3 Heroic Moms Taking on Public Breastfeeding Shamers

These activists join the growing chorus of nursing moms who want the world to accept a simple idea: Feeding their children in public is natural—and can even be powerful.

Military Mother Breastfeeding Child Vanessa A. Simmons/Candid Perspective Photography
The Artist

Mom and photographer Vanessa Simmons, founder of the website Normalize Breastfeeding, tours the country taking striking shots of breastfeeding moms. As her project gained popularity, her site has turned into a “hub” that connects nursing moms around the world with local support. “Unity among mothers is necessary for breastfeeding shame to end,” she says.

The Warrior Poet

The first time spoken-word artist Hollie McNish nursed in public, a stranger told her she should have stayed home; she retreated to the stalls for the next six months. While on a toilet seat, feeding her baby, she started writing a poem titled “Embarrassed.” Its final words:

"So no more will I sit on these cold toilet lids
No matter how embarrassed I feel as she sips
Cos in this country of billboards covered in tits
I think we should try to get used to this."

“Embarrassed” inspired friend and filmmaker Jake Dypka to collaborate with McNish on a short film about her experience, and it’s been viewed nearly 10 million times on Independent Films’ Facebook page. And chances are that’s 10 million people who will think twice about giving side-eye to a mother who’s nursing her baby in public.

 

The Case-Maker

After several women in Kimberly Seals Allers’s life questioned her decision to breastfeed, the journalist researched what was behind that attitude. She says women are “woefully unaware of the commercial influences, social structures, and ways of thinking that set them up to fail before they even begin.” Her book, The Big Letdown: How Medicine, Big Business, and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding, throws a spotlight on the problems behind nursing—and offers a blueprint for how to correct some of them.