my breastfeeding coworker won’t stop talking about her boobs

A reader writes:

I work in a clinic setting. Eighteen of us are in and out of a room of cubicles all day as we see patients. Even with the open office, it is easy to have a quiet, even private, conversation.

A coworker recently returned after having her first child. She had a challenging fertility journey and we gave a lot of grace trying to be supportive as she widely and loudly shared every intimate detail. We’ve had 10 pregnancies in this office in the last nine years, and she out-talked all of the other moms combined. It was a relief when she went on leave.

She’s been back for four weeks and now every conversation is about her breasts. Breastfeeding, how she pumps, when she pumps, how much she produces, what medication she is on because she “has such fatty milk that she basically pumps cottage cheese,” clogged ducts, massaging to unclog ducts, how her husband feels about her breasts, how they’ve changed in the last two years … and on and on. She literally showed me a photo of her nipples last week, asking if I thought she had a varicose vein. While that question is vaguely related to my clinical area, she thrust the photo in my face without even asking!

I heard her claiming she had to use her wearable pumps today because there wasn’t a room to pump in. Fact check, there were two rooms available. That conversation ended with, “Yeah, I’ve still got them on, you’ll have to forgive my stripper boobs, this is what they looked like before I gave birth too.”

Yesterday, while helping to stabilize a patient who was literally mid-seizure, she announced that she had her wearables on and was actively pumping during the event!

These indiscreet conversations that redirect everyone’s attention to her breasts add up to hours each day. The consensus is that her behavior is attention-seeking and fueled by insecurity; that is certainly “on brand,” but this postpartum escalation is just too much! A text went around the office today with a “Patron Saint of Breastfeeding” meme, so clearly it is time to say something. Knowing her, she will be deeply offended and assert that she is being censored and “can’t talk about anything.”

I am a peer, but I’m also the one most likely to speak up. But every version I imagine sounds shaming or passive-aggressive. Do I just go with the blunt “please stop saying things that force your coworkers to think about your breasts every day”?

Well, wait, where’s her boss in all this? I wrote back and asked that. The response:

Our supervisor is in the office with us and agrees it is all too much. After the stripper comment yesterday, I messaged my supervisor saying, “Somebody needs to talk to her.” The response I got back was, “I can’t.” I’m not sure if that meant she doesn’t want to or she doesn’t have the clout to. It could legitimately be both. That supervisor role has a lot of responsibility but little power.

I know that if I take it to my director, the first question will be, “Have you asked her to stop?”

A side note, the breast-centric comments seem worse around the men in the office. Unfortunately, they are all very non-confrontational would never speak up on this for fear of being labeled sexist or misogynistic.

Okay. First, what the hell? Even if we think this is attention-seeking, it’s incredibly weird.

It’s also incredibly inappropriate. And in fact, your employer has a responsibility to put a stop to it. The rest of you are entitled to work without constantly hearing about a colleague’s breasts (let alone having a photo of them shoved in your face!).

So it’s not your responsibility to shut this down yourself. You could raise this with HR or your director and ask that they handle it. If they respond by asking if you’ve asked her to stop … well, it’s not an unreasonable question and ideally you’d be able to say yes, but it would also be okay for you to respond, “No. I realize normally that would be ideal, but in this case I’m concerned about blowback from her if I do, so I’m asking that it be handled by someone with the authority to address it. We do have a legal responsibility as an employer to ensure people aren’t subjected to constant talk about a colleague’s breasts.” If they don’t assure you that they’ll handle it, feel free to push on that point: “So that I understand what you’re saying, do you disagree that we have a legal responsibility to ensure people aren’t subjected to constant talk about a coworker’s breasts?”

But if they suck at their jobs and the only way this is going to get handled is if you’re the one to say something, then the best thing you can do is to stop worrying that she’ll be deeply offended. She’s going to feel however she feels; you can’t control that, and if you let your fear of her having an unreasonable reaction stop you from speaking up, you’re letting yourself be manipulated. It’s beyond reasonable to tell a coworker you don’t want to hear about their breasts this much (or at all). If she takes issue with that, so be it. If she wants to conclude she “can’t talk about anything,” let her! That sounds like a better outcome than where you are right now.

As for what to say: I think the way you word it is less important than that something is said. Personally, I’d talk to her privately and say, “Obviously we support breast-feeding here, but you cannot make your breasts the focus of conversations the way you’ve been doing. It’s not comfortable to hear that at work, and people are entitled to work without hearing about a colleague’s breasts so frequently — or ever, really. I’m sure you didn’t mean to make anyone uncomfortable, but I’m asking you to rein the breastfeeding talk way back.” Alternately, you could call it out in the moment — “That’s way too much personal information — please stop.” “Whoa, TMI, please stop there.” “I don’t want to hear this — can you not talk about it around me?” The advantage of that approach is that it might embolden others to chime in that they don’t want to hear it either. You can also start with the first approach and move to the second if the first doesn’t stop it.

But really, your employer should be handling this for you.

{ 527 comments… read them below }

    1. What the what*

      For some reason your comment is cracking me up. So few words but it just says SO MUCH.

    2. Lightbourne Elite*

      Yes yes, it’s all a rich tapestry.

      (This is me quoting The Simpsons, not me being condescending)

      1. Justice*

        The Monkees weren’t about music, Marge. They were about rebellion! About political and social upheaval!
        (Sorry, any excuse to post that quote.)

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      I tend to say “ahhh, the rich tapestry” after experiencing A Moment (often on the bus.)

      1. NotJane*

        This perfectly encapsulates the morning I had at the Social Security office, lol.

      1. Petty Betty*

        This is why one must frequently shake the tapestry out, to avoid infestations.

        … and occasionally give it a good beating to ensure the dust is fully removed.

    4. TinySoprano*

      “It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry” is my dad’s favourite saying. It’s kind of nice hearing it coming from a dozen people in the AAM comment section.

  1. Ultimate Facepalm*

    Oh, she is 100% going to be upset and pout about this. I hope there’s an update.

    1. A Significant Tree*

      Absolutely! My first thought is she’s going to claim she “can’t talk about anything!” and then literally talk about *that* forever. So tedious.

      Good luck to OP and their colleagues! I think I would have been at the eye-rolling and interrupting with a topic change stage a while ago.

      1. dear liza dear liza*

        Right? I predict about once an hour, she’d say something like, “Well, I’m off to the private room to DO THE THING that I can’t talk about that makes OP uncomfortable, even though it’s totally normal and life giving!” or “I really have to buy some more– oh wait, I almost FORGOT that SOME PEOPLE think this is ‘TMI’!” and unless OP’s colleagues join OP, it’s just going to be continued drama and awkwardness.

        1. Back to being Jackie*

          Whoa! This co-worker deserves all your uplifting and support, and less let down.

      2. Le Sigh*

        Having been on the receiving end of these statements, I just offer bland agreement. “Well, I just I can’t talk about ANYTHING!/I guess I just won’t talk at all!” –“Okay” or “I guess not” or “hmmm, sorry to hear that.” Results may vary, but I’ve found it effectively drops the rope and doesn’t give them the drama they want, and seems to catch them off guard.

        1. Cats Ate My Croissant*

          I’d be tempted to reply “Don’t threaten me with a good time” but I have zero people skills.

          1. Christine*

            “I can live with that” is what I would say, and I do have good people skills.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      I’m kind of worried she’s going to claim some kind of discrimination. Like ADA violation or discrimination based on family status or similar.

      1. Nonsense*

        Given how spineless the manager is, they’ll cave to her completely bonkers claim too.

      2. Snow Globe*

        Yep, she will 100% claim that this is about co-workers being anti-breastfeeding. That is why the boss “can’t” say anything.

        1. GreenDoor*

          But if there were 10 babies born to employees there in the last nine years, surely one of those employees could speak up and say, “X of us had babies and Y of us breastfed and Z of us are still breastfeeding and *none* of us feel the need to get that detailed about our boobs with the rest of the office.” It would totally deflate any kind of anti-breastfeeding allegations.

          1. GammaGirl1908*

            I had a colleague who is a single mother by choice and just absolutely HAD to work her children into every conversation about absolutely anything. I mean, I never got so much as an email that didn’t mention her kids. Not long ago I saw a widely-distributed message — to clients and sponsors and so forth — from her that called her pet work program her “first child,” because obviously her two biological children came later.

            I always wanted to point out to her just how many other people on staff were parents as well, and could go 15 minutes without a conversation that they turned to their children.

      3. Annie*

        The OP can say that she’s basically getting sexually harassed if she’s getting a picture of co-worker’s nipple shoved in front of her.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          not to mention the fact the talk is more frequent around men. Yes men can be sexually harassed. They should not be forced to hear about their co-worker’s breasts. Well no one should.

          It is definitely attention seeking because why do it most around men? She knows they will be reluctant to stop her and she gets men thinking about her breasts — whether they want to or not.

          1. HonorBox*

            I’m a guy. I can tell you for sure that it would make me SUPER uncomfortable to hear about this in such detail. The fact that coworker is breastfeeding? That wouldn’t be uncomfortable. A coworker excusing themself to go pump? Not uncomfortable. But the amount of time and the explicit detail would for sure. I don’t know that I’d consider it sexual harassment myself, but I also (turning the tables) don’t know that I’d be comfortable saying something about stopping because would I be accused of sexualizing a normal thing?

            I clearly don’t think shutting down the conversation IS sexual harassment, but if someone is showing pictures of their nipples to others, would they take it there?

      4. Eldritch Office Worker*

        If she’s being allowed to pump at work, which it sounds like they’re accommodating beyond the minimum requirements, and the discrimination claim comes up against a competing sexual harassment claim, the sexual harassment claim will win.

        All of this assumes competence by management that may not be present, but if the “I can’t” is fueled by concern over a discrimination claim I would strongly encourage OP to make it more uncomfortable for them not to address it.

      5. kiki*

        It’s frustrating because this person is going way over the line in clear ways but it seems likely she’ll try to use the cover of real issues like discrimination against pregnant people, discrimination against breastfeeding parents, etc. I think that’s why leadership is afraid to talk to her about it, but there’s a clear difference between “I mentioned needing to head to the breastfeeding room and people acted grossed out,” and “I tried to show my coworker my nipple and she said no.”

    3. Laser99*

      Oh, absolutely. I can just hear it now—“Well I didn’t think you all would be so UPTIGHT! I guess I just won’t talk at all,” etc., etc.

      1. Ms. Elaneous*

        Having her not talk at all would be such a blessing!
        Can someone (OP or any manager or HR) issue a written statement to the effect that talking about religion, politics, or bodily functions is strictly not allowed.

        And every time she starts in, say
        TMI in a loud voice, perhaps adding ewwww.

        1. Alan*

          It’s too bad to make such a blanket prohibition simply to shut up one person on one topic. Done respectfully, discussions with coworkers on such topics can be really enlightening.

        2. Orv*

          I’m not sure “talking about bodily functions is not allowed” is practical in a medical office.

          1. Bast*

            Context matters. I mean, “Head’s up, patient in 3C has explosive diarrhea and has been through 3 bedpans in the last hour” is different than “OMG I ate bad sushi this weekend and spent HOURS on the toilet yesterday! Seriously, I had explosive diarrhea so badly I thought I was going to burst and I ran through an entire package of TP and alllll the Pepto. I don’t think I can ever look at sushi again, ugh. My bathroom smelled like death.” Totally different.

      2. BatManDan*

        Best response to THAT: “oh, thank goodness. That was kind of the plan all along. Do you promise?”

      3. I Have RBF*

        “Well I didn’t think you all would be so UPTIGHT! I guess I just won’t talk at all,” etc., etc.

        “That would be nice. Please keep work talk to work subjects. Your boobs are not a work subject. Thank you.”

      4. Christine*

        I’d be tempted to give her a daily play-by-play of my bathroom events. All natural, everyone does it, and it’s healthy! Or not. And we could discuss the reasons.

    4. JSPA*

      To forestall some of the drama, I think I’d go with the polite fiction that it had been understandable, but is no longer OK. Something like,

      “Most of us have experienced how breastfeeding can feel like it’s taking over your life for the first few weeks, until it becomes part of one’s routine. But it’s been X weeks, and we’re still hearing details about your breasts multiple times a day.

      “I apologize that this is the first time I’ve said anything, but as I said, this is a stage people normally come to terms with and stop talking about, so I was naturally hoping not to need to have this awkward conversation.

      “Nevertheless, both personally and professionally, I am now way, way past my limit of hearing anything more on the topic. And that goes double when the oversharing is done around clients or during emergencies. I may be a [insert your title] but I am not your doctor, your lactation consultant or your confidante.”

      And if she protests that it is beautiful and natural and life-giving:

      “Yes, but I assume you’ve noticed that many other deeply good and natural and lovely and normal things about our bodies and how they function are also not part of office conversation.”

      1. Can Relate*

        I think if you can stay calm through this, its an easy way to go. She’ll keep pouting but if you’re in an environment where so many people have already gone through this, I think it makes sense to use that as a foundation to specify that she’s an outlier in this.

        Good luck OP.

      2. aim*

        You can’t monologue at your coworkers like this (even if it’s done with a warm smile in your voice). They’re not cut-out dolls on a mock stage for you to practice soliloquies on. A brief, “hey, no boob pictures!” or such is the starting point (if it hasn’t happened already).

    5. Tinkerbell*

      Since it’s almost guaranteed she’ll pout ANYWAY I’d personally be tempted to put up a “It’s been [0] days since last mention of Coworker’s boobs” sign. Or maybe start a tally with “Number of times Coworker has talked about her boobs today.” But that’s petty and unprofessional so I’d probably just make a meme of it and send it to a commiserating coworker instead :-P (Still petty and unprofessional, but slightly less mean!)

      1. Ultimate Facepalm*

        Haha I literally laughed out loud at my desk.
        I have a ‘work dysfunction bingo’ game I play and this would absolutely be a square on it.

        1. What the What*

          So, like what else is on the Bingo card? I need to start playing that at work. I’ll start with my co-worker who signs off phone calls with “Love you” to other coworkers……ugh.

  2. Spicy Tuna*

    Document everything stringently. I worked in an office years ago where a woman had breast reduction surgery. She showed everyone in the office, unasked and umprompted, the before and after photos and then complained when people had comments. It was really helpful that literally everyone in the office spoke up and said they did NOT ask or want to see the photos when she later complained that people were commenting on the photos.

    1. Observer*

      Document everything stringently.


      And especially the stuff that she says and does when patients can hear her, and in situations where any personal conversations are a bad idea.

    2. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      Wait, she had an issue with the fact that they made *any* comment? If someone puts a picture of anything in front of you, you’re sort of expected to make a comment. What were your coworkers supposed to say, “Yep, boobs before, boobs after?” To be fair, I wouldn’t know what to say if someone shoved before/after pictures of any breast related activity in my face, but I’m sure I’d be expected to say *something*.

      1. Antigone Funn*

        “Hmm, I think the right one is lower than the left one now. Are they under warranty?”

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          You made me think of The Golden Girls, when Dorothy’s high school friend Trudy visited and they were talking about Dorothy’s loss for Class Treasurer:

          Trudy: I admired you after that loss, Dorothy. You just picked up the pieces and went on, just like you did after Stanley ran off with that stewardess. Boy, I envy you your gumption.
          Dorothy: And I your breast implants.
          Blanche: This may not be my place, but you two hardly sound like old friends.
          Trudy: Blanche is right. We should be more positive. Dorothy, you look wonderful.
          Dorothy: The left one turned out nice.

            1. AnonORama*

              OMG, I aspire to be Blanche. Like, someday. Not now in my 40s. But if it happens, it happens.

      2. Curious*

        You have the right to remain silent. If you give up this right, anything you say can and will be (taken out of context and) used against you in a court of law (or of public opinion).

    3. SubwayFan*

      The key point here in this anecdote is “It was really helpful that literally everyone in the office spoke up and said they did NOT ask or want to see photos.”

      I think you should not only use Alison’s suggested language, but feel free to express to others how uncomfortable you are and how you’re letting her know so others will feel empowered to speak out as well, with appropriate language. If EVERYONE in the office shuts her down, it will make it much easier to show HR/leadership that this a big problem.

      Also, how is it not a hazard to have her interrupting seizure care to share about her portable pumps? Why isn’t her attention focused on on the patient??

      1. cardoons? delicious*

        Yeah, I would absolutely be sure to include this in any documentation. I am not an expert but this could compromise the standard of care — and healthcare operations should not want anything that has a whiff of malpractice about it going on.

      2. JSPA*

        Oh, I’m sure she can come up with some faintly plausible explanation.

        She didn’t want people to be unaware and therefore count on her stretching or moving in ways that were currently not possible?

        She was worried about leakage, and whether it could be misconstrued as some other fluid?

        Whatever. Write your own (remembering that it does not have to be logically sound, but just a thought that she could reasonably have had and expressed during an emergency).

        But I would not hang the main argument on something strange said in a moment of stress, when there are dozens of other clearly preconsidered and intentional “overshares.”

