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“Whipping it Out” Turns Breastfeeding Moms into Deviants

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Not everyone is comfortable with breastfeeding in public. I understand people have varying degrees of exposure to the act and art of breastfeeding. I fully respect other viewpoints when they are made respectfully and thoughtfully.

However, I find myself bristling when I hear the following from people who are on the anti side of nursing in public:

~ Comparisons of breast milk to other bodily fluids or nursing to other bodily functions

~ Musings that breastfeeding is a private bonding moment too special/precious/sacred for the general public to witness

~ Directing mothers to “just pump” before they go out

~ Suggestions that the baby or toddler could eat in a bathroom or car

Recently at Twitter, I was happy to see @babysteph address one of my biggest pet-peeves about people who think nursing in public is shameful: The phrase whip boobs out.

I’m nursing for the eighth time around. Teddy is 11 months old. He gets 95% of his liquid nourishment directly from me. We are both happy.

I think he would have been scared off long ago if my breasts made a cracking noise when I unsnap the flap. You know, when I whip my boobs out.  Imagine the possibilities! I could whip out the flames on cigarettes like in a sideshow circus act. I could swing across chasms, drive a team of oxen across the prairie pulling a schooner, tame a lion, pull people out of quicksand and snakepits.

See the scar on my chin? Wink wink.

There have been moms in big hurries to nurse because hungry babies scream. At that moment, the baby is her #1 concern. I promise you, her breast isn’t something she wields to make others uncomfortable, to shock, to flash around, or to cause scandal. It’s not like a man whipping it out to drunkenly pee on an alley wall or flash patrons of the library.

In fact, The Urban Dictionary has defined whipping it out as a distinctly rude, sexual, and aggressive. I contend it’s no accident that so many anti-breastfeeding folks like to use the phrase. The connotations are strong.

To chide nursing moms for whipping out their breasts is to equate them with exhibitionists. It suggests callous disregard and a lack of care.

It’s simply untrue.

I quickly gathered a sample of stupid (and graphic) comments that bemoan moms with mammary whips:

Drape yourself…period. I’ve been in public places and seen women casually drape themselves, and suckle their infants and for the most part, no one complains. It’s when you whip out an engorged tit in full view of the public that people get pissed off

Mombies: it might seem “completely natural” to you to feed your child in public, but many of us see it as your free-reign to whip out your boob in public.

(How charming to be called a Mombie.  My Mombie impression, “I’m going to eat your Ar-cher Farms Tof-fee Scooonnnes! I’m going to eat your scooonnes!”)

More:

Like someone else said, peeing is also natural, but people would FREAK if someone did that in public. And a man is perfectly capable of whipping it out and peeing without it being seen…

I think breast feeding babies is wonderful, but at the same time, I get disqusted when someone whips their breast out in a public place to feed their baby. I think breast feeding needs to be done privately with a coverlet so we are not all looking at the boobs. My daughter in law whipped her boob out at a public pool. For crying out loud, if she thinks its that wonderful, then why even wear a bikini top to the pool. Let it all hang out sister!! No point in any of us wearing a shirt or bra.

The arguement (sic) that’ it’s natural is no arguement (sic). Urinating is natural, sometimes you have to go NOW but we don’t urinate in public. I’ve had women sit at my desk in a public office and whip out their boob to start breastfeed­ing. I’m sure my face was horror stricken.

Horror stricken?

There are efforts to turn “whip it out” into a positive. It can be a rallying cry for some breastfeeding moms. An Alaska mom hopes to raise awareness of breastfeeding rights though her Whip it Out campaign. She collected photos of nursing moms and created an exhibit in memory of her son, who died at the age of 14 months. She hopes her collection of photos will encourage moms to be proud of nursing and will educate the public about what nursing looks like.

Some breastfeeding moms use the phrase as well, usually as they share stories of frantic babies and how they were calmed in 1.7 seconds thanks to skilled whippage. Here’s where I fully admit my hypocrisy: This is okay, but still not my favorite way to express how fast a mom got babe to breast. The context of the situation, the authority of the speaker as an actual breastfeeding mom, and the sometimes-comical scenarios we find ourselves in as nursing moms take the bite out of the phrase. A bit.

