Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Nursing in Public (or NIP ... how appropriate, right?)

Twice yesterday on Facebook I saw derogatory references to women nursing their babies in public.

One was a male posting about the "inappropriateness" of a mother feeding her baby in a store. The other I came across while reading a humorous post by a mommy blogger/author - a post that had nothing to do with breastfeeding whatsoever. One commenter apparently looked at (aka - "creeped") another woman's Facebook photos and found one of her breastfeeding, and then used that photo as justification to call her "classless" in order to make a point on some other unrelated issue. I didn't read much beyond that, just enough to see another comment written by the original creepin' lady defending herself saying that she was "fine with breastfeeding as long as it's done behind closed doors."

Well, I have a problem with that.
I don't live my life 100% "behind closed doors" and neither does my baby. And why should I?
Should I be confined to my bedroom until I give up breastfeeding in order to resume a normal life?
Is the inch of mammary tissue that *might* be seen for a split second really doing irreparable damage to innocent people?
Are you telling me you would rather listen to a baby cry at the top of its lungs than catch a peak of a mother nursing out of the corner of your eye?

And when did feeding your baby become "inappropriate"?
I know ZERO breastfeeding moms that are thinking Oh, please strangers, please notice me as I attempt to feed my baby in a less-than ideal location. Please look at me as I fumble with my shirt and stupid nursing cover. Please observe how my child is being less than cooperative and thwarting my every attempt to cover him. Please everybody, I am dying for your attention! Check out my milk-filled breast!
In reality, all of us are trying very hard to not be noticed.

And then there are the poor moms who never feel comfortable NIP.
Maybe they don't want to feel like people are looking at them funny or maybe they don't want to make other people uncomfortable. Or it might be just a personal thing that they themselves aren't comfortable with. And I get that. It was awkward the first few times when I nursed in public with Avery. It is like any other skill, it takes some getting used to. And to a certain extent, you have to get thicker skin. Is there a chance that someone might give you a dirty look or say something rude? Sure. But there are times when you don't have much choice, even if you'd prefer not to nurse in public.
So you face the choice: what do you care more about, feeding your child or protecting some stranger's idea of modesty?
Personally I feel that if people have a problem, it's just that. THEIR problem, not mine.
You don't like it? Feel free not to stare at my chest then. Problem solved.
Honestly in this day and age, any kid can turn on A&E to an episode of Intervention and see someone shooting heroin into their vein. This is socially acceptable television, but a mom quietly feeding her baby on a bench at the mall is inappropriate?

But there is also the other end of the spectrum. I have heard some moms tell stories of getting positive feedback. The more of us that ignore the negative criticism and just feed our babies when they need to eat (because seriously this is about a baby needing to eat, remember?), the more we are helping to make nursing in public more socially acceptable.
I personally love seeing women NIP. I sort of want to go up to them and be all like, "I know how hard and awkward this can sometimes be, but I think you are awesome. Rock on!" *Attempt fist bump* (And then awkwardly walk away....)

I must say that I have had way more positive feedback and looks than negative ones. I nursed Graham on our plane ride to Colorado both there and back. On the way out I sat next to a woman; on the way back I sat next to a man. Neither of them acted like I was doing anything out of the ordinary. We made the usual plane small talk, and it was no big thing.
I nurse Graham in front of both of my grandpas - men in their mid-70s. Neither one of them has ever acted uncomfortable for even a second, and believe me when I say that I would be able to tell with these two! It's just what I do to feed him, and everybody - including the older men I'm related to - is cool with that. 

And that is all nursing moms want: for it to be no big deal. What we don't want is to feel like we need to go hide away in some nasty public bathroom, because I am telling ya right now, I am NEVER doing that. Ever. Unless it's one of those ritzy bathrooms with an elegant little sitting room in the front of it. And if that's the case, you can find me there setting up shop with my ass firmly planted in a comfy seat with my feet up.

I am interested to see what other people think - men and women alike. Not just parents, but those without kids and single people too.
When/if you see someone nursing her baby in public, what runs through your mind?
Do you think that it's awesome?
Do you take offense?
Do you not even think about it because it barely registers or because it just isn't an issue?
Do you wish she was somewhere else more private?
Do you want to give her a high-five and a "Good work, Mama!"?
Tell me what you think.

6 comments:

  1. I NIP all the time, and haven't ever had an issue. In fact, I had to nurse Sam while getting my teeth cleaned today, even after he ate just before we got there. I don't get the opposition to NIP, I see way more skin from trashy, poorly covered/dressed people than I do NIP, and I don't go tell those people to cover up. I love seeing other women NIP, I don't usually bother them, I'm just glad to see other women out there with me! Keep up the good work mamas!!

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    1. At a dental cleaning?! Damn, look at you go! :) You and I are definitely a lot alike in the not-giving-a-crap department, so I suspected you probably NIP wherever you feel like as well. I definitely agree: there are way more people dressed in much more revealing clothes than there are moms breastfeeding!

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  2. As someone for whom nursing was a giant fail (me sitting home pumping for 10 weeks and getting zilch, Soph fighting every step of the way, me feeling like a big ol' failure) when I see someone nursing in public, I feel total awe and envy. How easy it must be to have the food all ready like that. How beautiful to be able to meet that need so naturally and with such grace. I probably stare like a creeper because, when a baby fusses and a mom whips it out and just like that the baby is eating, I think "really? that's it? I mean really, you're just nursing, easy as that??" So yeah, awe and respect, and I too have thought about going up to them and telling them to rock on...Maybe we should. What's wrong with telling other Mamas they're awesome once in a while, right?

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    1. It is damn easy! (Once you get going and everything works like it's supposed to of course.) That's totally the best part too. I kinda smirk a little to myself when I hear someone say she isn't breastfeeding because it's too much work compared to bottle-feeding. Let me tell you how many baby related dishes I do: zero! Nothing is easier than just whippin' it out. You don't even have to be fully awake for it! :) And for the record, it totally sucks that your nursing experience didn't go the way you hoped despite all your exhaustive efforts. :( I know you would have been whippin' it out left and right with pride if you'd had the chance!

      You and me, Elise. We're gonna start the Rock On Mama! campaign - surprising and quite possibly creeping out unsuspecting NIP moms since 2013!

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  3. I've never been bothered by anyone breastfeeding in public, even if I myself didn't do it. I would nurse in a bedroom during a party, for instance. And I don't think I've ever been out long enough on an errand that I would have to nurse; usually I'd be back home (also because my kids don't really sleep out and about—we always have to come back home to put them to sleep, so we're home anyway when it's time for them to wake up and nurse).

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    1. It's smart to just plan your trips around nursing sessions. That is obviously the easiest for everyone, plus less worry about all the issues that can arise while nursing in public. For us that wasn't an option usually. We live a good 30-40 miles from a town bigger than 2,000 people. So when we go run errands, it is a minimum 3 or 4 hour trip to every place we could possibly need to go. So I didn't have much choice. And when Bailey would need doctor visits, that is a 3 hour trip just to get there, so I had to get good at the NIP thing quickly.

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