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Midwife Student Banned From Breastfeeding Class Because He’s Male

Midwife student Chris Butt denied access to breastfeeding classes because he is male

Breastfeeding has been a big deal lately. Debates on public breastfeeding have hit every social media outlet possible, and even celebrities are putting their two cents in. Even with all the encouragement from moms like Pink to pop it out in public, however, there is still apparently a group of women who aren’t so comfortable with nursing in front of others. More specifically, in front of men. A midwifery student from the UK’s Bournemouth University was recently denied access to a breastfeeding class because he is, well, a “he.”

Chris Butt, 30, is a second-year student in the university’s midwife training course and tried to attend breastfeeding classes run by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT). The classes near his university would not admit Butt to the classes, stating that some women are “sensitive” to men being present in the class. Upon completion of his training, Butt will be one of the 20,000 midwives in the UK, only 132 of which are male. Breastfeeding education is crucial, since the Department of Health encourages women to breastfeed, and midwives are often the catalyst to helping women become comfortable and effective at breastfeeding their babies. Britain, however, has “one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world.”

Although Butt has been invited by the NCT to attend more open classes where male partners also attend, the NCT objects to Butt’s presence at the “women-only classes despite the fact that he is a health professional – but said they would have no problem with a female midwife.” In an article for midwives in the magazine of the Royal College of Midwives, Butt criticizes the exclusion:

“I didn’t believe for one minute that I would be turned away from breastfeeding groups. Do the facilitators of such clinics think I practice midwifery in some magical way where I don’t see intimate parts of women’s bodies? Do they think I stand behind a screen as a baby’s head is crowning, shouting out advice on when to breathe?”

Butt is backed by his professors and the head of midwifery at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester where he has delivered five babies on his own as part of his hands-on training.

A spokesman for the NCT said, “He wanted to attend a women-only session, where there were no break-out rooms available if the women attending felt uncomfortable with a male presence.” A breastfeeding counselor in Southampton commented, “Chris has to understand that some women are sensitive to a man’s presence.”

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53 Responses to “Midwife Student Banned From Breastfeeding Class Because He’s Male”

  1. Heather Johnson

    “Chris has to understand that some women are sensitive to a man’s presence.”.

    If these women are uncomfortable, then they can leave. For women to exclude a midwife simply because he is a man is undermining the efforts to make breastfeeding publicly accepted.

  2. Megan Greenlaw

    I wonder if these women would also shun a male doctor, or ob/gyn? Men are professionals in the medical field, too, and I respect that this man is entering a largely female occupation. As for women being uncomfortable, Heather, I agree with you. If women can't stand to have a male medical professional in the room while they nurse, how will they be able to be comfortable breastfeeding their babies? I breastfed both my boys, and whether you like it or not, there will inevitably come a time when they get hungry in public. And you have to deal with it.

  3. Tara Yaws

    You know it can be a little uncomfortable but if you don't make it a big deal it won't be. Also, a male nurse showed me how to breatfeed with Peyton! So there lol:p

  4. Hanna Salas

    The only reason I don't prefer to breastfeed in public is because Joey says there are lots of pervy guys that think its hot. I would assume though that a medical professional is not like that… It's their job and hopefully their not creeps…..

  5. Heather LaCroix

    It is absolutely possible to have children, breast feed them and feed them away from home without a man other than your husband seeing those things that should only be for your husband and I don't think it should be thought of as normal to do otherwise.

  6. William Almond

    You know, I hate to sound like a 'typical' guy, but I have to agree. Breastfeeding isn't a guys territory no matter how you look at it, me are attracted to a woman's breasts, weather they are show sensually or in feeding a child, a man has little control over how they effect him. A male midwife I believe will have much difficulty ignoring many of these things and likely much difficulty finding any real work.

  7. Heather Johnson

    There are also people who find feet and legs hot. But we aren't all going to go around covering ourselves completely. We can't worry about what other people think. I breastfeed my LO in public all the time. When my baby is hungry, I feed her.

    Also, a woman's breasts are not for her husband only. Her breasts are hers. Her breasts are for feeding her babies. Only in America (and other parts of the Western world) have breasts been so sexualized that their anatomical function has been lost.

    But the point of the article is that a student, who just happens to be male, has been barred from getting an education simply because of his gender/sex.