When breastfeeding moms use whip it out it isn’t wielded to shame, or describe horror, disgust, or exhibitionism. However, I think it’s best to avoid propagating the idea lactating women are thoughtlessly crude show-offs with zero regard for other people’s sensibilities. When Teddy is hungry, he’s my #1 concern. I’m not whipping anything out but my smile. Or my brain, if it’s in the middle of the night and I was just dreaming about toffee scones.

Snap.

What do you think? Are you a whipper? I still puffy-heart my pals who admit to whip. I’m a popper, as in “I popped the baby on…”

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Comments
  • comment avatar Amber Johnson August 2, 2011

    I’ve always been very pro-breastfeeding in public but with discretion. We don’t need to be relegated to dirty bathroom stalls to do it but also realize that even though you are providing important sustenance to your baby, “whipping it out” in a very revealing way makes most people in our society uncomfortable. Let’s be discreet so baby can eat.

    Gee, I think I just coined a new catch phrase in the anti-whipping camp. :)

  • comment avatar Cover it August 2, 2011

    Cover them up, it isn’t a porno.

    • comment avatar No porn here August 3, 2011

      Um, no, its not a porno. Its a woman feeding her child. If you think that is pornographic then you have a problem you should probably get some counseling for.

  • comment avatar Jaime Swartzendruber August 2, 2011

    Seriously…what’s all the fuss? This is how our bodies were wonderfully made – what a privilege to supply a life source to our young. It’s just immature that our culture has made a mother’s breasts or breast milk taboo. I admit though, I’ve escaped the scrutiny by seeking out a bathroom stall :(

  • comment avatar Christine H August 2, 2011

    I agree with you totally!

  • comment avatar Andrea G August 2, 2011

    Agreed! I feel some moms feel entitled to do whatever, whenever (change babies on tables, “whip out” wherever, etc) and I feel the baby needs to be taking care of but you can plan ahead (pump and put it in a bottle, breastfeed in the car, etc) and this way you don’t have to offend anyone and keep you little one happy.

  • comment avatar Stacy C August 2, 2011

    I think there are some fanatics, so to speak, that make an issue out of nursing. They put it in peoples faces. And that gives a bad name to the women that simply want to feed their children.

  • comment avatar Jaime August 2, 2011

    I guess I’d have to disagree w/ breastfeeding in the car. I don’t think a baby should have to go hungry just because there isn’t a “proper” place to feed…how about our society try and see this natural process for what it is. That being said – manners do communicate good intentions – I’m all for soft, cozy cover-ups! ~Jaime ;)

  • comment avatar Gretchen White August 2, 2011

    Cover It—You are precisely right. It isn’t a porno.

    But is it ugly, vulgar, gratuitous? Is it shameful and dirty? No. It’s a mother simply feeding her hungry child. I am all for discretion and modesty, but when people who hate public breastfeeding moan about moms who “whip out a boob,” they are making something normal and sweet into something ugly.

    It’s possible to argue for modest breastfeeding without invoking porn or accusing women of being exhibitionists.

    As far as breastfeeding in a car goes, do you know how hot it is outside? Inside a car it’s even more sweltering. Nobody should have to eat in a hot or cold car. Also, not every woman can pump and not every baby will take a bottle. My 11-month-old will not drink out of a bottle. He simply won’t.

    • comment avatar jenni August 2, 2011

      “Cover it” has hit the nail on the head. Our society is so sick that it cannot separate breasts from pornos. Makes me so angry, I have to end this comment here. Thank you again, Gretchen.

  • comment avatar Susan August 2, 2011

    Anyone who has breastfed their baby knows there is nothing sexual about it. It is a need and you are fulfilling it for your baby. The goal is not to show it off for everyone in range, it’s apart of motherhood. It’s a bond and an activity that doesn’t last long and should be cherished. I do think society just isn’t there with being comfortable with nursing moms in public. To help win over the anti-breastfeeders and calm their “whipping” fears down, discreet is best. The cover-ups, although sweltering in the summer, are perfect for chilling the whipping fears.

  • comment avatar Jennifer August 2, 2011

    Breastmilk is best and from the natural breast. For anyone disturbed by a baby feeding in public: “mind your manners and stop staring. Focus on your own business.” There are all kinds of people in this world. Some are thin and some are fat, some have one tatoo and some have a lot, some bathe and some do not. Also, think about a bottle and a pacifier – it’s a fake nipple and can be offensive to look at.

  • comment avatar JoAnn August 2, 2011

    My breastfed daughter would NOT eat with a blanket on her head. Oddly enough, she still doesn’t. I never did either, nor do I now. Silly me, on picnics, we sit ON TOP OF the blanket.