        Because if it were just that one emergency moment (even if she had chosen to ignore it and hope that it would go away rather than apologizing) we would not be reading this letter.

    4. Maggie*

      I worked with someone that did this with their implants! And honest to god after she got them I don’t think there was a single day I didn’t see her areola.

    5. TMI*

      A former coworker went one better after having breast implants – she actually pulled up her top in front of the whole office to show us all! No she was not wearing a bra

    6. Christine*

      My aunt did that. At a holiday get together. She herded the women into the bedroom and lifted her sweater.
      All I remember is the not-fully-healed scars, which are why I have not considered reduction for myself three decades later. *shudder*

  3. Lilian*

    Did the patient mid-seizure hear her? Because that seems like something they would be making a complaint about – distracting their medical personnel to talk about boobs.

    1. Velawciraptor*

      And that’s a point to make when raising it to the director. This isn’t just impacting colleagues, but patients and their care. It’s not ok and the director needs to make it stop yesterday.

      1. Miette*

        Yes. FWIW this person has a history of being like this, so I wonder if the director shouldn’t also address that pattern as well. Because there’s bound to be something else for her to overshare about eventually, like, IDK, her husband’s inverted left nip-nop or the baby’s oozy something or other. She will never stop unless she’s told to.

        1. LBD*

          Or worse, her baby’s inverted left nip nop or her husband’s oozy something or other.

      2. HonorBox*

        I had this same thought. This is exactly the reason to bring it to the director. It is bad enough (read: really bad) with what she’s doing and saying around coworkers, but to have the conversation in front of a patient is inexcusable. Even if the patient didn’t hear, having that conversation distracts from what you’re doing to care for said patient.

      3. I'm just here for the cats!*

        Yeah I would be wondering if she is having similar conversations with patients or around them

    2. Lizabeth*

      This – would love to see a patient pipe up and tell her to knock it off as it happens.

      1. singularity*

        Right? I’m trying to imagine how uncomfortable this would be for a patient to hear, and I 100% believe that most people, as patients, would feel uncomfortable speaking up when their in a vulnerable position.

        1. Meg*

          This exactly. I actually got worse care from a nurse at a hospital when she was deeply offended that I declined her offer of Reiki. It’s hard to complain when you’re at someone’s mercy for getting pain meds, food, bathroom trips, etc, regardless of how they’re making you feel.

          1. Bitte Meddler*

            I once checked myself into the psych ward of my local hospital on a Friday night because I was feeling suicidal. [PSA: The wrong dose of birth control pills combined with extremely low serum Vitamin D can do a number on your emotions.]

            The intake nurse told me that if I would only turn my life over to Jesus Christ, then I would be healed. I told her — as politely as I could — that if that were true, then there wouldn’t be any Christians in the hospital at all.

            Worst weekend of my life. That nurse went out of her way to make my stay miserable and she tried to block me from getting discharged first thing Monday morning (when my doc of 10 years finally checked her voicemail). In the nurse’s mind, non-Christian = mentally ill.

            So now when I go in for surgery and the nurses ask if I would like to join them in prayer ahead of time, I panic.

            On the one hand, I’m atheist and if my surgeon is incompetent enough that prayer is the only thing that might keep me alive through the process, then I’d like to find another doctor. On the other hand, I don’t want the nurses effing up my recovery because I’m not One Of Them.

            1. Sharpiecollector*

              “So now when I go in for surgery and the nurses ask if I would like to join them in prayer ahead of time”

              I’m aghast that that is even a thing. Eeshk.

            2. Frieda*

              My professional context makes it clear that I *am* Christian and I’d also be very put off by an offer of prayer before surgery. Just fwiw!

              No one should be subject to that.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Yes, aside from employees not being subjected to frequent and detailed (and sometimes illustrated with photographs!! WTAF) discussion of their co-workers breasts, or frankly any body part, PATIENTS of the clinic should expect that they will receive care and treatment without being subjected to such talk and without having their care providers distracted by personal talk from other care providers.

      3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        I would NEVER feel comfortable pushing back about something like that, lest I get a reputation as being a bad patient and be given lower-quality care or not believed when I spoke up about symptoms. That’s placing a huge burden on people who really, really shouldn’t need to be involved.

    3. Annony*

      Yep. Even if administration doesn’t care what she says around coworkers, they almost certainly care that she is talking about it in front of patients.

        1. Thetidesturnforeveryone*

          I was coming to say that, one bad Yelp review can go viral and then something must be said.

    4. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      And is there any risk that the distraction is making staff less able to provide high quality medical care to patients?

      1. Observer*

        And is there any risk that the distraction is making staff less able to provide high quality medical care to patients?

        Of course it is. Maybe not a HUGE difference, but when dealing with stuff like this *any* distraction is problem.

    5. BlueCanoe*

      I hope OP goes to HR and brings up the fact that this coworker talks about this *in front of patients* as well. Whether someone can hear (or remember) when they’re mid-seizure or not, this just seems extra inappropriate on top of the already ridiculously inappropriate talk around her coworkers. And as you mentioned, potentially distracting.

      1. BlueCanoe*

        Tried to edit to add.. is there any chance a patient could complain to someone higher up? Even a state licensing board or something like that?
        If coworkers might have grounds to complain about sexual harassment, would a patient also have grounds to complain about it, if this coworker talked like this in front of a patient?

    6. ANurseWhoLovesBreastfeeding*

      This! Doesn’t matter if the patient heard her; it was said in front of a patient. Highlight this to management. They are not doing right by their patients if they let that go.

    7. porridge fan*

      I’ve had seizures. I was reportedly not aware of what was going on around me in the moment, and I formed no memories of what happened during those few minutes.

      1. allathian*

        Sure. But that’s not really the point, there should be no irrelevant conversation around the patient because caregivers need to focus on the patient. Save the irrelevant conversation for breaks when the patients can’t hear you.

        Oh well, at least this person isn’t describing the consistency of her baby’s diaper contents to her coworkers… So I guess it could be worse!

    1. Spring*

      OMG, that made me laugh! I’m in a dance group, and we (the older people) told the younger ones that we would limit the “old people talk” about arthritis, knee surgery, incontinence, etc. They didn’t ask us to do that, but I’ll bet they were relieved when we made that pledge to keep it minimal.

    2. My Brain is Exploding*

      ha! At a certain age I began really listening to those conversations as I thought I might need some of that information in the future!

  4. RVA Cat*

    She’s the lactation version of Keegan-Michael Key’s character in Key & Peele’s ” Office Homophobe” skit: “That’s not just a nipple, it’s *my* nipple!”

  5. Ange*

    Be a perv on your own time but please don’t drag your poor co-workers into what seems to me like a weird fetish. I would go with ” why are you telling me that?” put her on the spot and make her respond and whatever she says reply “thats a personal issue”

    1. Managing While Female*

      The coworker is being deeply inappropriate, but we don’t need to turn this into a sexual thing (i.e. “perv” and “fetish”). I understand you likely didn’t mean it this way, but breastfeeding mothers are often sexualized and told that the method they’re using to feed their babies is ‘perverted’ or that they’re getting weird sexual pleasure from it. It’s a continued, harmful perception that breasts are inherently sexual, and they’re not.

      Again, not an appropriate topic of conversation for work AT ALL and OP has the right to shut this down (or, better yet, HR/management will do their jobs here).

      1. Elle*

        Except she increases the breast talk around the gender shes attracted to, lied about pumping rooms being occupied so she could expose her body to her coworkers, and used sexualised language (stripper boobs). I would argue she’s the one making it sexual.

        I do agree fetish is the wrong word, though, What she’s doing is not really typical for a BF fetishist.

      2. Reebee*

        Co-worker is sexualizing herself via her obsession with her breasts. That’s what the comments are pointing out.

        1. Crooked Bird*

          The comment above yours makes a decent case that she’s sexualizing herself, but this one does not. Maybe you meant something more than you said but just plain “obsession with her breasts” and oversharing about them could be perfectly in line with her being normal yet boundaryless (still a big problem!) about breastfeeding. Constant talk about latch, flow, cracked nipples, clogged ducts, mastitis, and how to keep your infant from biting can be both WAY too much and NOT sexy at all. What she’s doing is more than just that, though (eg mention of “stripper boobs”), and it’s those details that add that extra problematic layer.

      3. anonbcz*

        The breastfeeder seems oddly fixated on forcing people to acknowledge and comment on her breasts. We don’t know what kind of pleasure she’s getting from it, but obviously finds it rewarding. If she can’t control her actions, she needs to get some help. If she can control her actions, well then maybe she is a perv with a fetish.

        1. Ama*

          Best-case scenario: she’s actually really anxious and insecure about the changes her breasts are going through and is one of those people that has a hard time NOT talking when they are nervous.

          Worst-case scenario: She’s got a bad case of Main Character Syndrome and can’t grasp that the issue that’s dominating her thoughts right now is not something anyone else wants to hear about.

          Either way she needs to stop but I think there are more likely interpretations than “she’s getting some kind of pleasure out of forcing people to think about her breasts.”

        2. WellRed*

          Yeah, I got a slight whiff of perv reading the comment about how “oh I’m pumping under my blouse while helping this patient.” Like it was a secret she wanted to share.

          1. JustaTech*

            Yeah, that really stood out to me.
            Like, the people I’ve known who used wearables were *trying* to be discreet about it. One friend did mention that she was wearing them, but only because we asked if she needed a break to pump.
            My friend who’s worn them at work (because the lactation room was 20 floor away on a construction site) tried very hard to hide them enough that her coworkers either didn’t notice or could pretend to not notice.

            Like, at least 70% of the point of wearables is to be less obvious and more covered when you pump.

            1. Boof*

              I used them, I only mentioned it when a patient asked “what’s that clicking sound?” (they made a very slight noise). I was “Frank” (I didn’t beat around the bush) that I was wearing pumps but only when asked.

      4. A. Nonymous (on phone)*

        Nope, sorry, wrong. Showing someone your nude body without their consent is pervert behavior.

        1. Ange*

          I was pregnant twice while working so I’m not judging this woman for being a breastfeeding Mother. I also never shoved my boobs into my co-workers faces and droned on and on about my heaving milk filled breasts. What she’s doing is creepy and not bordering on sexual harrasment, its full on sexual harrasment. Also imagine if you were a woman struggling with infertility or brestfeeding and Pam is there throwing her tits in your face and screeching about how much milk she has. It’s beyond inappropriate and completely disgusting.

          1. JustaTech*

            I’m just kind of confused because when I was feeding/pumping it felt like it completely took over my life and the very last thing I wanted to talk with other adults about were my boobs! I wanted to talk about literally anything else. The weather. Traffic. A really boring meeting. Anything.

            1. BikeWalkBarb*

              This x 100. Being around people who didn’t need anything from my body was a break from being on call at the dairy barn.

      5. constant_craving*

        She’s describing what her boobs looked like before birth and talking to her coworkers about how her husband feels about her boobs. Those things have literally nothing to do with breastfeeding and are definitely sexual. And she’s targeting these sexual things more towards the men in her office than anyone else.

        Breastfeeding isn’t sexual, but this woman’s sexual harassment of her co-workers definitely is.

      6. Leenie*

        Normally, I would agree with you without reservation. But the breastfeeding coworker is the one who is making it sexual, with her comments about “stripper boobs” and other questionable behavior. I think, on a societal level, you’re absolutely right, and the sexualization of breastfeeding is a real problem. But in this odd case, the mother is being gross, sexualizing breastfeeding herself, and involving unwilling coworkers. It really seems like a case of sexual harassment to me, even though in most circumstances, I would think that accusing a breastfeeding mother of sexual harassment would be an act of misogyny and oppression, and not a legitimate complaint.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Nah, I give you the “stripper boobs” as a somewhat sexual comment but it’s pretty clear that this is just someone deliberately going without a filter while having this experience because they’re putting way too much self identity into motherhood and the whole vibe is “look at me go” (the patron saint joke was dead on), rather than “look at my sexiness”. The cottage cheese comment proves that. It’s more about being a showoff struggling mum than a showoff sexbomb. I’m sure she thinks it’s all fun jokes and down to earth reality especially with colleagues who work with human bodies. It is going to be very embarrassing for her to realise just how far off base she really is, because she’s way off the path of acceptable sharing. I really feel for any colleagues who are going through the exact same infertility journey while she’s holding this sacred motherhood carnival.

  6. Nanc*

    So her boobs are so important she needs to talk about them while trying to stabilize a patient in crisis? HR needs to shut her down now. She’s being completely unprofessional with staff and patients and that’s not OK!
    Sorry you’re having to deal with this. Document, document, document. Especially if this is occurring around patients.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      Unless said boobs are actively helping in the stabilization, I’d say no!

      1. KT*

        Anyone else having the scene in Parks and Rec running through their mind about the old dude grabbing Leslie’s boobs when he was falling over with a heart attack or whatever?

        1. fidget spinner*

          I was once hiking the Grand Canyon and I tripped and grabbed a woman’s boobs to keep from falling. It… worked, somehow. I was a teenage girl at the time and most certainly NOT aiming for her boobs….

          1. AnonORama*

            Ha, those cringe moments stay with us forever. A little OT, but it reminded me of the time the guy in front of me in a 10K run crossed the finish line and immediately stopped dead, and for some reason my reaction was to reach out and stop myself…with my hands on his butt. Thankfully it got him moving and I was able to blend into the crowd before he could see who it was. But “inadvertent parts grab” is never a good look!

    2. Crencestre*

      Get it in writing!! Her not talking (and talking and talking and talking…) about ANYTHING sounds like a splendid solution to your present problem. Perhaps HR could put that condition of her retaining employment into a PIP.

    3. Heart&Vine*

      This woman is 100% a walking lawsuit and needs to be stopped immediately. OP’s manager is too cowardly to do something about it? Too bad! Time for HR to get involved because hearing that an employee is going around, not only talking about her breasts in great detail to coworkers and patients, but is also showing unsolicited pictures of them (!!!) would make any good HR person’s heart stop! If this was a man talking about his vasectomy in great detail, including how it’s affected his manhood, and was showing pictures of the aftermath to colleagues, he’d be fired yesterday.

  7. SpringIsForPlanting!*

    Oh jeepers. Did I love my wearables? Yes. Did I wear them on a train? Did I wear them on a plane? Yes. Yes. Did I wear them at work? Yes–*in a private pumping room or in my home office, off-camera*. All boob talk was limited to “this meeting is running over so I need to step away for a few minutes and then I will rejoin remotely.” Saying “I need to block this space for pumping” or similar, also fine! But… jeepers. Among other things, wearables do restrict your movement a bit, and have the capacity to spill, so this person should very definitely not be using them while engaged in patient care even if they’re invisible :(

    1. Annony*

      Especially while caring for a patient having a seizure! They could easily be dislodged and spill.

      1. JustEm*

        Some wearables (ie Willow pumps) are leak free and many physicians wear them while doing things like perform surgeries as otherwise they wouldn’t be able to pump frequently enough. they are completely under clothes and it is not inappropriate. Constantly talking about it is the part that is not okay

      2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Trying to be charitable, I wondered whether she was warning her colleagues that perhaps someone else should be performing her role, or that she wouldn’t be able to stay long since she’d have to empty the wearables out?

      1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        “I can wear them here and there,
        I can wear them anywhere!

        Wearables are just the best –
        I attach one to each breast.

        In fact, I’ll show you what I mean
        My stripper breasts just MUST be seen!

        If you complain that’s TMI
        I’ll whine and pout and even cry.

        But there’s one thing I will NOT do –
        Stop shoving nipple pics at you!”

        1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

          Glad you all enjoyed it! And special thanks to Annie for inspiring (?) me – who else would pair Dr. Seuss with this banana-bra nutcase? ;)

  8. bamcheeks*

    I just want everyone to keep saying, “Why are you telling me this?”

    Also, I feel like all those Community/Parks and Rec/The Office shows really missed a trick by not including this character.

    1. CR*

      Ha, there was a character on The Office (the episode where Scranton merges with another branch and all the employees move over) who pumped in full view of the rest of the office!

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Except she’ll probably have an answer. Like how everyone’s friends and it’s important to share or some nonsense. Asking this turns it into a conversation or negotiation, when what is needed is for her to just stop already.

      1. Bird names*

        “This is need to know and I don’t.”
        Seriously though, with her complete willingness to ignore all boundaries (the seizing patient, what?) a considerable extinction burst is to be expected.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Escalating to “it’s super weird that you keep talking about this when you’ve been asked repeatedly to stop.”

      2. ABC*

        Agreed. This is not a situation where a “witty” comeback is going to work. It’s going to do the exact opposite.

        1. linger*

          For the general topic, maybe, but for some of those specific TMI moments…
          …cottage cheese…
          “What you’re saying is, even your own breasts are finding this topic too cheesy.”
          …stripper boobs…
          “How did strippers enter a work conversation?”