  8. Heather LaCroix

    He was not barred from getting an education. He was barred from this particular class. His personal lack of conviction should not trump their convictions.
    You're right breast aren't just for husbands. I should have said they are only for husbands and babies. But they are not just your own:

    1 Corinthians 7:1-4
    "It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does."

    The west did not sexualize breasts. God created breasts to have that effect on men:

    Proverbs 5:17-19
    "Let them be only your own, And not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe,
    Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love."

    Just because repeated exposure to sin dulls the conscience does not mean the sin stops being a sin.
    Most professions were at one time just done by men but from the beginning midwifery has been done by women. The term is literally "accompanying woman"

  9. Jennifer Kowatch

    A midwife has to make sure that a baby is feeding properly after birth. How is the student going to know what to do if he can't go to class to learn. He should be allowed to attend and if some woman has a problem with it she can leave and come back another time.

  10. Rachel Shelton

    I had a male nurse show me the right way to hold my twins when breast feeding.

  11. Deborah McClain Strole

    Geesh; women who are going to breastfeed better get used to it or don't bother breastfeeding. I learned from my first OBGYN visit that being female, especially when pregnant, forces you to accept the loss of your privacy. If this man is going to be between a womans legs delivering babies he is certainly sensitive enough to be trusted around breastfeeding moms. Grow up!

  12. Angela Little Miller

    This is sexual discrimination to me. The women need to be more mature; do they ban male ob/gyn's from delivery rooms too, since some women might be uncomfortable with another male seeing her vagina? Ridiculous!

  13. Brenda Bowley Nelson

    As usual I now have unanswered questions that would influence my opinion. If this was a class mostly intended for new or expectant mothers to learn how and get comfortable with breastfeeding than I can see their point. If the class was intended to teach both professionals and mothers about breastfeeding than it was discrimination to deny him.

    I did throw the male nurse who showed up when I was frustrated trying to breastfeed for the first time out of my room. But not because I was uncomfortable with him being there, because i had it set in my mind that he couldn't help me do something he couldn't even do.

  14. Brenda Bowley Nelson

    As usual I now have unanswered questions that would influence my opinion. If this was a class mostly intended for new or expectant mothers to learn how and get comfortable with breastfeeding than I can see their point. If the class was intended to teach both professionals and mothers about breastfeeding than it was discrimination to deny him.

    I did throw the male nurse who showed up when I was frustrated trying to breastfeed for the first time out of my room. But not because I was uncomfortable with him being there, because i had it set in my mind that he couldn't help me do something he couldn't even do.

  15. Jackie Collins

    Poor guy. This is unfair. At some point these women will feed in public and need to get over the fact of being sensitive. When your baby is hungry it wants it now.

  16. Jackie Collins

    Poor guy. This is unfair. At some point these women will feed in public and need to get over the fact of being sensitive. When your baby is hungry it wants it now.

  17. Lisa Martin

    You are so right. Are they "sensitive" to a male doctor delivering their baby? He is looking at a more sensitive area than their boobs while delivering!!!. Come on, let the man do his job, and if you have a problem, then leave and come back when a "woman" is there. How crazy!!

  18. Krystal Lee Coniglio-Sanders

    It is just something new, will be outgrown soon. I never cared who was around, neither did my daughter when she was hungry I didn't just flop it out there, I covered up but not everyone is as open to it.

  19. Susan Harrison

    This is absolutely ridiculous (at best)! If women are so gender-sensitive that they don't want a "male" member of the medical community to assist them with breastfeeding then they should also stop seeing male ob/gyns since they "see" body parts as private (or more so) than the breasts. I'm sorry but I don't think having a male do my pelvic exams has any merit over a male helping me breastfeed. Just sayin'…

  20. Heather Perkins

    It's a "women only" class, and they have other classes where both sexes are allowed to participate. I think he choose to go somewhere where he knew he would be excluded just to cause trouble.

  21. Heather Perkins

    It's a "women only" class, and they have other classes where both sexes are allowed to participate. I think he choose to go somewhere where he knew he would be excluded just to cause trouble.

  22. Liza Anderson

    Agreed. So a woman has a problem in a class in front a studying professional but is willing to pull it out in public in front of strangers?

  23. Christi Abdelnour

    If the women are ok witg it who cares bit some wpmen arent and they shouldnt be forced into a situation they arent comfortable with. I think the fact that people need to remember os that theu are trying to make moms comfortable and he wasnt banned from all classes just women only classes so he can still learn what he needs to.

  24. Maybe AB

    I for one don't think breastfeeding in public SHOULD be accepted. I understand that babies get hungry when away from home, BUT there ARE out-of-the-way places a mother can get into privacy to feed her baby. It DOESN'T HAVE to be right out in the open for every male to stare at. I agree with Heather LaCroix– It "should only be for your husband."

