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!

1 comment:

Denise said...

I have always felt the same, I nursed my kids in public and never got the big deal...but I never fussed over it, I just went to it, I feel if you make a big fuss about what you are doing you are more likely to gain unwanted attention, but if you just go about life as normal, including nursing things worked out as they should... I remember when my youngest was 6 months old and he was a squirmy thing he was nursin in a mall and an old lady sat next to us, as she an I spoke he exposed me...she just smiled and let me know she felt thrilled to see a mom nursing wher ever the baby was hungry, was no biggie, but it totally warmed my heart how sweet she was

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...