    So…I wasn’t in the camp that could “just use a blanket to cover that up.” If anything, all the screaming that would ensue would just make matters worse!

    I did, however, find some awesome nursing shirts that made it look like she was just sleeping while being cradled in my arms. Awww, isn’t that sweet? How long has she been asleep. Uh…she’s not? ;)

    “Skilled whippage.” I LOVE that phrase, because you used it in a way that didn’t give me a scar on my chin to match yours. I got really good at going from non-feeding to feeding mode without anyone being the wiser.

    I’ve found that people’s “outrage” does more to describe them than what they’re witnessing.

  • comment avatar Megan at SortaCrunchy August 2, 2011

    Brilliantly spoken, Gretchen. Every single time I’ve grimaced at that phrase, all of this has been rumbling under the surface, but I never would have been able to say it with such precision.

    I’m definitely a “popper” … or, I suppose I should say I WAS a popper. I feel much more comfortable with that phrasing for the very reasons you’ve outlined here.

  • comment avatar Erika August 2, 2011

    Jenni said it best. Plus, What has become of our society when so many of our gender oppose the sight of a boob in the name of feeding a baby? Really, ladies? Boobs have an important job to do that has nothing to do with sex or being freaky in public. When women try to make breastfeeding offensive or sexual, it hurts us all. My job isn’t to appeal to a stranger’s insecurity with the human body. My job (and my right) is to provide the best possible nourishment for my baby. There is nothing to be ashamed of!

  • comment avatar Rebekah from Simply Rebekah August 3, 2011

    Amen! I hate that term!! Trust me, when my breasts are full of milk and ready to nurse, I’m not whipping them anywhere!!

  • comment avatar Amy August 3, 2011

    Nursing is just feeding a baby in the way that the baby was meant to eat. Nothing sexual about it. I’m no exhibitionist, but I nurse in public without shame. Hiding nursing carries an implication that it is in some way shameful or repugnant. Not the message that I want to send to MY daughter, and (quite frankly) your daughters and sons, too. Large amounts of taxpayer dollars go to healthcare costs for infants who are fed formula, but I don’t see any formula fed babies being whisked away into a dark corner, bathroom, or car to be fed (or to feed themselves with a propped bottle). How about we highlight the healthier choice for our children instead of try and hide it like some dirty secret?

  • comment avatar Angie Scheribel January 24, 2012

    Our culture is so backwards. You can have women with cleavage out and about and on your TV screen, but if a woman is actually feeding her baby, it’s totally inappropriate. I had my first child in Mexico and there was such support there for raising and feeding your kid. I never felt self-conscious about breastfeeding. One of my biggest concerns about having my 2nd baby in the U.S. was how difficult I thought it would be to breastfeed in public. But the truth is, it hasn’t been that bad. I do use a cover when in public, and often, I try not to breastfeed around men, because it feels uncomfortable to me. But everyone should be allowed to breastfeed in public how they see fit and not be scrutinized for it. I think if we could treat it as natural, instead of disgusting, in our society, people would just not even think twice about it. For instance, my 8 year old son sees me breastfeed his little sister all the time. I hope that when he is older, he can think that breastfeeding is no big deal.

  • comment avatar Jenny G August 3, 2013

    Little late to the party here…

    As a woman I don’t mind if other women breastfeed in public places. It’s good for the baby & good for the mom too as it reduces the chance of breast cancer & helps to burn off that baby weight ;).

    But let’s face it, most of us women still believe in a level of modesty. I don’t mind if you use a cover or a nursing shirt/dress, I don’t even care if I can see the top 1/2 of your boob. I would see that in a skimpy top anyway. But I don’t want to see the full boob, aereola & nipple included. I have a set of my own, I don’t need to see yours. The same way I wouldn’t want to see your butt cheeks hanging out of some short shorts or a guys “package” in too tight clothing (or full on out peeing in public). If I wouldn’t want to see somebody else’s body parts when they AREN’T breastfeeding why would I want to see them just because they are breastfeeding?

    Let’s encourage ladies to breastfeed, but show a level of modesty & respect for the rest of us. It only takes 2 seconds for the sight of somebody else’s naked body parts (be they boobs or not) and it’s burned into your brain for the next 15 min whether you “look away and mind your business” or not.

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