I’ve been nursing my 6-month-old daughter for all of her 180 days on this earth, roughly 10 times per day (sometimes more) and have found myself nursing anywhere and everywhere — airplanes, the beach, breweries (I know, hip, right?) — and have not so much as glanced at anyone who may find my choices odd or inconsiderate. As a mother of a growing infant who depends on me for her life, I’m not entirely concerned with how people feel when I nurse in public. #sorrynotsorry
I put out a quick feeler on Facebook to see what folks in my friend group feel about nursing in public. Of the 100 or so comments, nearly every person who replied said either “yes, of course” or “Is this still a question?”
But it turns out the controversy now (thankfully) is not so much whether or not you should nurse in public but how you should nurse in public.
This article from “What to Expect when You’re Expecting” dispels some myths about breastfeeding laws. Yes, you can nurse in public and no, you don’t have to hide it.
But where my blood begins to boil is in the reading of the word discreetly, the general idea being to find a lonely spot away from the general public to feed your baby in silence and seclusion and try your darnedest not to offend anyone.
This makes my blood boil because feeding your child in public is not a privilege but a right and our society has such a tendency towards over-sexualization that the natural act of feeding a child is still taboo.
Charlotte dad and organizer of Beard and Mustache Club of NC-Charlotte, Tim Theyson, says, “It’s not the mothers fault that men sexualize the way a child eats and that makes them uncomfortable.”
If you choose to be discreet because it is your preference, you have my full support. My issue comes in when it is expected that to be discreet is to be right.
A few weeks ago, on a walk at Freedom Park, I ran into Lacy Manship, mother and teacher at Mosaic School and all around badass. When her kiddo who was running around playing needed a moment to nurse, she continued her discussion with me, sat down and nursed her child, without so much as breaking eye contact. While this is a very seasoned mother’s approach to nursing, I felt so strongly in the moment that it should be the norm.
So while we are all discussing whether or not we should cover our breasts as we nurse (though I don’t need to bring up that we aren’t discussing whether or not swimsuit models or fitness magazine cover girls need to cover up) there is an even bigger discussion to have about the reality of nursing and socioeconomic status.
To even have the conversation of whether or not to cover comes from a place of privilege which Charlotte social worker, Kat Caya states, “ I think this is a really interesting cultural change. I worked in a maternity home and when homeless mothers asked for a lactation specialist or for a pump there would be a little backlash. Also, teen mothers REALLY struggled with encouragement towards breastfeeding.
“Meanwhile, my middle class momma friends are bombarded with breastfeeding and feel like horrible mothers if they can’t or choose not to… I had a deaf, homeless mom who BEGGED to have a natural birth and breastfeed. It took a TON of advocating on her part (which is heartbreaking). “
There is more to be discussed about the rights of mothers than just whether or not you should nurse in public or wear a cover — there is the dialogue of women having the support they need to nourish their children, which can be a struggle no matter which side of the fence you’re on.
Former Charlotte dad and coffee extraordinaire Brent Hall says, “Being able to feel comfortable feeding your kids in public no matter how you are doing that (boob or bottle) should be a worthy societal goal.”
Photo Credit:Liz Logan