There's a new badge on the blog, and though you may not be aware, it is something near and dear to my heart. The badge links to a site created by two caring mamas who wanted to take a few days to spread the word about a simple activity that often becomes rife with complications: feeding one's child in public.
How on earth could that be difficult? When the method of feeding is the most natural, possibly the easiest, the cleanest, safest, most nutritional, but also (at times) the most ridiculed and misunderstood. Yes, the simple act of breastfeeding in public can cause undue stress on the nursing mother for no other reason that others who happen to be near the mother may not approve of said activity.
May. Not. Approve. Yes, someone (likely not related to mother or child) may find it repugnant, and make their disdain known through looks or comments that indicate said nursing mother is somehow deliberately trying to make the entire planet uncomfortable. Given that I have been the recipient of both looks and comments, I couldn't help but think I needed to do a bit more to support this effort.
I am not going to go on and on about the statistics or try to convince anyone that they should or shouldn't nurse their child. I am not going to ridicule anyone who doesn't, as in the end, it is a choice. Do I feel strongly that children should be nursed? Yes. So much so that I still feel guilt that I *only* nursed Cait full-time for three months (and part-time until she was 5 months). I was far more successful with Kelsey (and know that "extended" nursing assisted her in her incredibly fast recovery from cranio-facial reconstruction at 14 months), and Nicholas still nurses in the morning and night.
I had no idea I would end up feeling so strongly or passionately about a topic. Despite my viewpoint, I don't discuss it much, primarily because I feel motherhood is hard enough and I prefer to lead by example (and before you chuckle, I know it's not always the perfect example). If you ask, I am happy to offer what worked for me, and after Nicholas, I finally feel as though I have a decent grasp on the topic of nursing a baby and/or toddler (having memorized the Kellymom website certainly helped).
Why the badge? If he only desires to nurse in the morning or at night, and might even wean soon, why do I worry about the right to nurse in public? Sadly, though not necessarily a worry for me, it is still an issue for other moms. Despite that almost every state protects the right to breastfeed in public and federal law also has protections in place, it still feels as though many have the assumption that it is not legal (or, more importantly, right) in public. It seems not a week goes by that there isn't a story of a misguided employee, from a lifeguard to a waiter to a clothing store staffer, who threatens the mother's right to feed her baby in the best way she knows how. Why does this happen?
It seems that there is the idea that woman who nurse in public want to show off or display themselves somehow. The reality, at least for myself, and for those I have seen nursing in public, is that one can find far more lascivious displays on the beach or in a Victoria's Secret catalog. I can't say that I nurse in public (at the moment), because it simply isn't when Nicholas currently desires/needs to nurse. However, I fully support the rights of others to do so, and given one such experience in my past, felt a little promotion for such a natural part of life is well overdue.
The incident? I was the one criticized by a clothing store staffer. I was humiliated and belittled because I sat in the only chair I could find in a shop to nurse my (then) 5 month old baby (Kelsey). I was told that I was making others feel uncomfortable because I fed my child in the healthiest and most natural way I knew (and, not that it matters, extremely discreetly). Would the same person have blinked had I whipped out a bottle? I feel very sure the answer would be "no."
The badge will not be up for long, as it is part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public and it will end on July 9. However, my support for those wishing to nurse in public will never waiver, and I would hope (regardless of how you choose/are able to feed your child), neither will yours.