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Plus, there’s a risk that witty comebacks make this seem like fun banter that everyone is enjoying, when actually a bunch of people are super uncomfortable.

  9. melissa*

    Sometimes people get swept up into internet communities and they forget that needs to be separate from their real life. Like, for example, there are certainly Instagram and Reddit and Facebook groups where the *only* topic of discussion is breastfeeding. People spend hours talking about all the types of things you mentioned– the consistency of their milk and timing and so on. Perhaps she has totally lost the thread here, that offices do not function that way. She needs a reality-check: There’s nothing wrong with breastfeeding or with the existence of breasts, but you simply can not talk about them this way in an office.

    1. Observer*

      Like, for example, there are certainly Instagram and Reddit and Facebook groups where the *only* topic of discussion is breastfeeding. People spend hours talking about all the types of things you mentioned– the consistency of their m

      Yeah, but those communities exist *because* you cannot really discuss this stuff in your office, and often there are not too many other outlets. It’s like any other support group – you have that group as a safe space to discuss X non-office appropriate topic with like minded people who understand what you are talking about and dealing with.

      The net effect is generally that this space makes one LESS likely to go on and on and on …

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Right? That’s your outlet if you’re someone who really wants to talk about her breastfeeding journey, or if you find yourself constantly having “is this normal?” worries. You go to a community which literally exists to talk about these things.
        Honestly, anyone in one of those Reddit groups would be like “lady, tone it down at work, that’s not OK. Ask us!”.

    2. DrSalty*

      This. I’m actively breastfeeding and I get it, it consumes a lot of mental energy. But there is a time and a place and an audience!! This lady sounds like she needs a total boundaries reset. Quit making it weird for the rest of us.

    3. Salsa Your Face*

      I was part of an online mom group based on due date where we talked about our boobs and breastfeeding and pumps and bras ALL THE TIME. Couldn’t shut us up if you tried, because it was a huge part of our lives and we were all going through it together. But hey, guess what, we got all the chatter out there and didn’t spill it over our work colleagues. Like normal people. Maybe this person needs another outlet for the boob talk…or maybe they’re just attention seeking. Dealer’s choice.

  10. Shenandoah*

    Whew. Even before I became a parent, I was someone with a very high tolerance for baby/breastfeeding talk, but your coworker would be wellllll past my limits too, OP.

    I hope she dials it back 500% without a lot of drama – but I’m going to be waiting with bated breath for an update!

  11. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Wow. When one coworker, who I’m not particularly close to, told me in Slack that he was unavailable for a meeting because he was getting a vasectomy, I froze at my keyboard.

    I can’t imagine the daily, ongoing, in-your-face, continuous ordeal that OP and her colleagues are facing.

      1. A Poster Has No Name*

        Or just “medical appointment”.

        Or just “appointment”. I really don’t need to know why you’re OOO.

        1. Rainy*

          My office is pretty disclosing and very supportive in general but I don’t always want everyone to know my business. I have a routine outpatient procedure coming up: I booked sick time and noted it in the spreadsheet the same as my other days off. My manager, who had approved the days and that sort of thing, clearly knew she wasn’t supposed to ask but also was obviously desperate to know, which is awkward not because I particularly care if she knows, but because I don’t need to tell the whole office.

          1. JustaTech*

            The only time I’ve seen value to knowing what someone’s medical procedure was at work was when a boss was having major shoulder surgery but also insisted that he would be back in a week.
            We were all like “Sure, OK, but just in case, here’s our plan for the next month so you don’t have to stress about us.”

            He was very much not back in a week (which his doctor told him!) and we were glad to have planned.
            But that was an anomaly.

        2. Orv*

          I always feel like the more vague I am the more it looks like I’m being evasive and just trying to play hooky, so I have a hard time resisting over-sharing.

        3. The Original K.*

          I say “medical procedure” because people at my job tend to leave you alone for that. Not so much “doctor’s appointment” or “vacation.” (I still don’t respond in those instances.)

        4. Good Lord Ratty*

          Right? My reporting supervisor can know that I am leaving work early on Tuesday for a medical appointment, but no one else needs to know why my OOO autoreply is on after 2 pm. And even that supervisor only needs to know it’s a medical appointment (this is how it’s coded in our absence booking software), not the nature of the appointment or who it’s with or why I booked it or literally anything else about it.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        “Previous obligation” is all that you need. I don’t care why you’re not there. I really don’t. I definitely do not need to know that it’s medical.

        1. Orv*

          In my office we’ve mostly settled on “appointment” for medical stuff and “vacation” for everything else. The distinction is necessary because they come from different leave buckets.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      An ex-colleague of mine (who was an otherwise lovely person) once blurted out the fact that she was about to have breast reduction surgery to a brand new (female) colleague. New colleague looked like she wanted to fall through the floor. Just because something is a big deal to you doesn’t mean it has to be a big deal to everyone you meet!

      1. The Original K.*

        And see, I had a coworker who told me she was getting a tummy tuck and I didn’t mind! She told me she was going to be out for three weeks, and she and her family were big travelers so I assumed she had a big trip planned. I asked “going anywhere good?” and she told me. But we were friendly, and she only told a few people she was friendly with – she didn’t announce it to the whole office or talk about it once she was back (she said she’d had surgery to the office at large, which was of course true, and didn’t give more detail).

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          I do think it’s a different dynamic if it’s a colleague with whom you have a close relationship outside work. For day 1 with a new colleague, though, it’s definitely TMI!

          1. The Original K.*

            We were work friends – we didn’t socialize outside of work. But we’d worked together a couple years at that point and knew some non-work things about each other.

            1. Dog momma*

              Yes I’ve had work friends that we shared stuff on our personal lives. But not the entire office

    2. Lex Talionis*

      You’re so lucky you had the veil of Slack, last week I had a colleague, IN PERSON, tell me he was getting circumcised. It was all I could do to stop myself from saying good luck, hope doc has a steady hand…

        1. Lex Talionis*

          I hope with every fiber of my being there’s not a next time but if there is I am now prepared. Thank you.

      1. Curious*

        Given your user name, I gotta wonder — what is condign punishment for that colleague?

        1. Lex Talionis*

          Well perhaps he would no longer need the procedure. You guys are making it hard to stick to the rules.

    3. Generic Name*

      I see you worked with my ex-husband. Apparently he announced to all of his friends on facebook (after our separation, but my friends were still “friends” with him and reported back to me anything concerning). I loved it when all of my friends jumped on him saying, “Dude, TMI”.

    4. Kesnit*

      I think it varies among offices and the kind of work relationship people have.

      A few weeks ago, a coworker took the afternoon for a doctor’s appointment. I didn’t think anything of it. He came in the next day and told me he would need to take a Thursday and Friday off in August “for a medical procedure” and asked if I could cover for him Thursday. I checked my calendar and told him it would not be a problem. Then, knowing he has some medical issues, said “I don’t want to be nosy. I hope everything is OK.”
      Coworker: “It’s preventative… Frozen peas.”

      I took a second, then broke out laughing.

      He later told our boss the same thing when he asked for the days off.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        That’s a good response from him! Gets the point across without over-sharing, brings a little humor. 10/10, would recommend as a script.

    5. Apples and oranges*

      I have the say that in a healthcare setting conversations about health, bodily functions, body parts, etc are MUCH more normal and accepted than in other professional settings. I wouldn’t bat an eye if a coworker mentioned getting a vasectomy or complained about her engorged breasts. That said, letter-writers coworker is beyond the pale in any setting

  12. Pippa K*

    I’m not sure why people aren’t more comfortable with casual push back *in the moment* with things like this. A simple “yikes, TMI” the first couple of times, then an “oh my God knock it offffff!” every time. Maybe with a smile at first. But there are so many versions of “nope” that could be handed to this person. It’s not like a boss or patient is doing this – it’s a peer, just say something.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Yeah, a lot of us grew up without models of how to have productive conflict, so we avoid. It has taken me YEARS to start un-learning this and stop being terrified of disagreements.

      2. anonbcz*

        Lots of eggshells around people’s reproductive choices and public performance of the results of their reproductive choices.

    1. Elle*

      Yes, exactly! If folks had pushed back in the moment, she’d know what she was doing is inappropriate and hopefully not escalate her behavior as far as she has. But they haven’t given her that feedback and now she’s like a runaway lactation train.

    2. JimmyJab*

      It’s a sensitive topic, and happening in a workplace – this is awkward and it is problems like this that are perfect for this site. I don’t get why people question why people have the problem they wrote in about – its a problem and Alison thought it worthy.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Because they know their manager is a coward who won’t support them when the coworker complains.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        This is a big part of it, I have no doubt.

        I am VERY comfortable pushing back on things in a social setting. Work settings have different dynamics. Given my role and relative seniority I’m much quicker to do it now than I once was, but I don’t fault the coworkers* for not being sure what to do here.

        *Except once it puts patient safety at risk. That has to be addressed immediately and severely.

    4. Observer*

      ’m not sure why people aren’t more comfortable with casual push back *in the moment* with things like this.

      I think there are two reasons. One is that a lot of the things you suggest feel rude in a vacuum and it can be hard to overcome that in the face of truly bonkers behavior. Sometimes the very lunacy of the behavior makes it even harder to evaluate, as it can be hard to wrap your head around what is happening. Like “DID SHE JUST SAY THAT?!?!?” and “AGAIN”?!? In my head this is an absolute screech. But in person the intensity of that reaction is going to mean that I’m trying to not flip out.

      The other issue is that this person is deeply unreasonable and if likely to take offense and try to make anyone miserable if they push back. That can be hard to deal with.

      Still, you are right, these are perfectly fine responses if people are up to dealing with it.

    5. Laser99*

      Because people like that—loud, tactless, self-absorbed—ALWAYS take mortal offense at being told to pipe down. I don’t make the rules, I just report them.

    6. Generic Name*

      Because if the TMI person is at all powerful/favored, then people rightfully fear blowback. My last company that That One Guy who loved poop jokes, but he was a favorite of the founder and became a company leader/part owner. I eventually got so sick of the gross humor I did start saying things in the moment like, “Eeew!” “Gross!!!” “Why are you telling me this?” “TMI”. He started cutting me out of meetings and basically sidelined me, making my job much harder to do. He told me to “go [eff myself]” in front of the head of HR. I looked at her with eyebrows raised and she stared blankly at me. Guy was untouchable.

    7. Sparkles McFadden*

      I, myself, am an “in the moment” speaker, but I totally understand why so many people stay quiet in the workplace. It boils down to confusion and/or self-preservation:

      – They’re stunned into silence because they are trying to process the weird thing that’s happening, and they’re preoccupied with their own internal dialogue of “What? Did I mishear that? Is she crazy?”

      – The workplace is filled with very serious, and sometimes very odd, power dynamics, so most people err on the side of silence to protect their livelihoods. This is especially true around a topic such as breastfeeding. What’s being described here isn’t really related to breastfeeding, but most workplaces don’t deal well with nuance, and sometimes there are repercussions for speaking up.

      1. metadata minion*

        There also can be the factor that if I heard one of these comments, I might mentally go “woah, TMI!”, but wave it off because, well, I know breastfeeding must be taking up a lot of her bandwidth right now, and maybe she’s also sleep-deprived from caring for an infant, I’ll give her some slack. I might even think that the second or third time. But then by the time I’m sure that it’s a Thing, rather than something blurted out accidentally that I should politely pretend never happened, I now feel weird not having said something the first time.

    8. Elbe*

      Yes! If the coworkers had gently called this out in the beginning, it likely would not have escalated to this point.

      Avoiding conflict often just creates a lot more conflict down the road. Telling someone that they’re being inappropriate is a lot more confrontational and emotionally charged after they’ve been doing it for a long time. It’s much more uncomfortable to know that they’ve been making their coworkers cringe for weeks, so they’re more likely to be offended/defensive/in denial.

      I feel like there’s a trend of people more conflict avoidant, even over relatively minor things that would not be a big deal. Conflict management is a skill that people should have, even if just to avoid having things blow up later.

    9. Dog momma*

      Bc nowadays everyone is SO SENSITIVE AND INSULTED over even minor things. You can bet that woman will run with that. Even though she’s in the wrong.

  13. Stuart Foote*

    Infertility is tough on people and (from what I see) can take a huge, huge amount of mental real estate. Also, post-partum mental health is a big challenge for a lot of people. Clearly this worker is being highly inappropriate, but I doubt she’s being intentionally malicious and the folks waiting for an update just seem mean. It’s likely she would be very embarrassed if/when someone points out she is acting inappropriately.

    1. dorothy zbornak*

      The people wanting updates are not mean, they want reassurance that someone took care of the issue. It sounds stressful for everyone.

      1. Plume*

        No there is a lot of poking fun at the breastfeeding mom and reveling in the drama in these comments. It comes across as nasty.

        The letters this week seem to have a theme of “Look at this pregnant woman/mom being a terrible coworker!” which is an interesting choice for the week after mother’s day.

        1. Elle*

          I mean, this is a work advice blog. People write in with problems, Alison responds to them, and the commenters discuss their thoughts on the matter. This woman’s behavior is seriously inappropriate and off-putting and it has nothing to do with her being a mother. She’s using something parenthood-related to make people uncomfortable. She lied (if I’m reading the letter correctly?) about pumping rooms being available so she can pump in front of people.

        2. Tobias Funke*

          It’s super convenient to ignore all the mothers and current or former nursing parents commenting on this post also appalled by this behavior.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          Nobody is poking fun at her **because** she is breastfeeding or a mom. They are commenting on someone who is being wildly inappropriate in the workplace. Breastfeeding just happens to be the vehicle of the inappropriateness–it could be any of a lot of other topics.

          Also, Mothers’ Day doesn’t magically make people who happen to be mothers immune to criticism when they do or say things that are out of line and also happen to be mother-related.

        4. Madame Señora*

          See, this is why people in the office are afraid to speak up. This woman’s thoroughly inappropriate behaviour is being tolerated for fear of being labeled a woman/pregnancy/baby/nursing parent hater.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Yes. It sounds like she might be prone to overreaction no matter what, so I can see wanting to avoid giving her any feedback on anything (as a peer! her boss should be doing it!), but add the specific context, and it’s extra tricky.

        5. Insert Clever Name Here*

          As a woman who has birthed two children and breastfed both — STOP IT. You are being ridiculous. Pregnancy and breastfeeding are exhausting and time consuming, yes. But people doing those things can still be assholes. They can still be people who push boundaries. They don’t get a free pass at SHOWING COWORKERS PICTURES OF THEIR NIPPLES because they’re breastfeeding.

          You think you’re being supportive of mothers, but all you’re making us out to be idiots.


    2. Berin*

      Given how graphically she’s talking about her breasts in front of her colleagues, I’m not certain that this worker has the same threshold for embarrassment as most would.

      I also think that it’s incredibly important to support people going through fertility and post-partum issues, but not at the expense of submitting to unwanted sexual conversations in the workplace (commenting on her “stripper boobs,” talking about how her husband views her breasts, etc). Mental health can be a reason for behavior, not an excuse.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Sticking a picture of her boob, nipple in a co-worker’s face unasked for and with no asking for consent.

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        Exactly. I am 100% not qualified in any way to give a coworker post-partum support outside of my own job duties. Can I help cover emails/phones/walk-ins while my coworker has to pump or go to a doctor’s appointment? Sure! Happily! Am I a lactation professional that can counsel someone on clogged ducts or who wants or needs to see a person’s nipple? NOPE. Not my job or anything I’m interested in. And if someone assumes all of these topics of conversation are opt-out rather than opt-in, but then gets huffy if someone opts out, the problem is not my non-support of working mothers and/or internalized misogyny.

    3. Nonsense*

      Last I checked there is no post-partum mental health problem that causes someone to constantly discuss their breasts, breastfeeding, and/or choice of pumping methods.

      There are a variety of forums and outreach programs available now for new mothers to both discuss their mental health and to discuss various aspects of baby raising and bodily changes. Work is not and will never be one of those places – especially when dealing with a patient mid-seizure like holy hell how self-absorbed do you have to be to not realize how inappropriate that is???

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Even if there are, they do not need to be accommodated in the workplace at the expense of everyone else, or in front of patients.

    4. Double A*

      The fact that she escalates her comments around men is gross and shows this is intentional. It’s sexual harassment. In fact, it’s sexual harassment of everyone in the office when she makes comments about “stripper boobs” and shows photos to her colleagues.

      Postpartum is indeed hard, but it does not excuse sexual harassment.

    5. Littorally*

      “Intentionally malicious” isn’t really a part of the issue here. Plenty of people have been subjected to all kinds of mistreatment that the offender would swear up down and sideways was not intentionally malicious. This is a distraction from the issue, which is that this is incredibly inappropriate workplace behavior.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Years ago a family member was taken to the ER with a serious medical issue. Because the ER and Admissions were backed up, it took nearly 12 hours before she was able to be admitted. During that time, the ER staff refused to give administer her usual dose of a med she took every evening to ward off … not sure if it was Sundowners, but she’d predictibly become disoriented, agitated, paranoid if she didn’t receive that medication every day like clockwork. Normally she was a delight, a dream, incredibly kind, cogent, not wanting to be a bother, but in that state.

