for her to nurse. By nursing, it will help keep the baby happy and quiet. Would you rather have a screaming and unhappy baby for the whole flight?

    I would be willing to bet that many people have seen mothers nursing and have not even realized it. The vast majority of them are able to nurse discretely without most of us even noticing.

    Well apart from one like Raven mentioned. That woman was just really, really rude. (and the other one mentioned that had to announce to the whole plane. But she was an attention grabbing lactivist, not a nursing mother)

  • Mindy Brocker

    This column reminded me of a friends mobile pic from a trip a year or so back. Yes folks, your photo can be taken. Hahahahahaha!!! I only *wish* this was a breastfeeding mom.

    As to the topic on hand, I was a nursing mom who did not use a blanket. My boys were summer babies and it was SO HOT to cover them. That said, I was very discreet and one would have to try very hard to have seen more than a momentary flash of skin.

    That said, when I did nurse in public, I understood it was possible that someone would take my photo. There are surveillance cameras, cell phone cameras … everywhere. It can happen and it’s a risk I was willing to take.

  • SThana

    How about the right to urinate in public or defecate in public? Aren’t those also ‘natural’ acts and should be able to be performed in pblic?

  • TonyA_says

    So why does goggle (who can afford the best lawyers on earth) blur faces of people and plate numbers in their street view?
    I guess they didn’t take the word of Carlos Miller.

  • TonyA_says

    Hey Carver, is an airline seat a public place? Isn’t it a private place which the passengers paid for? Did the airlines give anyone the permission to take pictures inside the airplane? Did they disclose to breast-feeding passengers that fellow passengers will or can take pictures of their breasts? Does anyone have any right to privacy inside an airplane?

  • TonyA_says

    Of course not. You may not upskirt or downblouse in a mall (a place of public accommodation). Try it and see how fast security will haul your *** off to the station if you are caught.

    18 USC § 1801

    (5) the term “under circumstances in which that individual has a reasonable expectation of privacy” means—
    (A) circumstances in which a reasonable person would believe that he or she could disrobe in privacy, without being concerned that an image of a private area of the individual was being captured; or
    (B) circumstances in which a reasonable person would believe that a private area of the individual would not be visible to the public, regardless of whether that person is in a public or private place.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I can’t “like” this post enough! I wish I could say that it’s renewed my faith in the basic decency of the human race…but after reading all these other comments in here, it hasn’t.

    I have to say I particularly LOVED this line: “You’ve taken the sacrifice that women make to their own modesty as being exhibitionism.”

    YES! Thank you for articulating the point I’ve been trying to make so much better than I could! Why anyone thinks that breastfeeding women WANT to expose their breasts for pure titillation is just unfathomable. Did it REALLY not occur to these people that they are doing it for one reason, and one reason alone: to feed their child?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Wow, why are all of the intelligent, decent, reasonable people only showing up NOW?

    Once again here’s a post that I wish I could “like” 10,000 times. I couldn’t agree more…with every single word (including about Raven’s seat mate being a rude attention-ho!)

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yeah, we’ve heard that one before…comparing feeding an infant with pooping and peeing. Keepin’ it classy, SThana. I do hope you are not someone who is responsible for feeding children, given how you think it’s the same thing as pooping and peeing. Nice.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    But looking at someone (or photographing them) doesn’t deprive them of liberty and privacy has never extended to the right not to be seen in a public place.

    That being said, though, the photography tangent is pretty far off the main topic, imo. I think it basically came up as a response to the argument that breastfeeding is like eating a sandwich and is so mundane no reasonable person could ever be bothered by it. (As an aside, I’ve seen some slobs who can’t eat a sandwich without grossing out the people around them.) I think the vast majority view it as natural and normal but also somewhat unusual in public and, thus, prone to catching people’s attention and making some uncomfortable. When both sides are cognizant of both those realities, things tend to go just fine for everyone. Most of the problems come when somebody is bound and determined to make a point of it, and that can come from either side.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    You pay for a seat at a concert or a football game, as well. “Public” doesn’t strictly mean “publicly-owned.” During Mardi Gras one partier is on the public sidewalk, while the guy right next to him is in a private doorway and the people right above are on a private balcony. They’re all still in public.

  • jebaker

    part of the problem is that the passenger next to you is 1″ away from you and therefore privacy is nearly impossible to maintain. While I would object to a child half in my lap, I have no issue with a woman discreetly nursing a baby. It’s possible even without a blanket over a baby’s head. There are some exhibitionists out there, tho! I ate at a restaurant recently and a woman took a table in the front window and very publically whipped out a breast. She could not have been less discreet.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Good questions. We have to get a little more technical. Terms of art like public and private have different meaning depending on the circumstances and with respect to who is asserting the right. For example, the inside of an airplane, much like a restaurant, is private from the perspective of the owner. Thus the owner can assign seats, make up rules, refuse service, exclude persons, etc.

