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Eloise Weiss for Fatherly

How to Look at the Men Looking at Your Breastfeeding Wife

Because at some point, somewhere, someone will stare.

If we were to make a list of topics about which the American public can be motivated to the point of action, “breastfeeding in public” would probably fall in the top middle. It’d be below “kneeling during the national anthem” and “automatic firearms in schools” but waaaaaay above “collusion with a hostile foreign government” and “electing a president who has empathy.” Here we will pause to let you move to Iceland, which obviously is a fine, fine idea.

Okay, welcome back. Send us some pictures from Jökulsárlón, as all the blue icebergs look amazing. And here’s another cool thing about Iceland: Most people there don’t give a hot merry damn about breastfeeding in public. Actually, in most parts of planet Earth, people don’t give a damn about breastfeeding in public. It’s, surprise surprise, a common and accepted way for babies to eat. Yet in America, it has for years enjoyed status as the inexplicable basis for Facebook groups, actual debates about ethics, and op-eds.

The good news: With each passing day, breastfeeding in public falls further and further away from the realm of anything sort of beginning to approach taboo. The bad news: With each passing day, there are more dudes looking at women breastfeeding in public, which is probably something that you, as a reasonable man, didn’t realize you’d be dealing with. Do a lot of guys stare at breastfeeding women? Probably not. Do some? Yes, yes they do, for a great many reasons that start and end with boobs. (It’s creepy, but not complicated.) Maybe they’re confused, maybe they’re briefly startled — which makes sense, as you don’t see this very much. In any case, as a sleep-deprived new father who exists in a blur of nappies, Diaper Genies, and baby shrieks, you’re not going to be happy with weird dudes leering at your wife for any reason. What we’re saying is, it’s natural to feel the urge to protect. So, here, using precisely no expert research but an awful lot of primal instinct, are some tips for dealing with this absurd situation.

What can I do to prevent this? 

Well, there are the usual methods of blankets and swaddles, all things women have been employing for years to shield others from the realities of baby nourishment. You could act as a human shield, or rotate her away from the field of view, but that means you’re worrying about the situation instead of the baby, which is silly.

Should I call him out? 

Maybe. Look, we’re not going to tell you to sit there and politely demur while some tubby goon ogles your wife, but do remember you’re operating on 29 minutes of sleep a night. There are a number of ways to quietly but forcefully defuse the situation, such as making stern eye contact, standing and walking in his direction, simply ignoring him.

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Should my wife call him out? 

That’s up to her, obviously. Chances are, she’ll be a bit preoccupied. We love this idea, however. If she’s feeling frosty, ask her to try, “Hey man, you hungry?” in a voice that means business. Only if she’s in the mood.

There’s no good way to deal with this, is there?

There’s not. It’s a fucked-up situation in a fucked-up world, and, as a new father, you’re about to encounter roughly nine million of those. You will likely just have to deal with this (hopefully sporadic) nonsense, secure in the knowledge that while all these guys might not be sexless face-tattooed Twitter trolls who haven’t known the touch of a woman in months, they actually probably are. You have a new family to deal with, and, as godawful as this is, you just have to learn to let some bullshit drop. Which, come to think of it, is not a bad way to approach life in general. And anyway, if you think it’s annoying, imagine what women have to deal with on a daily basis.