There has been a lot in the news lately about staged nurse-ins in public establishments where employees have asked breastfeeding moms to cover up or have escorted them to restrooms to finish feeding their babies. Let’s have a chat folks…….
I am a mom of twelve children…all breastfed to some degree. (I say to some degree because I experienced complications with breastfeeding four of my babies and, sadly, could only breastfeed for the first several weeks with them. So thankful that the problem has been resolved and I have successfully breastfed the rest of my babies since! But I digress..) With my first baby I felt awkward about breastfeeding in front of people. I’d go to another room, out to the car, and yes folks, I even resorted to sitting in the bathroom to nurse her. This never felt natural, I was acting as if I were ashamed to feed my baby in public. I mean, I eat in front of people and that’s normal. But my baby? She should eat in a back room, or in a car, or in the bathroom…away from others. We must separate her for no one wants to be around a baby that’s eating her meal! Let’s just face it, I was afraid of offending others.
Through the years I’ve grown in my thinking. By this I mean I have actually started using my brain to think! I wouldn’t sneak off to a back room to eat, I wouldn’t hide in a car to eat, and I certainly would NEVER go sit on a toilet in a stinky bathroom to have my meal, so why would I make my baby do this?! Why is everyone so afraid of breastfeeding anyway? To breastfeed is a normal and natural way for baby to eat. God created us to do this! This is His design. Breastfeeding is the best choice for baby’s health, and shockingly, has proven to be best for mom’s health, too. Now, having said this, let me say I do understand those who can’t breastfeed for reasons out of their control, and, though I don’t understand why, I do understand that it is the mom’s decision to not breastfeed if she just doesn’t want to. I try to not judge those who use a bottle to feed their baby as my own experience taught me that it is okay to bottle-feed. I felt the need to stick that little caveat in there as to not be offensive to non-breastfeeding moms everywhere. Anyway, back to the point that I am trying to make here. As I started realizing how ridiculous it was to feel ashamed and awkward about the perfectly natural process of feeding my baby through breastfeeding- even in front of people, I began my journey forward….a much bolder and stronger woman in the making. So you can imagine when this reformed mom was asked to move to a bathroom to finish feeding her baby how my mind started whirling and those old feelings of shame came rushing to my heart, quickly replaced, however, by the absolute irritation of people’s ignorance. Let me explain. We had enrolled our children, 8 at the time, into swimming lessons at the local YMCA. As you may guess, it can take quite a bit of time and energy to get 8 children and a baby ready with swimming clothes, towels, and toiletries and load them up to head out and be on time for lessons. As this was the case, I would wait until we got to the pool, children all to their respective classes, and I would then settle in the bleachers with baby and nurse her. I stuck to this regiment throughout the entire set of lessons with not a cross look nor an awkward comment being made to me. Well, as the next go around came and my children moved up to higher levels, we started the schedule all over again. Get children ready, get them loaded up, get to the Y on time, get children in the pool, sit and nurse baby. This time, looking back, I do remember a new instructor and the looks she kept giving me. At the time I thought nothing of it. A bit later, she came to me, big smile on her face, and asked me about my baby. “How old is she?” “Oh, she’s so adorable!” Small talk that was rather unusual as lessons weren’t completely over for the day. She then went on to tell me that she was very pro-breastfeeding but because it made people uncomfortable I would need to take the baby to the bathroom to feed her from that point on. I had no response at that moment except for a piercing shame run through me that was quickly replaced by irritation and, need I say, a bit of anger and adrenaline. As I gathered my children from the locker room and headed out, I stopped and asked the male instructor with the pierced nipple proudly being displayed, and the lady instructor that I was more familiar with if it was a rule that I had to nurse my baby in the bathroom. I also mentioned that if that was the case, they should ask everyone there to put a shirt on. They replied with, “we quite agree, but we don’t make the rules.” I was so upset that I called my husband as soon as I got to the car and explained the whole scenario. He then drove to the Y to have a chat with the staff. He discovered it wasn’t a written rule, just one they had come up with when some ladies made people feel uncomfortable with their breastfeeding during a swim meet. My husband proceeded to explain to them that they can’t just go making up rules as they wish. Then he turned to the young man and told him that he expected them all to start taking their lunches into the bathrooms to eat. The young man looked at him with disbelief at the absurdity of this request. Craig went on to inform him that he was right to think this an absurd request, just like it was absurd to expect me to feed our baby in the bathroom. The light clicked on. A little bit of logic later and my husband explained that just as the staff will not eat their lunches in the bathroom, his wife would not feed our baby in the bathroom and that was to be the end of it, no one would ask me to leave again. His last point, and the point I haven’t shared yet was this, he said, “I guarantee my wife was more modest breastfeeding our baby than any woman in here today. I can guarantee not one bit of skin was showing at all”. You see, People weren’t being offended at the sight of my breast because I was completely covered. They were offended at the tiny feet sticking out of a blanket. I guess the mere thought of a baby suckling from my breast was enough to bother people. That was my crime. Really?! You see, I am all for breastfeeding! We should be allowed to feed our babies anywhere. People need to stop feeling awkward with the thought of it. I think we should fight for the right to breastfeed in public. I even applaud women for staging these “nurse ins” to protest the wrong treatment of breastfeeding mommies. The thing I highly disagree with is that these women are fighting for the right to expose their breast for all the world to see. Yes, breastfeeding is a natural act of feeding a baby..the way God designed. Covering yourself up to feed your baby is NOT a sign of shame it’s just being discreet and respectful of others around you. There are vast people groups who, in their tribal cultures, nurse their babies completely exposed and no one seems to care. But remember, these same people tend to not cover much else up either, and though I don’t condone it, this is their culture. We are a distinctive western civilization where modesty (used to) matter and because of this we should use discretion and respect others in how we go about things. Including in breastfeeding which is a beautiful thing.
If we want our culture to become more accepting of this beautiful and natural act of mother and child, why would we do it in a manner of “in your face” rather than doing it in a classy and respectful way? There are so many cute and fun nursing covers to choose from, I especially like the ones that you can still see your precious little one while being covered from everyone else. You can buy them already made, or like me, go to a fabric store and choose a chic fabric to make one to your taste and style. You can unashamedly feed your baby, in style, and inoffensively!
Breastfeeding your baby is nourishing your baby in the way God designed. It is the best form of nutrition our babies can be given. It is natural. It is beautiful. It is nothing to fear or feel awkward about. Our family enjoys good food. We enjoy home cooked as well as fine dining experiences at classy restaurants. Breastfeeding is my way of giving my baby a fine dining experience. This one thing we have discovered though, is that you don’t need to see the kitchen in order to appreciate the food! So, ladies, nurse in and cover up!