Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nursing in Public: It doesn't Always Make the News

In our little online world, we often hear about nursing in public in two ways: 1.) How to do it without a wardrobe malfunction and 2.) stories of harassment for doing it. There's plenty to say about nursing bras, nursing tops, altering your wardrobe so you don't have to buy specialty stuff. And there is more than plenty to say about women being harassed in public. It happens nearly everyday. It can be a small moment where a passerby makes a rude remark and keeps on walking. It can be the ignorant comments often found on blogs and articles about breastfeeding - "I totally support nursing, but women need to be discreet about it." It could be something much bigger, such as an actual business telling a mother that she is not allowed to breastfeed in public within their walls. You literally cannot throw a nursing pad without hitting a story about a mother who has been harassed in some way shape or form. I have addressed the issue of the rights of mothers to nurse their babies in public without harassment several times myself.

However, there is something we hear about far less - something that doesn't get a lot of attention. Happy experiences. Yeah yeah, some times a blogger, myself included, will ask women to share their happy nursing in public experiences on their page. It does happen, but not as often as I would like.

I just want to simply tell mothers that many women have nursed in public without a single dirty look or rude comment. It's not always a horror fest of ignorant comments. You are not always on the defensive. I am one of those mothers. I nursed my son for 3 years. I nursed him in public whenever he had the need. I have been nursing my daughter for 18 months now and she shows no signs of slowing down. She, too, has been nursed in public whenever the need arises. I have nearly 5 years of combined nursing in public experience and I have not had one single bad comment. I have never been asked to cover up, to move, to leave. My first time nursing in public was when my son was 4 days old. He began to scream and turn bright red with his furious hunger in the waiting room of the pediatrician's office. Being a new mom, I was a little nervous and wasn't as graceful with manipulating my clothing, my bra, my baby, his blanket. I remember trying to cover him just for a few moments as he latched on. That did not go over well. People looked at me, but more because my son was obviously screaming from hunger and not because they were shocked to see a woman nurse in public. And that was the last time I felt nervous.

I have had the opposite of negative attention. I have gotten compliments and smiles. I have had strangers walk by and say, "I miss feeding my babies," or "That is just the best thing in the world." Not too long ago, I stood in line in Toys 'r' Us and the cashier and two customers noticed me standing there nursing Squishy. The cashier smiled at her. One of the customers commented that it was just so nice to not have to carry bottles and bags and just feed whenever and wherever. The other customer and cashier agreed. And then they gushed over the infant nursing on my breast.

Those moments happen, too.

For what's it's worth, I have nursed in some of the big offenders when it comes to businesses harassing mothers. I have nursed in every aisle and department of Target. I nursed at Applebees. I have nursed at the YMCA. I'm out and about everyday and I have a long list of places where I have nursed easily without issues.

We don't see news articles proclaiming, "Mother nurses baby in public, while shopping in the shoe department of Sears. Several customers notice and smile and carry on with their shopping."  It's not because it's a rare occurrence, but it's because positivity doesn't always sell. You don't always hear about the woman in the coffee shop, who is told to please make herself comfortable while they get her order and they'll bring her coffee to her while she is nursing. You don't always hear about the waiter who brings an extra glass of water for the mom nursing at one of his tables because he has heard that nursing moms need to drink more. We don't always notice the nice old ladies with blue hair who walk by with a smile and a happy sigh while your nursing your baby and pushing your shopping cart at the grocery store. The grocery clerk who goes out of his way to help you carry your bags out to the car so you can keep nursing without carrying extra stuff never makes the headlines. These people exist.

There is no denying that we still have work to do when it comes to educating the public about breastfeeding and help others to understand that nursing in public is a right and there is nothing wrong with it. We're working on it. Change for the better will happen.

I just wanted to take this small moment to reassure new mamas who may be scared of nursing in public because they hear all of these stories about harassment. You don't have to go out there expecting that you'll need to defend yourself for feeding your baby everyday. I want you to know that there are so many times when it goes perfectly and the only attention you get is a smile or a mother of grown children reminiscing of when she nursed her babes on a bench at the mall. Remember, you are taking a stand even when you quietly nurse your baby at a table in the food court. Even if you don't get a smile or a comment, someone will notice. And that someone might be a mom-to-be who saw how comfortably you sat there while feeding your baby. She'll think to herself, "I can do that, too." There may be a young man who sees you and learns that boobs have several functions and it's fine for a woman to use them to feed her baby in public. You may get noticed by a younger girl, years away from having her own children, who doesn't even realize that she was exposed to a normal way of feeding babies. You made it look normal and natural and, while she may not realize it at the time, a little seed will be planted somewhere in the back of her brain, quietly waiting until the day she blooms with new life and realizes, "hey, I can do that, too." So rock on with your publicly nursing self!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Attachment Parenting Communities: In Need of Repair

When I first read Conscience Parenting's blog about being over the Attachment Parenting community, I was all, "YOU GO GIRL!" Then, I read some responses on various pages and in my groups and I felt a little ticked at the blog - like she was maybe throwing all of us AP folks under the bus with the loonies. I also read a wonderful counter by Evolutionary Parenting that I also agree with. Now, I am back my YOU GO GIRL response to the original piece.

