Breastfeeding and Bathrooms Do Not Mix

May 24th, 2010 by Dionna | 24 Comments
Posted in Breastfeeding/Lactivism, Compassionate Advocacy, Feed with Love and Respect, Healthy Living, natural parenting

  • Email This Post

Every time you flush your toilet, an aerosol spray of water droplets – laden with bits of feces and urine – explodes into the bathroom.

An environmental microbiologist who studied the phenomenon said that close-up photographs of these bacterial and viral heavy projectiles look like “Baghdad [did] at night during a U.S. air attack.” “[S]ignificant quantities of microbes float[] around the bathroom for at least two hours after each flush.” 1

In a public bathroom, that means the air is continuously blasted by feces droplets.

What’s more? Women’s public restrooms contain twice as much fecal matter as men’s, probably due to the fact that there is the added contamination of soiled tampons and pads, and women are more likely to be dragging in “small children[] and babies in need of a change.” 2

And how did that microbiologist measure the fecal fall-out? By placing gauze pads on the floors of bathrooms and then recording what he found.

If it lands on a gauze pad, it will land on your toothbrush. It will land on the sink. It will land on you.

It will also land on the breast of the mother and the lips of the baby that you just asked to breastfeed in the bathroom. 3

That’s not just gross, it is dangerous. “Food-borne pathogens[, including those found in fecal matter,] cause 6.5 million cases of gastroenteritis and 9,000 deaths per year.” 4

Bathrooms are no place for breastfeeding mothers and babies.

In fact, almost every state in the United States has enacted a law to protect a mother’s right to nurse her child anywhere, whether that is in her home or in the booth across the restaurant. 5

So if you happen to see a mother nursing her child in a restaurant, smile and go back to your salad.

Photo credit: mexikids

  1. The Straight Dope, “Does flushing the toilet cause dirty water to be spewed around the bathroom?
  2. The Straight Dope
  3. This post was sparked by an article recently published by a Better Homes & Gardens writer. The “commandment” that “thou shalt breastfeed in the bathroom” has since been removed (with an apology from the BH&G editorial staff).
  4. The Straight Dope
  5. National Conference of State Legislatures, “Breastfeeding State Laws

24 Responses to:
"Breastfeeding and Bathrooms Do Not Mix"

  1. Judy @ MommyNewsBlog   MommyNews

    This is a fantastic article! Thank you so much for posting it! I am going to post a version of it on my blog and will link back here. This is critical information which anyone who thinks breastfeeding in the bathroom should read!! Thank you so much

  2. Lynda   lynda

    I always find it absolutely absurd when someone mentions women should nurse in the bathroom. I’ve caught some offguard by asking them how much they would enjoy eating in a public restroom or their own bathroom for that matter. Many times they realize just how idiotic their suggestion is and start backstepping. Some people just won’t get it though.

  3. Marcy   mightymarce

    So, so true… This is a gross but very important reminder of just how filthy bathrooms are. Babies have no business trying to eat there!

  4. I had to pump in a bathroom before and after that I swore I’d never do it again. I couldn’t shake the feeling of how gross it seemed. Also, people want to send nursing mothers to restrooms for “privacy” but in most public restrooms there is no privacy unless you go into a stall. I’m sure if we all resorted to nursing in the bathroom there would be some outcry of how we need to do it in a stall or how we’re taking up a stall when someone really needs to use it. It’s truly mindboggling when you think about it.

  5. Rebecca

    In the “too little too late” column, the apology and retraction that was posted by the BHG editors. The article no longer includes the reference to breastfeeding in the bathroom. Which is good. It does not change the fact that each and every suggestion on the list was written in a patronizing and insulting manner, even the ones that otherwise would have been good advice.

  6. Carol @ LactivistLeanings   lactivistleans

    Thank you for sharing this link! I’ve bookmarked it to refer back to. =)

    I’ve nursed in a bathroom before because it was better for my kiddo. She was at that distractable stage and the bathroom was “quieter” than the dining area and closer than my car. *rueful face* Had I been aware of (or even thinking of, I knew about the concept back then and conveniently didn’t connect the dots) the aerosolization discussed in your article I never would have gone that direction and would have headed to the car even though it was the least convenient of my options as I defined them.

  7. Keeshia   keeshiabarker

    Very good article. People do not realize how filthy a bathroom really is. And anyone who says you should go anywhere but where you are comfortable being to breastfeed should be given a 2 strips of duct tape: 1 to cover their mouth and 1 to cover their eyes if they don’t like it.

  8. Melodie   bfmom

    That’s disgusting. Makes a person think twice about eating anything in a bathroom. Even at home. Yuck!

