Tomorrow, there are nurse-in's planned at Target stores across the USA and in some Zeller's stores (the future home of Target) across Canada. It is all in response to an incident that happened to a breastfeeding mom at a Houston Target store in late November 2011. You can read all the details here, in the post written by Annie Urban from PhDinParenting on the Care2 site.
This is sadly not a new news story. Long story short is this: mom is shopping with baby, baby gets hungry, mom has a full cart of items and decides to sit down and nurse her child with a cover over her. Mom is subsequently harassed by store employees asking her to move or leave and then proceed to threaten to call the police and have her arrested for indecent exposure, etc, etc, etc....
And... Cue the Lactivists!! And the uproar from both sides of this issue. (See the 489 comments on Annie's Post! 489 people!!)
And then nation-wide nurse-ins are planned.
And I get a kind of weird uneasy feeling in my tummy about these gatherings.
Please understand this. I am a very vocal and proud advocate of breastfeeding. I believe that breastfeeding is the normal and yes, best way to feed our babies. I believe that mothers should nurse their babies anytime and anywhere and not have to suffer any kind of harassment or public humiliation for giving her baby the simple basics of food and love.
I believe that leading by example and modeling the kind of behaviour we want to see in others and around us is the best way to change the world. I especially believe this about breastfeeding and this is why I have and always will nurse in public when I need to. I will do so with a smile on my face, with or without a cover, with my newborn and with my three-year-old. I will nurse at a pool, at a restaurant, in the mall, at the park, in church or sitting in the lawn furniture display at Superstore.
Some may think I am a 'breastfeeding nazi', because I believe that this is the best way to feed my babies and I will do whatever I need to ensure that this is what happens. I will share my knowledge of breastfeeding with those around me and help whomever asks me for advice or help! I will support businesses and products that enhance the breastfeeding relationship and remove my support from those that I feel undermine it.
But on the subject of public gatherings and nurse-ins...
To be completely honest, and I know this will get me in some hot water with some people...
I do not think that this is the way.
This 'Stickin' it to the man', or in this case (and as the media will undoubtedly portray it) 'Whippin' em out in front of everyone', will HURT the lactivist movement. This will become less about a mother's right and basic human need to feed her child when and where that child is hungry, as it will be about a group of outraged feminist crazies and exhibitionist women 'flaunting' themselves in the name of breastfeeding in public.
Do you think I am wrong?
Maybe I am, but I know what kind of world we live in.
We live in a world where boobs = sex. Where one of the most watched fashion shows on the planet is the Victoria's Secret one and it is chock full of barely there bras and panties and lots of bouncing boobs. Where the biggest social media website in the world will allow almost pornographic pictures of breasts and other questionable body parts, but actively removes, bans and shuts down pages that show a breastfeeding mother and child. We live in a world where the most powerful nation known to man has the most appalling maternity leave policy on earth and does next to nothing to support breastfeeding mothers.
So what is a breastfeeding advocate to do?
I have been invited to our local nurse-in tomorrow, but I don't think I will go. I see these actions as confrontational and in my opinion THIS tactic rarely ever works to change people's minds and only serves to alienate those we want support from and make the issue seem more sensational than normal. There is something to be said about attracting more flies with honey than vinegar and I truly believe that this highly charged topic of breastfeeding in public is one that needs way more sweet than bitter to move it forward.
I don't know what the right answers are here and just like feeding our babies, it is likely as diverse and varied as these answers and choices are.
I personally choose to make my stand for nursing in public (NIP) as I feed my babies. On demand. And trust me, with a three-year-old who is still nursing and very vocal about it, she can be very demanding! As demanding as a screaming hungry newborn. And you can bet that I would, I have and I will nurse my children when and where they need it.
So for all those shop employees, shoppers, diners, people walking by, fellow church goers and everyone else who seems to have a problem with a mother nursing her child, I say this...
Your choice is...
Look away or deal with the high-pitched, full-throttle and seemingly never-ending screams of a hungry child!!
P.S. I fully support all the mamas and daddies and everyone else who IS going to the nurse-in's across our nations. I am with you in spirit and will likely be somewhere else quite publicly nursing my toddler and being an example to all those around me.