Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
August is National Breastfeeding Month, and there’s perfectly-timed proof that such a month is necessary—not just to promote the benefits of breastfeeding, but to raise awareness of a woman’s right to do it.
Just last week, the Houston Chronicle reported that the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum apologized to a nursing mom who was told she needed to breastfeed her baby in a bathroom. According to news reports, mom Vanessa Bailey was told by a security guard that she couldn’t nurse her child in the lobby, and that she needed to find a restroom in which to do so. (She’s hardly the first mom told to be told to nurse in a bathroom—in fact, there’s an entire campaign, When Nurture Calls, about it.) According to the Chronicle, “Bailey later tweeted and emailed her disagreement with the museum’s ruling directly to the Bush museum’s official social media accounts and also to former first lady Laura Bush and Bush’s daughter, Jenna Bush Hager.”
The museum did the right thing by apologizing to Bailey and letting her know that the security guard’s directive wasn’t “in line with their official rules, nor federal rules which state that mothers have the right to feed their children in public.” They also offered her free passes to the museum. (Hey, it’s something.)
The fact is, women have the right to breastfeed in public in almost every state in the Union. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 46 states, plus D.C. and the Virgin Islands, legally protect a woman’s right to breastfeed anywhere in public or private. And yet it seems like practically every week another breastfeeding “controversy” makes news, whether it’s (ridiculous) complaints about a breastfeeding booth at a farmers market, people getting riled up about a woman breastfeeding at her graduation ceremony, or a breastfeeding mom being told to leave a Michaels store and nurse her child outside. (To its credit, the store apologized.)
Frankly, I just don’t understand the fuss. Breastfeeding in public is not immoral, indecent, or obscene. It’s not something that should be relegated to dirty public restrooms (or even clean ones, for that matter. Breast milk isn’t bodily waste, after all.) Lots of celebrity mamas do it. It’s healthy, and if you don’t like it, you have the right to look away. What you don’t have the right to do, in most cases, is ask a nursing mom to stop or go somewhere else. Let’s hope National Breastfeeding Month makes that clear.
Image of a woman breastfeeding: Shutterstock
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Thursday, May 1st, 2014
I cringe whenever I read these stories about moms who are innocently breastfeeding somewhere in public—and are asked to take their boobies and babies elsewhere. In the latest made-the-news instance, a mother was nursing her 9-month-old in the locker room of an LA Fitness and told by a club employee she wasn’t allowed to breastfeed there. Which is especially weird. It’s a locker room, for crying out loud, where actual nudity abounds!
I remember being asked to move, just once, when I was breastfeeding in a lounge area right outside a department-store restroom. I had felt awkward enough as a new mom wheeling my Snap-N-Go around trying to find a semi-private spot to nurse my crying baby. I found a chair, threw a baby blanket over myself, and my grateful, hungry infant calmed. That’s when a crisp woman in a stuffy suit appeared before me and told me there was a bathroom with a private lounge in the department store that bookended the other end of the mall. If she’d been nice about it, I’d have felt grateful—it was useful information to know, at least—but as she continued to stand there, unsmiling, it was clear I was being scolded and was expected to leave, which I did. I wouldn’t have minded just finishing up our feeding instead of getting myself and my baby together to walk to another lounge clear across the mall.
This was years ago, before people did things like post their outrage on the Internet and hold nurse-ins as a show of solidarity and support, like the one that ensued at LA Fitness. If my nurseshaming experience happened to me today, now that I’m a more experienced mom and have already been through that humiliation once, I wonder if I’d still move. I hope my reaction would be more of a whatever eyeroll and to sit tight—at least that’s what I think I’d do now. But it’s not easy in the moment when a bully comes along and you’re tired and just trying to feed your baby, so I feel for that mom in LA Fitness. It’s especially rude if the company indeed, as the mom said, never apologized.
Have you ever incurred comments or raised eyebrows for breastfeeding in public? And what’s the most unusual public location you’ve nursed a baby? Personally, I have to go with that time on a crowded subway. (The baby was desperate!) The guy next to me did give me a couple of downcast glances, but I had a thought that could apply to anyone who now, in 2014, would wither at the sight of a breastfeeding woman: Surely you’ve borne witness to more unusual sights than breastfeeding?
And if you haven’t, you need to get out more.
Are you ready for another child? Find out!
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
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