"Can't you just bottle feed your baby your breast milk when you're in public?"

Without fail, when the topic of nursing in public comes up,  someone will ask something like, “Well, can’t you just pump your breast milk and put it in a bottle when you’re in public?”  Generally, since this topic is so fiery, the response is something like, “Why should I?”

Now, while, “Why should I?” is a perfectly valid emotional response, it does absolutely nothing to help people see our side.

The “Why should I?” response perpetuates the idea that we’re just trying to not conform for the sake of not conforming. Or that every milky mama is a lactivist eager to take up arms to fight “the good fight.”  We see the question as an insult instead of an opportunity to communicate and educate.

The truth is, we COULD pump and then bottle feed, but we don’t want to.  Our reasons for not wanting to though, remain severely under discussed.

So, while women’s reasons may differ slightly, here were many of mine…

Dear Everyone Who Has Ever Asked Me That Question,

Yes, I could bottle feed my expressed breast milk when I am in public, but I choose not to. I choose not to because:

  • Pumping hurts me, I basically hate it.
  • Nursing is easier.
  • Bottles run the risk of being contaminated with spoiled milk traces, bacteria, yeast, soap residue, etc.
  • Most bottles expose the baby to even more plastics.
  • Keeping breast milk set for a bottle isn’t as simple as grabbing some powdered formula. Think about it?
  • My diaper bag is way too full already.
  • Good breast pumps and their supplies are expensive. I don’t like to waste money.
  • My child gets much more gas and colic from a bottle. There are no pockets of air in my boobs.
  • My child gets irritated and confused from a bottle because the sucking mechanism is so different.
  • If I sit right, I get two free hands when I nurse. I get a maximum of one free hand when I bottle feed.
  • I make milk at the right time of day to suit my child’s physiological needs at that time of day. To give my child the right milk, I would have to plan ahead and throw off the schedule.
  • Pumping makes me feel gross.
  • When I pump, I don’t get as much milk, and rarely get the hind milk my baby needs.
  • My boobs keep the milk at the right temperature.
  • No nutrients have a chance to change and no important enzymes get a chance to die off if I nurse directly.
  • My milk will change to reflect new antibodies/defenses that get passed on to my child at exactly the right time interval for when my baby was exposed to an illness when we stick together and nurse directly.
  • When I am in public, my baby often gets overstimulated and nursing keeps my baby quiet and comfortable.
  •  Nursing relaxes me too. It increases oxytocin and lowers my blood pressure. When I’m calm, the baby stays calm.
  • If I am not calm, and my baby cries, my milk will “let down” anyway. Meaning, milk will start to be released. So, while my baby cries because he would prefer to nurse than drink from a bottle, my boobs ache and leak milk. So, then, instead of seeing nothing, but having to live with the awareness that I am breastfeeding and enjoying no baby crying, you’d have to see two wet marks on my shirt, my child having a crying fit and me stressing out.
I suppose I could just never go out. I could stay at home every minute of my life since I am the one who is choosing to breastfeed. But hey, why should I, right?  😉


Me, (when I was a breastfeeding mom.)

Did you nurse in public? Can you add to the list?  What real reasons did you have to explain why you did not want to bottle feed your child expressed breast milk?



  1. Heather

    And you forgot “My baby absolutely refuses to feed from a bottle. Would you prefer my child goes hungry just because you’re uncomfortable with the way she chooses to eat?”

    I nursed in public whenever and wherever my baby was hungry. In fact, my best memory was sitting in a coffee shop nursing my 6 month old and an old man came up to me, stroked her head and told me about how much he missed watching his wife nurse their babies.

  2. Courtney

    I nuresd wherever and whenever my children were hungry. I also never covered up. Mychildren were born in summer and I felt it was too hot to cover at first and as they got older my oldest would luck it off so u gave up. My first experience NIP was at a fast food restaurant and these two old ladies were eyeing me up. One started to approach and I immediately thought I was in for it. She actually complimented me and said more women needed to be as courageous as I was. That statement helped me stick it out more than all the support in the world.