        When a nurse came towards her with an oxygen mask, and someone else tried to start an IV line at the same time, she completely panicked, as though strangers were trying to harm her. She first resisted and screamed “no, stop, help help!” and when they proceeded, she began to fight back with slaps, pinches, whatever she could do to make them stop.

        Even though her behavior was completely understandable given her medical status at that moment, caused by a genuine medical issue, it did not mean that her care team needed to be subjected to harm or inappropriate behavior from a patient in their workplace. They were perfectly justified in backing away, objecting and the supervisor in stepping in to address it.

        There is no justification for this woman’s co-workers, and patients to be subjected to this behavior from her, all day, every day, no matter what the reason for it. And LW’s supervisor sucks for not addressing it directly and not escalating it to someone who can and will.

        (the fact that the way the supervisor addressed it was by injecting a sedative dose that was WAY higher than is recommended in ANY elderly patient never mind a petite woman, according to a PharmD clinical pharmacist and which knocked her out, made her completely unresponsive for 48 hours, and causing all kinds of long term issues that took her months to recover from, was NOT perfectly justified, but that’s an nightmare for a different advice blog)

    6. MistOrMister*

      The fact that OP says if they try to ask the coworker to rein in the breast talk, that she will get difficult and pout makes me think this coworker is difficult in well-known, documented ways. The breast talk might not exactly be malicious, but it is highly unlikely that she doesn’t know it is incredibly inappropriate. As another commenter said, the fact that she is stepping up the talk when men are around also makes it unlikely this is not intentional. I am certainly empathetic to those who experience fertility issues. And I could understand if she came back and was talking relentlessly about her baby. But her fixation on her breasts and trying to constantly draw her coworkers’ attention to her breasts is beyond yge pale and I cannot imagine any part of post partum or infertility struggles that excuse that behavior. The fact that she mentioned her pumping while a patient was actively seizing and being treated shows she has lost the plot. It is not unreasonable or unkind to want an update to this one. This situation is so out there that I can’t imagine many people will run into it, but hearing how it gets resolved could help someone in a similar situation down the road.

    7. melissa*

      I breastfed for a year. My coworkers were vaguely aware of that but for heaven’s sake. The “drama” in the comments section isn’t about mothering or feeding. It’s about coworker who is either attention-seeking or just totally unhinged.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Yeah, no one wants to or needs to or should be forced to be subjected to a co-worker’s verbal diarrhea about ANY body part or bodily function. It doesn’t matter WHAT the body part or bodily function is: breasts and breast feeding, elbows and the burning and itching of plaque psoriasis, the GI tract and dietary needs or actual diarrhea.

        Nobody is objecting to or attacking her for being a mother, having recently given birth or breastfeeding in the workplace. What they are objecting to is being subjected to her very frequent, very focused, very detailed talk about it every day in their workplace. These are her friends, her family, her doctor, her lactation consultants, or fellow members of a lactation support / new parents’ support group. These are her co-workers who come to work to do a job, to provide care in a clinical setting … not be targets for whatever is on her mind, whatever is going on in her life that is not work related (aside from particular needs she has from HR, her supervisor RE accommodations, a clean, private space available for breastfeeding, etc)

        It’s not appropriate and her behavior doesn’t belong in the workplace no matter what the reason.

    8. Observer*

      Clearly this worker is being highly inappropriate, but I doubt she’s being intentionally malicious and the folks waiting for an update just seem mean

      Could we cut it out with the mental health stuff? Sure, it’s possible that she’s dealing with mental health issues. But it’s also just as possible that she’s not. So let’s not jump to “oh, be nice. She must be having mental health issues.”

      And there is nothing “mean” about hoping that something gets resolved! This is a serious and significant workplace problem and *something* needs to happen. It doesn’t matter what she “means”. As is noted so often, intent is not magic.

      It’s likely she would be very embarrassed if/when someone points out she is acting inappropriately

      I would say the reverse. We’re not talking about a child here, or even someone who is new to the workforce. And her behavior is crossing all sorts of lines. The idea that she’s unaware of any of them? Including the need to focus on the patient while dealing with a crisis? No, not credible at all.

    9. Petty Betty*

      Bruh. Dude. M’guy.

      I’m a working mother of four. Not once did I ever whip a titty pic out and show my coworker, asking for medical advice. Not once did I ever sexualize my breasts in any way towards my coworkers (in front of clients or otherwise). Never did I speak about breastfeeding. My body was my own dang business and I kept that ish out of the work sphere. Because I’m a professional. Even when I encountered new moms in the workforce, I just made sure they were coping and let them know that if they needed to talk or had questions, they could always reach out privately, but that’s it. A few did reach out and we had good communication, but it wasn’t something that other staff members/clients overheard.

      This is weird and inappropriate and wanting an update to know how management handled (or mishandled) the situation isn’t much of an ask.

    10. AngryOctopus*

      Someone who whips out a picture of her nipple, shows it to a coworker, and asks “do you think I have a varicose vein” without prefacing it with “can I ask you an embarrassing question related to my breastfeeding? I know you have more experience with these issues. I have a pic of the issue, can I show you?” is NOT going to be embarrassed and contrite if told “whoa, that’s not appropriate.”. She’s not going to say “Oh I didn’t realize I was being inappropriate” when asked to stop discussing anything related to her breasts and breastfeeding at work. She knows damn well what she’s doing, and likely knows damn well that her actual supervisor feels unable to talk to her about it.

    1. Throwaway Account*

      Yeah, I kind of curdled inside at that comment!
      I am a big breastfeeding advocate (with my share of painful infections), and I also have a wide-open filter — but these comments are too much for even me and that is saying something!!

    2. NewFlora*

      I used to work as a milker on dairy farms. If someone said anything like that to me, I would instantly regale them with all kinds of stories about the most vomit-inducing types of udder injuries and mastitis I encountered and treated. There is a reason I blanch whenever I see strawberry flavored milk products (although just for the record, none of that ever came close to going in the milk tank on my watch)!

        1. Audrey Puffins*

          I think it’s nothing to do with the products themselves, just that where you or I might see pink milk and think “a delicious strawberry-flavoured treat!”, NewFlora will look at pink milk and be reminded of blood-contaminated milk

        2. Bird names*

          I suspect in their work environment it would mean blood got into the milk, which should not be processed further.
          Strawberry flavored milk products are innocent, but probably remind NewFlora of that possibility due to similarity in coloring.

        3. Cinn*

          I’m assuming it’s a colour thing. If NewFlora is alluding to what I think they are anyway.

  14. Not Jen from The IT Crowd*

    I used to manage someone who was very TMI with everything health related. I suspect they had some health anxiety issue, which made it worse, but it wasn’t my position to go diagnosing such things. They would often share details about medical conditions and appointments, that I really did not need nor want to hear. I think it was also compounded by working for a previous manager who didn’t believe them or trust them and therefore they got into the habit of over explaining everything by way of justifying their every move.
    Once it was obvious they were freely over sharing their health and medical information, and it wasn’t a one-off, I outright said that I and our colleagues didn’t need to know any of the details, but if anything was to affect attendance/work, I just needed to know it was a medical issue AND NO FURTHER INFORMATION so it was dealt with properly from an admin side and I was aware in case cover was needed or accommodations required. Took a few goes at saying it and cutting them off when they began to elaborate, but it stopped it. If I found they were over sharing to others, I reminded them they were not to share details and I also told anyone else on the receiving end to 1) tell me if they did it so I could deal with it, and 2) use an “I don’t need to know specific details” script to nip it in the bud.
    I don’t understand why anyone would take on responsibility of staff in a workplace if they’re not willing to have these frank conversations?!

  15. Elle*

    The strangest thing about this to me is that it’s been allowed to go on for so long. Why not tell her that her behavior was inappropriate before it got so extreme? Now it will likely require a much larger confrontation.

    Can you all just start hitting her with bland, calm pushback! Eg, “Please don’t show me photos of intimate body parts.” “That’s not appropriate for this setting, please only pump in [approved place].” It’s ridiculous that the actual manager won’t address it.

    1. LaurCha*

      Sounds like she is a drama llama and a pouter so any pushback from the start would’ve resulted in a conflict. People tend to avoid conflict at work. QED.

      1. Elle*

        I saw another commenter point out that they probably knew already that the manager would not back them up, which makes me much more angry at the mgmt in this workplace. As a manager you have a responsibility to protect your employees from things like this.

    2. Reebee*

      “Why not tell her that her behavior was inappropriate before it got so extreme?”

      Because it’s not up to her co-workers to manage the situation. The BOSS, if properly managing, would notice on their own and shut it down ASAP.


    3. fhqwhgads*

      Because everyone expects her to respond poorly and they all are hoping someone else will step in.

  16. H.Regalis*

    Betty Breastfeeding needs to find a different outlet for this. I get that it’s her first kid, I get that breastfeeding is hard, but work is just not the place for this. Reddit, some other online forum, a blog where she types into the void, anything. And boo on your supervisor for abdicating responsibility about this. If you do end up having to say something, and your coworker pitches a fit and then flounces off in a huff and gives you all the silent treatment, that maybe is the best outcome here.

    1. Throwaway Account*

      I wonder if a good first step is to share an online breastfeeding forum of some kind, La Leche League?, and say your relative really enjoyed sharing there because everyone there is so focused on it? Every time she brings it up, ask what LLL or other org says about it.

      Then a week or so later, start saying that is not work appropriate, it is better for the online breastfeeding org.

      1. Khatul Madame*

        What she does is not appropriate for LLL or their ilk, either. She sexualizes BF and these organizations will not be OK with it.

      2. H.Regalis*

        It’s not a bad idea, but personally I wouldn’t be optimistic about it. I don’t think she’s doing this to her coworkers because she’s unaware of other places she could chat with people about breastfeeding.

        She’s likely going to have a negative reaction to her coworkers asking her to tone it down. She wants them to be an audience for this, they don’t want to, and even redirecting her to other outlets for this is going to be interpreted as a rejection, because, well, it is; which doesn’t mean her coworkers are required to hear about this for all eternity. They’re absolutely not; but I don’t think there’s a solution to this where everyone is happy.

  17. Plume*

    Oof. I feel for the new mom but this is not OK. It’s easy to become obsessed with the pregnancy and later breastfeeding when you struggled with infertility. Often the same hormones causing fertility issues in women complicate breastfeeding and contribute to PP anxiety and/or depression too.

    If you are friendly with her you may have luck saying something like: “Hey I’m worried about you. I don’t know if you realize how obsessively you talk about breastfeeding. You even brought up your pumps with the seizure patient the other day. We have an EAP and I think it might help for you to have someone to talk with about your journey right now.”

    From the letter though it seems like you are not friendly with her so maybe try and find someone she has a good relationship with and see if they can have a compassionate conversation with her about post partum struggles and what your employer offers.

    You’re boss sucks by the way. They should be having this conversation.

    1. Genevieve*

      I like this approach. While it’s certainly possible that this person is doing it for attention, etc., I think it’s much more likely a combination of poor boundaries in general plus the stress of infertility/postpartum stuff/adjusting to being a mom. It definitely needs to stop, though!!! And there’s nothing wrong with Alison’s scripts, but this approach might be best if you feel like she’s struggling at all and overcompensating.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        “Please excuse my stripper boobs” though…I have a hard time thinking she just has poor boundaries when things like this are being said.

    2. HugeTractsofLand*

      I really like this approach and the way it conveys concern while still addressing the issues, although I’d leave off mentioning EAP and just wait to see what the coworker says. If she’s already touchy, directing her towards EAP at the start may make her even more defensive.

        1. HugeTractsofLand*

          Haha you’re the first one who’s noticed the reference! Yes, it is weirdly appropriate for today’s weird letter.

    3. judyjudyjudy*

      Her PPA may be driving this behavior, and she deserves help and support. But this person doesn’t get infinite grace, and it doesn’t mean coworkers have to listen to breast talk hours per day. This person distracted others during a medical emergency to give an update about her breasts — it’s not mean or dismissive of her PPA to describe this behavior as totally inappropriate and potentially dangerous. I didn’t view Allison as being unsympathetic at all.

      It sounds like you had an awful time — I hope you get help and support too.

  18. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    I’m a breastfeeding mom who (until recently) pumped at work. This is not OK! It’s great for the mom to be able to discuss pumping needs without shame, but this is waaaaay too far. It should be welcome for a pumping mom to be able to say things like “I need to pump so I have to move this meeting”, wash pump parts in the kitchen, or even discretely use her wearables in front of others, but this crosses the line into exhibitionism. Breastmilk is food for babies but it is still a bodily fluid, which has a limited place at work.

    Even in breastfeeding-friendly online groups, this would be way too much. Her supervisor needs to step in, yesterday.

    1. Peon*

      My take away from this is that pumps must have improved by leaps and bounds in the last 11 years from all the mentions of wearables that aren’t immediately obvious to others. Makes me wonder if pumping would be more successful for me these days.

      1. Crooked Bird*

        I know right?? She was apparently wearing them while helping someone who was having a seizure? You can do that much with them??

        1. basically functional*

          Right??? The last child I pumped for is now 10 and back then I thought my special bra that let me operate my pump hands-free was the pinnacle of pumping technology!

    2. JustKnope*

      I disagree that using wearables in front of coworkers could ever be appropriate. I pumped at work for 5 months and believe in normalizing it! But even when the wearables are small, it’s not possible to be totally discreet. That’s just something that should be done privately in the workplace.

      1. Ginger Cat Lady*

        I’d 100% agree with you – if it were possible to do it privately in every workplace.
        Since it isn’t for many wearables are an acceptable alternative. Examples: nursing, teachers, etc. who need to pump but realistically don’t get breaks long enough for it, even if legally they’re supposed to.
        I’m glad YOU were in a situation where it was possible for you to do it privately every time. Not everyone has that privilege. I think it’s really important to understand that it IS privilege.

        1. JustKnope*

          Sure. Fine. My point still stands that it’s not appropriate and shouldn’t be normalized. Of course I recognize there are positions with less privilege and are put in impossible situations. I’m talking about *most* situations we should not normalize someone pumping in the middle of the meeting about TPS reports.

          1. JustaTech*

            The person I knew who wore her wearables around coworkers only did it because the lactation space was basically inaccessible and she did everything she could to hide them.
            Also she worked on a loud site (covered the noise) and wore very baggy safety clothing (so they were well covered).

      2. Hannah Lee*

        Not sure it it’s appropriate to generalize about this, but pretty much any situation I can think of that involves fluids coming out of a employee’s body, or removing something from an employee’s body, even if it *could* be done discretely in the main shared workspace, should probably be done in a private place away from where other people are working, where they can seen, hear, smell, possibly come in contact with the results (even accidentally).

        Except a necessary medical device that’s affixed to the person and designed to be wearable, portable, silent, worn all day, including as they go through daily activities out and about (like a colostomy bag) And maybe a diabetic discretely doing a finger stick at their workstation?

        But anything else? Nope. And especially not on the regular or with someone announcing it, calling attention to it, and especially not in the presence of clients, customers, patients including patients in the midst of an active seizure or other situation requiring immediate, focused medical care (!!)

        1. Mama Llama*

          Just a note that breastfeeding people are not required to protect their coworkers from seeing breastmilk. In my state, we are entitled to employer-provided refrigeration. If that means my breastmilk is next to your lunch (and in my work place, it does), that’s on our employer. My child’s food is next to your food.

    3. Jzilbeck*

      I also breastfed/pumped for over a year and would agree this coworker is too much…. even though I was one of 3 people who needed the lactation room, we never went into this much detail amongst each other! The only photos that got shared were of our babies.

      1. JustaTech*

        I shared a lactation room (each chair had a curtain) and we did that public bathroom thing where you politely pretend that the other person isn’t there.
        Occasionally we might say “hey, could you hand me a paper towel?” or “what is wrong with the heat in here?” but those curtains were *closed*.

  19. Juicebox Hero*

    Has she always been a Chatty Cathy? I used to work with someone who never stopped talking, and also had zero TMI filters, so I learned things about her and her family I haven’t been able to forget despite ~20 years of trying.

    Hopefully she just doesn’t realize how much she’s been oversharing and will stop the boob talk (or else sulk in silence, which is also a win) but if she’s like my coworker nothing short of a direct HR intervention will stop her.

  20. A Simple Narwhal*

    Man I’m in the thick of it with baby stuff and the cottage cheese comment still really threw me off, I can’t imagine hearing that from a coworker!

    Honestly someone going on this much about any topic would be too much, even a benign one. Add in the very personal element too it and this needed to be shut down weeks ago.

    1. Macy*

      SAME. I’m 9 months into nursing my second baby and I had no idea the cottage cheese thing was possible and I wish I still didn’t. That is wayyyy too much information for work

    2. Observer*

      Honestly someone going on this much about any topic would be too much, even a benign one.