  25. Kelly Isherwood

    luv i bet he is more gental than most FEMALE midwives and in an emergency they would want him there the whole i want to breast feed but not get my booobs out is horse poop, grow up and stop making it a subject that is taboo, BREAST IS BEST and men should be more involved and especially the health proffessionals good for him for actually wanting to learn and be good at his job

  26. Kelly Isherwood

    well we have to tollerate stupidity in public as well with mobid obessity, and poor taste, not to mention smoking and public drinking, clearly you were not brought up properly to appreciate the good actions of a parent doing the best thing in the world for their baby< I bet you would be happy to drink red wine in public while eating and smoking and having a good time, in public, I do not agree with you about thoes err what did you call them discreat places you mean DIRTY SOILED TOILETS YOU RANCID PERSON you eat your lunch in there if you dont want to look you eat your meal in a place that smells like Poo and wee mind you probably need tenner lady so probably dont even look at a publc loo what a stupid IGNORANT person you really are I was proud to show any one how beautiful it is to feed natually and was actually proud to speak to young women and to educatw them that the breast is not only a sexual object for the pleasure of men, you narrow minded person GGGRRRRrrrrrrr

  27. Heather Johnson

    Midwife means "with women." It says nothing that the one accompanying the woman must also be a female.

    And only in our day and age and location are breast sexualized. Sexualization is contingent upon time and place and person. If breasts were inherently sexual, then cultures in which women are topless would be over-sexed all the time, but they aren't.

  28. Ann Almond

    I'm gonna referee this, being 57 years old, and having fallen off the turnip truck a few more times than you two Heathers—you both have good points, but I'm awarding the win regarding breasts to Heather Lacroix, due to her excellent citation of ancient primary (Biblical) sources. Also, William's right. I gave birth 3 times, with 3 midwives, and I wouldn't have been interested in a male midwife as long as there are female ones around that I trust in this natural but most intimate act which renders a woman about as vulnerable as one can be… I chose a midwife birth specifically to have a woman assist me. Nix on male midwives!

  29. Ann Almond

    A "Raymond" episode was about men seeing a woman breastfeeding in a restaurant. The men thought it embarassing, and wished she'd go somewhere private. Yet a sexy Playboy picture instantly diverted them to wolf whistles at the voluptuous body on display. It was played for irony, and well-put.

  30. Jennifer Baltzley

    These women just need to get over it…My OBGYN is a male, and if my lactation specialist was a male, my hubby and I would not care either…we just want to make sure I can breastfeed! I mean, my OB touches my breasts when he gives me an exam, not much different with a lactation specialist…They do wear gloves for crying out loud!

  31. Megan Greenlaw

    Yes, hopefully they are not creepers :) I think that, like Heather said, it's totally possible to modestly breastfeed in public. I think it has a lot to do with being comfortable enough to nurse wherever the baby needs to be fed…when you are relaxed, its easier to cover up and just do what needs to be done. When people make a big deal out of it, it becomes a big deal.

  32. Danielle Baker

    @Maybe AB – why should a Mum have to go to an out of the way place to Breastfeed?
    It's YOU with the problem , not breastfeeding mothers.
    Opinions like yours are the reason why so many Mums are put off breastfeeding.
    It's natural , and best for baby.

    You and you're grotesque opinions need to get an education!

  33. Alexander Brewer

    If breast feeding a baby in public makes someone uncomfortable, that's their probably. Most of moms I've seen breast feeding do so very discretely. As for a midwife doesn't make difference if male or female. You want the best person.

  34. Amanda Garside

    I am an IM, I have no personal experience of low risk birth, I failed twice so cant even do it – does that mean I can not support or facilitate it….

  35. Amanda Garside

    Were the women in the class "asked" or is this a blanket response by NCT?

  36. Howard Sprouse

    While this may be sexist to say, men should have no place in the elective healthcare of women, as it just isn't appropriate in my opinion. Public breasttfeeding should also never be condoned, as there are many ways that a woman can descretely breastfeed. I am so glad that these women sent this guy packing, as his presence was inappropriate in an elective setting.

  37. Brenda Bowley Nelson

    I'm not sure what low risk birth has to do with it, this is about breastfeeding. I also don't know what IM stands for so that is probably a big part of why I don't really understand your comment/question.

    You can always support and or facilitate anything, sometimes it is best to do it from a distance though.

