Category Archives: breastfeeding in public

My Father’s Day Awakening

This morning while taking my run I was listening to “Natty Dread” by Bob Marley and it got me thinking about my stance on breastfeeding in public. Bob can have a transforming effect on people, you know, especially when he chants lines like, “Don’t care what the world say. I’n’I couldn’t never go astray.”

Then I came home and shared my latest blog posts with my dear husband who looked at both sides of the breastfeeding in public debate (he’s a Libra) and told me I was being unreasonable and was dead wrong on the issue. And so on that note, I concede defeat, although I feel like Oda Mae Brown when she had to hand over the 4 million dollar check to the nuns in Ghost. I’m smiling through clinched teeth.

My husband reminded me that while I personally didn’t want to breastfeed openly in public, there are other moms who do and their harassers shouldn’t be applauded. I have to remember that.

In defense of Elitch Gardens

So! Here’s yet another breastfeeding in public brouhaha! I will probably lose many readers who are breastfeeding mommies, but I just have to be true to myself and voice my opinion about this issue — again.

What is so wrong with being courteous of those around you if you are a breastfeeding mother and cover up, or as in the case of the mother breastfeeding in front of the daycare, move to an available room?

A woman was asked by two park security guards at Elitch Gardens, a Colorado theme park, to move or either cover up when she tried to breastfeed her 5-month-old by the wave pool. Sounds reasonable to me. She refused because Colorado state law does say mothers can breastfeed anywhere they have a right to be.

But, this is what really threw me.

Skrydlaksimlai, 28, of Spearfish, S.D., said the guards later got a supervisor, who in turn, got two Denver police officers to talk to her. By that time, she said she had finished nursing her son and pulled her swimsuit back up.

Pulled her swimsuit back up? That is just too much. I can’t take it. Babies have a right to feed, but other parents have the right for their children not to see another woman’s breast. I don’t care if a baby is at the end of it.

According to the Rocky Mountain News article,

Elitch Gardens released a statement that breast-feeding at the park is allowed, but noted: “Our concern was not that she was breast-feeding her child, but that she was exposed while doing so, making several guests uncomfortable enough to bring it to the park management’s attention.”

I’ve only read a few breastfeeding mothers’ work who agree with me and most of them are conservative Christians, which I am NOT. Rhonda Graham, a breastfeeding mom herself and opinion columnist for DelawareOnline.com once wrote:

It is self-righteous hubris to assert that you have no responsibility to consider the potential discomfort that breast-feeding creates when you share the public space.”

I am so glad someone, anyone agrees with me!

i

Beating a dead horse: More about nursing in public

Kasia Sokalla is a great mom. Clearly she adores her daughter. In fact she breastfeeds, which we know is one of the best ways moms can show love for their little ones because there is nothing better than mama’s milk.

But…..

she is in the middle of a vigorous “breastfeeding in public” debate at her daughter’s day-care center. Sokalla insists upon breastfeeding Maya in the reception area and on the front stoop of the day-care. One father complained and the day-care owners do not think it is appropriate.

Pam Greene, director of Washington Street Children’s Center in Methuen, Massachusetts, isn’t so sure it’s the right thing to do in front of other people’s kids. She said Sokalla nurses 18-month-old Maya outside and in the main play area in the thick of the morning drop-off. “We didn’t think that was appropriate,” she said.

Although Greene offered two private rooms for Sokalla to use, she has refused each time.

The more I talk about breastfeeding in public, the more torn I am on the issue. On one hand I know and understand that breastfeeding is the best food for babies and toddlers and I know it is a completely natural practice. I also understand the only reason there is a debate about breastfeeding in public is because the breast has become so sexualized.

And still…

I cannot bring myself to be in this mom’s corner. What is so wrong with nursing in another room? Her baby is still going to be fed and parents don’t have to get all antsy. Everyone wins, at least on one level.

i

Let me share two personal stories with you. When I had my first daughter I was absolutely in awe of breastfeeding. It was purely amazing to me. Breastfeeding made me think of the world in a whole new way and I wanted to share it with everyone.

One summer evening after nursing my daughter my husband and I went next door because our neighbors wanted to see our baby. She was only a few weeks old at the time and I was still floating blissfully in the clouds of “new mother heaven”. The only thing I could think of was being ready should my daughter need to feed, so I went to a house full of people WITHOUT A BRA ON! I am big busted, so just image the sight. Not pretty! Although I only stayed for a short while it did not dawn on me how horrible that was until a few weeks later when reality set in and my head came out of the clouds. To my credit, though, my mind was steadfastly on feeding my baby. I could care less about the others who saw my floppy breasts.