      LW, I want to highlight this, because I think it’s something you could use when you kick this upstairs. You are not objecting to discussion of nursing. You are objecting to her non-stop insertion of the topic in the most graphic terms All. The. Time.

      1. Albatross*


        If I were going on about my favorite book series in this kind of relentless detail, to the point of bringing it up during emergency medical responses, it would also be a problem. I’ve mentioned the books at work occasionally, but mostly I keep my enthusiasm to fan spaces, with people who appreciate them like I do.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, this. I have an acquaintance who is really into a [thing that is in no way related to breastfeeding, or any other biological function. We’ll say it’s tabletop gaming] and they’re a nice person but oh dear gods I always have to have an escape plan because I am so unutterably tired of hearing about it. It’s 100% SFW and G-rated and in no way stomach-turning, I am just Very Done.

    3. KitKat*

      Saaaaame. Literally came back from pumping and read this first thing back at my desk. NO THANK YOU, MA’AM.

  21. The Coolest Clown Around*

    “I can’t” is a REALLY unacceptable answer here. Even if she doesn’t have the authority to handle this the way she wants, your manager has a responsibility to make sure this gets handled by someone (not a peer).

  22. CubeFarmer*

    A colleague of mine right now is pumping regularly, and honestly, it took me several weeks for me to realize it. It’s not her first baby, so perhaps the novelty has worn off!

    I think she pumps discretely at her desk, which…fine if she’s fine with it, but that seems like an inadequate solution. I thought employers had to give a private space for employees to pump milk.

    1. Genevieve*

      They do!

      Also, I think you’ve hit on one dynamic that might be at play here – I wonder if part of people’s (very understandable) hesitance is how uneven breastfeeding/pumping support can be in the workplace. Are they bending over backwards because they don’t want to seem unsupportive? Which is thoughtful, I suppose. I am as pro-breastfeeding/pumping accomodations as they come (and pumped for over a year at work with my first). But oy, this lady is doing all lactating parents a giant disservice and ignoring her helps literally no one – not patients, not coworkers, and not her. I hope OP finds a way to shut it down!

      1. Elle*

        This is a really great point. The coworkers are probably trying to be kind, but not telling her this isn’t cool is not really kind to her or themselves. I’d like to think that a gentle reality check will end this issue but I’m not sure… The fact that the problem intensifies around men and she maybe lied about pumping rooms being available so she could pump in front of others make me very nervous.

    2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      In the US, employers are required by federal law to provide a private place to pump (that is not the bathroom). Yes, that last bit is written into law.

      (There’s probably something about size of company too, not sure.)

    3. Mama Llama*

      Are they required to? Yes. Do they? Often, no. My employer thinks “close proximity” to a private space for lactation is forcing me to walk half a mile each way, outdoors. No option to drive / bike / whatever.

    4. Elsajeni*

      They do have to provide a private, lockable space that is not a bathroom; depending on your office layout, it’s possible that “in your office” could suffice as a private space, or it could be that there is a designated space somewhere but she just prefers pumping at her desk. (I pumped at my desk — I do have a locking office door, and also, the lactation room I had access to was kind of bare-minimum and didn’t have its own fridge, sink, lockers where I could leave my supplies, etc., so it didn’t have any real advantage over just pumping in my office.)

  23. Essentially Cheesy*

    Repeat as needed: “I’m happy for you but you’re making me uncomfortable.” Revise as needed.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I wouldn’t even say “I’m happy for you” because that’s all this coworker is likely to here.

    2. blooper*

      THIS is the answer! It’s not that deep – just tell her you’re uncomfy the next time it comes up.

    3. Elle*

      A script is key for this kind of thing. Rinse and repeat.

      “I’m not comfortable hearing that.”
      “Please don’t say stripper boobs to me in the workplace.”

  24. Double A*

    Wow, it is amazing a whole adult human has not gotten the message that in mixed company, we refer to our bodily emissions and private parts minimally and euphemistically! Saying that you need to pump or use the restroom is fine. Describing either of those in detail is not fine.

    And like, I get that some people are really weird and overly prudish about breastfeeding in the other direction, but this lady is waaaaay over correcting.

    1. Genevieve*

      Yeah, I went into this letter thinking that it might be about a coworker who is just not secretive about pumping, because some people are definitely very squeamish (which is fine but also not the pumping person’s problem, within reason).

      That said, whoooooo boy this woman is so very far over the line. She can’t see the line from where she is. I’m all for being matter of fact and honest about things when necessary, but…. that’s not what this is.

    2. metadata minion*

      “And like, I get that some people are really weird and overly prudish about breastfeeding in the other direction, but this lady is waaaaay over correcting.”

      Yes, exactly! The fact that it’s her breasts makes this *even weirder*, but I don’t want to hear about her allergies or bowel movements or exciting new skin care program in this level of detail either.

  25. Ms. Rogerina Meddows*

    This isn’t really related to the discussion at hand, but this line absolutely hit HOME for me: “She’s going to feel however she feels; you can’t control that, and if you let your fear of her having an unreasonable reaction stop you from speaking up, you’re letting yourself be manipulated.”

    It’s giving me a lot to think about regarding my upbringing and how I handle conflict in general as a result. I’ve put up with far too much at work–and in life–because of fear of other people’s reactions, and it all started with a reactionary, “my way or the highway” father and a mother who enabled that behavior because of fear of him flying off the handle if she spoke up.

    But to bring it back on-topic, please do say something, OP; if not for yourself, than for your colleagues who may be too shocked by her behavior in the moment or too scared of her reaction to speak up. A simple, “Whoa! TMI!” should at least stop her in her tracks and just maybe, get her to see that people are uncomfortable with her behavior.

    1. Paint N Drip*

      Isn’t it wonderful and jarring and all sorts of things when we hit an ‘aha’ moment about ourselves reading this blog? It’s happened for me more than once in replies and quite often in the comments! Thanks for sharing, and good luck integrating this new realization into your growth.

    2. ferrina*

      It’s amazing how a personal history can change a normal interaction (for better or worse). The behaviors learned in childhood tend to stay with us and can come out in strange ways.

      Ms. Rogerina Meddows, that sounds really tough. fyi, I’ve found Patrick Teahan’s YouTube channel focusing on toxic family systems to be really helpful in pointing out lingering issues from my childhood. Good for you on this clarity!

    3. A. Nonymous (on phone)*

      Yup— I have a mother whose tactic is “be so nasty when confronted that putting up with her shit is preferable to the conversation.” Kill me!

    4. H.Regalis*


      I’ve been in situations where I had no power and was at the mercy of the other person, especially as a child; but I’ve also been in a lot of situations where I DID have power but the other person manipulated everyone around them into letting really awful things slide because they would Flip. Out. if you tried to speak up about anything.

      This can apply to situations even where the other person doesn’t intend to be manipulative! I have a friend who is a good, kind-hearted person, but does some annoying stuff. Until recently, I’ve avoided talking to her about the things that bother me, because I know she’ll vomit apologies at me; but the stuff she does still needs to stop, so I’ve had to be like, “I need to tell her to knock it off, and she’s going to react how she’s going to react.”

    5. Star Trek Nutcase*

      It took me until 50 to realize my upbringing was still controlling my thinking & actions, and it was going to end now. I got tremendous pushback and negative remarks, but I figured I wasn’t happy before so was willing to chance things would improve. Ultimately, things did improve *for me* and I now enjoy not being conflict averse. I wouldn’t hesitate now to speak to this breast oversharing coworker (much earlier too) and sett a hard boundary – it’s then her choice to sulk or act as an adult.

  26. Mallory Janis Ian*

    I am trying to process *why??* she wants everyone to know all of this about her — the gross parts and all! Just, Why??

    1. The Original K.*

      I don’t think it’s malicious – I think it’s that it’s the most important thing to HER, so it’s just all she talks about. She clearly needs filters and a better sense of decorum though.

      1. Littorally*


        I definitely sympathize with that part of it — when something huge is going on that’s taking up all of your mental real estate, it can feel like the only thing that exists to possibly talk about. Like, with the seizing patient (which, holy shit!) she was probably in that moment incredibly conscious of the pumps, having to work around them, etc. But part of being a grownup is knowing that just because it’s the overriding 800-pound gorilla in your consciousness doesn’t mean it needs to be everyone else’s too.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          I have to spend annoyingly large amounts of time thinking about my medical issues, and keeping track of things like what medicine I took when. That doesn’t mean I’m going into details with anyone except my partners and whatever medical practitioners need to know. For the dental hygienist that means “it’s not contagious, but I may signal you to stop unexpectedly.”

          Even I don’t find the details of my health interesting, and I assume nobody else does either.

    2. Elle*

      The fact that she maybe bent the truth about the pumping rooms being unavailable so that she could pump in front of people makes me think she is getting a thrill out of this in some way. I think she’s probably super stressed out and at some point in her life started seeking attention as a way to feel better, and this is just more of the same.

      I feel for her but this is just not ok

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        The lying and the fact that she amps it up a notch around male coworkers means she is doing this deliberately on some level. It is so not okay…

      2. RVA Cat*

        Yeah but the “stripper boobs” comment took it into sexual harassment. At this point I’m wondering if it’s become a fetish (which makes me think of the BDSM TMI letters).

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Plus “here’s what my husband thinks of my boobs now” is just ick ick no.

        2. KitKat*

          Ehhh. Your breasts can change a lot breastfeeding and it can cause a lot of insecurity. I would still lean toward stressed, insecure about her changing body, and too self-involved to notice that nobody else is interested in the topic.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        I’m not sure that I think it goes as far as a thrill but I think sometimes people who are going through hard stuff get accustomed to feeling both like life is harder for them in general, and like they’re special because of it. I don’t even think they realize it most of the time. It’s just like, the baseline of hard and sad rises and then when it should go down, they fill in the gap with things that are kind of made up, because humans don’t like change. But it’s more like they don’t have any emotional reserves left so they go from zero to distraught way faster than most of us would, rather than reflecting on and reasoning through the situation. And the gauge for what is socially acceptable gets out of balance.

    3. Generic Name*

      Who knows? I have the same thought process about a company leader I used to work with who constantly, constantly told poop jokes. Does he have a weird fetish? Does he enjoy making people feel uncomfortable? Maybe he just has the maturity level of a 5th grader (I think this is the most likely answer)…… Just ugh. It’s what Chump Lady calls “untangling the skein”, don’t even bother trying to understand why people act in antisocial ways.

    4. Double A*

      Insecurity and a love of attention probably. And an indifference to the comfort of others because she’s the most important person in the room. I mean she’s sexually harassing her colleagues, it’s probably similar motivation to other people who do the same. There’s a thrill and an indifference to their feelings. Maybe a bit about control.

      1. Possum's mom*

        When she does this around male coworkers, I wonder if she gets the same titillation ( OK, sorry about that word) from this that a flasher gets from exposing himself to unsuspecting females? My sense is that she has based a lot of her self – worth on her pre-baby figure, and is doing this for reassurance that she’s still desirable.

  27. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    In the words of Captain Awkward, it’s time to return awkward to sender. LW, you’re worried about things being uncomfortable and unpleasant for the co-worker and that she will make things uncomfortable and unpleasant for everyone else if you tell her to stop. Well, things are already uncomfortable and unpleasant for the rest of you, so it’s high time that she feels some of this, too.

    If she does pitch a fit about how she “can’t talk about anything anymore,” an option to respond is to agree with her. Something like “Yes, we can’t talk about breasts in a level of detail that is inappropriate for the workplace” or “Correct, we actually can’t talk about absolutely everything in the workplace.” She will probably expect that people will disagree and say that we can talk about plenty of stuff, so agreeing with her will be kinda confusing and she may not know how to proceed with her rant.

    1. Don’t put metal in the science oven*

      She may then say something like, “So everyone just hates me?” Just respond with a recap or repeat of your original statement. Because she will be looking for a fight and validation. Like “No, no honey. We don’t hate you.” And or spirals into making a lot of drama about HER. It may take some gray rock-ing.

      1. Ms. Elaneous*

        “So everyone just hates me?”

        oh … what a temptation.

        “Well not everyone”

        “They may stop hating you if you stop oversharing..”

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Or “no, but that might change if you keep making things super uncomfortable at work.”

          The coworker has choices. She can chill the f*** out about breast talk and have things be cool or she can keep at it and alienate a bunch of her colleagues (secret addendum: alienate them more than she already has). Those are the two options. I hope she picks wisely.

      2. Beveled Edge*

        I would be so tempted to respond “Yes we do, but I promise that will stop as soon as you stop talking about your breasts.”

      3. AngryOctopus*

        “So everyone just hates me?” can be met with a simple “No”. If she complains how she isn’t “allowed to talk about anything” you can say “we can talk about many things that are workplace appropriate”. Simple statements of fact that don’t give her any pushback room. Because really, since you’re a medical clinic, the only discussion of breasts should be around “the patient in room 6 is here because of breast pain” or “we referred the patient to an OB/GYN to talk about her breast lump that we think is a cyst” or something similarly medical.

      4. New Jack Karyn*

        “I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t hate /you/. But how much you talk about breastfeeding, and the level of detail, is really not cool, and I really don’t like it.”

    2. ferrina*

      “We can’t talk about anything anymore”

      “Um, actually, we were never talking about our co-workers boobs. That was never appropriate”

  28. radish*

    She is the one being unreasonable, disgusting, and rude. You guys don’t have to tiptoe around her. If you don’t start addressing it, one of you is going to lose it on her and you’ll probably feel bad about it.

  29. Snooks*

    My favorite response to inappropriate questions and comment is, “Why are you asking/telling me this?” It’s usually effective.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yes! The LW should save up some responses to use every time.

      “Why are you telling me this?”
      “I’d rather not talk about this at work.”
      “Wow, that’s too much information.”
      “Hey, this is more graphic than I want to hear.”
      “That sounds like something you should talk to your doctor about.”
      “This is making me feel uncomfortable. Can we talk about something else?”

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      I think this particular co-worker would come back with, “What’s the problem? It’s just about bodily functions, and we’re all health care professionals!”

      or “You’re shaming me about breast feeding! That’s discrimination!”

      or “I’m just talking about things that are super important to me, like everyone else does!”

  30. hobbydragon*

    I’m pumping and while I wouldn’t mind having what my husband calls my robot boobs on (aka my wearable pump) and having someone be in the room since they are fully under my shirt (fyi you should not have a wearable be your primary pump, so she really only should use that one time during the workday – and they take longer to extract all the milk) and be using a more traditional model the other times) I don’t think I would draw attention to it, except maybe to apologize for the sound. The stripper boob comment definitely crosses a line beyond overly comfortable talking about breastfeeding and into sexual harassment…

    1. Observer*

      The stripper boob comment definitely crosses a line beyond overly comfortable talking about breastfeeding and into sexual harassment…

      This. That comment is telling. And unlike the LW’s observation that CW is worse when around men, this cannot be pretended away. She said it.

  31. Anna*

    I practice medicine. This is outrageous behavior especially when dealing with a seizing patient. I would have no hesitation to say “enough!” during one of tirades.

    1. Nightengale*

      Ditto. The only things to talk about in that situation are airway access and diastat dosing.

  32. RVA Cat*

    This is immature but if she keeps on after being told to stop, would responding only with “moo!” at increasing volume shut her down?

  33. Hedgehug*

    OP/LW, I don’t know when you wrote this vs when Alison has published it, but if it’s really recent, please escalate to have this shut down instantly before one of the other 10 moms snaps and has a public meltdown.
    I’m saying this because I gave birth in 2020, and breastfeeding was not part of my journey, and it is still a very traumatic and painful source of grief for me. So if I were one of the other moms in your office, I would have already lost it on your asinine coworker, shoving her successful feeding journey in my face every second of the day.

    1. MsM*

      Or the colleagues/patients who want to be moms and are running into difficulties with that…

    2. Grey Coder*

      Much sympathy, Hedgehug. I went through this twice. Now, twenty years later, I have achieved a level of peace, but the grief is real.

      1. Allthesingleparents*

        This is weird. What would happen if it was a male coworker saying:
        “Wow, this medication I’m on for my prostate issues is making my penis huge! Look at my pants bulge! My penis was big before the medication, but now it’s enormous. I think it’s also curved now though, look.”

        I’m assuming the response would be “wtf dude, shut up already. Gross.” followed by a complaint to HR. And this should be no different. It’s not that she’s talking about the need to pump, it’s that she’s constantly drawing attention to her boobs. THAT is not OK, even if you are breastfeeding. I had no issues whipping a boob out to feed in public, but I didn’t announce “check out my gigantic stripper boob” to all assembled each time.

    3. KatCardigans*

      Yeah, I agree with that. Breastfeeding did not work out for me and there was a major formula shortage at the time, which was extremely stressful. I would probably be okay now, but if somebody had behaved like this at my work a year ago I absolutely would have burst into public tears.

