The Non-Expert

Breastfeeding a la Carte

Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week we dive into that testy political swamp where culinary and maternal matters mix juices: When is breastfeeding (in)appropriate in restaurants?

Have a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is updated on Fridays, and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.


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Question: Can we all agree that breastfeeding in restaurants is gross? WTF these women at brunch who bust out the tittie when i’m eating. But of course it’s not totally PC to tell them to hump their tit back in the bra and put the kid on formula, right? —MJ

Answer: You are quite lucky my mother isn’t returning my calls right now. She would cuss you up one wall and knock you in the noggin when you came down.

Avoiding that: No, we cannot agree on such a thing. ‘Gross’ is the waiter delivering your gazpacho with buttery smears of human feces on his hands and forearms. ‘Gross’ is your date sneezing big gloppy carbonaras of snot into the breadbasket. ‘Gross’ is having olestra-induced anal leakage during a five-course tasting menu and sitting rigidly for hours in a cooling puddle of your own liquid stool.

Breastfeeding, however, is not actually gross. Biologically essentialist? Sure! A reminder of the quick sprint from the cradle to the grave? Of course!

That being said: Breastfeeding should not take place in just any restaurant. We are pleased to present an exciting new formula, which uses actual mathematics to quantify the socially-acceptable whens and wheres of public breastfeeding.

This marvelous formula, patent pending:

(C + A)(V + S)

Let’s define these variables for the nursing mother:

C = The cost in U.S. dollars of steak frites at the restaurant

Are we talking about the Olive Garden or Da Silvano? French Laundry or Orange Julius? ‘Restaurant’ is a very big word, as the New York Times’s critic Amanda Hesser will remind us in thousands of her own expensive and incredibly fraught words. It means different things to different people—which is why I no longer eat with my family. Therefore, we must find a variable to represent the quality of the restaurant under global, objective terms. The principle here is that a restaurant where steak frites costs zero dollars (because it has none) is probably not appropriate for breastfeeding, though a restaurant charging more than 30 dollars is also inappropriate. (It is acceptable, barely, if the dish is not identified by its French name.)

A = The child’s age in months

The age of the person-thing being breastfed is a concern. Obviously, a six-month-old infant may have a more pressing feeding need than an 18-monther. Here we enter the tricky, judicially-inspired terminology of ‘community standards’—in some communities, a fetus is a person, and may require a good suckle. Of course, much like breastfeeding a fetus would be grotesque, even more so might be the public suckling of a teenager. Age matters.

V = A ‘hot-or-not’ rating of the breast’s voluptuousness

Exposed in a room of businessmen clutching starched napkins, a proud breast the pale shade of Tilda Swinton’s arms can stop all discussion. Men have an untoward devotion to breasts, those quirky Darwinian phantasms. How they became so sexualized is a question best left to rabid teen feminists; to what extent they are appealing to the ‘average man’ is much more important. (We will ban lactation fetishists from our sample.) Rate your breast on this scale: 10 points for grotesque or surgically-altered in unpleasant fashion; 20 points for ‘eh’ breast, or a breast otherwise unappealing due to Debra Messing-esque smallness, or other real or imagined semi-deformity; 30 points for happy fun bosoms.

S = The amount of slurping the child makes during feeding

Public breastfeeding should be nearly silent. While a diner is happily encountering, say, the Savoy’s fantastic octopus appetizer, the soundtrack of an encephalopod-like milk-frenzy is not necessarily a super addition. Please rate your baby’s teat-adherence similarly to the voluptuousness scale: 10 points for ultra-squelchy piggishly loud Veruca Salt-type babies; 20 points for ‘some sucking noise’; 30 for babies who feed as if they were posing in stained glass with the Virgin Mary.

M = The presence of men between the ages of 15 and 32

Many think a man becomes more tolerant as he ages. Close—but really, as a man ages, he simply becomes more complacent. He cares less, and he cares less to rouse himself about what he might actually still care about; the old boarhogs of the world are degraded by long association with their own kind. In the testosterone years from mid-teen to early-30s, however, a man will butt his head against anything simply because his horns itch. The greater the number of such men present, the more likely you will hear comments about ‘bringing those funbags over here, baby.’

Q = The number of obviously gay waiters

The presence of a herd (in anthropological parlance, a ‘clutch’) of gay waiters means that you, clearly, are in a gay restaurant, and no one gives a damn if you breastfeed. Sure they’ll roll their eyes, but yell out, ‘Take a picture, ladies,’ and the gays will cackle and go back to ‘dishing the dirt,’ as their people say. A complete absence of gay waiters, however, means you are in a stuffy sort of place (perhaps the Friars Club?), and should proceed with caution. (Or, you’re at a lesbian separatist potluck commune meeting place, perhaps, in which case we imagine you have bigger issues to worry about.) The number of obviously gay waiters will be subtracted from the number of straight male diners.

Again, our formula:

(C + A)(V + S)

Answer Key

TOTAL = Any Negative Number: You’re good to go! Feed away!
TOTAL = Greater than 1 but less than 30: Yo lady! Spare us your unsightly milktubes!
TOTAL = Greater than 30: Go on, sister woman sister! Rock those puppies out!

Please note: If you actually did this math to figure out if you should breastfeed in public, you are repressing some serious patriarchal shit. The only cure: you need to go on a multi-state de-balling spree. Our recommended program of treatment: kick a man in the nutsack every day for a month.

Update: After advice from math experts, the formula has been changed:

New formula