  3. Christy

    I’m more comfortable nursing in public this time around with #2 than I was the first time. Sometimes I cover, sometimes I don’t — it depends on where I am, other people’s proximity to me, what people are there (i.e. single guy friends of ours who would be scandalized by seeing their buddy’s wife’s boob, haha). I don’t fault people who choose never to cover, and I don’t fault those who always do either. I haven’t personally been confronted about BFing in public yet, though I have gotten some stink eyes from time to time. I appreciate this list of reasons not to feel pressured to bottle feed in public, in case I ever do get confronted! I hadn’t even thought about some of those factors, since I haven’t done it myself. My baby gets a bottle from time to time if she stays with one of her grandmas when I have to go out, but it is rare. It’s just so nice to have portable, perfectly-warmed, fresh, safe milk available at a moment’s notice — can’t imagine doing it any other way when I don’t have to!

  4. I nurse in public all the time. I rarely get looks. If anything I get looks of approval.

    My baby doesn’t take a bottle from anyone but daycare, and even that was stretching it. But now, at 18 months, she still prefers milk. When she’s determined to have “milkies” nothing else will do. Nursing calms her, prevents a melt-down, and might even put her to sleep.

  5. Kaitlin

    I remember when I first had my daughter that I didn’t think anything about it. I had a cover, so who cared? Then I heard women at church talking about how they felt that most of the congregation was weirded out by them breastfeeding in church, cover or not (wasn’t bc anyone said anything. I think it was just a feeling or something with them). I told them that those people should get over themselves, especially if you have a cover. Later, I noticed how people would look at me in public when I had my cover and the friends who would talk to my husband about how even with a cover I should probably move to a room where no one could see me. I remember learning to ask if anyone had issues with me BFing with my cover and feeling shamed at needing to ask permission. When we asked some close friends what they did when the wife was nursing, they replied that they didn’t go to social functions or anything anymore. I’ve also had friends who pumped and did bottles in public bc they felt weirded out by Bfing in pubic.

    I’ve since gotten over all of that and use my cover and not look around. But in the early days when all of these things were happening and people were talking to my husband and not to me about BFing appropriateness, I remember feeling shunned and unwelcome. It was tough to be sure. Thankfully, my husband kept encouraging me and said that I didn’t have to stay home if I didn’t want to. I also was grateful when people in church said affirming things about breastfeeding and how well I was doing, as so many of the moms were at our church. Maybe it helped that 14 babies were born in one year and most moms were Bfing. If anyone felt weird, I think they quickly learned to get over it =)

    Also, most of the people who’ve given me weird looks are single or younger people, or people who see me when I forget my wedding ring and nursing. I think it’s great that more people are learning about BFing and it’s slowly becoming more ok!

    • Dawn

      That’s the funny thing, covered or not, discreet or not, it doesn’t matter, people still have a problem with it. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. There were times when there was NO CHANCE that anyone could see ANY of my breast. NO CHANCE, and it was still considered indecent by some. PLEASE! That’s insane!

  6. Ana

    Ugh! I haven’t had a comment, yet. I DARE anyone to make a comment about me breastfeeding my 6 mo. old. Bring it on!
    I try to cover, but my son doesn’t like it. I hide under the cover with him and that is amusing to him but he still kicks and swings his arms around to get the cover off. Ha ha! If someone happens to see a boob because my son uncovered us and tell me its inappropriate, I’m gonna respond, “Stop looking at my boob! Its inappropriate to be looking at a married woman’s boob especially when she’s breastfeeding!” “I guess your momma didn’t breasfeed you or taught you any manners!” If people are going to be ignorant and make no sense, then I will turn it on them, not make sense and be ignorant as well. Yeah I’m willing to fight for that cause. : )
    Maybe I’ll carry a copy of this list make some copies and if anyone says anything to me, I’ll hand over the flyer. ha ha!
    I get the most stink eye from relatives, whatever! You breastfeed? Why would you do that? Really? ShouId entertain the uneducated? I’ve considered it, but I’ve already learned that some ignorant people choose to be ignorant.

  7. Amanda

    After breastfeeeding three children, I finally figured out that the worst comments I got were from my husband and his family! If strangers noticed me nursing in public, they never said anything! One of my biggest reasons I would never pump and bottlefeed in public is that then it would cause me to miss a feeding and I my milk supply would suffer. My kids never really wanted to take a bottle from me anyway!

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