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Lactivism - SmartMom

Lactivism: Here’s the Bottom Line

Photo from the Normalize Breastfeeding IG feed  

On a recent play-date at the zoo, amidst bare-chested chimpanzees and matronly wallabies with their joeys, the exhibit I couldn’t tear my eyes away from was a buxom woman, bare breast exposed, nursing her child on a very public bench. Given the setting, it seemed oddly natural—mother nature in action. But nonetheless, it was disconcerting to see a naked boob on display with so many curious children around, mine included. “Must be one of those lactivists,” my friend observed.

Those what? I’d heard of feminism, Darwinism, even utopianism, but lactivism was novel to me. What the heck is lactivism anyway? Basically, it is the advocacy of breastfeeding over formula feeding. Lactivism is a contemporary movement striving to ensure that nursing mothers are not discriminated against in public places. Lactivists believe a woman has the right to breastfeed her child anytime, anywhere, in any way she sees fit.

Is That Legal?

Federal law states that a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a Federal building or on Federal property, if they are authorized to be present. Currently in the U.S., 45 states have laws allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location (check your state’s laws here). That means it is discriminatory to deny a nursing mother full and equal enjoyment to goods, services, and facilities just because she is breastfeeding. The good news: if you are breastfeeding, the law is basically on your side.

Chick-Fil-A, party of 20

In 2013, a Knoxville, Tennessee Chick-Fil-A employee asked a nursing mom to stop. Soon after, a group of outraged lactivists staged a “nurse-in,” fashioned after a civil rights sit-in, except there were bosoms involved. Around 20 women entered the family restaurant and proceeded to breastfeed their children amongst diners trying to enjoy their meals. It was an effort to educate society about the state law, which allows women to breastfeed anywhere, public or private. It undoubtedly caused some indigestion.

Some call it breastfeeding brouhaha, others call it 100% justified, but lactivism has brought the fight for breastfeeding awareness into, literally, the public eye.

The Shocking Truth

Lactivism, like all great “isms,” is based on a righteous desire: to enable women to comfortably breastfeed wherever they may be. It’s what our bodies were made to do. Where lactivism catches a snag, is when it becomes self-righteous, with promoters denouncing formula feeders and feigning superiority over those who don’t, or cannot breastfeed. The shocking truth: formula fed babies turn out to be smart, beautiful, and talented children too.

The Bottom Line: 

When it does work, breastfeeding is beautiful. I’ve been able to breastfeed each of my three children, and to make breastfeeding successful, I’ve had to use my handy nursing cover plenty of times at the library, at church, even at amusement parks. Long gone are the days of my mother, when women locked themselves away in a room to breastfeed.

But can we meet somewhere in the middle? Bare boobs on public benches aren’t necessary. There are so many wonderful cover-up products out there that make it quite convenient to breastfeed your baby while maintaining privacy and appeasing other’s comfort as well. People today are much more accepting to public breastfeeding when it’s done tactfully.

Breastfeeding is one of the miracles of the female body. It doesn’t work for everyone, and those women shouldn’t feel guilty, or ostracized from other breastfeeders. The way you feed your child should not be an “us” and “them” issue. Instead, we should focus more on being the loving, caring mothers our children deserve.


Some moms can’t produce enough to even have this problem – here is some information on milk sharing.



Hi ladies, I have a question. What do you think about breastfeeding in public?

Breastfeeding in public… opinions? Suggestions?

“Hello moms! What tips do you all have for breastfeeding in public? I love feeding my dd but not sure how to go about doing so in public? By the way she is only 9 days old if that makes a difference.”

It really makes me mad when women get kicked out of public places for breastfeeding in public. We use covers and it’s a natural thing that shouldn’t be looked down on & people that get mad about BFing in public need to grow up a little.

Tips on breastfeeding the LO in public?

