Guest Author - Nicki Heskin
It never fails – if it’s not a waiter at Applebee’s asking a woman to cover up while breastfeeding, it’s a small-town newspaper writer aghast at the temerity of a woman to nurse her child in a grocery store. Whatever the cause, a word of caution to those who would question the right of a nursing mother to nourish or comfort her child in any circumstance –
Cross nursing moms and rue the day.
Nursing these days isn’t something that is expected to take place under a blanket or in the privacy of our homes. With a plethora of slings, strollers and infant seats available, modern moms are out and about. Most states have stepped up with legislation of some sort protecting our babes’ right to latch on. And to the dismay of those who dare challenge the breastfeeding duo, today’s nursing moms are also out in force online. And a new buzzword is “Lactivism” – activism surrounding breastfeeding.
Online support groups, discussion boards, forums, websites and communities for moms are exploding. I am an active member of several of these internet groups, a “lurker” on dozens of others, subscribe to a handful of e-newsletters and blogs, and have memberships in several national parenting organizations. And I’m certainly not alone (the fact that you are reading this probably means you are right there with me!).
As women, we need not feel bullied any longer by those who want to limit our right to breastfeed in public in any manner and any location we need to choose – we have a huge national contingent who takes such offenses seriously as a threat to both our personal freedom and our children’s health, and who can be rallied almost overnight via cyberspace.
When Brooke Ryan was told she had to cover her baby while nursing at a Lexington, KY, Applebee’s, even after presenting a copy of the state law to the server, she was upset. But when she received the corporate office’s August 3 letter stating not that it would never happen again, but that they were planning to stock blankets in their restaurants for use by nursing mothers, she got mad. Within weeks her story was out on the Internet and thousands of nursing moms nationwide participated in a nurse-in that brought a huge volume of media attention to this issue, and policy shifts at both local and corporate levels at Applebee’s.
When Melissa Tracy breastfed her crying two-month-old in the aisle at a grocery store near Boston and was told to stop by a clerk, she asked for and received an apology. But a local writer for the Taunton Daily Gazette wrote what I am sure he thought was a harmless article questioning why the chain apologized and why she couldn’t have just headed to the ladies’ room or brought along a bottle. Bad move. He received volumes of emails, many of which were educating him on breastfeeding legislation, sanitation issues and the particulars of giving a breastfed baby a bottle.
Other protests in recent years centered around the treatment of breastfeeding mothers include Freedom Airlines, Victoria’s Secret and ABC Television (and most recently, one brewing surrounding Bill Maher’s comments about the Applebee’s protest). Years ago, these harassed women would have felt alone and embarrassed simply for doing what is best for their children. No longer.
So share a word to the wise with those who would shoot a dirty look, cluck their tongue or shake their head towards a breastfeeding mom. We may look harmless, but we are strong. We are nourishing the future, and we take the job seriously.
For a summary of Breastfeeding Protection Legislation in your state, in the United States and around the World, Le Leche League International has compiled this information at http://www.llli.org/Law/LawMain.html?m=0,1
Want to nurse in public, but feeling modest? Motherwear (www.motherwear.com) makes stylish and affordable clothes with nifty access panels in multiple configurations. Also, check out http://www.bebeaulait.com for trendy and compact nursing covers that allow you see the baby through a clever wire frame at the top. For the budget conscious, my favorite recommendation is a wide brimmed sunhat on the baby while nursing (especially handy for little babies, those who tend to become distracted, or who won’t tolerate a nursing cover).