Friday, September 9, 2011


date: Tue, Sep 6, 2011 at 1:12 PM
subject: star article and seating on GO

Hi Ms. Smith
I read about you and your GO commuting blog in today's Toronto Star.

I'm so glad you've taken such an initiative to speak about courtesy and general getting along in the closed, confined spaces of public transit.

My daily GO commuting days are long behind me as I now work near my home, but I was reminded of a situation I experienced when my children were small and I was home on maternity leave with my youngest.

We were a one-car family then and I had made arrangements to have my daughter, who was still breastfeeding, visit a specialist in downtown Toronto. I decided to take her and my toddler on the GO train from Whitby. I think it was just outside Eglinton that our train was delayed. We sat waiting for signals for more than 15 minutes. I did not plan that I would have to breastfeed on the train as I anticipated a smooth ride.

Another 15 minutes go by and I decide that due to her fussing, I have to feed her. I was in a 4-seater (two seats facing each other) by myself, along with my 2 year old who had fallen asleep. There were others on the train but almost all were zoned out either reading or listening to music.

Discreetly I latched my daughter and turned my attention to look out the window. The train started to move again and when we stopped at Danforth, this woman got on and sat in the quad next to mine. She proceeded to stare at me while I continued to breastfeed. Then she would look away, shake her head and make a tsk-tsk sound.

This upset me so I removed my daughter from my breast which resulted in her beginning to wail. I woke up my son, gathered our things and told the woman, myself almost in tears, that I was sorry if me feeding my baby was so disgusting to her and I went to the bathroom. The small ones that are like closets. I managed to get myself and my son in there and I sat on the toilet and resumed breastfeeding.

I had never felt more humiliated. Believe me, I didn't want to breastfeed my daughter on the train but I was also attempting to be low key about it. The washroom wasn't my first choice and it was a horrible experience trying to breastfeed in there. I also hadn't started pumping yet so having a bottle available wasn't an option.

I just would like for you to publish my letter so as to remind others to not be so quick to judge. There's rude behaviour, sure, but breastfeeding is neither rude or disgusting. Let mothers feed their babies. If it bothers you, change seats.

Melissa G.


C.J. Smith said...

Hi Melissa
I didn't breastfeed my daughter so I was spared from these situations but a baby needs to eat. Period.

Because I didn't breastfeed there's a mental disconnect for me when I am in a situation, such as with friends who are new moms, where when they breastfeed in front of me, I have trouble taking in what I'm seeing as I view it as an incredibly intimate affair.

I guess the feelings I experience are similar to if someone just started french kissing their husband in front of me. I don't know where to look.

But that's my problem and I deal with it.

This woman you encountered did not have any right to make you feel you had to accommodate her beliefs and force you into hiding.

You are a mother - you roar back. The end.

lswgirl13 said...

*DISCLAIMER* I'm a mom but I didn't breastfeed, no desire to even try.
Anways, that woman was incredibly rude especially adding to your stress travelling with a baby and a toddler. And to venture into the train washroom with all those germs, how horrible!
That said, I have no problem with breastfeeding in public as long as it's done discreetly. I constantly see women at the mall sitting on a bench or food court and whipping out their boob for all the world to see, no receiving blanket, no nothing. I have a relative with a 6 month old and at every single family function (lots this summer) out it comes, she'll sit there for what seems like forever without the baby even latched on and as such, it's now become the hot "family dicussion" topic. Okay, bring on the haters.

Al said...

Prior to being a Dad, (my son is only 15 mths now) I would have been a litle disturbed (or jealous) by seeing it done in public, but I am assuming you were doing this maybe 10 years ago?

There was a much different attitude then but still, I don't think that was right. It's not like it is a convenient thing to do at the best of times and even the disability toilets are not an acceptable place.

I think it would be a little more accepted now but if anything that B*$%& should not have sat down when she first boarded.

I am surprised it was a woman who gave you the attitude. Stupid Cow.

I still catch myself sometimes with my sisters in law, they do it at my inlaws and of course when you walk in a room and then see the baby lying on thier laps, you look at the bay, thrn I realize what they are doing and I have to turn away, it still a shock but once I realize what they are doing they are entitled to thier privacy, you usually only see a bit of skin I seen more reveal in bikinis.

Besides (being a pig) who doesn't like a good gun show once in a while.

Squiggles said...

I wonder how long ago this actually happened. Today, attitudes are very different than, say, 10 years ago. I believe it is more accepted now.

But definitely this is the other woman's issue and if she was uncomfortable about it, she should have either quite looking or change cars.

This is just my totally uneducation opinion, not from having children, but by reading about other incidents such as this in newspapers and the reader's comments.

Anonymous said...

North American society is so disturbed by seeing breasts and nudity. I find it ridiculous. Obviously I am not implying that we should go around with our tits hanging out BUT people really need to get over it and let women breast feed in peace.

lswgirl13 said...

Breastfeeding is a natural thing that women have been doing for centuries so it should have always been acceptable but yes, people tend to feel uncomfortable about it.
Then again, women can go topless in this Province and I would find it TOTALLY unacceptable if I saw a woman walk down Bay Street today topless. I'm guessing Al would have no problem though! ;-)

Al said...

Equal rights baby!!!

Apparently 2 weeks ago before the topless march in the Beaches (thats right I said Beaches) there was a lady walking up bay street topless. According to the shout outs in T-o-night. But I missed that one.

Zoia said...

I'm not a mother, but I know I wouldn't go into a tiny little bathroom on the GO and feed my baby. I mean, really now. I don't take my meals to the toilet, and I wouldn't make an infant do so. Of course a little discretion is always good, but no one's forcing anyone to look. I feel bad that a woman would make another woman feel so terrible for feeding her child. I'd like to see the day when that happens to me. I won't hesitate to let them know that my baby's not going hungry because some jerk has a staring problem and an attitude.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I were in a restaurant one day with our infant who was breastfeeding. Some donkey came up to her and suggested she may want to take it to the washroom as not everyone wants to see it. I was preparing for a cat fight ;-) My wife's non-chalant response: "I really don't like the way you were chewing your food...Can you please go and eat in the washrooom, not everyone wants to see that!" The donkey turned and ran away with her tail between her legs!! My wife rocks!!!

Melissa said...

This incident happened in August of 2005.
I wish I was as witty as your wife as the last place I wanted to be was in a bathroom of a commuter train.
Thank you for all your words of encouragement and support!

RonNasty said...

I don't have a problem with this, but if I we're stuck on a stuck train for god knows how long and given the choice between listing to a screaming baby or a mother feeding and comforting her child, the choice is obvious.

Anonymous said...

"Breastfeeding is a natural thing"

So is taking a crap, but we don't do that in public, do we.

I don't see why it's a problem to bring a small blanket along to retain some modesty while feeding the child.