Going in from the top

by Janelle Hanchett

I don’t usually talk about current mayhem, but this one’s been killing me lately. I had to write something.

Going in from the top.

What am I talking about? Nursing. Public nursing.

Oh yeah. You know it. There are two ways to get to the boob:

1. Pull up your shirt.

  • Advantages: Shirt covers top part of boob. Baby’s head covers bottom part of boob. People don’t see much of anything at all.
  • Disadvantages: Bra must be removed, unclipped. Muffin-top exposure. Belly hanging out. Stretch-marks. Possibly drafty and cold. Potential ass-crack visibility.

2. Go in from the top. (Pull your boob out the top of your shirt and let the kid nurse.)

  • Advantages: No belly fat or ass crack showing. Quick. Easy. Bra can stay in place (just pull the boob out of the bra and pop it back in when you’re done).
  • Disadvantages: People see the top of your boob and this may make them afraid, uncomfortable, sexually frustrated, confused, appalled, disgusted and/or livid. You may end up on national news.

We’ll get back to this in a moment. But first, background.

I read about that professor who brought her sick baby to class and then – wait for it – nursed that baby while giving a lecture. And now, of course, it’s national news. Everybody keeps saying the “real” question is “why is she bringing a sick baby to work with her,” but let’s get real for one minute, please….

If she had bottle-fed her baby during that lecture, would we all be hearing about it?

Probably fucking not.

So the issue is that a grown woman decided to bring her baby to work so she didn’t miss the first lecture of the semester. Whatever, lady. Your call on that one.

(However, don’t you know that one of the beauties of having kids is that you get to get out of work when they’re sick? Whatever. That’s not the point.)

And during that class, the kid got hungry or restless or whatever, so she nursed her. And evidently, some dim-witted fucktard in the class crafted the following tweet: “Sex, gender, and culture professor, total feminist, walks in with her baby, midway through class breast feeding time #wtf”

And now, everybody’s talking about it. Because it’s newsworthy. Because feeding a baby while doing your job is newsworthy.

Because 40 college students can’t handle the image of a woman feeding her child?

NEWSFLASH, college kids: WOMEN HAVE BREASTS. Breasts serve the biological purpose of feeding a woman’s offspring. Oddly, their sole purpose is not to fascinate the senses and turn people on.

And now, kindly, remove your head from your ass and grow the hell up.

Is it that? Or is it that this society tells me that breast is best, but then dictates to me how and where and under what circumstances I may engage in this good, wholesome, nourishing act it allegedly supports…?

You should breastfeed, but not at work.

You should breastfeed, but only with a blanket.

You should breastfeed, but not in a way that exposes too much skin or (GASP) the nipple.

You should breastfeed, but privately, discretely, quietly…don’t draw attention to that womanly shit…it’s wonderful, but nobody wants to see it.

In other words, breastfeed, but do so in a way that doesn’t offend the sexually frustrated Puritan misogynists.

Yeah. I said it.

And I meant it.

You want to use a blanket? More power to you. You want to wrestle a 9-month old into one of those tent things? More power to you. You want to walk 15 minutes or 2 minutes to sit in a “quiet room” or car to nurse your baby, so nobody sees you? That is all good. I’m serious. If a woman has personal preferences of modesty, I hold that in the highest regard and respect that completely. Every woman has the choice to breastfeed how she feels comfortable.

And I happen to feel comfortable with my tits out.

Kidding. Sort of.

So don’t tell me, America, land of the fucking free, how I should be doing it. Don’t beam your lights of derision on me – calling me a slut, an exhibitionist, a radical rabid feminist – because I go in from the top, because I don’t mind 2 inches of breast flesh being shown to the world. (It’s okay in Playboy or Hustler or People or Victoria’s Secret, but not in public for life-sustaining purposes! NOT THERE!! It’s indecent! It’s wrong! Cover yourselves ladies!!!).

Check this out. I don’t give a rat’s ass if it makes you uncomfortable.

It’s how I enjoy nursing my baby. It’s what feels best to me.

And no, I will not use a blanket if I don’t feel like it.

No, I will not walk to a private hallway.

No, I will not feed my baby in a damn bathroom.

I will not accommodate your archaic arbitrary demands. You also once told me I couldn’t vote, and my life would probably be best spent pregnant at home serving my man – so forgive me, America, if my trust in you is a bit, um, unstable.

Am I making a production of my breastfeeding?

Yep. Abso-fucking-lutely.

Why? Because it’s time.

Because the assault on women has been going on for years, and it’s only through “bad behavior” that anything, ever, changes.