On another occasion, this time at my father’s house, I disappeared suddenly to the bedroom to nurse. A few minutes later my brother came in to see where I had gone and walked in on me with my left breast exposed and my daughter nursing peacefully. He sat there for a few minutes talking until he couldn’t take it any longer. He left saying he didn’t feel comfortable (he was real sweet about it) to which I whispered, “I’m just breastfeeding.”

These two personal experiences help me understand the other side of the debate. Sometimes as moms we get so wrapped up in motherhood we fail to consider other perspectives. Perhaps, like me, it’s time for Sokalla to come down out of the clouds.

Photo Credit: Patrick Whittemore, Boston Herald

When modesty threatens the cause

Like it or not, as is customary with all “isms” in the world, a wide range of diverse viewpoints and highly controversial perspectives are inherently active and present in lactivism. While I author a blog about breastfeeding, I’ve never considered myself a lactivist, just like I don’t consider myself a feminist, or any other “ist” for that matter. I am simply an opinionated mom with a blog who happens to champion the cause of breastfeeding for black mothers. If my self-imposed definition qualifies me as a lactivist of sorts, I’m not entirely sure. But, I do know that I prefer not to box myself in with labels.

Of late I’ve been writing about breastfeeding in public because it remains one of the highly contested and most discussed topics among nursing mothers and breastfeeding advocates. In truth, breastfeeding in public is an issue that begs for attention and cannot be easily ignored. And so when a celeb brings the issue to the forefront as dramatically as Maggie Gyllenhaal did last week, I cannot help but chime in with my two cents.

Like I have iterated before, I believe nursing moms should show modesty when breastfeeding in public. In my opinion, saying this does not make me a traitor to the cause, nor does it, by default, make breastfeeding seem any less natural or right because a mother decides to cover up. And I also do not believe I am being double minded because I espouse breastfeeding to be “a beautiful thing”, while also advocating that moms show respect for everyone including those who may be offended by a nursing infant. I think the topic of breastfeeding in public can easily be remedied by open-minded people on both sides of the fence where people can go about their daily lives without being offended by breastfeeding and infants can still nurse in peace while out on the town with mommy. I truly believe there is a happy middle ground somewhere where every one wins. Idealistic? Probably. Impractical? Possibly. Doable? Yes, with a lot of work.

To be sure, breastfeeding is a natural act, but we must ask ourselves do we live in a culture where being “natural” equals automatic acceptance. I am a big fan of modesty in all aspects of a woman’s life from breastfeeding moms to teenage girls who think showing too much cleavage is cool.

That said, I wholeheartedly disagree that mothers should show an entire breast while nursing in public. That is so unbelievable to me! Perhaps my opinion is too consistent with most black mothers, who in breastfeeding studies, show more reluctance for breastfeeding in public. I also maintain that if, hypothetically, breastfeeding in public with full breasts showing was an accepted practice in America, black mothers would be subject to a strict double standard. Can you image a picture of a black mother breastfeeding in New York City with her entire breast out? I can already hear the chatter on the all-too-brutal blogosphere: “Go back to Africa!”…”This isn’t National Geographic!”… “Show some respect!”. Although unfortunate, I know without a doubt this would happen.

Although I am in the minority among breastfeeding advocates about this issue, I cannot help but voice my perspective. Although it feels this way, surely I am not the only person who echoes these sentiments.

For all eyes to see — continued

As I mentioned a few hours ago, I’m not really down with showing a full breast while breastfeeding in public. And while what Maggie Gyllenhaal did (twice now) may be sparking a vigorous debate and is an attempt to normalize public breastfeeding, I still think it’s a little inconsiderate given how sexualized the breast is. Forcing people to come around to one’s own personal agenda by exposing a breast while nursing is counterproductive in my opinion. Plus, my judgment is a little colored because I believe if mothers started breastfeeding in public with breasts exposed there would be a double standard between black women and white women because black women are seen as more sexual beings. So, there’s a lot at work in my head about this issue.

That said, though, let’s travel a bit through history and see some breastfeeding images that may illustrate my point or even bolster dissenting opinions.

Breastfeeding has always been a normal part of life.

