Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Nursing in Public

Art by Erika Hastings at

So, this week is Nursing Freedom's Carnival of Nursing in Public.

Here's the deal, friends. I am a nursing mother. I am still nursing my one year old. The majority of her food comes directly from my body. This will continue until she is ready to be weaned (and communicates that to me), or I am seriously ready to be done nursing - whichever comes first. The fact that I have found myself practicing 'extended breast feeding' (nursing past the first year... or even past 6 months these days...) brings me under some pretty opinionated scrutiny. Some are curious as to how we made it this far. Some are 'weirded out' by nursing (and almost exclusively nursing) this long (or at all). Some don't care what I do at all :-)

What has also happened, is that I have become a bit defensive about my decision. I am ready to stand tall and say it loud. 'I BREAST FEED. I DO IT ALL OF THE TIME.' - like that. Even if nobody challenges me. I have to be careful that I don't start lecturing from a soapbox that nobody's looking at. There's no need to be a pompous jerk about what I'm doing - it just happens to be a choice that I've made. I have had to work hard to make it this far, but that does not make me a better mother than anybody else. It just makes me ME.

Since I am a stay at home mother (THANK YOU, hubby!!!!), Lily Ruth and I have been able to create our routine in our own manner. We do what we like, when we like. If we want to be out, we're out. If it's time to go home, we go home. As a result, I have done very little nursing in public. I do not have a problem with nursing in public. I do it if I need to. I do not mind if any other woman chooses/needs to nurse in public. I DO, however, have body issues of my own (*ahem* - nipples - *cough*), and I have an alert, squirmy, social baby who does not stay put under a blanket or nursing cover. She also will not settle into nursing if there is a lot (alot :-P) of activity around her, so if she's hungry, I usually seclude us for our session so as to avoid public nudity.

Since you stuck with me this long, I guess I'll get to a point. I DO have a problem with strident public nursers. Example: We went to the Children's Museum this week. At one point, we were watching a friend and his son on one of the 'rides'. I turned my head as another parent came into view. She pushed her stroller around a corner into the area where we were standing. She pulled out a nursing cover. She freed a tiny baby from the stroller. She proceeded to nurse her infant while STANDING in a walkway. A WALKWAY, people. One that led to the building's ONLY elevator. She coupled the awkward placement with a hostile 'you wanna make something of it?' demeanor. I was irritated. This is a children's museum. You are allowed to sit on EVERYTHING in there. There was no need to stand where everyone else needs to pass. There was also no call for the glaring. She just seemed determined to shove everybody's nose into her business in the hopes that she could have a fight about her right to be there.

Of course, I'm not her. I have no idea what her reasoning was. Maybe she came around that corner expecting privacy, and simply couldn't wait another moment to get that infant latched on. Maybe she wasn't hostile, just awkward and embarrassed. I shouldn't judge - at all. It just struck a nerve for me.

I approve of nursing in public. I agree that as nursing mothers we must support each other and bring awareness to the fact that we have a legal right to nurse in public. I believe very strongly that nursing is natural, healthy, and WHAT BOOBS WERE MADE FOR. I am angered by all of the recent celebrity 'tweets' about how disgusting public nursing is. In a culture that has developed an almost slavish devotion to celebrity (yuck), I find this infuriating.

What I don't approve of is forcing your point of view on others. I don't like it in ANY group of people be they mothers, religious fanatics, politicians, cult leaders... whoever.

The truth is that exposed breasts make people very nervous in our culture. Even the possibility of an exposed breast or (*gasp*) nipple sends people into a frenzy - and not a good one. That is simply a current fact. I am not convinced that the way to change the way society views public nursing (or nursing at all) is to FORCE people to watch you nurse. What if we were to go about it in a way that is less aggressive. Just behave as if we were feeding an infant a bottle or even just holding our little darling close... especially since that's how I nurse when I'm NOT in public. I do not believe that if I want to support public nursing that I have to 'whip out' a boob in my favorite restaurant.

Well, it has happened again, I've run out of steam. I started out all 'hey, I've got a point!' and now I'm all 'oh, I am soooo tired'. Stupid Mastitis. I'll be so glad when I feel better and can complete a thought!!!! ooof. Oh well. At least I made more of a point than usual.

To sum up quickly (and poorly), Ya'll can expect to hear more nursing talk from me, but don't expect and gratuitous frontal nudity in public. I MAY however be feeding my daughter, and you may not even notice ;-) unless she plants one of her tiny feet in the center of my chest and starts twirling my hair... then it gets a bit more obvious...

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