Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Nursing in Public

I remember getting into these debates 11 years ago. Apparently, not everyone has gotten with the program:

While it's great to see all the positive responses, some of the others have me shaking my head. So folks - here is why the right to nurse in public is a personal AND political issue:

I have never, even seen any mom who was deliberately exposing as much as she could while nursing as some sort of provocative display to every male in the vicinity.

If you see someone nursing in public, you can likely assume the following:

1. She's a mother (since wet-nurses aren't really in fashion these days).
2. She has a hungry child.
3. She is not starving that child.
4. She is feeding that child in the best way possible according to medical recommendations.
5. Since she has a baby, she is likely to be busy and tired. Really, really tired.
6. Depending on just how new the baby is, she may need to breastfeed every couple of hours, around the clock. If the baby is having a growth spurt or is sick, it could be even more often.
7. If she didn't feed the baby right away, you'd be hearing a baby screaming instead of seeing him or her eating.
8. She may have tried pumping, which can be really time-consuming, involves extra expense, and can be a logistical nightmare when you have to figure out just how long it is going to take to defrost and how long unfrozen milk can sit before it's no longer safe. She may also have babies that simply refuse to take a bottle.
9. She may find that never leaving in the house is not a practical option for living. She may need to go shopping, go to appointments and have other errands. She may also feel that never leaving the house is a good way to go batty and get post-partum depression.
10. She may have a baby, like mine, whose first sign of hunger is to scream non-stop.
11. She may have discovered that at the moment that the baby decides to scream, a magic private room doesn't suddenly appear.
12. If she lives in Canada, her car is either boiling hot, freezing cold, or in the rain/snow. It is also on the other side of the mall, or parked in a far away lot or street if she lives downtown, or she doesn't have a car.
13. She has not had a full night's sleep in a long time. Instead, she's been feeding the baby, changing a zillion diapers, bathing the baby, dealing with baby puke and leaking diapers and leaking breasts, doing laundry, and all the other things that mothers need to do.
14. She has dealt with breasts that literally seemed to blow up overnight, that become rock-hard and painful if she goes too long without nursing, that can spontaneously spring a leak, and that may have had bleeding nipples generating more pain than the birth itself.

In short, the last thing that this woman needs is anyone suggesting for a moment that she shouldn't be doing exactly what she is doing, or putting more demands on her and her baby.

A favorite line seems to be a demand to "show some consideration". I agree. Please show some consideration for that mom, who is busy and tired and above all doing her best to meet her baby's needs. You would also be showing some consideration for the baby too, who is hungry and who is far less likely to be fed in the optimal way if the mother finds that she is no longer comfortable nursing in public.

Bottom line: your issues are not her problem.


MimiGenghis said...

thank you.
breastfeeding in public is one of the most ridiculous things to get worked up about. and yet it gets so much press. even talking about breastfeeding seems to upset so many people, look at facebook's latest deletion of a support page. it is personal, and it shouldnt be political.

JRKmommy said...

I guess I see it as being "political" as well because the notion that mothers and babies should have even more difficulties whenever they leave the house is oppressive. It means social isolation for mothers. It means placing additional, unnecessary burdens on mothers who are already doing their best and under stress, which increases the risk of post-partum depression and that in turn places children at risk. It means that mothers will be less likely to initiate breastfeeding, or may wean prematurely, and that has health consequences for them and their babies.

C. Laundry said...

I wish I had found your blog a year ago! GREAT post!!!

Anonymous said...

That last line is definitely what it boils down to IMO. Other people's neuroses about breasts are not my responsibility. My baby is hungry and needs to eat. My toddler is upset and needs to be a baby for a few minutes. Your eyeballs, your head, your neck, turn it please.

Jenny Islander