Friday, January 4, 2013

I'll Nurse where I Want

A few months ago, I experienced an incident in which someone challenged my right to nurse my baby in a local restaurant.  Thankfully, the owner is a mother of three grown children who were all breastfed, and she believes in women's rights and in the rights of babies to eat when they are hungry, and she stood up for me.  It was the first time I'd ever encountered this type of situation, and I was a little shaken.  For nearly two years, I'd been preparing myself for a battle over breastfeeding, but it never came.  I nurse E wherever we are, and don't do a lot of covering up or moving to accommodate other people's discomfort.  I've had a few hairy eyeballs thrown my way, but never before has anyone said something to me or about me to management.

In the wake of this incident, I started thinking about how it might affect nursing mothers when they deal with something like this.  I don't worry about myself - I've got no issues whipping it out wherever I need to.  My concern is this kind of attitude toward women who are already struggling.  Women who don't have a strong support system, who are wrestling with the taboos and sexualization that surround nursing in our society.  Women who cringe when they realize the baby needs to nurse and they are sitting in a restaurant, who fight with big covers and blankets and consider pumping when they are going out with baby.  Those are the women who are ruined by an incident like this.  Those are the babies who don't get to experience ALL the golden benefits of breastfeeding.

All states are different, but I live in a state where it is legal (but probably not wise) to ask a nursing mother to cover up, move, or leave.  We are protected from indecent exposure laws, but the law is not written to give express permission to nurse anywhere we are legally allowed to be, as is the law in many other states.

My advice to nursing moms is this: Know the laws in your state.  Look up the laws in states you visit.  If someone challenges you, stand your ground.  Nurse where you need to, when you need to, however is comfortable for you.  If you are more comfortable moving to a corner booth to breastfeed your child, then do it.  But don't move because the table across from you has children.  Who knows - those children might be like my child, who absolutely ADORES seeing other babies and kids nurse.  The more we nurse normally, the more nursing gets normalized.  Someday, no one will even blink when a baby whimpers and a woman adjusts her shirt.

Eamon's First Nurse
Nearly 2 years later, and still going strong

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