Does seeing the top of my breast make you feel funny inside? Ah, honey. I’m sorry. But don’t worry about it, cause after you’ve seen it 50 or 200 or 1 million times, you’ll be okay with it. You’ll grow accustomed, I promise. Or maybe your kids will.

Until then, you’ll find me going in from the top, wherever the hell I feel like it, giving a milky “screw you” to your searing eyes and hateful gaze.

Trusting that someday, it won’t be national news.


oh my god. BOOB FLESH!!!!

[For the sake of accuracy, I’m not breastfeeding anymore, since Georgie weaned herself a few months ago, but I wrote this post in the present tense because I still feel like a breastfeeding mama, and it’s how I’ve breastfed all 3 of my kids…so it’s very “present” to me, still.]

  • Marisa

    This is so me!!! I am from the top gal, for the exact reasons you listed.

    I found your blog from an article we were both commenting on, a women who was at a pumpkin patch or something and was breast feeeding, and was asked to leave. Maybe it was about a year ago?

    • renegademama

      Yes, Marisa! That’s it! I was so irritated by that article. Can you imagine? I remember your comments as well! Who knew it would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship? 🙂 (well, online at least.)

      So glad you’re here.

      • Marisa

        Who knew! 🙂 We would be buddies in real life too, but I’m thankful for your blog at the very least.

      • Kelli May

        I have just spent the last hour reading your blog and I am so relieved and happy you are out there for my reading pleasure. And YES sister!! Thank you for your honesty, wit and nailing it all on the head. My husband and I have been laughing our asses off!

  • Claire

    Totally laughing about muffin top and ass crack exposure part. So true. I go in from the top too most times (although I should say went in…) Thanks for writing this piece – love love it!

  • Penny

    It kills me that we live in a country where every one is so adamant about free speech, guns, religion, blah, blah, blah, to the detriment of others around us, but breast feeding in public is some how taboo. Who’s it hurting?

    Really are people that dumb? A movie degrading Muslims is exercising free speech but nursing in public continues to be looked down upon?

    I say flaunt ‘um while you got ‘um ladies…. one day you might not have a pair. Speaking from the owner “faux boobs.”

    And yes… I went there. 8)

    • Marisa

      You are so right!

  • Bridget

    This is my favorite blog post of all time. I had twins — twice. There is no way to discretely nurse two babies at the same time. Guess what? I never cared.

    Thanks for being awesome.

    • renegademama

      Thank you, Bridget!

      Wait. You had twins TWICE?!?!

      I need to take a minute to let that sink in…

      and you nursed them? No. Thank YOU for being awesome.

  • Jack

    I wish I had you at my side today at the godawful shopping mall to sit next to me and tell people to fuck off if they gave me shit, so I wouldn’t have had to squat in the bookstore and pretend to be interested in the motorcycle repair section while trying to feed my five-month-old rather than use the big comfy bookstore chairs and risk having to deal with people because people terrify me. Maybe just a little “don’t be a dick” sign I could prop up next to us.

  • Kathleen

    Just found you recently, so short-time listener, first-time caller, but had to write in to say FUCK YEAH! Thanks for writing what I’m thinking.

  • Julia

    It’s just a boob, for crying out loud. And we have to see man boobies all the time out jogging with their shirts off. If man nipples are okay then women’s should be too. I personally was a very modest hide in the restaurant booth, car, or corner of the room nurser. Not so much because of my breasts but I leaked milk like a water balloon with a pin hole. It was messy and a little dangerous if your eyes were open. I think THE REAL PROBLEM is that she’s a woman professor. If a man had brought his sick baby to work they’d all be “aww, what an amazing dad and provider” but a woman – “ahem, who does that you know what think she is trying to balance it all, she should be a mom or be a professional, but preferably just a mom.”

  • Becky

    I pull my shirts up, down, to the side. Whatever way it takes to get the thing out. No one’s ever said anything. Vaguely sucks, because I’ve got some comments I’d like to make back! 😉

  • Vicki

    Absolutely LOVE this post, Janelle! I actually love ALL your posts. But I have to say that that picture is one of the sweetest, most beautiful pictures I’ve ever seen. =) Makes me wish I hadn’t been so camera shy and modest when I nursed my kiddos. Thanks for sharing!

  • Jessica

    Love this post. And that picture *heart melts*!