Public Breastfeeding Rant- having a debate w my mom on it is hysterical. She is so against a woman just whipping it out to feed. I’m on team whip it out and who gives a sh**. I’m done w having to be insecure about having a baby. How can a woman breastfeeding her child in public be offensive but the Victoria secret models breast blown up and plastered on the side of a store not be. And why do I have to cover up to feed my baby in public but a woman spilling out of a low cut top doesn’t have to?

Why does Breastfeeding in public have to be so taboo?! I hate not being confident enough to just do it. I even got myself a cute cover and everything but just find myself rushing home to feed my son.

“Hi Mommas! Have a couple of questions.

1) what do you all use to replace your coffee habits/cravings? I’m breastfeeding so have decreased my coffee intake, but miss my coffee. I miss the whole ritual. Had a Chai Tea Latte today, was pretty good!

2) where do breastfeeding moms duck out while breastfeeding in public? I’m pretty modest and sometimes have a tough time finding places.”

I went to Walmart yesterday with my 2 month old and he would not stop crying near the end and I couldn’t get anything done! It was because he was hungry but I’m breastfeeding and it’s hard to find a place to nurse him in public. Any advice on how to make it easier?

Was there always such a fuss over breastfeeding in public or do I just notice it now as a first time mom?


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Breast Pumping at Work

I didn’t set out to become an exclusive pumper. I knew I would have to pump once I rejoined the workforce following my maternity leave, of course, but that seemed ages away. I had visions of my baby and I blissfully breastfeeding together, and fantasies of a freezer packed to the brim with bags of extra milk. Everything was going to be perfect.

The reality check came shortly after my son was born.

After a week of frustration and midnight crying marathons, it became clear that life had other plans. He wouldn’t latch and my supply was dismal. A breast reduction in 2005 had left so much scar tissue that my body simply couldn’t produce enough milk, but I was determined to give him everything I could, and my relationship with my pump began far sooner than I had originally planned.  Breast pumping at work was my only option. 

Because of my operation, I need a really aggressive pump in order to fully empty my supply. I ended up renting a Mirena Symphony, the same medical grade pump I used while I was recovering in the hospital. It’s pretty much the Rolls Royce of breast pumps, and it does a great job, but it does come with a few downsides.

On my first day back at work, I packed up my car with everything I needed and set my pump in its thick plastic case on the passenger seat next to me. I buckled myself in, started the engine as usual, and was surprised to hear the car start to ding. I got out and double-checked my doors. All firmly latched. I got back into the car and buckled in again, making sure I clicked the belt in securely, but the alarm was still sounding. I looked at my dashboard and realized the problem: the pump was so heavy that it was tripping the seat belt alarm! That’s when the reality started to set in. Every day, I was going to have to haul this pump, which apparently weighed as much as a small child, back and forth to work.

This was going to be a long, long year.

When I got to work, I headed for my boss’s office to talk to her about pumping.  I was knocking things off counters and accidentally whacked a few of my coworkers on the way as I tried to maneuver around with my heavy bags.

I work at an animal hospital, where pumping options are pretty limited. My boss told me I could choose between an exam room (which doesn’t have locks and isn’t really the most private space) or a completely private, lockable shower stall. I opted for the exam room. I would have rather pumped in the lobby in front of the whole staff and all our clients than resort to pumping in a bathroom. (Which, by the way, is not a legally acceptable place for an employer to make you pump. However, I was told a shower stall “didn’t really count” as a bathroom. Crazy, right?)

For a month and a half now, I’ve been lugging that thing with me every day and sneaking off every three hours or so to pump, and I’m going to be honest here: it’s a huge pain in the tuckus. My back is about to give out from carrying all my pumping accoutrements, my coworkers get irritated at me having to duck out all the time, and there’s just something inherently weird about hanging out at work with your boobs out, even if nobody can see you. But I’ll tell you something else: knowing my son is getting every precious drop I produce and reaping the countless benefits from nature’s perfect baby food makes it all worth it in the end.


Another SmartMom had a more embarrassing story regarding breast pumping at work – check it out.