  9. Jenn   kissmykitty

    Wonderful article. I breastfed both of my children (my daughter for ten months and my son for fourteen ones) and I never once nursed in a bathroom. I breastfed in public AND private. Wherever I was, my babies nursed, end of discussion.

    With that said, bathrooms truly are filthy, and are no place for babies!

    P.S. I retweeted!

  10. Marilyn (A Lot of Loves)   ALotofLoves

    That is a horrifying image. Yuck. Yuck! I didn’t breastfeed either one of my kids in a washroom and after reading this I’m so glad I didn’t.

  11. Joanna

    Hi Dionna,

    We totally understand your concerns about this blog post and we are sorry it was published. You and your readers are absolutely right–this was inappropriate in its entirety (not just the section referring to breastfeeding) and we have issued an apology:

    We’re so sorry we offended you and thank you for helping educate us about this issue.


    Joanna Linberg
    Assistant Editor
    Better Homes and Gardens

  12. Angela

    Was thrilled to see this article! I had to wait about 7 hours during a job orientation recently to get the chance to pump, then was directed to a bathroom where I had to sit on the floor near a filthy toilet. After about 10 minutes, they were yelling through the door “Are you almost done?’ NEVER AGAIN! So glad someone is recognizing this is totally inappropriate as well as disgusting.

  13. Sarah @ OneStarryNight   onestarrynight

    You know how much I adore you and your family!

    You took the words out of my mouth.

    Going to make sure to stumble/share on FB/RT/everything possible!

  14. Great post!

    As for Better Homes and Gardens, their apology reminds me of a line from Erin Brokovich. “Do they teach beauty queens how to apologize? Because you suck at it.” Being sorry that you printed a discriminatory article which resulted in unwanted backlash isn’t the same as apologizing for being offensive in the first place. I would ask how they plan to support breastfeeding mothers in the future.

  15. Colin Wee   superparents_au

    Now you’ve got me thinking of how best to flush the toilet to reduce the aerosol spray! Maybe closing the lid? Or how about throwing a wad of paper in before you flush? I wonder if he studied how courtesy flushes work to reduce airborne emissions! Gross. Colin

  16. You ROCK for posting this, and glad that BH&G acknowledged your awesome article, even though it doesn’t fix the first offense!

  17. Wow, this is fascinating! Thanks so much for posting this. My eighteen-year-old-daughter has been telling me this for a long time and refuses to keep her toothbrush in the bathroom. OK, now I believe her. :)

  18. katepickle   katepickle

    at least they have had the guts to apologise… Still, no one in their right mind would eat in a toilet, studies or no studies.. it is just common sense and another example of how society doesn’t value children as ‘real people’ with rights.

    Thanks for getting this out there

  19. This is disgusting, and alarming. I was already wary of public restrooms, but will be even more so now! Not to mention my own! You like to think you keep them well-cleaned, but not as much as you think!

  20. Corrie Kolbe   newwife777

    I had forgotten all about that germs in the air issue! Derrrrrr. And I REALLY appreciate the link to the Breastfeeding state laws. I had been meaning to look that up for quite a while, and kept forgetting. So you not only reminded me, you made it SUPER easy. Am I the only one seriously tempted to print that list of states and laws and take with me where I go that I might be nursing?!?!

    Thanks so much!!

  21. Stephanie   stephsday

    Agreed! Bathrooms are for…you know…going to the bathroom. Not eating.

  22. michelle   TheParentVortex

    Wow – this makes me want to jump up and clean my bathroom at home. I’ve never had to breastfeed in a bathroom, but now I’m totally icked out by the idea of my toothbrush sitting there on the counter.

  23. Tina

    When I went back to work my daughter was 3 months old. I was going to pump for my first year back at work. When I asked where I should pump, I was told the nurse’s bathroom….which is quite small mind you. I was so skeeved. Not only did they expect me to walk through the sickest room in the building, but to pump in the bathroom kids go in because they can’t be trusted in the regular bathroom. Fortunately, I never had to do this. I positioned my file cabinets in the back of the classroom and pumped behind them with my door locked. It wasn’t easy, and there were many other bumps in the road when I did it again for my son, but I would have pumped in my car if I had to.

    As far as nursing in public, I once held a conversation with my cousin in law and when he went to kiss me good bye, then kiss the baby’s head he realized quite surprisingly that I was nursing my daughter the WHOLE time. :)

  • Grab my new badge!

    Visit Code Name: Mama

  • Visit Natural Parents Network
  • Display & participate!

    Visit Code Name: Mama

  • Carnival of Weaning

    Carnival of Weaning