Friday, July 09, 2010

I've Nursed In Public...


Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public

This post was written for inclusion in the http://www.nursingfreedom.org/p/carnival-of-nursing-in-public.html">Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige at http://nursingfreedom.org">NursingFreedom.org. All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public ("NIP"). See the bottom of this post for more information.



I've nursed in public in a lot of places.

At a wedding, at a funeral.
A party or ten, the coffee house.
Restaurants, airports, movie theaters.
Libraries, doctors' offices.
Grocery stores, clothing stores, in the middle of the mall.
The post office, the beauty salon.
Forest preserves, neighborhood parks.
In churches, at museums, in the graveyard, in the pool.
At the DMV, in line at the voting booth.
City Halls, Town Halls, Villiage Halls, Municipal Centers.
At my daughter's elementary school, at the middle school and high school.
At award ceremonies and concerts.
Arcades and mini-putt courses.
At art fairs, at craft fairs, in fair weather and cloudy.
Circuses and indoor golf ranges.
Carnivals, festivals, and farmers markets.
Fabric stores.
Elevators.
Lobbies galore and at the Gym.
At parades and while parading down the sidewalk between shops.
At the planetarium and at the beach.
In my insurance agent's office, at my husband's work.
La Leche League Meetings, Cemetery Association meetings, and Girl Scout meetings.
At the fireworks, at cookouts.
At prudish Christmas parties.
Gas stations and truck stops.

I've nursed a lot of places.

What has always struck me as odd is that the majority of the reaction I have seen while nursing in public has been averted gaze or a smile from a mother who is nursing her baby, or has nursed in the past.  At the planetarium a woman even came up to me and said she was really proud of me for nursing in public and to keep up the good job, reassuring me that I was giving my baby the best nutrition I could.  That felt a little silly to me because I'm the one who usually tries to encourage others, but still, made me feel hopeful for other nursing moms.

Yet.  Isn't there always a yet?
I have received incredulous looks from one person, as if to say "do you have to do that *here*" or "can't you cover that up?"  One person has asked if I was going to stop nursing inpublic soon as my baby was, at the time, a whole great big 10 months old, and another, when he was very small, looked at me with astonishment while I nursed my wee one in a side room at the library, gasped, and asked "you're doing THAT, HERE?"

Yes, dear SPOUSE, I do have to do this here, and without a cover.
No, dear MOTHER, I am not planning on ceasing and desisting all nursing in public just because my baby is bigger than a loaf of bread.
Yes, dear DAUGHTER, I am going to do this, and I am going to do it here.

That's right. All of the pointed negative looks, questions, and comments I've received while nursing in public have come from those closest to me.

I think it's sad when I hear similar stories from friends, that the people who raise the greatest barriers and work as the greatest obstacles to their breastfeeding in public are the people who should be the most supportive.  

Therefore, dear reader, I'd like to tell you how I've responded.

I've looked them in the eye, told them that where we live a mother has the legally protected right to nurse her baby anywhere she otherwise has a right to be, and can do so without the aid of a cover, regardless of exposure incidental to nursing.  I have then pointed out that the World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding to at least the age of 2, and beyond as long as it is mutually agreeable to both members of the nursing dyad.  Then I had to explain "dyad."  But I don't stop there.

I also explain that the United States has a very low breastfeeding rate, partially because of comments, questions, and looks like the ones they're giving, and that it has a real cost inthe health of the mothers and babies who don't nurse, and an economic cost in terms of dollars spent on healthcare which likely would not have been necessary had immune systems and gastric/intestinal development been fully supported.  I explain that we would be living in a healthier nation and that the money spent on formula would be better spent elsewhere for the betterment of the child and their family, rather than on a chemical brew which only poorly mimics the nutrition a baby gets from his mother's milk.

By this point they're sighing and rolling their eyes, squirming in their chair and wishing I'd just go back to nursing and stop lecturing them.

But you know what?  It worked with two out of three people.  The hold out? My husband. He's still terrified someone's going to see a little too much of what he thinks is his territory and get the wrong idea.   But having overheard my mom and daughter explaining this to others, later, I think that perhaps education is the best way to build acceptance of nursing inpublic. Exposure and education.  
I've said it before and I'll say it again.  The more nursing moms get out and nurse in public, the more they explain why it's important for a baby to be fed when and where that baby is hungry, the more they educate others as to their rights and as to "expert" recommendations (people like expert recommendations, personally, I'm more a fan of happy babies) the sooner we will see the re-normalization of breastfeeding, even in public.

Where will you be nursing today?






