Breastfeeding shamers, you're on notice: When an Indiana mom discovered that a stranger had posted a photo of her breastfeeding to social media—along with some harsh commentary—she responded in a big way, writing a no-holds-barred open letter that's since gone viral worldwide.
Last Wednesday, Conner Kendall was nursing her 4-month-old son in a TGI Fridays in Terre Haute, Indiana, when a stranger secretly snapped a photo and posted it to Facebook and Instagram. "I went [sic] to know if this is appropriate or inappropriate, I'm trying to eat my Fridays and there are little kids around," the poster wrote. "I understand feeding in public but could you at least cover your boob up?!"
Kendall learned about it through a woman in her local moms' Facebook group, she told People: "She screenshotted his post and posted it on our group page saying, 'How could someone post this…so disrespectful to take a picture.' I saw the picture on the group page later that day as I was scrolling through and noticed it was at TGI Fridays and looking closer, I realized it was me!"
"Many of the comments that followed were nothing less than harassing and shameful to, not only me, but every past, present, and future nursing mother," Kendall wrote in a public Facebook post.
Kendall reached out to the unidentified man in a private message ("He responded with a very short and, what seemed to me, a very insincere apology in a private message," she wrote) and shared the letter in her Facebook post. "While I in no way, shape, or form owe you any explanation I would like to clarify a few things," she wrote. "I did nothing wrong, I turned away to latch my son and pulled my shirt back up when he was finished out of respect for others in the restaurant. I do not use a cover, because my son fights them, screams, and doesn't eat at all while under them. If he had been screaming because he was hungry then I would be a bad mom for not feeding my hungry child. I did not pump before leaving home, A-because my son does not like to take a bottle and B-because it is my right to feed him any way I see fit wherever I see fit."
She added: "I get that you felt uncomfortable looking at my breasts. Here is a novel idea, don't look at them."
As any mom who has had to nurse a baby on a frozen bench in a playground in the middle of January knows, breastfeeding is exactly 0% about exposing your breasts. It is 100% about feeding your baby.
I've personally breastfed on airplanes, in restaurants, in parks and playgrounds, at my older child's kindergarten orientation, and in front of my dad, brother, and most of my male friends. I'm no exhibitionist, but I've never used a nursing cover. In my experience nursing exposes far, far less of your body than you would show at the beach or even in a spaghetti-strap tank top on a hot summer day. (I've given my babies bottles of formula in public too, and frankly, if you don't want to watch a baby eat, breastfeeding is actually way more unobtrusive.)
Many mothers do feel more comfortable using a cover or going somewhere private to nurse, and it's great when malls, amusement parks, and other public places offer a dedicated clean, quiet space for nursing and other baby care needs (like the well-equipped Baby Care Centers at Disney parks).
But let's get real: Breastfeeding is a normal, non-shameful part of everyday life. It shouldn't be pushed into dark corners (as Kendall wrote: "I will feed my child in the bathroom when every adult eats their meal in there as well") or treated like something disgusting. Even the Pope agrees! In fact, Indiana law says Kendall can breastfeed anywhere the law allows her to be.
All the shamers and haters out there could take a lesson from Kendall: "We need to educate ourselves, society, and our children on the fact that breasts are not made to sell lingerie, food, clothes, electronics, and just about everything else out there," she wrote. "We were given them to feed our babies, that's it."