As a former journalist I understand what’s considered news, and yes, it ought to be news when a mother hears she’s not welcomed to feed her baby in a public place. It’s news because it really is normal and should be the norm to be welcome to feed your baby wherever and whenever you feel the need to respond to your baby. So, it makes sense that it is news that someone asked a mother to remove herself and her baby to the restroom, stop nursing on the airplane, or leave the dining establishment. And it makes sense that the related news covers the nurse-in protest planned and lots of “to breastfeed, or not to breastfeed in public” debates. While you want the public to be sympathizing with the mother and child, the discussion still wanders back to the real news, though, that the mother was breastfeeding, publicly.
It is hardly news now to read a story about breastfeeding publicly only to be told to stop or go elsewhere—it’s almost expected. Regularly, you can find such a headline in most any media – just Google it. So perhaps what almost could be news now is to breastfeed in public and not get berated, ousted, covered or refused.
In that spirit and the spirit of World Breastfeeding Week, for which I just participated in a 5K Walk and Stroll for Breastfeeding, I would like to share with you some of our favorite public nursing spots. And my news is that in nine total years of nursing we haven’t even gotten a negative look, much less a comment. Maybe they just didn’t dare. Maybe we looked like a beautiful greeting card photo epitomizing an expression (pun intended) of love. I am a La Leche Leader, and I know for some that might provide a sort of justification or explanation of my “bravado,” but certainly not everywhere I go do people know what La Leche League is, much less that I’m a Leader. Still, given the apparent rarity of public breastfeeding, as least in our neck of the woods, what else can it be but to be news to breastfeed in public without interruption?
There are already lots of good synopses on the confrontations related to breastfeeding in public places, so now for something completely different: Some amazingly routine, typical, uneventful nursing – milk and/or comfort – moments, that, of course, will never be average but not ever five o’clock news.
We like to nurse at Lowes. Yes, the hardware store–most often on the steps of one of those rolling ladders. As my husband shops, we are tortured beyond belief because I have to give my opinion and we cannot wander into an aisle sans hardware. Now, whenever we are in Lowes and the baby sees the ladder, it triggers his desire to nurse.
We like to nurse during worship. We can all pay attention, and it is even rather like a spiritual practice for us. I’m always ready to share Martha Sears’ statement about busting them in the mouth but have never had to. Plus, the service is always during naptime so what else can be expected?
We like to nurse at the library. Shhhh…
We like to nurse at brother’s ball games. Nursing can actually compete with the lure of running out onto the basketball court or the ball field in complete oblivion to the game being played.
We like to nurse at the theatre. When it’s time for sister’s solo, we don’t miss a bit – all while holding the video camera steady. The baby is not even supposed to be in there, maybe not the video camera either, but the ushers know I can keep him content.
We like to nurse in a booth at Casa Mexicana. Milk and tortilla chips. I confess to dropping salsa on all the children over the years. Another patron will invariably stop by and say, “I didn’t even know you had a little one with you. Your children are so well behaved.” I smile, full and full of myself for two seconds until the middle child begins trying to crawl under the booth, disrupting the table and making his sister scream, “Don’t touch anything, it’s gross!” causing everyone to quickly look – even the baby nursing- ow!
We like to nurse at parenting class. When I’m facilitating a workshop we have a tight schedule to keep. A roomful of parents cannot be asked to hang out while I tend to my baby for an extended time. A few seconds to get situated, so to speak, and class can continue and everyone is happy.
We like to nurse during communion at Duke Chapel. A fellow student of my husband’s saw me nursing and he was quite disturbed and wrestled with confronting me. As he moved through the communion line his heart was completely changed. After communion, he came to me and shared his original thoughts and how he was now convinced it was beautiful to think that the elements were passing from me to my baby.
We like to nurse at the grocery store. Tight in the sling against Mommy so all the shopping can get done. We make lots of friends this way, from people asking me if I broke my arm, to how they can get a sling for their daughter, to amazement that there is a baby in there.
We like to nurse during Spanish class, on an airplane, at the park, at the zoo, at a ballroom dance class, in a meeting, at the beach, on a train, on a boat, in a box, with a fox… Well, not with a fox. I don’t know what it is but it seems like we always have synchronized nursing while I’m leading a La Leche League meeting.
We nurse when it’s time and wherever we are. It is part of our, well maybe my, personal contribution to make breastfeeding just a bit more common and accepted—because the news is–it is still not. I hope to encourage other breastfeeding mothers, current and prospective. I’m sure my breastfeeding in public has also caused some talk, just out of my earshot, though. I know, however, the result for a few is they too have wrestled with their views and come to recognize the benefits and value to the baby, mother, family, and community. In any case, no one has ever challenged me or made me feel unwelcome. On the contrary, over the years many, many men and women have voiced their support and encouragement and shared their personal experiences. In our actions and sharing our stories, we’re making a change that helps families, including the littlest ones, participate in community.
Wouldn’t it be nice if that were the headline? “Mother, while nourishing child, stirs memories of grateful co-travelers and nourishes relationships, fosters community.”
Though we’ve nursed in some uncomfortable places, like the Lowes metal stairs, to meet baby’s needs and the needs of our other children and our lifestyle, I will say there’s nothing like the big olive green chair in the living room, sitting at the computer writing this blog, the cushiony rocking chair, or the comfy king sized bed.
But, us being at home long enough to nurse there? – That might really be the news.
Executive Director, API