I have read a lot of butthurt in the past 24 hours since I discovered the post. People are taking what she wrote very personally. In a way, I understand that. Most of us are very passionate about our parenting and it can be hard to read anything negative. However, she isn't attacking the philosophy of attachment parenting. She is not attacking those of us who practice this method yet are open and accepting of those who parent differently. She is speaking of a very real problem in the AP community. You will find extremism in every forum about every subject everywhere online. We focus on the AP issue here because this is something that's part of our lives. I think we have all seen it. Parents who attacks others who don't believe in the same philosophy. Lactivists who bash the hell out of formula feeders. Intactivists who think ANYONE who circumcises their child - despite the fact that they didn't even have the proper information - should have their children taken away. Babywearers who think even a minute in the stroller will turn your child into an unattached zombie. Co-sleepers who think the mere thought of placing a baby in a crib for a few hours will cause low SAT scores. Cloth diaper fanatics who think even one disposable diaper automatically sets your kid up for ass cancer. Gentle discipliners who think the slightest raise of your voice will turn your child into a sociopath. We've seen it. We know it's out there. It's happened in the comments on most pages. It's happened on this page. It's happened to me. I was bashed on a local AP group for stating that I would use a stroller from time to time on really long walks. Bashed. As if that one act would undo every other AP moment. We know this contingent exists and we know they give us all a bad name. We know they are the reason we are viewed as crazy.

I agree that there is a level of fanaticism on some pages. The worship of certain bloggers does exist. And there are most definitely bloggers who seem to require that you agree lockstep with everything they say and any voice of dissent will be banished. That's real. Hey, it's their page so they are free to accept who they wish and preach what they wish, but that doesn't mean they speak for all of us and we know that those voices sometimes give us a bad name.

I have been called a troll. Your very own beloved Funky Little EarthChild has been called a troll. I have had the terrible audacity to suggest that I do not agree with every nurse-in that has been held. I was told point blank that I moved the whole women's movement back on that one and somehow my thoughts were equal to hating the Civil Rights movement. I have the ridiculous notion that bashing formula feeders and calling them lazy bad mothers won't win hearts and that breastfeeding advocates would do better to treat them kindly.I obviously hate breastfeeding because I suggested that you can be a good breastfeeding advocate even if you don't march, don't nurse-in, don't post photos and don't speak the loudest. And let's not even mention the shitstorm I once provoked by stating that unassisted birth isn't for everyone. That's a real pearl clutcher right there. All of those things have earned me a troll title at some point or another. There are some big time bloggers - including ones that you all love (and that's okay) - who have privately shit talked me - ME - to the extreme. This is just another extension of the high school mean girl club and I totally understand why someone like Conscience Parenting is disillusioned by it all.

As I said, there has been a bit of butthurt and misunderstanding of the intent of Conscience Parenting's original post. Don't worry - I went there, too, for a few moments last night after I read it. She is not saying that Attachment Parenting is bad. She is not trying to start a war between any groups. And there is no "page war" between Conscience Parenting and Evolutionary Parenting. She is trying to shed the light on a very real problem in this community. This is a wonderful method of parenting. It's the way it should be. However, there are some nasty extremists with some very loud voices who bring negative attention and so we all get stuck under the same "they're crazy judgmental nazis" umbrella. Many have been judged and hurt for not being 100% AP and not doing things "the right way." Some people can let that roll off their back. Others are more affected and may feel isolated by those they originally trusted. This is the crap that people see. It's the stuff that gets the most attention. Is that wrong? Yes! But that's the way it is and it's what pushes many away from attachment parenting.

This is the part where I go on a different path than Conscience Parenting. She is doing what works best for her and her family. If she does not want to fully associate herself with this community, then she should not be forced to do so. She should not be criticized for doing something that she feels is the best for her. Obviously, the fighting and the judging affects her spirit in a negative way and she wants to distance herself from that. I respect and honor that. She's not giving up this type of parenting for her family, she's taking a step back from some of the extremism. She knew this would cause a virtual poo-storm and that she'd be criticized for it, but she spoke up anyway. That's important and admirable. And while I have had similar misgivings about the attachment community - and I don't even label myself an Attachment Parent because this is simply the way I was raised and it felt normal for me - I have decided to be one of the voices that will speak loud enough with my words and actions to drown out the crazies. Judging a mama for formula feeding? Bashing someone for using Huggies? Giving the evil eye to an exhausted mother who raised her voice? I'll let people know that we're not all like you. I want to see more babies with attached parents. I want to see more breastfeeding. More cloth diapering. I want more gentle discipline. I want genital integrity for all babies. I want to see an end to Crying It Out. I want to see more baby wearing. I just won't shame others while I spread my message. I won't tell people they are bad parents because they are not like me. I won't call them lazy. We're all welcome to express our opinions, but if you try to use words or actions to hurt other parents and to shame them into becoming a super attachment parent just like you, I'll probably lose a little respect for you.  Oh, yes, I know us attachment parents have been judged. We know what it's like to have to defend our choices on a daily basis. And that's no reason to do it to others. Isn't that what we teach our children?

The truth is that many of us who fall under the attachment parenting category want to see a better world for our children. We want children to be loved and respected. We come from a place of very good intentions. Some of us are louder than others. Some of us have made mistakes in our journey. There are some who give us a bad name for various reasons, but the majority of us are good and welcoming. We need to realize that we are a good group of people, but there are kinks in our armor that need to be fixed. That's not a bad thing. Knowing there are some problems gives us a chance to look within, make the necessary repairs and march on - shining even brighter.
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