      It’s a little weird that she’s making this into such a main character moment for herself when this is an office with a LOT of moms of young kids. She’s acting like she’s the only one with breastfeeding experience.

    4. Antigone Funn*

      Me too. I’d like to think I’ve made my peace with it, but this awful woman might just tear the scab off.

    5. Hedgehug*

      I think she has blinders on because they are in a medical setting, and you really get into that zone where this talk is all normal because it’s your whole life. I have had to catch myself sometimes with baby/kid/mom talk like, “oh, this is probably not a normal topic to this person, oops!”
      But yeah, I had to go through therapy and the grief over not being able to nurse was at the same depth as my grief when my mom died. I’m not even exaggerating. I would not be able to handle being around LW’s coworker.

    6. Jaybeetee*

      You know, I’ve known some Main Character types in the past who would get offended (or even find ways to turn things back at you) if you politely or respectfully asked them to back off a topic. On the other hand, someone actually snapping at them like you describe tended to be very effective! They may not like or want to speak to that person again, but they would, in fact, Shut Up About X.

      I can’t recommend it in a workplace, because obviously snapping like that can also backfire in serious ways, and it’s generally not a habit you want to develop anyway. But it’s interesting to think about at least ;).

  34. Kristin*

    Let’s make “can’t stop talking about her boobs” lady and “keeps Facetiming a large cage of birds” lady work together, they should keep each other entertained

    1. Savor The Peelies*

      There’s a joke in here to be made about a certain blue-footed shore bird.

  35. Observer*

    I think that Allison missed out two issues, one of which is very important here.

    For the smaller issue here is that she is not just talking about nursing etc. waaay too much and very disruptively. She using really sexualized language here. I mean “stripper boobs”?! What on earth. I think this is relevant because a lot of people will legitimately argue that talking about nursing is not really talking about breasts per se (at least in the sense that’s uncomfortable or intimate). So, you need to call out that she’s going way beyond those norms.

    The really important issue here is that she is subjecting *patients* to this stuff and almost certainly disrupting patient care. I mean who interrupts treating a patient in mid-seizure to announce ANYTHING that’s not about the patient?! It could have been a comment about new work computer, and it would still be wildly out of line and terrible judgement. Adding this layer to it is just beyond gross.

    And if no one cares about the patient safety and comfort issue per se, it might be worth pointing out the legal liability issue. Because if something goes wrong, even if it has zero to do with her terrible judgement, people are going to be LOT less likely to cut the clinic some slack / extend some grace if they are subjected to this nonsense. And I have no doubt that any patient’s lawyer is going to use this to claim that the place is a mismanaged den of buffoons rather than a professional medical care facility.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Even if management refuses to do anything else (and that would be a terrible decision), they at least need to address that she was actively distracting staff from dealing with an urgent situation with information about her personal life. That would be a problem even if she was talking about her weekend plans. I’ve never worked in healthcare, but I’d assume that there is a need for super clear communication about important stuff during the response to a situation like this. Like directing what medication to push / confirming that it has been done.

      If that wasn’t handled swiftly, I can only assume that there are much bigger problems with her and with the organization. It kinda reminds me of when people write in to advice columns about issues with their in-laws and it turns out that the bigger problem is that their spouse is totally failing at backing the LW up and keeping their parents in check. The coworker is a problem. The fact that the supervisor can’t/won’t do anything is a bigger problem.

  36. BellyButton*

    I literally gagged at the “fatty milk/ cottage cheese” portion of the letter and I am not a squeamish person. If I heard someone say that I would have probably gagged and lost it “ENOUGH! I do not want to hear another word about your breast milk or breasts. Tell your online mommy group, not your coworkers. ”

    I would not care if it upset her or she reported me. Exploding at that point would be justified.

      1. BellyButton*

        Just so you know, I am gagging as I type this. I love(d) cottage cheese but the thought of it coming out of my or anyone’s nipple has sent me over the edge. I am not sure if I will ever be able to eat it again.

        1. Juicebox Hero*

          You’re not alone. Just the thought is making me queasy and I’ll never be able to look at it without that mental image again.

          1. AnonORama*

            Yeah, I’m mad at this person for putting that image in my head, and I don’t even work with her.

  37. Your Social Work Friend*

    I’m caught up on the unsolicited nipple pic. That alone should be a human resources nightmare. I once had someone do that to me in person to look at a surgical wound they thought was infected and my only in-moment response was “oh my.” Unsolicited boobs/nipples are not okay, particularly in a work environment.

    She is probably going to have an unreasonable reaction, but that doesn’t have anything to do with you. She is an unreasonable person, as her behavior has proven. No one with a common understanding of appropriate social behavior would share this much unsolicited information about their breasts/breastfeeding in a work environment. I think Alison’s script is a great choice, just keep in mind that no matter how you put it, she’s probably going to have an unreasonable reaction. And really, she’s already being unreasonable so you’re just picking the unreasonable you’re willing to put up with–extreme breast talk vs petty/obnoxious/etc.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      With some luck, she might just sulk and STFU, which is definitely a win.

  38. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    “while helping to stabilize a patient who was literally mid-seizure, she announced that she had her wearables on and was actively pumping during the event!”

    Unacceptable. Her exhibitionism may be affecting patient care, or at least your legal liability. What if that patient had died – any subsequent invetigation would ask if she was distracted and your legal defense could be weakened wrt a jury even if there was no obvious contribution to death.

    Re her coworkers: Obviously gross of her to keep talking about boobs or the details of any health issues, whether that be mastitis or IBS. A brief mention of a problem is fine, but no need to get into which body parts or what is happening to them or talk about it every week.

    1. Observer*

      Her exhibitionism may be affecting patient care, or at least your legal liability.

      I don’t think that there is any “maybe” about it. She’s affecting patient care because she’s breaking everyone’s concentration during emergencies. And any halfway decent attorney is going to have an absolute field day with a comment like this, in this context. Because that points to *terrible* management.

  39. br_612*

    Reminds me of a grad school classmate (/sort of coworker? We were in different labs but in the same open lab space and open office space) who went on and on about her cervix when pregnant and got mad when I told her we didn’t need to hear about her cervix at work.

    “We work in biomedical sciences you are being immature”

    “I don’t care where we work or what we do, I don’t need to hear about YOUR cervix when I’m trying to eat my lunch. That is vastly different than talking about cervical cancer in general.”

    Like it might’ve been one thing if she just mentioned she needed cervical cerclage or something. That can be scary! Incompetent cervix can cause late-term miscarriage and I’m sure that’s terrifying. But it wasn’t that. She was just . . . talking about her cervix ad nauseum.

    She also, at 26 weeks pregnant, said it would be fine if her baby came that week because “what’s a few weeks in the NICU I’m tired of being pregnant” (I assure you she was in fact serious). Already bad enough. Multiplied a million fold when I tell you that one of the women in that shared office space, who heard her comment, had quite recently lost a child after 11 weeks in the NICU.

    1. Hrodvitnir*

      Oh god, I didn’t see that last part coming. That poor coworker (who lost her baby).

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      Oh. My. God. If the other woman had torn into her verbally, I’d have cheered her on. I have no words.

  40. MistOrMister*

    I am flabbergasted by this letter. Especially, what in the world are stripper boobs? I have never heard anyone say that! If somehow HR is not willing to address the constant breast talk, I would think they would be compelled to address to stripper boob comment b/c how that is not blatant sexual harrassment, I do not know. I would think that plus discussing pumping while treating patients would be enough to get her a talking to. I would be livid if I was in for treatment and someone starts in on, by the way I’m pumping, everyone look at my boobs and ignore the sick person for a minute!!

    1. What are they?*

      Leave it to AAM to prompt me to look up “what are stripper boobs!” The first answer was fake boobs, so now I’m even more confused. At first I thought the pump is like a stripper’s pasties, but she said she had them before so ????

      1. DrSalty*

        For many women, pregnancy and breastfeeding causes their breasts to get bigger. Sometimes by A LOT, and especially when they are engorged with milk like if you haven’t fed the baby/pumped recently. My assumption is she’s saying her boobs have gotten so big they’re like a stripper’s now (aka, fake looking).

      2. Dust Bunny*

        These were “married woman boobs” in my family (since most of the married women had kids, and thus bigger boobs).

      3. What are they?*

        Thank you AAM community for teaching me something. I learned the word “cromulent,” this week on Jeopardy (which I would have known if I’d paid more attention on The Simpsons). And now I can add stripper boobs. It’s a great day to be alive

    2. n.m*

      for real. Even when talking about breasts is acceptable in a given workplace, I feel like talking about strippers usually isn’t unless said workplace employs strippers.

  41. NetNrrd*

    In a shared office space, I have occasionally announced “THE INFORMATION CONTENT OF THE ROOM IS RISING. PLEASE MAN THE INFORMATION BILGE PUMPS” as a way to lead into “c’mon, man, too much information no really TOO MUCH INFORMATION”

    1. MsM*

      I love it, but I’m not sure “pumps” are the best reference in this particular scenario.

  42. girlie_pop*

    I have a family member with epilepsy and have seen them have a handful of seizures and I truly cannot image anything going through my mind but, “Get everything away from his head, is he breathing, how long is this seizure lasting, do we need to call 911”!!! Talking about your boobs during an active seizure is really something!

  43. Eldritch Office Worker*

    “While that question is vaguely related to my clinical area, she thrust the photo in my face without even asking!”

    I know working in the medical field might shift the day-to-day norms about body talk, but remember you’re also not her doctor. It being vaguely related to your clinical area is no justification. I just point this out because as soon as you start caving to any aspect of the bonkers logic in her head it can be fast tumble downhill.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yup, and (I figure) that exposure to people’s bodies doesn’t typically happen with absolutely no warning.

      It’s also different when it’s someone you know. A friend of mine is learning aesthetic hair removal. She has to have some volunteers to practice on as part of her training. Very sensibly, she is not comfortable training doing bikini-area hair removal on people she knows, because that would be super weird.

  44. HugeTractsofLand*

    Just chiming in to say that we need an update! Sexual harassment includes being exposed to sexual content/conversation, and while breastfeeding isn’t inherently sexual, the shape of your colleague’s breasts sure is. Your note that she brings this up more around male coworkers makes this an especially icky case of low self-esteem. What’s she going to do after she’s told off: complain that “SOMEbody doesn’t want to hear about my breasts!” and expect anyone else to respond that they WANT to hear more?

  45. WorkerDrone*

    I’m assuming she announced she was wearing/pumping in front of the seizing patient, correct? Was the patient able to hear her/understand her? Had I been that patient, and heard that, I would have thrown a fit and reported everyone involved – not just her, but including the other health care providers who did not shut her down – to every possible reporting body that would cover the clinic I could find.

    I’ll go a little farther than most comments and say that I really think that if the patient had been able to hear that comment, you failed the patient by not immediately shutting her breast talk down.

    Anyone discussing their private areas in this way in front of a patient is, as far as I am concerned, sexually harassing that patient. I don’t really care if it’s talking about breasts due to breastfeeding vs. talking about genitals on purpose to harass – while the latter would certainly be worse, the former is still sexual harassment to me. (Note, I am obviously excluding lactation specialists, or contexts when it would be perfectly appropriate to discuss breasts, which of course happen all the time in healthcare; this is specifically a context where it is NOT appropriate.) And responsibility to stop that *while it’s happening* falls on the other health care providers witnessing it. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is an unpopular opinion, because I hate to blame the victim so to speak – she’s harassing you all, too! – but patients are in a uniquely vulnerable position and if you didn’t shut her down right then and there, you should have.

  46. Petty Betty*

    This is over the top. I get being insecure *and* proud of the changes your body has gone through and the “miracles” and irritations of your own body, but my goodness, the LW is very much correct in labeling this as “attention-seeking”.

    Bringing attention to her breasts in front of patients? Even if they are actively seizing, the patient could very well have heard it. It also distracts the attending staff from their jobs! What if there had been family/friends of the patient in the room? I’m assuming she made sure that the patient was the only non-staffer in the room.
    Then there’s the whole issue of her being more talkative about the subject when men are around. That to me suggests that she wants to ensure that she is seen as more than just “Mommy Milkbags” (a term a mom group I’m in coined) and wants to be seen as a desirable woman still. Ironically, she’s doing the opposite when she is focusing on the breastfeeding aspect of her life/body, but it doesn’t actually matter in the long run because the entire line of monologue is inappropriate.

    It’s definitely time to start looping in HR about this issue. Long past time. This person has been given too much grace. Some commentary to shut her down might look like:

    “This is not the time to discuss that subject”
    “It’s inappropriate to discuss that in front of patients, regardless of their condition”
    “I’m not your medical provider, I can’t help you with that” (especially when she’s showing you pictures of her anatomy, WTF?!)

    I can’t wait for an update on this one.

      1. Petty Betty*

        So am I, depending on the context. Some people really think “TMI” is too informal, or they don’t understand the acronym and get confused, so you’d have to spell it out for them anyway. I know I could get away with saying that to some of the people I work with, but if I were to say it to my boss, I’d have to explain it to him.

  47. Bern Notice*

    I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to hear an update more than I want one from this OP!!

  48. DramaQ*

    I was just thinking maybe she has gotten it into her head since she works in a clinic that her behavior and talk are OK since they deal with patients and patients often go into detail right? It’s the fact that she shoved the picture in the LW’s face asking about veins that made me wonder. She needs to be sat down and told this is not acceptable in ANY workplace. If she needs to talk to people that much and that graphically it needs to be between her and her private physician/therapist/lactation consultant. You are there to provide help and service to PATIENTS not coworkers. She IMO should have been fired on the spot for continuing to talk while you were tending to a medical event with a patient and I am pretty sure most hospitals would have. I think you need to go to HR. I think the director is too scared that she will get in trouble for discriminating against a breastfeeding mother. The thing is the ACT of breastfeeding is protected. They can’t fire her for needing to pump while on the clock. That DOES NOT extend to the stuff she’s pulling. That’s crossing over into sexual harassment even if she’s cloaking it in breastfeeding talk. Putting pictures of your boobs in your coworker’s face is harassment regardless of the justification for doing so. At the very least it’s creating a hostile work environment. IMO she’s giving breastfeeding working moms a bad name because this the type of BS I hear from people who are against it. You don’t have to hide in the shadows I was quite open about the fact I breastfed but this is beyond normal behavior or being any type of breastfeeding advocate.

  49. Pastor Petty Labelle*

    One thing I do want to add — the meme needs to be shut down too. Gossiping behind her back is not acceptable either. And it is gossip. Either address the issue or stop talking about her. Making fun of her behind her back is not professional either.

  50. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    This level of ANYTHING personal would be inappropriate in the workplace, especially when in the middle of patient care. Swap out boob talk with “my little darling who is the star of Little League” and it’s clear that she needs to stop using her coworkers for her ego-feeds.

    “Gotta get back to work” is an acceptable response and may get to the point without stepping into the body part minefield.

  51. Plume*

    “Okay. First, what the hell? Even if we think this is attention-seeking, it’s incredibly weird.”

    I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt here that you collected a lot of mother and pregnancy related letters to post after mother’s day as an appropriate theme and your heart was in the right place. But my lord are you missing the mark with compassion big time! Please consider revisiting any other answers you have this week with a more educated perspective.

    The mom in this letter suffered infertility, was obsessed with her pregnancy, and now is obsessed with breastfeeding. And you want to speculate it’s attention seeking? Come on! Anxiety and depression is so common in mother’s pre and post partum that it’s now part of the standard care of mother’s to try and screen for it at every office visit. Let alone with infertility related losses.

    My best friend had a baby in 2020 and me and his other best friend had babies in 23/24 and he acknowledges that the challenges we are facing are way worse then what he and his wife had to deal with.

    Maternal and fetal mortality is on the rise in the US. I repeat, more mothers are dieing in child birth now. That should be enough to summon some compassion but in case it’s not my post partum experience has been:

    NICUs full 2 to a room that use to be singles. Maternity ward was full. I was literally in a converted closet. Chronic understaffing at every level of child care and healthcare. Most of my nurses were working 50-60 hr weeks and it showed. I know they were doing their best but their best wasn’t enough in this broken system that puts profit over patients. My daughter was discharged with brick dust diapers that landed her in the NICU at a children’s hospital <12 hours from discharge. Formula shortages are still common, I go to the store and none of her formula is available for days despite checking 5 stores. The infant RSV was under manufactured nationally and no one could get one so she was in mortal danger all season (October-March) from that on top of the Covid dangers. And I'll note that the fertility rate for 2023 was actually lower then previous years, so it's not a case of being surprised by record numers. They literally made less to insure less waste and more lrofit. Infants can't be Covid vaccinated so breastmilk is the only safety net. If you struggle to produce like the poor subject in this letter that's just more anxiety on the mom. I wouldn't wish that pressure on my worst enemies. My struggles with breastfeeding in a post Covid world was the worst experience of my life. I could go on. There are so many problems I've personally experience. Many more I've witness or heard.

