Friday, January 4, 2013

My thoughts on nurse-ins

I've never considered myself to have much of an imagination, but a conversation I had the other day regarding nurse-ins got me thinking...

Imagine a time, a hundred-and-something years from now, when the majority of our population doesn't eat with their mouths.  The mouth, they reason, can be used for sexual purposes and therefore should only be used in private.  In order not to offend people by using their mouths (even though it's for a purpose that's not sexual) people start covering themselves with blankets when they eat or hiding in bathrooms/dressing rooms/cars to eat. 

Over time, many people decide it's not worth the hassle to eat with their mouths, so they have tubes inserted into their stomachs and inject liquid nutrients straight to the source.  Sure, they miss out on the bonding that can happen as a family at the dinner table... not to mention the delicious flavors of a home cooked meal!  But at least no one is offended by seeing a mouth (which could be used for a sexual purpose) used for something not sexual!

Ok, I'll admit it... that scenario probably seems a little bizzarre and far-fetched, but that's kind of like what's happened with breasts.  Even though their primary biological function is to nourish our young, our society has sexualized breasts to the extent that women are made to feel ashamed and embarrassed to nurse their children in public.

But it wasn't always so.  In the late 1800's, no one batted an eye at a woman nursing her baby, uncovered in a church service.  And have you seen all the paintings of Mary breastfeeding Jesus?! (My friend Paala posted several of the paintings on her blog.)  Or how about the paintings of Mary squirting breastmilk into Saint Bernard's mouth?

Why is it that nowadays many people are so offended to see a mother nursing?  Why is it that we are told we are inconsiderate exhibitionists for using our breasts for their primary biological purpose?

Although it's never happened to me, I've heard numerous accounts of women being harrassed in restaurants for nursing their babies at the table.  (I'm sure many of you heard about the incident with Dawn Holland at the Applebee's in Georgia.) These mothers are told that they need to be respectful and considerate of the other patrons in the restaurant, but it makes me wonder... how many meat eaters are asked to take their babyback ribs to the bathroom in order to avoid offending any vegetarians who might be in the restaurant?  I can imagine it's just as offensive for a vegetarian to see a meat eater scarf down animal flesh as it is for some people to see a child nurse from an exposed breast.

So what is going to change public perception?  How can we get back to the days when women felt free to nurse openly, whenever and where ever their little ones need it?  To see women nursing! 

Photo Credit: Passion For Birth

If you, as a nursing mother, feel most comfortable covered or in a private place (I did when I was first learning to nurse) then go for it!  But for those of us who's babies rip the blankets and hooter hiders off, or who don't want our babies to have to nurse in a dirty bathroom, or who just want to enjoy our food at the table with the rest of our family, the harrassment and humiliation has to stop!

And that's why I feel the need to join nurse-ins whenever I can... as a show of support for the mothers who are being harrassed, and as an effort to help normalize nursing.  If you feel the same passion for the cause, a nationwide nurse-in is being organized this weekend at Hollister in support of Brittany Warfield, a mother who was nursing her 7 month old baby, covered with a coat, on a bench outside Hollister in Houston.  (A list of Hollister stores where nurse-ins are being organized can be found on the 2013 Hollister Nurse-In facebook page.)

And one last thing... I think I've shared this before, but I love it so much that I have to share it again.  In case you still don't think women should nurse in public, here's Every NIP (nursing in public) Argument Debunked, originally written by Elsinora on but with awesome photos added by my friend Paala. Enjoy!


Len said...

Fantastic post!! If I was still nursing (my youngest is almost 4) and lived near a Hollister's I would love to join you. It always made me mad when someone even suggested pumping or nursing in a bathroom!!! Why don't you eat your lunch on the toilet?!? Every single person I said that to (including my former boss) told me that was gross, they sure changed their minds about nursing in a bathroom. I tried to stay mainly covered but between wiggly babies and cloths/blankets not staying I'm sure I've offended someone :-)and I don't care!

Jennifer said...

I am not the least bit modest. I could totally pop my b**bs out and feed anywhere. But out of respect for people who might be embarrassed or offended, I do try to cover. I have nursed in my car, in the waiting room at the hospital & in my & MIL's living rooms. I also do not sequester myself to feed if people are visiting at my home...they came to my home after all. I have chosen not to feed at the table at restaurants (those were the car feedings) and neither will I make my child eat in the bathroom. Would people who tell you to take your child into a public restroom to feed them eat their own meals in a public restroom? Gross!! Also my son HATES to be covered while he is eating, but sometimes it is necessary.

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Natalie Ray said...

Only just found your blog and I love it :) I totally agree, nursing is the most natural thing in the world, if only people realised that.

El Fukuda said...

Happy Hippie Homemaker I LOVE you. You are a Magnificent, Enlightened woman. Keep sharing your light. Shine on. Unfortunately I don't make milk for my little 2 month old or I would nurse him whenever and wherever he needs to eat.

The Happy Hippie Homemaker said...

Thank you El Fukuda! You're so sweet and I love your attitude :)

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