TITLE: The frontispiece shows Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and of war, ... SUMMARY: Print shows Minerva, having exchanged her battle raiments for more domestic dress, nursing an infant; at her feet are an owl, a spear, and a shield which bears the likeness of a gorgon. Sitting to the right is Mentor holding an olive branch and teaching “two children the advantages of peace”. CREATED/PUBLISHED: [1778]

And mothers have historically breastfed in public without incident.

TITLE: [Translated] Big festival of the allies. Country fair for the children to benefit the school for the rehabilitation of the veterans of Bordeaux. SUMMARY: A woman nursing her baby. Two disabled veterans, one weaving a basket, the other is holding a pickax. CREATED/PUBLISHED: Bordeaux : Imp. F. Pech & Cie, [1918]

An in indigenous populations, before the influx of western ideals and artificial formula, breastfeeding in public was just another “day at the office”.

TITLE:
“Mickani
nies Kow-Kow”
SUMMARY:
Inuit Eskimo woman breastfeeding two babies.
CREATED/PUBLISHED:
c1904.

But somewhere in history breastfeeding became this: private, secluded, pure, and virtuous. At the same time women’s breasts increasing became sexual objects — a volatile mix. And that’s where we are today.

TITLE: Maternity
CREATED/PUBLISHED: [between 1900 and 1920]

Now, I’m not one who doesn’t believe in bucking the system every once in a while because society has strayed away from fundamental principles and rights such as a mom’s right to breastfeed in public. In fact, I believe most parts of our society need some serious reworking. But in this case, I just do not see where baring one’s whole breast like Gyllenhaal did is necessary. Yes, that’s a good word…. necessary. Let’s forget about whether it’s right or wrong. Is it necessary? I argue that it is not.

Now, that’s a lot of breast!

You won’t get much celebrity breastfeeding gossip on this blog because the celebs I adore or even care about pretty much stop with Oprah and Prince, two people who won’t be breastfeeding anytime soon.

That said, however, I can’t help but comment on this picture. What’s up with showing so much breast? I admit it, I’m a prude and believe that the breast should be covered up in public to give nursing moms and their babies some privacy and to spare people from stumbling over trash cans or getting whiplash just to divert their eyes from seeing a nipple. I hope I don’t unleash the beast in some people for saying this and I know there is a lot of support going around in the blogosphere for her, but I think Maggie Gyllenhaal is being rude. Take a peek. What do you think?

The Go! Pillow

Discover Breastfeeding Privacy: The Go! Pillow
I love inventive moms! I especially love inventive moms who create solutions for public breastfeeding.

Tangela Walker-Craft, a Lakeland, Florida stay-at-home mom and inventor, wanted to find a way to nurse her infants without showing skin, so she put her creative skills to good use and developed the Go! Pillow, a multipurpose portable pillow and blanket.

“I breastfed my daughter for two years and needed a child care product that would allow for public breastfeeding while maintaining privacy,” said Craft. “I couldn’t find what I needed, so I invented a multipurpose product and got it patented. It’s useful for many child care needs.”

According to Simply Necessary, Inc, the company Craft started in 2005 to sell her product, the Go! Pillow is excellent for many uses including:

  • Breast feeding pillow with built-in privacy cover-up
  • Pillow and body wrap for babies
  • Portable toddler pillow and blanket
  • Portable diaper changing surface
  • Sun and wind shield for babies and toddlers
  • Arm cushion for carrying babies and toddlers
  • Extra hand during diaper changes etc.
  • Arm warmer during cold weather (especially during outdoor activities)
  • Travel Pillow for all ages

After spending $21,000 to get the Go! Pillow patented, developed, manufactured and marketed, Craft is looking forward to getting her product in the hands of breastfeeding moms and moms of little ones all across the country. Current colors include Ultra Plush Baby Pink and Ultra Plush Baby Blue and range in price from $24.95 to $29.95 — very affordable!

Since I’m pretty vocal about my stance on public breastfeeding, I believe the Go! Pillow can prevent a lot of the ugly stares and complaints against nursing moms and infants still get to nurse in peace. The Go! Pillow is a definite must-have for moms everywhere.

Confinement Sydrome

One of the most strategically used arguments for public breastfeeding is that mothers will be confined to their homes if public breastfeeding remains taboo or indecent, so to speak. I bring this up because a couple of people have relayed this argument to me and I also read it again today in an article that talked about the Wisconsin breastfeeding bill that’s currently on the table.