    However, with respect to the traveling public, the inside is a public space as far as privacy is concerned. Whatever you do on an airplane can be viewed by complete strangers. Much like what you do in a restaurant. Any member of the public with the price of air fare generally has unfettered access. Further, the major activity that occurs on an airplane, i.e. sitting, is not one that is of a personal nature.

    The quintessential places where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy would include your home, a hotel room, a bathroom, a locker room, etc.

    With regards to disclosure, since there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, further disclosure by the owner is unnecessary.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    That’s actually easy. As self-important as we lawyers tend to think we are, the sun doesn’t rise and set with our every utterance. Google was getting extremely bad press with its street view. Google cars have been attacked by people upset at the privacy implications. This was a business/PR decision, not necessarily a legal decision.

    On the legal side, the best lawsuit is the one you avoid being a defendant in, even if you will ultimately prevail. The time,money, and distraction from your core business may be a sufficient reason for Google to blur the faces,particularly as faces aren’t relevant to street view

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Your cited legal authority is not on point. Having the right to do something has no bearing on whether you have a right to privacy when doing it. Alas, this is about what is legal, not what is right

  • Steve Larson

    Again, you’re taking an extreme view on this, similar to the extreme view of the opposing side (your “Beavis & Buttheads”) that seems to bother you so much. A woman has the RIGHT to breastfeed in public and make no attempt to cover up. COMMON DECENCY would suggest trying to be as discreet as possible to consider the feelings of those around her who may not be comfortable with it (you can argue they should be comfortable but that doesn’t change the fact that many people aren’t). Others have the RIGHT to take photos of acts in public, whether it’s breastfeeding, making out, or eating a sandwich. COMMON DECENCY suggests that taking photos of anyone without their consent is wrong.
    You say “you do not have a right to enforce your desire not to see things on others who are doing things that are perfectly legal.” But likewise you don’t have the right to enforce your desire not to have someone snap photos of anything in a public area. But again just because you have the right to do something doesn’t make it the decent thing to do and that does both ways. I would include fat women (or men) wearing spandex in that category as well. :)

  • TonyA_says

    Yeah given that women only got the right to vote in 1920 after the Nineteenth Ammendent passed, and the right to an abortion after 1973 in all 50 States when the US Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade; then they (similarly situated females, breastfeeders) still have to wait decades before all States give them the right to bretfeed their babies anywhere without fear of being harassed, ridiculed, or even arrested.

  • TonyA_says

    Joe, what legitimate, social, or morale purpose could there be for anyone without the express consent of the woman take pictures of her breast while breastfeeding? Are these men secret pro-lactivists making private movie collections? Or are we gonna see these in Youtube?

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    If you were that Spandex-wearing obese person’s friend, wouldn’t you say, “you may want to rethink that look?” Personally I think women should be able to BF in public. But in the same vein, they are exposing a body part that is normally covered, so they shouldn’t be offended if some people stare or have a reaction of some kind. It’s not so much the nature of the act as it is the incongruity of seeing it done publicly.

  • Daniel Weaver

    Like I said, I think it should be fine for moms to breastfeed in public; my ‘flaunt’ description is squarely aimed at nurse-ins and other acts deliberately designed to attract attention. The focus should be on feeding her child as you say, not purposely attracting attention to her right to breastfeed. There have been numurous comments on this article that many women are able to breastfeed very discreetly perhaps even without specifically ‘covering up’; this is what I am saying should happen. Any method of feeding which is expected to attract extra attention is no longer solely focused on feeding her child; in which case I think ‘fluant’ is an accurate description.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    What happened to your 10 foot pole? :)

  • TonyA_says

    It’s bizarre how the same folks that complain about intrusion when the TSA touches or takes pictures (x-ray or whatever) of their breasts, vagina or testicles complain so loudly but will not complain if a fellow passenger takes a picture of a mother’s breast providing nutrition to her baby while seated on an airplane.
    It’s the same right to privacy being violated.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Alas, while in public doesn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy and in public you can be photographed

  • BostonKiwi

    Actually, for what it is worth, I don’t get stressed about people taking photos around my kids. I took them apple picking on Monday and there were crowds of families, especially around the play area and the farm animals. I took a bunch of photos of my 3 year old and his buddy have a great day out together. There are dozens of other kids in the background of those photos and even one where a kid ran in front of mine just as I was snapping the photo.

    Now I can understand your concern about predators, but I think you are getting too extreme here. If my kids are in public, I cannot expect that if someone is really determined they can’t take photos of them. Heck, they can even do that when we are not in a public place. Just ask Kate Middleton.