    Just please have some compassion and understand it's harder being a parent now. Even Dad's are being diagnosed with "perinatal anxiety" at record rates. Every Dad I know whose kid was born in the past 2 years was diagnosed with PPA.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      All the more reason that this isn’t appropriate in a setting with multiple new parents, patients, and anyone else who could be dealing with PPA, fertility issues, breastfeeding issues…

      The context you give here makes it worse, not more sympathetic.

    2. Zona the Great*

      I disagree with you on all of this. Alison’s reply didn’t lack compassion at all. This woman is talking about having stripper boobs. This goes way far beyond speaking about our bodies as sources of life and sustenance. None of your details that you included were relevant to the letter. You simply cannot shove your breasts into someone’s face, no matter how beautiful it was to have a rainbow baby. I think you’re conflating some very serious and real feelings you have about fertility and birth with the information in this letter.

    3. Andromeda*

      I see your point (and, while not a parent, can only respond with horror at the anecdotes you’ve shared). Maybe just saying “it’s attention-seeking” is unfair or rude to her when we can’t know exactly what’s going through her mind. (I also think the memes are rude as hell, especially if she isn’t seeing them.)

      But the actual behaviours this person is displaying also aren’t polite or productive. I would be horrified to be suddenly shown a photo of a colleague’s bare breast, and LW mentions that the comments escalate around the men in the office — it’s possible that some of them are feeling profoundly uncomfortable, especially if remarks like the “stripper boobs” one are reflective of their general character (that one is basically sexual harassment). The behaviour may well be coming from a completely sympathetic place, but LW is in no position to suggest anything about her mental health as a peer and is absolutely within her rights to ask for it to stop.

      What if there are others who are struggling to produce, or people dealing with infertility, in the office who are traumatised by the same crises that you describe?

    4. Ginger Cat Lady*

      I don’t see a lack of compassion here. Could this woman be dealing with a perinatal mood disorder? Yep. It is still a workplace issue that is weird and needs to be resolved? Also yep.
      Where I see lack of compassion here in in your post, which you made all about you and your experiences and completely ignores the workplace situation at hand.
      Maternal mortality rates? Important but irrelevant to this workplace scenario?
      For profit medicine and the problems inherent in that model? Also an important discussion, but not relevant to miss “I make cottage cheese milk and talk inappropriately about it at work, icking out my coworkers.”
      Not every post here will be about what YOU think is important. There are lots of improtant discussions to be had. Your experiences are valid.
      But not here, in this post about this situation. And you do not get to cry “lack of compassion!” because the topic at hand isn’t what you think it should be.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Exactly this, Ginger Cat Lady. I get how it can be seen as uncharitable to call the behaviour “attention-seeking.” Particularly since it is basically only ever applied to women and is used often to get women to shut up, not express their interests, and generally take up less space in the world. Plus, it’s a weird thing to be mad about because we all want to have people’s attention sometimes. It’s a very normal, human thing.

        I think there can be a tendency for some commenters to focus disproportionate attention on a particular word choice or one detail. IMO, this happened in a letter yesterday where some folks went down a rabbit hole about whether a pregnant person was lying about doing work that she hadn’t or if she incorrectly believed she had done it and, therefore, was not *lying.* Although that might be an interesting debate for some, it didn’t really change the advice – to have an honest conversation with her about what’s up and figure out a plan.

        Something similar may be happening here. I didn’t love the reference to “attention-seeking,” for the reasons described above. But I did my best to read the rest of the letter and the answer without my reaction to that colouring things too much. Overall, I agree that the coworker is being super inappropriate here and someone needs to shut this all down. I can have compassion for all the struggles of getting and staying pregnant, delivery, and parenting, and also think it’s unacceptable to be forcing people *who cannot leave* to listen to this kind of detail about a coworker’s body.

    5. Anne Shirley-Blythe*

      This does not give Coworker carte blanche to information-dump on and demand attention from her coworkers. Everyone’s going through something. The workplace should not be used as free therapy.

    6. Frankie Bergstein*

      This is way, way off base. We need to be able to work together in offices and clinics – this woman’s behavior, whatever her reasons may be, are hindering that. Maybe she needs therapy or EAP, not this. Suffering doesn’t justify poor behavior.

    7. Your Social Work Friend*

      Being a parent is hard, being a NICU parent is hard (I was one in the era of masks and overcrowding), struggling to conceive is hard.

      Life being hard does not make it appropriate to tell your coworkers that your breast milk looks like cottage cheese. The behavior does invite attention, it has crossed the line to weird, and there’s no reason anyone should have to cater to it at work.

    8. LLama Doc*

      I sincerely hope you are seeking therapy because your anxiety is bleeding through your response. It is very exhausting to deal with someone else’s anxiety/attention seeking/ drama llama in addition to patients. I don’t believe in IVF and really, really don’t want to hear about it, or breastfeeding, or all the other TMI. If she is that anxious then mommy group, therapy, and stay at home with her baby. Sometimes others forget we are human too, and don’t need to have life-force draining coworker interactions day in and day out.

      1. Andromeda*

        Hang on, though — the behaviour mentioned in this letter is unacceptable, but expecting to go through life not dealing with others being anxious or talking about IVF or breastfeeding *at all* (if that’s indeed what you’re suggesting) is also not realistic. It’s possible to be matter-of-fact about what you need health-wise while also not being TMI.

    9. gandalf the nude*

      sorry, what? we had a letter about someone pregnant on monday and this one today. i seriously doubt that has anything to do with mothers day, what a weird comment.

    10. DramaQ*

      No sorry. I had massive post partum anxiety but that didn’t cause me to talk to my coworkers like this. If she is so bad off that she has lost her ability to understand what constitutes acceptable workplace conversation then she needs immediate medical intervention. The things she is talking about are private medical or lactation consultant conversations. You do not shove your nipple picture in your coworker’s face. You take it to your LC to discuss a potential blocked duct. The fact that she stood there and continued talking during a medical intervention is 100% unacceptable I don’t care HOW bad your PPA or PPD is. That is distracting medical personnel while on duty. It is not her coworkers’ job to coddle her and put up with extremely uncomfortable conversations. It is up to her to get help if she has issues. HR should be stepping in and telling her if this due to PPD/PPA here are the resources to get help. We will give you X amount of days on leave to seek it. But you’re not going to continue to make your coworkers lives uncomfortable with your behavior. They have every right to not hear stripper boob comments in the workplace. It has absolutely nothing to do with her being a new mom or breastfeeding directly. It’s her complete lack of filter that is the problem.

    11. WindmillArms*

      What??? None of that has any relevance to someone chatting happily about their boobs at work.

    12. Admin Lackey*

      Except she’s not talking about the plight of working parents incessantly, is she? And the plight of working parents doesn’t give you permission to endlessly make your coworkers uncomfortable by talking about your breasts.

      Nothing you said has anything to do with the letter and really just reads like a guilt-trip

    13. Observer*

      The mom in this letter suffered infertility, was obsessed with her pregnancy, and now is obsessed with breastfeeding. And you want to speculate it’s attention seeking?

      No. What Allison said is that *regardless* this is inappropriate behavior. And it is. Full stop.

      Your “compassion” for this woman is not actually compassionate at all. She’s putting patients at risk. She’s causing a huge amount of stress for her coworkers. And you can be sure that none of this is doing anything truly beneficial for her either, even if she is enjoying it.

      Just please have some compassion and understand it’s harder being a parent now.

      I’m sorry you had a terrible time. That would not give you the right to behave in the ways that this woman is behaving. The people *I* have compassion for are the people she’s putting at risk, the people who she is harassing, and the people with their own traumas and issues who are undoubtedly suffering from her ongoing behavior.

      If she’s dealing with anxiety or any other issue, diagnoable or not, she needs to get help. What she CANNOT do, and should not be allowed to do, is to harm others. That is *not* what compassion means.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        And we can acknowledge her struggles and have compassion while being clear that her *behaviour* is not acceptable.

    14. Tobias Funke*

      I cannot even imagine (literally, I do not have kids and cannot even imagine) the horrors described in this comment. They are in line with the horrors described by many a parent-friend.

      And yet, I do not see how they have anything to do with this letter. Projecting is human – we all do it. Everyone in this thread, everyone on the planet does it. So it is understandable you see your horror story reflected in this – I have typed out at least ten “the Venn diagram of people who are This Way and the people who think you are not a real grownup if you don’t have kids is a circle” type comments and not posted them. Literally has nothing to do with me…and yet there I am, feeling feelings. So I totally get your projecting of your own experiences onto this letter.

      It is not unkind to tell someone their inappropriate behavior needs to stop. Telling someone their inappropriate behavior needs to stop IS a kindness. It doesn’t sound like this colleague has disclosed a PPA or PPD diagnosis, but that does not mean it does not exist. Here’s the thing: PPA and PPD are not helped by isolation, and this behavior is alienating others. It is a kindness to all to deal with this wildly inappropriate behavior compassionately and timely. Not by excusing it because anxiety.

    15. A(p) parent-ly*

      As someone who gave birth in 2019 and again in 2022 – and as someone who went through a more-difficult-than-normal 2nd pregnancy (and ultimately lost my child) I just want to say I don’t see a lack of sympathy in AAM’s response. You’re correct about maternal mortality rates and you’re correct that the landscape of pre- and post-natal care has changed since the pandemic, but none of that means that any aspect of LW’s coworker’s actions is acceptable, because it absolutely is not. And in fact, if I was a fellow coworker, with my own birthing history, it would make me not just uncomfortable but actively triggered, as well.

      1. Tobias Funke*

        My condolences on the loss of your child. Thank you for providing your perspective on why it is, in fact, a kindness to remove this behavior from the workplace.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I’m so sorry for your loss. May your child’s memory be a blessing.

      3. Hrodvitnir*

        I’m so sorry to hear about your second child. I wish no one had to experience that.

    16. really anon*

      Imagine not having a choice about parenting. Hopefully most people do have a choice, and can make that choice, deal with the consequences (and rewards) without involving non-consenting bystanders.
      Maybe our species should consider alternatives to this much struggle in creating new humans while we are burning down our planet and sentencing billions of already existing children to a hellish future.

    17. MicroManagered*

      I’m sorry for your difficult pregnancy/birth experiences but I think you are personalizing the post and not thinking about it clearly. None of what you listed justifies in your comment justifies sicking your coworkers out with “breast milk cottage cheese” and “stripper boobs” at work.

      It can be discussed with compassion, but it’s not acceptable behavior and needs to stop yesterday.

    18. Dust Bunny*

      I never married and, because of some health issues, probably could not have had kids, anyway (although I ended up never trying), and even though I’m basically past childbearing age now, that still kinda hurts. But since when do we need to be sympathetic about her anxiety or whatever is going on here, but not about how the rest of us who aren’t making a show of it might feel?

      This is all very special to her but the workplace is not the arena in which to play it out. If she needs therapy, fine–her manager needs to direct her to the EAP, etc. But by whatever means work, she needs to rein this in, like, a whole lot.

      1. Bird names*

        Thanks, exactly. With the number of mothers in the office, it is pretty safe to assume that some of them have also had struggles with pregrancy or post-partum. Do they not count at all or are we simply to assume that they have had no problems Plume mentioned because they didn’t share that at work?

    19. HonorBox*

      Being a parent is tough. Agreed.
      The system is broken. Agreed.
      People suffer from post partum depression. Agreed.

      Yet none of that excuses behavior that has crossed too many lines. I worked with someone years back who was struggling with infertility. We arranged her schedule so that on certain days, she could just text me when she needed to go in for an appointment as early as need be and then show up when she could. I’ve worked with parents (and have been the parent) sharing concerns about supplies, or sharing maybe a little too gory detail about a middle of the night sickness incident. It is one thing to chat with coworkers casually and have a little support group. But this individual is taking up hours talking about her breasts. She’s showing photos. She’s using terms like “stripper boobs.” And it is making people she works with, and potentially the patients who don’t even know her, uncomfortable.

      I won’t say that your comment isn’t entirely relevant, because there may be some actual things at play that are impacting this person’s behavior. But that’s not the workplace’s to fix. And coworkers shouldn’t be subjected to the subject matter and the amount of time that subject matter is being shared.

    20. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Regardless of the cause or background, her behaviour towards coworkers and patients is absolutely unacceptable and must be stopped immediately.
      I’d suggest 1 final warning saying no more boob talk and then firing her if she doesn’t obey this.

    21. Head sheep counter*

      One cannot nor should they empathize away sexual harassment. Stripper boobs, an uptick in boob talk around dudes, nip picks and neglecting a patient to talk about your boobs isn’t about the state of parenthood or motherhood in 2024. Its about her boobs. Its about some feeling she’s chasing by obsessing and talking about her boobs. It wouldn’t be appropriate in a social setting and it very definitely crosses into sexual harassment at work.

      Also a work blog deals with the fullness of the human condition… at work. Mother’s day? Its not actually a great holiday for many many people. The hallmark holidays are often problematic at work. So its natural to talk about the things related to those holidays.

      The folks called out in the last couple of letters are the ones making life more difficult for those who aren’t covered by these letters. The comments, in fact, give a great insight into why people don’t speak up. The excuses made for lying yesterday were… interesting. Parents today have enough challenges to navigate. Do they really need help from Booby Betty and Lying Lisa?

    22. Cassielfsw*

      This is not a contest. Even if you were certified The Most Oppressed, Anxiety-Ridden, Traumatized Person On The Entire Planet, it would not justify the behavior described in this letter. There is no number of nights staying up worried sick about your baby that permits you to shove pictures of your boobs in your coworkers’ faces, subjecting them to graphic discussions of the amount and consistency of your milk and your husband’s opinion about your “stripper boobs”, or *interrupting patient care* to redirect everyone’s attention to your boobs, because heaven forbid we prioritize the person experiencing a medical emergency instead of your hawt jugs.

      *(all instances of “your” in the preceding paragraph were in service of the hypothetical. This commenter is not LW’s coworker)

      *Everyone* has problems. There is no minimum amount of Objective Suffering that means the world needs to revolve around you.

  52. Green Tea*

    As someone who needs to pump in the office, I obviously don’t do what OP’s coworker is doing, but I am curious where the boundary is on when it becomes TMI. If someone asks why I missed a lunch, or why I am off-camera on a call, etc. I tend to be matter-of-fact and say it’s because I’m pumping. Is that level of information on its own enough to make people uncomfortable? Should I be making up more diplomatic reasons, like having too limited bandwidth to go on video?

    1. Rainy*

      I think details are TMI unless we are having a casual, non-work conversation specifically intended for those details. You wouldn’t have that with me because I’m not a parent, breastfeeding or otherwise, but I absolutely don’t find it TMI or offensive for you to say “oh, I needed to pump” or whatever. In fact, if you are on a schedule, which I understand to be fairly necessary, I’d appreciate a heads-up that you can do video meetings but no cameras at X time, or that X time is off-limits due to your pumping schedule, so that I can support you by not proposing a meeting time or whatever else is helpful to you.

      OP’s coworker is so far beyond that zone of reasonable detail that if it exploded she wouldn’t see the flash for days.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Everything you’re describing here is incredibly benign! The line is really when it’s unprompted, graphic, and constant.

    3. DrSalty*

      You are fine. What makes this lady TMI is how she talks at length in detail about it all, especially the weird sexual comments.

    4. DramaQ*

      I’m pretty sure we can all agree there is a bright red line in front of sticking a photograph of your boob in your coworker’s face and talking about it during a medical event which required intervention from staff.

      That being said I get it. There is still so much stigma and judgement around breastfeeding that I can get being paranoid. I was too.

      You’re fine. I wasn’t going to hide I was pumping at work we worked at a teaching hospital that was very supportive of it. Letting my boss know I was going to be in and out cause I am pumping is fair. You are pumping during a meeting with your camera off? Totally fine.

      I talked about it to coworkers but only if they initiated. A coworker who was pumping wanted to advice on how to step down/wean off pumping and asked if I was comfortable with sharing what I did. I consider that okay it was a private conversation that we were very loudly having in the middle of the office like this lady does.

      Breastfeeding the kids in public without a blanket such as at the mall or dining out? Yep I did it. I used nursing tanks so the entire world didn’t see my chest but I wasn’t going to try to hide some place or have to lug a blanket around with me. That is MY comfort level though, if it’s not yours that is fine. But you should be free to do that without judgement.

      Maybe not during a work lunch but excusing yourself if you urgently need to pump would be fine IMO. Most people nowadays are sympathetic about it even if they don’t 100% get it.

      It boils down to common courtesy. I am an advocate for being open and accepting of breastfeeding but this lady is BEYOND that and IMO gives breastfeeding working moms a bad name.

      Legally you have every right to breastfeed and you have every right to pump as you need and stick to a schedule for it.

      You have no legal right to talk about having stripper boobs or shove pictures of your nipples in people’s faces.

    5. Lily Rowan*

      I’m not Alison, but that seems obviously fine. Pumping is a fact of life and a part of your work day.