Art by Erika Hastings at http://mudspice.wordpress.com/

Welcome to the Carnival of Nursing in Public

Please join us all week, July 5-9, as we celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. And visit NursingFreedom.org any time to connect with other breastfeeding supporters, learn more about your legal right to nurse in public, and read (and contribute!) articles about breastfeeding and N.I.P.

Do you support breastfeeding in public? Grab this badge for your blog or website to show your support and encourage others to educate themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers and children.




This post is just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts - new articles will be posted on the following days:
July 5 - Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World
July 6 – Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child
July 7 – Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.
July 8 – Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives
July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It

11 reflections:

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

You and I have similar stories - the only real negative comments I've had (to my face - "friends" have said a couple of things online) were from family members. That makes it harder to respond in some ways, but I had no problems sticking up for myself with any of my family. Thankfully, they have all either come around, or at least decided to keep their opinions to themselves ;)

Slee said...

it's funny, since writing this i've had two more run ins with family members saying things that aren't supportive, but i've felt more confident in telling them to mind their own eating habits and not worry about Snapdragon's since reading some of the other posts in this carnival. :-)

kitchenwitch said...

My mother has given me crap for nursing... Every time.

It sucks.

I agree that exposure is the best way to fight views like hers- and so every single time I "NIP" I feel like it is supporting my rights, and hopefully making it look natural and easy for another woman who happens to see me.

<3
Rock on mama!

MamaRae said...

you. are awesome. ;)

My mom (who bottlefed) expressed her discomfort with me nursing at larger family events--which were pretty much the only times we saw family, as we're 5 hrs away. I am convinced it's because she felt some responsibility for my "indecency" at such gatherings. After I wistfully and sweetly gave each family member The Lecture similar to your own, I haven't heard one peep from any of them.

Now, I'm rather strong-willed and outspoken, so it's entirely possible they still take issue with it. But they aren't about to go up to anyone else and suggest they cover up, lol! ;)

oursentiments said...

My is the husband and the in laws. I could go on forever. I don't understand how I nursed so long with the unsupported of the one person who should want best for K2. I think it's because of my personality. If you say I can't do something I say watch me try.

Slee said...

You women are an inspiration. It is because women like you, who don't have the support you need, persevere that other women feel they have the strength to try in the first place.

Lisa C said...

Beautiful post. My husband has made a few small comments, like suggesting I use a cover or not nurse right in front of people even with a cover, that have made me feel unsupported. If I had his support 100%, then I think I could nurse anywhere.

My mom is the worst though. I have no problem nursing in public around her, but she's pretty much made it a rule that I can't do it in her house (I have to go to a separate room).

My nursling is two now, so I'm not brave enough to suddenly start nursing him in front of people who I normally hide it from, but with the next baby I'm going to try to be brave and breastfeed in front of them from the beginning.

Jacque (thelazymomdiaries.blogspot.com) said...

I agree. I've had a very hard time with my father and his side of the family. First time around, I complied with their unsupportive requests. Now that I have two kids in diapers...my life is about doing what is least inconvenient, and covering or leaving the room is all but convenient. I am braver now. A few weeks ago I started nursing my youngest while at my parents, my dad tried to covertly hand my husband a receiving blanket and said, "you want to give this to your wife to cover up?". My husband politely accepted the blanket and handed it to me saying, "Here honey, for when she burps". I was so proud of my hubs!!

Slee said...

@Lisa,
I know it's really hard to nurse confidently and comfortably, at all, let alone in public, when you're not supported by those closest to you. Props to you for keeping it up and nursing for 2 years and beyond, and for planning to nurse your next with more confidence.

@Jacque,
I'm really proud of your husband too. That's smooth, fast thinking, and really shows that he's got your back.

Anonymous said...

I have breastfed my babies pretty much wherever I am. The only problem I have with breastfeeding moms is ... cover up somewhat. I get tired of seeing half of woman's breast hanging out. It's not the nursing ... that's wonderful. It's just the exposing that breast! I nursed my oldest until she was a little over three. So I strongly support breastfeeding. I have had family members make rude comments about me breastfeeding in the living room. But I will continue to breastfeed wherever I choose as long as I am discreetly covered up. I don't walk around with my breasts hanging out so why would I do that when nursing?

Anonymous said...

I have breastfed my babies pretty much wherever I am. The only problem I have with breastfeeding moms is ... cover up somewhat. I get tired of seeing half of woman's breast hanging out. It's not the nursing ... that's wonderful. It's just the exposing that breast! I nursed my oldest until she was a little over three. So I strongly support breastfeeding. I have had family members make rude comments about me breastfeeding in the living room. But I will continue to breastfeed wherever I choose as long as I am discreetly covered up. I don't walk around with my breasts hanging out so why would I do that when nursing?