My simple response to that argument is, “Huh?” To my knowledge and simply based on what I read, the vast majority of breastfeeding moms who get asked to nurse elsewhere are in malls. First of all, it’s understandable that mothers would like to congregate at malls because there’s plenty of food, it’s a big space, and most often, malls cater to moms with mini playgrounds for the kids. That said, a mom can still get out and about with her nursing baby while also not stepping on the toes of those around her.

Every mom has to allow some concessions and adjustments in her life. That’s just the way parenting is. But moms also don’t have to be confined to their homes like the breast is some sort of virtual ball and chain.

Having a baby never kept me inside and I was a sling-wearing, breastfeeding, stay-at-home mama, like most of these moms. But I knew that between a certain time, my daughters needed to be napping and I wasn’t out on the town during this time. I knew exactly when my daughters needed to eat and again, I wasn’t out. Sure, there were times when I needed to nurse the girls because, let’s face it, children, especially babies, are quite unpredictable. During these times, however, I would simply nurse in an intimate space where I knew I wasn’t offending anyone. I’ve been known to nurse in a changing room or even in one of those nice lounges that department stores have that lead into the women’s bathroom. These lounges weren’t designed for nursing moms, but heck, they have chairs, nice lighting and it’s not in the bathroom.

All I’m saying is I never had a problem feeding my children and not offending others. And just because I had to take a few extra steps to nurse, I never felt my rights were being stepped on. I’m a firm believer in respect. I respect people around me and I expect respect as well.

More About Breastfeeding in Public

I talk about public breastfeeding a lot here. I suppose that’s so because the issue is in the news with great regularity and it remains one of the more polarizing issues concerning breastfeeding moms and nursing advocates.

In today’s The Decatur Daily, poll results and mom quotes were featured in an article called Most readers OK with breast-feeding in public, poll finds. When the paper asked: “Should mothers breast-feed in public?”, of 222 respondents, 135 (60.8 percent) answered yes and 87 answered no. The results are not scientific. While there were many opinions that were along my thinking, there were many that weren’t. Here are few moms whose opinion about breastfeeding sums up my thoughts on the issue.

Ann Allen of Decatur said she sometimes nursed her babies in public.

“But I was sensitive to the importance of being discreet and modest. On most occasions, people around me were not aware of the fact I was nursing a baby.

Jeanne Broome of Trinity said she breast-fed five children at home and in public.

“Simply putting a blanket over my shoulder covered any appearance of that fact. No one even knew except those I was with, who were never offended.

“It’s easy to cover yourself. You don’t have to be blatant. Adults understand a baby has to be fed, and this is the most natural, healthiest and the oldest method of feeding your baby.

More on the issue of public breastfeeding, Mickey from Mocha Milk left an extensive rebuttal to my previous post about breastfeeding in public. It’s well worth reading. In fact, I warmly welcome differing opinions and comments.

For me, public breastfeeding boils down to the issue of sensitivity. Nursing moms must understand that being discreet by covering up doesn’t mean they’re ashamed of nursing — one of the most natural acts on earth. It simply means that a mom is aware that breastfeeding may cause angst in others. What’s wrong with respect all around and not only relegated to nursing moms? It’s my opinion that everyone’s rights should be considered when it comes down to nursing in public. Nursing moms can’t trample the rights of others. That may sound harsh, but in essence that’s what advocates of public breastfeeding do because they insist that all should cater to their need to feed their baby wherever they want.

I say, feed your baby, but cover up and be discreet. I’ve seen some not-so-discreet breastfeeding moms out there and that’s what bothers me the most.

Most Excellent Commentary

I am so HAPPY and relieved to have read thoughtful commentary about public breastfeeding that echoes my same sentiments on the matter. In Why are we at war over breast-feeding?”, opinion columnist for the News Journal Rhonda Graham, speaks up for breastfeeding moms (like her and me) who don’t hold their rights as nursing moms over everyone else’s.

As the Constitution guarantees, everyone has certain basic rights and just because we’re dealing with babies and their overall welfare and optimal nourishment doesn’t mean that some breastfeeding moms who nurse in public do not take away the rights of others not to witness the act. This may come as a shock to some moms, but everyone is not enamored by public breastfeeding, no matter how good it may be for babies.

As a nursing mom, I was always cognisant about where I breastfed my babies, and for the record, it was always in an intimate setting where my babies and I were most comfortable. It’s unfortunate that there are some mothers who feel they need to force their choices upon the masses. I think they’re wrong and those of us who feel this way should consistently speak our opinion as loudly as those who believe otherwise.