    6. Ginger Cat Lady*

      I think it’s fine to say you’re pumping. Others might disagree.
      I would not say things like:
      “I have to pump before my boobs explode”
      “Hooking up to my milking machine”
      “I need to pump and let my shirt dry because I didn’t do it early enough to avoid leaking. HATE how Jimmy always rambles on and on and on in meetings! We went 40 minutes late and I think I inflated a couple of cup sizes during the meeting!”

      1. DramaQ*

        OMG I snorted so hard at the “MOOO” comment. I would die if a coworker said that when pumping.

        1. JustaTech*

          I 100% said that while pumping, but to my husband, my parents and my in-laws, not to my coworkers!

    7. HonorBox*

      Nothing you wrote would strike me as close to TMI. It is fact. You’re not sharing detail that pushes any sort of boundary. In fact, I’d say that you being matter of fact about what you’re doing normalizes it and allows people to be more understanding.

    8. Cassielfsw*

      Fine: “leaving my camera off because I’m pumping.”

      Not Fine: “yeah, I’m leaving my camera off because I have the MilkMaster 3000 (TM) hooked up to my bodacious stripper boobs that my husband just can’t get enough of! I’ve got 3 ounces on the left and working on 4 ounces on the right! Do you think I can beat my record? One time I got 5 ounces! (I have no idea what amount of milk is reasonable to produce in a pumping session, don’t @ me) Say, *turns on camera* does this milk duct look clogged to you? I got straight up cottage cheese out of this baby the other day! Why are you people making those faces at me, this is beautiful and natural!! “

    9. Boof*

      You are fine! It’s fine to state what you need to do as it relates to coworkers (you need a break to pump. Most people will know that means it’s not really negotiable for more than a few min nor is it something you can do at your desk in front of coworkers etc. Some might know it means a 15-30 min break or whatever you’ve worked out). Going into graphic detail about your favorite pump, how much you made, sore nipples etc, probably best not to share. (well, if someone else is pumping they may want to chat, but that’s different; try to keep it semi private if so)

  53. pally*

    Dang. We have a TMI’er at work. Not to this degree. But there’s times when someone has to remind this person about professionalism in the workplace. While we’ve known each other for decades, this is still a place of business. Professionalism is still expected.

    While someone might be comfortable with co-workers knowing all their personal business, this does not mean the co-workers are comfortable hearing about someone’s personal business. Being professional also requires that we respect this boundary for other people’s comfort.

  54. KK*

    Can you as a group, collectively gray rock her? Every time she mentions boobs or breast feeding that the room falls silent, everyone carries on with their work like she’s not even there. Let her know that this topic does not have an audience.

    1. Andromeda*

      Yes — especially if she *is* doing this to get a rise out of people, instead of being just very oblivious.

      1. pally*

        I say yes to this too. Just make it obvious folks are not falling silent to allow her a free reign to continue her chatter. An obvious turning away from her might get this point across.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      I’m a huge believer in the gray rock method. I’ve found it works better with people like this than trying to have a conversation with them and asking them to stop.

      1. Rainy*

        Yup. If they’re trying to get a rise out of you, a conversation is just feeding that need for attention. Actively making it clear that you don’t have time for this is usually more effective–*especially* at work. One of the real benefits of grey rocking in the context of work is that if someone complains that their colleagues are too busy doing their work to have non-work chats, they just look silly.

    3. HonorBox*

      I think there’s something to this, but having someone show you a picture of a generally covered area of the body makes that difficult. And the fact that comments are being made in front of (or within earshot of) patients makes this something that needs to be escalated. It sucks if coworkers are uncomfortable, but it is hugely problematic if patients are.

  55. LLama Doc*

    Document EVERY SINGLE COMMENT SHE MAKES for a few days, ask her to stop, then document all the BS that will most surely flow your way.

  56. Anne Shirley-Blythe*

    Hate to say it, but I wonder if coworker is getting her thrills this way. OP, please update us. WOW.

    1. Rainy*

      She may just be a huge breastfeeding proponent (nothing wrong with that, of course) who has decided that “raising awareness” is her cause and is going about it in the most annoying and least effective way possible.

      1. Leenie*

        “Stripper boobs” is not normal language for a breastfeeding advocate to use. She’s trying to raise awareness of something…

        1. Rainy*

          I see you have not yet encountered the kind of excessively online breastfeeding–or anything, honestly, I’ve seen it with lots of stuff–proponent (not “advocate” as in, one who advocates, but proponent as in one who’s bloody obnoxious about their cause du jour) who thinks that “raising awareness” is A) best done in the most extreme fashion possible and B) all the excuse they need to irritate people.

  57. Frankie Bergstein*

    I really, really dislike colleagues like this — read the room! Stop being so self-involved! Talk about work at work, PLEASE! Join a Mom’s group where this is acceptable.

  58. Zarniwoop*

    “comments seem worse around the men in the office. Unfortunately, they are all very non-confrontational would never speak up on this for fear of being labeled sexist or misogynistic.”
    If any of the men are being made uncomfortable by this I think they could legit report it to HR as sexual harassment.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      It’s pretty clear at least some women are made uncomfortable by this, and they can report it as sexual harassment as well. Sexual harassment knows no gender.

  59. The Good Rolls*

    “Jan, no one here wants or needs to be a part of your Itty Bitty TMItty Committee”

  60. Anne Shirley-Blythe*

    Coworker’s comments and actions have crossed the line into harassment. Imagine a male coworker extensively discussing his genitals after having a procedure done and showing a picture. The staff does not have to tolerate this.

    1. I Have RBF*


      Like “Hey, do you think my nuts look swollen?” and shoving a picture at a coworker would not be acceptable at all. Why would doing it with boobs be okay?

      I get it, humans feed from breasts. Casually mentioning you need to pump or feed your kid is fine. But talking about boobs and their milk details isn’t work appropriate.

    2. Rebecca*

      There was a letter quite a while back involving a dude who had priapism, and the consensus here was that it was a-ok for him to go around telling people about his erections bc it was a medical condition.
      Maybe it was a comment on a letter rather than a letter. It’s been a while, and my memory is poor.
      Regardless, I’m not really getting why weenus conversations are just grand but boobs go too far.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Unless my memory has completely failed me, I don’t think that happened here (not would I let that go unchallenged). Maybe another site?

        1. Hlao-roo*

          It was letter #3 at this link:

          The “take [new coworkers] aside and explain that if they ever noticed anything, it wasn’t personal” approach worked well at that particular workplace (according to the letter writer) but I don’t think there was anything close to “consensus” in the comments section about that letter.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        Alison’s response was “I’m stumped”.
        Link attached in a reply.

      3. Lexi Vipond*

        If the boob lady was quietly warning people in advance that they may notice her using a wearable pump sometimes, that probably wouldn’t be a problem; if the priapism guy was going round saying ‘woah, look at the size of this’, it would be. It’s about the reaction, not the body parts.

  61. Anne Shirley-Blythe*

    Meant to add–I wonder if Coworker believes that since all of this was initially triggered by Her Unique Motherhood Saga, she is somehow protected. She may play that card. It should definitely be pointed out that she is the one who made it sexual.

    And even if she had left out that sexual aspect, she is creating a disruptive work environment. And I would question her focus and commitment in light of the comment she made during a patient’s seizure.

  62. Lily Potter*

    Are there no men in this office that could “take one for the team”, so to speak?
    While the boob-talk is inappropriate enough in an all-female office, a complaint from a man who had to listen to this all day would carry the threat of a sexual harassment suit. Maybe not a particularly strong threat, but management may not realize that.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      Why do you think only a man can report sexual harassment from a woman? Sexual harassment knows no gender.

      1. Pikachu*

        I read this as perhaps the complaint may be taken more seriously by those with the power to do something if it comes from a man.

        We’ve seen stories of many HR departments here that handle things terribly wrong, and a bad HR department could dismiss a complaint from a woman about a woman as “catty behavior” or “drama.” It’s not right, but it sure can and does happen.

    2. HR Friend*

      Women can sexually harass other women. There’s no need to involve the men in the office simply because they’re men.

      I’m stuck on the fact that no one has asked her to stop. Before anyone starts slinging harassment accusations, the very first step would be to directly tell the coworker to stop talking about inappropriate things, or ask someone above her to do it (as Alison advises).

      And, I’d add, separate what’s actually inappropriate vs. just annoying. Nip pic? Totally inappropriate! Talking about what a pain pumping is? Annoying when said repeatedly, but not wholly inappropriate (and true..).

      1. Zarniwoop*

        If I was a man in this situation I’d be afraid to talk to her directly and would go straight to HR.

    3. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      If this person is not stopped, I’d expect an official complaint from a patient, which would have serious consequences for the clinic when it is discovered they have been tolerating this behaviour.

    4. Boof*

      I really think any of this is likely to be worse coming from a man than another woman. Preferably a woman who breastfed, pumped, and can very authoritatively say “I do not need or want to hear about this person’s breasts or lactation ever again when it has no relevance on our work”. The only time it is relevant is to maybe say “I’ve got a pumping break”. That’s it.

  63. CommanderBanana*

    I think this is what the kids mean when they talk about “pick-me behavior” and “main character syndrome.”

  64. MicroManagered*

    If they respond by asking if you’ve asked her to stop … well, it’s not an unreasonable question and ideally you’d be able to say yes, but it would also be okay for you to respond, “No. I realize normally that would be ideal, but in this case I’m concerned about blowback from her if I do, so I’m asking that it be handled by someone with the authority to address it.

    I would also add that you spoke to your supervisor about it first, who responded that she “can’t” address it with her. If your supervisor tells you she can’t, it’s reasonable to think you need to go up the chain instead of trying to handle it yourself.

  65. MI Dawn*

    Midwife in a past job and I would be appalled at any of my coworkers making comments like that! Yes, breastfeeding is wonderful and natural. But it is *totally* inappropriate for her to constantly be making comments like that. I would definitely go the TMI and HR routes myself.

  66. HonorBox*

    Male commenter here. I have worked with a number of women over the years who had children and were breastfeeding. Not once have I ever been taken aback when a coworker excused herself because she needed to pump. Never once have I winced at breast milk in the office fridge. All of that is pretty normal and part of being a new mother. But I’ve also never been subjected to long and repeated conversations in great detail about anything else. I would be uncomfortable and also don’t know that I’d know exactly how to politely ask someone not to continue with the topic.

    All that to say, this seems like a much larger issue that opens up this business to more problems if it isn’t addressed, like yesterday. Coworkers are uncomfortable. That should be enough. Pictures of the body are being shown. That’s more than enough. And then wearing the pump while also providing care to a patient in a pretty serious situation. That escalates this even more.

    While peers may not feel comfortable saying something for fear of blowback, the director and/or HR need to know what is happening. Not only are they probably on the verge of some sort of lawsuit, if patients are in a position to potentially hear all of this, that’s a larger issue that I think they’d want to deal with, even if there’s no care for the feelings of this person’s coworkers.

    What’s the worst that happens if it is reported to a director and nothing is done? You at least know something more about the workplace than what you did before.

  67. EA*

    This person is an over sharer. She overshared about fertility treatments, now breastfeeding – you can bet she will overshare about potty training too – get ready!

    I like PP’s suggestion of “Why are you telling me this?” It can help chronic oversharers realize they are just running their mouths. After she responds, I also think you could say “OK, I know it’s important to you and I 100% support you breastfeeding and pumping, but I just don’t want to hear about the details while we’re working.”

  68. Maggie*

    I would keep my responses as short and sweet as possibly. I’m not going to discuss breastfeeding with you anymore. Repeat as many times as it takes.

  69. Ma Mere*

    Former trained breastfeeding support counselor here; no one pumps cottage cheese. Breastmilk is 90% water. Even if you have a clogged duct, nothing chunky comes out. You treat it with massage and warm compresses and it’s still milk that comes out of the many ducts in a single nipple. The embellishment seems to indicate attention seeking (no surprise).

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      Oh, thank you times infinity for busting that myth. I’ll still never be able to eat cottage cheese again.

        1. Juicebox Hero*

          I like(d) mine with everything bagel seasoning sprinkled on it. Or just salt and pepper. Siiiiiiigh.

  70. Professional Cat Herder*

    I’m currently a working & breastfeeding parent, but this is SO beyond what would be considered normal in any work environment. I am vocal and open about my work needs around pump: I block my calendar with “Pumping – check before scheduling,” have no problem telling people I have hard stops on meetings so I can go, I’ve occasionally taken urgent audio-only calls with a “sorry, you may hear my pump in the background”. Absolutely, let’s normalize this and be open about it, but save this type of TMI NSFW conversation for your online/IRL parenting group.

    1. Boof*

      Yes, there’s being open/not hiding it and then… there is this. Like, it’s ok to say you need to grab lunch. I don’t need a blow by blow account of what you plant to eat, what you ate, how it felt going down, what you plan to eat tomorrow, that time you got food poisoning, whether you are chewing on gum while doing something else… Same thing for lactation.

  71. Jam on Toast*

    Years ago, I was invited to a bbq that Mr. Jam’s work was hosting. A significant number of the women who attended the gathering were, in fact, strippers*. The conversation over burgers and beer included very frank discussions of their recent augmentations and recommendations for plastic surgeons, plus very… thorough?! waxing tips and at least one invitation for me to feel the new renovations.

    Until today, I thought that was the most inappropriate breast-related conversation I would ever be part of.

    The LW has disabused me of that belief. No one should have to hear those graphic details during casual work chat, let alone during emergency medical treatment.

    *Neither Mr. Jam or I have ever been a stripper – but working in construction, his co-workers’ ‘women I would date’ groups and ‘women who worked in adult entertainment’ groups had a pretty significant overlap

    1. PotsPansTeapots*

      Well, that’s a very different situation. Breasts shouldn’t be a big deal at work, unless they’re part of your work. Shop talk is very different in certain industries.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Sounds like this was a construction company’s barbecue, so it wasn’t shop talk. Or rather, it was shop-talk from guests who worked in a different industry, at this work’s event.

  72. 1 Non Blonde*

    Omg I literally threw up in my mouth at the “cottage cheese” description.

  73. Quality Girl*

    LW, if you happen to work for a healthcare system rather than an independent clinic, can you report her behavior using a quality/safety reporting system? Especially any comments that are made in front of patients or anything that impacts patient care. This would not be my first recommended step typically but if your supervisor and up are unwilling to act, this may help move the needle. Typically these reports are read and followed up on in the risk management department and they should know about the impacts to patient care.

  74. too many dogs*

    Had a similar thing happen a few years ago. Our “I love to talk about breastfeeding & my breasts” person caught me (also female) at the end of a long, long, long day & chirped, “I bet you can’t tell I’m pumping right now can you!” All the tact left me & I said, “Why would I want to know that?” (point: the tone was not sarcastic; it was quiet exhaustion) She puffed up & replied, “Well! If You’re not interested in this, just Excu-u-u-se me!” I was probably blunter than I should have been, but I said, ” I don’t need to know this because what you do with your breasts is none of my business.” It was said calmly & quietly. She blinked several times, said “Oh” very quietly, and walked away. It stopped about 90% of her talking about it. I think that in her great joy over having a baby, she forgot that some things are just better left alone.

  75. Addison DeWitt*

    I would start announcing it like the announcer at the baseball stadium. “Doodle-doo-deo-doo! And that was the Boob Report, brought to you by Megan.”

  76. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

    As someone who has nursed a child and survived breast cancer, I can say that I have never come anywhere near this woman’s level of workplace breast talk in my entire life. I support her feeding her child in the way that is best for her family. But she’s just taking it way too far.

  77. LearningSocialNorms*

    I grew up with lots of medical issues in a family of other people with lots of medical issues. We discussed and things more frankly than I later learned is the norm and also showed each other stuff we thought might look weird. It took me longer than it should have to catch on that my normal was TMI for most people.

    I would never have gone this far and the breastfeeder is clearly out of line, but since OP mentioned she was like this about other things before she had the baby I wonder if there’s an element of learned “this is normal” that’s out of sync.

  78. fhqwhgads*

    How about “I am not the correct audience for this.” Rinse. Repeat.
    I mean, really step #1 is tell the director not just about the frequency, but also about the in front of patients aspect, and the graphic detail sharing, the stripper comment, the unwelcome photo, all of it.
    But in the meantime while you’re waiting to see if they actually do their dang job and address it, stick with “I am not the correct audience for this.”

  79. Elio*

    They need to shut this down. Her behavior is sexual harassment. This isn’t some porno studio. You can’t shove pictures of your boobs at your coworkers and talk aboutyour boobs all day. If management can’t/won’t do something, go over their head to the higher ups. If anyone showed a coworker pictures of their private parts to a coworker, my workplace would fire them.

    1. Sagegreen is my favorite color.*

      They need to fire her. At the minimum, stage an intervention. Say shut up for we go to HR and let them handle it. Now I have to go throw out my cottage cheese. Gag.

  80. Mad_Bear_Lady*

    Boobs are awesome, but there’s a time and a place! I need updates, stat.

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