  38. Heather Welford

    NCT is a charity and runs breastfeeding support groups and classes for the benefit of its client group. A few mothers prefer privacy, and/or a woman-only group, for whatever reason, and NCT has to be sensitive to this, and not tell them how they should feel. There are several groups where men and women are welcome, and male students would be welcome too.

  39. Megan Greenlaw

    You have a good point, Uncle Alex…I think that, like Will said, men may be attracted to women's bodies, but this article was not arguing that women should walk around completely topless to give their kids free access. The point of the article was that this man, who is a medical professional, was being banned from a class that could greatly increase and benefit his training and knowledge in his preferred career field. So, that being said, I would have to advocate that men be able to learn whatever profession they choose, and that women can breastfeed discretely and modestly in public. If the simple act of feeding a baby in public causes someone to be uncomfortable, then that person should leave. And women should take others into consideration and breastfeed modestly.

  40. Heather Johnson

    How is breastfeeding elective? Breastfeeding is the biological norm for feeding human infants.

  41. Megan Greenlaw

    I agree with Heather…how is breastfeeding "elective," particularly to a man who is in training to help women give birth to babies?!! When my sister had her daughter (at home, with a midwife), the first thing the baby was allowed to do was to snuggle up to my sister and begin nursing…even before the umbilical cord was cut! People seem to be confusing, yet again, the point of this article, which was to demonstrate that this man was not allowed training in his specified career field. He was not even advocating public breastfeeding (which absolutely SHOULD be the norm in our society)…he was merely attempting to learn how to teach women how to do what is the best for their babies. Babies want to nurse immediately after birth, and if the attending midwife can't help a new mom, then their training is absolutely incomplete.

  42. Megan Greenlaw

    Also, just to put it out there for discussion…Why are people so uncomfortable with public breastfeeding when there are pictures of half-naked women plastered all over stores like Victoria's Secret? As a nursing mom, I, for one, am tired of being scorned for discretely feeding my child in public when women (and girls!) walk around half-naked and are not condemned. Also, on a completely different track: If people are allowed to feed their kids fattening, high-sugar, processed foods that are leading to childhood obesity, and no one blinks an eye, then please don't condemn me for feeding my baby the healthiest option there is available to him!

  43. Megan Greenlaw

    Maybe AB, you can absolutely be discreet, but please don't ask me to hole up in a fitting room or dirty public restroom with my infant and two-year-old in tow, and try to nurse. Its uncomfortable for all involved. The mall where we live has a really phenomenal "family break room," with a restroom, changing area, play area for toddlers, and nursing area for moms. They even have a microwave to heat up baby food! If public places are that concerned about public breastfeeding, then there should be more option like this available.

  44. Howard Sprouse

    No one said that breastfeeding was elective, however prenatal care is. We are all entitled to our opinions, and I think and feel that 1.) breastfeeding can be done descretely, and 2.) that it is highly inappopriate for any males to be involved in the intimate healthcare of women, unless life savingly necessary. I know I wouldn't withstand for some strange male gwaking at my wife's most intimate parts, forget about that!

  45. Megan Greenlaw

    I understand where you are coming from…I personally wouldn't want to have a male ob/gyn. I also think that breastfeeding can absolutely be done discreetly, even in public. I once had a man sit next to me at the airport and strike up a conversation with me, not realizing that I was in the middle of nursing my son! I'd say, when someone can sit next to you and not know you're nursing, you're doing a pretty darn good job being discreet. As for this man's training…we'll just agree to disagree. Thanks for posting your opinion, and reading the piece!

  46. Krista McMurchy

    The article said the NCT would allow a female midwife into the class.If it will allow a female midwife it should allow midwives period, whether they are male or female. Perhaps this class can help him learn better ways of dealing with sensitive patients he will encounter in his practice. A woman has breasts to breastfeed, not so that a man can gain sexual arousal or pleasure, that is a byproduct of a natural bodypart. He is attending class as a medical professional, not to stare at women's breasts. I had a male OB for my first, and a female midwife for my second. I was only able to successfully breastfeed my second because of the help and care I received from my midwife. not because she waa a woman, but because of her training. it is more important for a male midwife to receive training as he will never get to rely on personal experience.

    And as for those who don't approve of public breastfeeding, why are you looking? I dont have my breast out for you to stare at, I'm feeding my child, please show some manners. And if you think I should cover up, you try eating your next meal with a blanket over your head and tell me how comfortable it is :)

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