Monday, October 31, 2011

Breastfeeding in Public

This past week a "nurse-in" was held at the Bridgeport Village shopping mall here in Oregon after a security guard told two mothers who were breastfeeding their babies that they needed to move to a private nursing room and not nurse in public. KGW News Channel 8 online writes, "the security guard told (them) to cover up, or go somewhere else to nurse." The two moms were seating next to a children’s play area, where I assume they had kids playing. The two moms quickly defended their legal right to nurse in public, as is their right in the State of Oregon.  The management of the mall quickly apologized to the women and stated that it is not their policy to prevent mother’s from nursing their children in any location within their shopping area and that the security officer was in the wrong…more or less.

KGW online also held a poll asking readers what they thought about public breastfeeding and these were the results as of 10/31/11 @ 5:00pm.

Do you think breast-feeding in public is inappropriate?
35% 853
65% 1564
Total Votes: 2417

Are you surprised to see that 65% of readers do not believe that public breastfeeding is inappropriate? I find these statistics very refreshing!  That is 1564 people who understand that breastfeeding is not a ‘dirty’ deed, a shameful act, a sexual or necessarily a non-modest exposure of the body. Thankfully awareness of the needs to protect a woman’s right to feed her child through nursing wherever and whenever her child is hungry is growing!

Many moms opt to nurse discreetly. Meaning, they use nursing garments or cover-ups to provide a bit of privacy. There are so many products out there to assist with this. There is Hooter Hiders, the The Bebe Au Lait and the Breast Friend Nursing covers, and a slew of Boutique creations and sewing patterns to make your own.  Breastfeeding in public has become so easy  and convenient! For me, this is the way to go. While I do not have issue with women who choose not to nurse discreetly, I feel by doing so it is showing respect for people around you who are uncomfortable. And while their discomfort may be due to their own insecurities and issues of misunderstanding about nursing, for me, it still makes sense to try to ease what could be a stressful situation by taking a simple step to reduce the discomfort of these people. So, yes I will and do nurse in public, but I do what I can to reduce exposure.

For women who do opt to nurse openly (meaning exposing their breasts), I think it is important for them to consider their setting at the time. While they have a legal right to nurse openly anywhere, that doesn’t mean that they should necessarily always choose to do so. I think some woman nurse in all locations impartially just to make a point. And while I am glad they are standing up for their rights, I also feel that our rights are not given to us with the intention that we might use them to make others feel displaced. Am I making sense? Modesty goes a long way!

I have heard arguments that women should nurse in bathrooms, or in empty rooms or just away from all other people….all of which sound like hiding to me. First, bathrooms: nasty, smelly, germ ridden bathrooms. Would you as an adult want to eat there? Then why should you expect an innocent little baby to have to eat in the bathroom? Furthermore, very, very few bathrooms have a place to sit other than the toilet seat. Let's say you’re out to dinner, your baby starts to cry out of hunger and your dinner guests suggest you feed the baby in another room. Hmmm. Meanwhile, your drinks arrive, then your main course, your food is getting cold, and you are still trying to feed a fickle baby who is having difficulty latching on. Finally, you finish nursing, return to your table to find your meal is cold and everyone is just waiting on you to eat. Why was this mom just made to miss out on what could have been a normal dinner with family and friends? Because she had to feed her child or because some people at the table had some serious insecurity issues? We treat the mom and baby as though they were temporarily plagued with leprosy.

Anyway, I am glad these events take place because they help bring more awareness to the value of breastfeeding, and nursing in public. In the end, moms who nurse in public are nourishing their child in the best way they possibly can. We should be thanking them!  The more we see women nursing in public, the more accepted it will be. Women should not be embarrased using their breast for their God given purpose. I think somewhere in time people forgot the the breast was actually designed for something non-sexual. As a society we need to develop a much deeper appreciation for this God given gift and encourage moms to nurse wherever and whenever and never make them feel as though they need to hide when doing so.

KGW Article:

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