    But there are two separate issues here. I have 2 kids and my wife breast fed one of them until he turned one. The other one had latching problems so my wife, bless her, pumped for a year to give him breast milk. She breast fed on occasion in public, but only when there were no alternatives. And no, she wasn’t going to sit in a bathroom to do it. And she also wasn’t going to cover herself and our baby under a blanket. I think the reasonably minded folks can accept that a mother can actually breastfeed without flashing much of anything to anyone. It doesn’t seem to be that hard.

    But back to the photo issue. I think you need to step back and see Chris’ point for what it was. Can a person on one hand expect to perform an act in a public setting (no matter if it be breastfeeding or playing with their kids or) and on the other hand be afforded absolute privacy. As Chris implies, you can’t have both. By running away on the extreme possibility of some guy randomly snapping a photo of your exposed nipple in the fraction of a second either starting or finishing feeding you are missing the greater point.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    In my childless opinion, flaunting your boob out in public to feed your baby is just like all the tattoos, piercings and purple hair we see everywhere. These people want attention. If the baby is hungry, feed it. Certainly a mother can figure out a way to feed the baby without making a spectacle of the process, I don’t think it requires a blanket over the poor baby’s face, does it?

  • technomage1

    @Chasmosaur: You have hit the nail right on the head here. “For breast feeding activists, there is no argument that can win”. It seems they want to have their cake and eat it, too on this issue. They want to openly do things in public yet have privacy, which isn’t a reasonable expectation for anyone. In their eyes, if a man so much as glances in their direction, he’s a pervert.

    If I saw a guy trying to snap a pic of a woman trying to be a discreet as possible, I’m going to have some words for him. But if she’s stripped to the waist – and it does happen – hey, she is showing she doesn’t care so why should I?

  • ck ann

    The ignorance in these comments are mind-blowing (sadly, still)!!! Exactly as LeeAnneClark said, the fact that you compare breastfeeding a toddler to a couple having sex is just CRAZY! It’s interesting to see that so many who are commenting have NOT actually ever lactated themselves! Unless you have nursed a child yourself, how can anyone accept comments made about the intent, motive, desire, and/or experience of nursing a child as knowledgable. How do those of us who HAVE actually breastfed a child not take such comments simply with a grain of salt. Unless you have experienced it for yourself, I guarantee that you don’t understand it. That’s just the way it is, inexplicable wonder.
    In regards to your comments, I am going to address the statements made about nursing a toddler. I just laughed when I read the sentence about making a political statement! Seriously, LOL, because of the sheer ignorance and naivety! There are many reasons why a woman would breastfeed their toddlers, but I have never before heard of a mother doing so to make a “political statement”. You really just don’t seem to have any sense of the experience. Do you really think that the ONLY reason infants nurse is because they are hungry? Infants often nurse, not because they are hungry, but because they are nurtured and comforted by the process, just as are toddlers (especially after an exhausting trip through an airport).


    I nursed both of my children until they were 3-3.5 years old. I let them self-ween. They are now 15 and 8. Both of my children are very very rarely ill. Both have been identified as gifted (IQ tests,…) and are in gifted programs. Both have a strong sense of independence and confidence,… Just a bunch of awesome, of which some credit goes to the length of time they were breastfed.

    Here is some research I did in 2009 for someone ignorant about the benefits of extended breastfeeding. (I didn’t site everything, but search for yourself if you don’t believe it.)

    The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that breastfeeding continue throughout the first year of life and that “Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired.” They also note that “If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned.” (AAFP 2001)

    The World Health Organization emphasizes the importance of nursing up to two years of age or beyond. “A modest increase in breastfeeding rates could prevent up to 10% of all deaths of children under five: Breastfeeding plays an essential and sometimes underestimated role in the treatment and prevention of childhood illness.”

    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that “Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child… Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother… There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.” (AAP 2005)

    BENEFITS FOR THE MOTHER (throughout breastfeeding):

    Breastfeeding moms tend to lose weight more easily. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of endometrial cancer. Breastfeeding has been shown to decrease insulin requirements in diabetic women. Breastfeeding protects against osteoporosis. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of uterine cancer.

    BENEFITS FOR THE CHILD (well past a year old):

    Research indicates that breastfeeding continues to be a valuable source of nutrition and disease protection for as long as breastfeeding continues.

    Nutritional Content of Breastmilk in the Second Year:

    In the second year of life, 500ml of breastmilk provides: 95% of Vitamin C requirements, 45% of Vitamin A requirements,38% of protein requirements,31% of energy requirements. More nutritional Benefits of Breastmilk in the Second Year: Breastmilk remains a valuable source of protein, fat, calcium, and vitamins well beyond two years of age.

    “Antibodies are abundant in human milk throughout lactation” In fact, some of the immune factors in breastmilk increase in concentration during the second year and also during the weaning process. (Goldman 1983, Goldman & Goldblum 1983, Institute of Medicine 1991).