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SmartMom: pumping in secret

Pumping in Secret: One Working Mom’s Embarrassing Story

Photo by Sydney Everett

Being a working mom comes with a variety of challenges. One of the most difficult is figuring out how to keep your baby fed and happy while you’re at work. My first baby was supplemented with formula, but when my second baby came along, I decided I would try to pump at work. But I ended up pumping in secret.

Being an elementary school teacher, there were not many opportunities for me to slip away from my students to pump.  For weeks I suffered through embarrassing leaks and uncomfortable engorgement. My husband told me I just needed to talk to my principal about the situation, tell him I’m breastfeeding and that I need time to pump. To which I always replied, “No way! I can’t say the word breast in front of my principal! I’ll figure it out on my own!”

Thankfully there were a few other teachers who took their classes out to recess at the same time I did who were kind enough to offer to watch my class while I took care of business.

At first I attempted pumping in the faculty bathroom… but it didn’t take long for me to realize it was not the ideal location. For one thing, there was nowhere to sit other than the toilet, which, besides being uncomfortable, didn’t seem like the most sanitary place to pump. Also, it turns out the echoing acoustics of a public restroom didn’t exactly provide the discrete, private atmosphere I was hoping for. When it was brought to my attention that anyone within 100 yards of me could hear the ironic “mooing” sound of my electric pump resonating down the hall, I quickly moved my pumping sessions to the comfort of my classroom. It was quiet, secluded, and relaxing…and it worked for me.

Until one fateful day there was an incident out on the playground with one of my students. Let’s call him Bobby, for all intents and purposes. It was my job to prevent these kinds of situations from happening. My principal went from mildly upset to foaming at the mouth when he confronted Bobby, “What did Mrs. Younker have to say about your behavior on the playground?”

Bobby replied innocently, “Mrs. Younker wasn’t out at recess. I haven’t seen her at recess for weeks.”

With steam coming out of his ears, the principal marched down the hall to my classroom, fully prepared to give me a piece of his mind. When he came to my door he was surprised to find it was locked. Without even thinking of the various reasons WHY it might be locked, he whipped out his master key…

Up until that moment I had been sitting at my desk, hooked up to my machine like a cow in a dairy farm. Suddenly, I heard the door rattling, as if someone was struggling to get it open. Frantically, I yanked my shirt down, ignoring the streams of white milk now cascading down my torso. In one fell swoop I leaped up from my chair and shoved myself as far away from the pump as possible.

Just then the principal bounded into the room. “There was a problem with Bobby on the playground.” He said, each word dripping heavily with accusation.

“Oh no.” My voice caught in my throat as I asked, “What happened?” Just then, I looked down and realized that although I had managed to pull my shirt down, my bra was still twisted and bunched around my neck. I could feel heat rushing to my face as I casually crossed my arms over my chest, hoping to hide the damage.

“Do you want to explain to me why you weren’t there? Why you haven’t been out to recess in weeks? “

“Well….” I stammered, “I … uh…”

“It is your responsibility to be out on the playground with your kids every day.”

“I know… I just…” At that moment I realized I had to choose between complete and utter embarrassment, or my job reputation.

“I had to pump!” I blurted out.

At first he looked confused. Then, for the first time since he barged in, he took a good look around the room. His eyes fixed on the bottles of milk sitting visibly on my desk. His face turned a deep shade of red as realization dawned on him.

There we stood, the very definition of awkward, shuffling our feet back and forth waiting in agony for the other person to say something. Finally, he turned to me, careful to keep his gaze at eye level, and said, “Yeah… uh…we need to find a time and place for you to do that.”

And with that he turned and left… and avoided me for the rest of the week.

Let this be a lesson to you ladies. Don’t be afraid to talk to your employer about your needs as a new mother. Turns out, they are required to give you time to pump– It’s the law. Don’t worry, you are probably not the first person in the world to bring up the subject, and it is far easier to have a slightly uncomfortable conversation now than it is to have an extremely uncomfortable conversation later. Trust me.

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