A man’s advice for breastfeeding brides and bridesmaids
I’m a man. A fairly young one who’s unmarried and has no children.
This means I am a) totally ill-qualified to give advice to mothers, and b) of the demographic most likely to find public breastfeeding “totally freakin’ gross!”. This is why writers like me should never throw their voices into the ring of motherhood topics. So I’m going to do just that.
Weddings are the perfect melting pot for debates on breastfeeding etiquette. For several reasons:
- A wedding is usually a massive mix of genders, ages and backgrounds
- Everyone’s dolled up and putting their best face forward (and sometimes judging others)
- There’s often lots of new mothers around
- It’s a very long day
- As the reception wears on, sober thoughts can become tipsy words
So allow me to give you a male’s-eye-view of the topic. First we’ll discuss the social breastfeeding etiquette, then I’ll bestow some practical advice I’ve gathered from my female friends.
Why women shouldn’t worry about making men uncomfortable
Most men can deal with breastfeeding, even if it makes us a tad uncomfortable. But there’s always those guys who’ll react to a woman breastfeeding in a café as though she’d just moonwalked over and puked on their bacon butty. So let’s just prefix this by saying I can’t speak for all men.
Also, as I understand it, not many women breastfeed with the entire process on show to a room full of wedding guests. Many choose to bottle feed for the day (if possible), or just retreat to a quiet corner or their car or something. That’s fine if that’s genuinely their preference. But it’s kind of sad if they feel pressured to because they think men will be offended.
(As for women, I can’t really speculate. I’m sure there are plenty of women who also act weird around breastfeeding, but I can only give a male perspective.)
So let’s just cut to the big question.
Why do some men act weird around breastfeeding?
Quite simply, male brains struggle to separate nudity and sexuality in the way female brains can. This is largely because most guys have, from the age of about 12, been on an endless quest to see boobs.
And when we say boobs, we mean nipples. Cleavage, side-boob and under-boob attract the male gaze, sure, but it’s only nipples that fully trigger an ‘exposed-boob alert’ in most males’ brains.
Sorry – it’s just how the male sexual psyche works
This is why breastfeeding can elicit an odd response. When it sets off an exposed-boob alert in our brains, our conscious minds have to remind us that breastfeeding is a non-sexual, biological act. That conflict can send our brains utterly haywire. (It kind of makes us feel like perverts.)
This isn’t the way for all men, but it certainly is for a lot of us.
Even then, some guys can deal with public breastfeeding effortlessly (I’ve always thought of myself as being in this category). Other guys, not so much. But either way – and this is a key point – if we men find breastfeeding weirds us out, that’s very much our problem. So if you’re a breastfeeding mother going to a wedding soon, don’t sweat it.
PDAs and breastfeeding – there’s no comparison
A friend of mine says breastfeeding causes awkwardness in the same way public displays of affection (PDAs) do. And that even if you put all the psychosexual stuff aside, breastfeeding is just too intimate an act to be acceptable in public.
Yeah, I get it. PDAs can be quite off-putting, especially if a couple are having a long, sloppy kiss right in front of you. But I think my friend is missing a key difference between the two actions – PDAs aren’t necessary, breastfeeding is. And finding a private spot to feed your baby when you’re out and about just isn’t possible sometimes.
So again, if guys choose to classify breastfeeding as a form of PDA and wince at it, that’s their problem.
Breastfeeding on a wedding day
Firstly, I’ll give you a full list of all the breastfeeding wisdom I’ve accrued over my 30 years on this earth:
- Erm…don’t drop the baby?
And now I’ll give you some advice I got from women who’ve actually been there, done it and got the puke-stained dress.
Be aware of how limited your dress choices will be
Strapless nursing bras aren’t a thing, so that pretty much rules out a strapless dress. Although you can still get away with one in winter by wearing a bolero over the top.
Speak to the venue ahead of time
They might have a specific room or area they can make available for you if you want some privacy.
Practice feeding in your dress
If it’s a straightforward dress to get up and down you might not have to. But if it’s a bit of a palaver, do a practice run before the day.
Brides – don’t let traditions and superstitions make it harder for you
On the morning of the wedding, if it would make things easier having your groom around to help with baby duties, do it. The only reason not to is that naff old tradition of the groom not seeing the bride before the wedding.
Bridesmaids – talk to the bride about it
In an ideal world, you wouldn’t have to, but you’ve got to be realistic. There’ll be people there you don’t know and if the bride thinks some people could kick up a fuss, that’s a problem – no matter how justified they may or may not be.
Make feeding the last thing you do before the ceremony
This gives you the best possible chance of a happy baby or, even better, a sleeping baby.
Take plenty of muslins with you
To guard against a disastrous coming together of baby sick and wedding dress. You might want to also take a spare cardigan or bolero.
Tell us your thoughts
We’ve deliberately made this a fairly off-the-cuff article from a man who knows next to nothing about the practicalities of motherhood. Hopefully that makes it insightful. But it also means there’ll be lots of room for extra advice and opinions.
So don’t hold back – unleash your wisdom in the comments section.
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