  • Merry Welker-Tolla

    Goin’ in from the top over here in MA! I’M not letting the Boston winter breezes blow up my shirt! But for reals, I haven’t gotten any shit for nursing my 2 1/2 year old…which surprises me. I recently asked my midwife here for suggestions on how to wean this kid. Her answer: “I have NO idea. I nursed my kids until they were 4 and wanted to stop”. 😀

  • Leslie

    Once again..,AMEN. This is quite a timely post for me with a newborn, venturing on another round of breastfeeding. I went in from the top today, and had a similar top vs bottom debate with myself (usually, it depends on the shirt I’m wearing). This time around I’m caring much less about how much skin people see and what they think about it. There’s no time or energy to waste worrying about that when there’s a crying mouth to feed. But I need posts like this sometimes to keep me feeling confident about it. So thanks!

  • Mama Keeps Going

    I’m a pull up the shirt type, but I’m in awe of my younger from the top sisters. I’ve nursed five of my own kids, and done guest appearances for my best friend’s kid and a grandchild once or twice. I’ve nursed at biker functions, in church, at Renaissance faires, in my classroom at school (and my junior high students got used to it), in front of my principal (who didn’t realize the baby was nursing), in front of my nurse-a-phobic asshole brother-in-law (who didn’t realize I was nursing), and just about anywhere else you could imagine. I’ve nursed in the 80s, in the 90s, and the five-year-old just weaned this year. My favorite picture of nursing my youngest was taken at the wedding of my oldest daughter (kiddo #3). Nursing is the best thing ever, for a gazillon reasons…the world just has to figure out that breasts aren’t just for selling beer.

  • Kristi'smomma

    The only time anyone ever told me breast feeding my baby in a public setting was inappropriate was in the nursery at CHURCH!!!!! A NURSEry! Where else should it be done????? Hello every church person. My baby was 6 months old, only other people in the nursery were women, and I was acting inappropriately???? OH God forgive me for feeding the baby with the breasts you gave me.
    I wish I had the courage then to sit smack dab in the middle of the service, pull out the boob and let baby fill-er-up!. Screw the nursery, it doesn’t work, OUT OF SERVICE HA!

  • Jessica

    Yay! Amen. I agree with every word.

  • Leah

    The alternative top the from the top/bottom options is just naked. Nursing twins simultaneously was a full bodied affair that required bra off, breasts out, and a freakishly huge boppy the size of a couch cushion that clipped on! I did always lament the fact that I was robbed the chance of mortifying asshat judgers by doing it in public. But those babies had a two year old brother… I didn’t leave the house for a year.

  • Megan

    It’s sad to me that our society is offended by any part of the breast being exposed during nursing but encourages total total exposure ie Girls Gone Wild for sexual gratification (of other’s mind you not, the woman being exposed). Not to mention the side, top, everything but the nipple that is regularly exposed in magazines and everyday fashion. I nursed where ever the hell I wanted for two years but dealt with a lot of bull shit for it. One time a waitress even yelled at me, ha!

  • Kelly

    The breastfeeding tank has spared me both the muffin top and the upper boob exposure… No more hooter hider (hate that wrestling match too)! Here’s to whipping it out wherever, and the occasional nipple flash! And really, a woman was asked to leave a pumpkin patch?! I wonder where that was… I think here in Northern CA, we could put a place like that out of business with a little help prom the mothers clubs.

    • Marisa

      I think it was somewhere in the Sacramento area?

  • Amy

    So, while I’m all for whipping out whatever and wherever you’re comfortable with, I would have been less than impressed if one of my professors back in the day had brought a sick baby to class whether or not it needed to be fed. I’m trying to picture one of them giving a lecture and putting diagrams or whatever on the board with a baby in tow and actually making a good job of it and I just can’t see it. I suppose it could have some value in an anthropology class such as she was apparently teaching, but then it still seems unfair to do to a sick kid.

    • Cass

      I would suggest that a breastfeeding professor would still be more capable than a substitute (they generally are) or cancelling the class so the professor can stay home. (I don’t think leaving the baby with co-workers for an hour, or pumping are fair options as a sick baby needs a mum…).

  • Kate Hoggins

    at the risk of sounding like a stalker I lovelovelove your posts. they are just boobs! and babies! jeesh! mine was a late self-weaner, oh the remarks when your 4 yo asks for titmilk while pulling up your shirt. at the store, in the library, at grandpa’s, anywhere. that’s enTITlement.

  • Melissa

    You rock! Nursing at the zoo yesterday and thought I was on exhibit. Thanks for writing this out.

  • Mom of 5

    There is something really wrong with these people when the sight of a boob scares them! but seriously…. it’s okay for movie stars to pose on the cover of people with nothing but a leaf covering their vagina and it’s all good!! It makes me so mad. I was another self conscious breast feeding mom. I would hide out in changing rooms or go to the car because I just didn’t have enough courage at the time. My babies are all finished with boobies for now, but if I could do it over, I would have gone in from the top! It would have been very liberating. 🙂

  • Renee'

    Amem Sister!!! It is about time someone spoke the truth! Thanks for doing it…..