    Nursing toddlers between the ages of 16 and 30 months have been found to have fewer illnesses and illnesses of shorter duration than their non-nursing peers.(Gulick 1986)

    It is well documented that the later that cow´s milk and other common allergens are introduced into the diet of a baby, the less likelihood there is of allergic reactions.

    Extensive research on the relationship between cognitive achievement (IQ scores, grades in school) and breastfeeding has shown the greatest gains for those children breastfed the longest.

    The Association Between Duration of Breastfeeding and Adult Intelligence: JAMA. 2002;287:2365-2371. Conclusion Independent of a wide range of possible confounding factors, a significant positive association between duration of breastfeeding and intelligence was observed.

    One study that dealt specifically with babies nursed longer than a year showed a significant link between the duration of nursing and mothers´ and teachers´ ratings of social adjustment in 6-8 year old children. In the words of the researchers, “There are statistically significant tendencies for conduct disorder scores to decline with increasing duration of breastfeeding.”

    According to Elizabeth N. Baldwin, Esq.

    “Breastfeeding is a warm and loving way to meet the needs of toddlers and young children. It not only perks them up and energizes them; it also soothes the frustrations, bumps and bruises, and daily stresses of early childhood. In addition, nursing past infancy helps little ones make a gradual transition to childhood… Meeting a child’s dependency needs is the key to helping that child achieve independence. And children outgrow these needs according to their own unique timetable. Children who achieve independence at their own pace are more secure in that independence then children forced into independence prematurely.”

    Weaning is a very personal decision and one that should not be made lightly. Breast feeding is really important. It is where children receive most of their nurturing. When considering whether it is time to wean, you need to think about what you will do to replace nursing in your child´s life. Has your child lost the urge to suck? It is widely accepted that it important for this urge to be fulfilled. You need to consider how you feel and how your baby feels about nursing.

    Scientific research by Katherine A. Dettwyler, PhD

    It is true that there are still many societies in the world where children are routinely breastfed until the age of four or five years or older, and even in the United States, some children are nursed for this long and longer. In societies where children are allowed to nurse “as long as they want” they usually self-wean, with no arguments or emotional trauma, between 3 and 4 years of age. ……………… The minimum predicted age for a natural age of weaning in humans is 2.5 years, with a maximum of 7.0 years…………………… the babies breastfed the longest did better in terms of both lower disease and higher IQ.


  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    You noticed, huh? Tried to stay out of it for as long as I could!

  • mszabo

    That is what I would have thought until I read the following article:

    This seems to imply even though he was caught redhanded they still couldn’t enforce any privacy/voyeurism violation law. If THIS won’t get you arrested, then certainly taking photos of a woman publically breastfeeding won’t. I’m not trying to debate what is morally right/wrong here but rather what is legal. Seems like unfortunately this behavior is legal.

  • JenniferFinger

    But the moderators are probably all concentrated in the few time zones in the US. I don’t think there are any in the EU.

  • Lisa Riffe

    I always used a blanket or my (loose) shirt. I’m stating my opinion here, which may or may not jive with anyone else’s opinion. That’s why America is so great, right???

  • Kevin Mathews

    It’s actually very easy. My wife did it with both of our kids. First one was on the boob for 11 months, second one for close to 18. They do make light weight covers, literally call Hooter Hiders, that work great for keeping the girls hidden without making the baby uncomfortable.
    Personally, I see no issues with showing boob in public. But, given the stick up the ass society we live in that has serious issues with nudity in public, people simply need to adjust a little bit.
    Ever heard the expression, “Pick Your Battles”. Over-Exposing yourself in public is not a battle the breastfeeding community should pick. Be content that there are laws in place that allow you to do it anywhere, but also be mindful of the fact that unless you cover up, you are putting yourself out there in public…

  • ChBot

    Chris should move back to Europe to cover that time zone :-)

  • Scott

    If I remember correctly, Chris did put out a call for mods, so if you are based in the EU and wish to help out, contact the man! :)

  • BMG4ME

    Jewish women who breast feed are required to cover themselves up and it would be a problem for her body to be exposed. Modesty is very 21st century. My wife is one of those women and I am proud of her.

  • ralphie

    I agree with most of what you said. But some woman ARE exposing themselves deliberately when they breastfeed, and perhaps that may be considered provocative. Some would have us believe that no one can place any restraints on how a woman chooses to breastfeed; whatever she chooses is what we all have to accept. No, we don’t. And yes, we can impose restraints, especially if some women refuse to restrain themselves. If you want to brazenly and openly and inconsiderately expose yourself, then you may be subject to someone inconsiderately taking photos. Decent to take those photos? probably not. But neither is it decent to expose yourself.