  • Shan

    Love you!

    PS How did weaning go? Fynnie is currently nursing like your typical 6-9 month old.

  • Shan

    I should clarify, she nurses like the average 6-9 month old with a strong, clear preference for which side she wants first, and with the ability to say, after draining said side, “That one doesn’t work. Let’s try that one.”

  • Marisa

    Amen! And if it makes you feel better, over here on the Southern tip of Africa, the public has just as much issue with women using their breasts as nature intended. Weeeeell except of course if you’re a part of the poorer people – then it’s fine. But if you’re middle class you’re above that shit see. Makes absolutely no sense to me.

  • Tara

    I love this post! I typically try to stay pretty covered when I nurse in public, but hearing about all the stupid people that take issue with it makes me want to just nurse as publicly and obviously as possible. My littlest one weaned herself a few months ago, and this post totally makes me want to have another baby so I can go do some public nursing, lol.

  • amy

    As I nursed my son, sitting on a bench in a mall in Burlington, NC, I had the pleasure of watching a man walk into a pillar because he was giving me the stinkeye so hard. Still makes me laugh. Dumbass.

  • Tina

    I love you, please marry me!
    Although, to be honest, I don’t think I ever had a bad comment about breast-feeding in public. People here in Austria seem to be mostly ok with it. You do get the occasional baffled look, but noone ever actually confronted me. A lot of people actually gave me a big smile when I was breast-feeding both my kids in public.
    I remember going to England with my 4-week-old baby though, and getting so many people looking completely shocked. Actually, the fact that I had my baby in a moby wrap was already seen as extravagant.
    I only found out later, that at the time, it was actually illegal in England(WTF!!!!!) to nurse in public! No seriously, the law has only been changed a few years ago. I broke the law. For feeding my hungry new-born. Guilty.

  • RuthiePants

    Wow, I just found this blog by searching for Devil msakes Three lyrics. This post is ripped straight from my diary, I swear! 🙂 I’m so glad I randomly looked up the lyrics to one of MY fave DM3 songs. You’re awesome.

  • Josey

    I love this post SO FREAKING MUCH. I use option #1 when I have a cami underneath my shirt (no muffin top exposure – yay!), but #2 when I don’t – because it’s EASIER and FASTER and it keeps the baby happy. Awesome.

  • Jess

    Just started reading your blog about two hours ago – and still going strong. I love everything you say – and this post is amazing (muffin-top = reason I go from the top – boob over gut!). I live in Canada and people are way uptight about it here too – get this – my pediatrician has a sign that asks mother’s not to breastfeed in the waiting room. At a pediatrician’s office! *sigh* I can’t believe how uptight people can be about the breast.

  • Cass

    New fan to your blog.

    How did I miss this news story? I am in Australia and was at home with a 3month old baby… you know how isolating that feels. I emailed by boss and said “can I bring my baby to work?”… he said “I am so glad you contacted me as I am going away tomorrow and need a sub”.

    I took my baby and taught a class. I composed several eloquent speeches to my 16yo students but instead blurted out something like “this is my baby, I will feed her if I have to”. I simply expected my male students to be mature enough to avert their gaze, and as for my female students I wasn’t concerned.

    Sure enough I was sitting beside a female student helping her decipher a problem with her work when my daughter become restless and needed a feed… I said to the student “I am going to feed her, is that okay with you” (not asking for her permission to feed, just checking my proximity didn’t make her uncomfortable”. Then I fed her.

    No fuss. The students new I expected maturity out of them and they behaved maturely.

    • Cass


  • Mary

    Oh wow I just discovered your blog and have spent the last two hours peeing myself laughing and ignoring the rest of the household except for occasionally attempting to translate bits into italian to explain to my partner why I am peeing myself laughing. With varying degrees of success.

    I am definitely for over the top, as is the girl who refuses to have all that *stuff* between her and my face anyway. And I breastfeed anywhere, without a crumb of shame, not because I want to make any kind of point or wind people up but just for the reason you said, sooner or later they’ll get used to it and not think it’s something to be hidden from view. And just today, at lunch with a big group of friends, I was over the moon to see that for maybe the first time nobody broke off speaking to me and turned ‘politely’ away when my 16 month old climbed up and dug her hand down her top to pull a boob out. And I reckon it only took 10 times or so, not even 50, and maybe they were struggling inside and really wishing they could turn away but at least if they realise that that would have been way ruder than anything we were doing it’s progress, right?

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