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Collisions with Reality » nursing in public

Posts Tagged ‘nursing in public’

The Case for Nursing in Public: Part Four: The Feminist Case

Yesterday I talked in great detail about why I, personally, need to nurse in public. Today I’m going to avoid specifics, and talk about nursing in public from a feminist perspective.

As I hope the previous posts made clear, nursing in public is essential if I want to leave the house with my child for more than ninety minutes at a time. It doesn’t matter why I want to leave the house — I’m not interested in sitting here and justifying each trip out of the house, or discussing whether it’s appropriate to nurse in public at a given location. I just want to participate in society. I cannot participate in society if I am spending a quarter of the time hidden away feeding my child. It’s true that there are things you have to sacrifice when you have a kid. Participation in society should not be one of them.

Although many fathers — including my husband — take an active, hands-on role in parenting nowadays, breastfeeding is the one task they cannot do. Attempts to discourage nursing in public — whether overtly or subtly — are a burden on women. Not only on women, as it affects the entire family. But disproportionately so on women. Being able to freely nurse in public does not magically remove all the inequalities that women face in society. However, it is an important battle for women who have children.

Some people claim that they are “offended” by nursing in public. I don’t want to entirely dismiss them. But in a showdown between a nursing woman and an offended bystander, who has the most to lose? The worse case for the offended bystander is that he or she has to see a baby being nursed. The worst case for the nursing woman is that she is unable to participate in society. From this, I would argue that it’s more important to protect the right of the woman to nurse in public, than to protect the offended bystander from seeing something that he or she deems unsavory.

Luckily, 44 states agree with me and protect the right of women to nurse in any public or private location.



09 2010

The Case for Nursing in Public: Part Three: A Case Study

When a nursing mother is kicked out of an establishment, the comments on the resulting news articles are pretty derogatory towards the nursing mother. There are also lots of comments along the lines of, “Why can’t you use the bathroom?”, or “Why didn’t you nurse before you left?”, or “Why can’t you bring a bottle of breastmilk?” Yesterday, I talked about why nursing in public is essential on a practical level. But let me illustrate it more carefully by talking about one particular day in my life, and breaking down the problems with each of those comments.

Read the rest of this entry →


09 2010

The Case for Nursing in Public: Part Two: The Practical Case

Yesterday, I talked about the basics of breastfeeding. Generally, babies need to nurse all the dang time. Today I thought I’d elaborate as to why the freedom to nurse in public is essential, on a practical level:

It’s easy.

That’s it!

Whoops, I said I’d elaborate, didn’t I. Alright. Let’s do the math (I never promised there wouldn’t be any math!). If you’re lucky, during the day you might have an hour and a half between nursing sessions. How much can you get done in that hour and a half? Including travel time? Including packing up the diaper bag and/or stroller and/or car? Not much. Being able to nurse in public — and I mean public public, not just a fancy mother’s room at Nordstrom — is essential if you want to leave the house for more than ninety minutes at a time. If I’m packing up everything, it would be nice to go to the grocery store and the moms’ group on the same trip out of the house. Or maybe I’m tired of trying to prep all my lunches while the baby naps, and I’d like to get lunch out, even if it’s only a sandwich. If nursing in public isn’t allowed — or is discouraged — then these trips are impossible. I can guess, but not totally predict, when an infant is going to be hungry, and I can’t always time it so that I’m home for every single nursing session.

Then there’s the gear issue. You need the diaper bag, with diapers and wipes and a spare outfit. You need the stroller or some sort of wrap or carrier. You need a carseat if you’re going in the car. That’s all just for one baby — it’s even crazier with other kids in the mix. Nursing in public means not having to lug around bottles and a cooler of breastmilk (or formula), on top of all the other baby gear.

Nursing in public means being able to nurse at a playground while an older child plays. It means being able to meet someone for lunch, and nursing while waiting for the food to arrive (or while you’re eating, if you’re skilled and/or hungry enough). It means getting out of the damn house for more than ninety minutes at a time. It means that having an infant does not prevent me from being part of society — but now I’m getting ahead of myself. Tomorrow: a case study of a real day in my life!


09 2010

The Case for Nursing in Public: Part One: Nursing 101

Before I talk about nursing in public, I thought I should go into a bit of detail about breastfeeding. Articles about nursing in public often have a lot of crazy comments. I don’t recommend reading the comments, because they will make your blood boil. Many of them are rude and nasty. But some of them are merely uneducated, and I must admit that I didn’t know much about breastfeeding before I had a kid. I’m no expert now, but with ten months and counting under my belt, I do have some basic knowledge of how it all works.

With the caveat that all kids are different, that I am not a lactation consultant, and this is in the case of no other underlying medical issues, here are a couple of keys to successful breastfeeding:

  • Nurse on demand. If I had to boil it down to one catchphrase, it would be this. Nurse on demand. When your baby is hungry, feed him or her. Maybe it’s every two hours for half an hour each time. Maybe it’s every ninety minutes for ten minutes each time. Maybe it’s totally unpredictable, because every time you turn around your baby is sick, or teething, or is going through a growth spurt. But if you nurse on demand, every time, that’s how your body knows how much milk to produce. If you start supplementing, it is very hard to stop supplementing, because your body does not know how much milk your baby needs. If you offer a bottle of pumped milk once in a while, you need to pump as soon as possible, so that your body doesn’t think there was a skipped feeding.

    It’s important to note that breastfed babies often need to nurse frequently. And once they sleep for any real stretch of time at night — say, 4-5 hours — they need to nurse very frequently during the day to get in a good 8-10 nursing sessions. (My son is a champion sleeper — a regular two-hour nap during the day since he was about 6 weeks old, and a regular five-hour stretch at night since about three months. That meant that when he was awake, he was nursing every 1.5-2 hours. It was insane, and stayed like that pretty much until he started solids at 6 months and gradually dropped a couple nursing sessions.)

  • Avoid nipple confusion. If possible, no bottles and no pacifiers in the first 4-6 weeks. I must confess that we only made it 2 1/2 weeks before introducing a pacifier, because we were starting to go a bit crazy. But by then, my son was nursing well, had regained his birth weight and then some, so we thought we’d risk it. We actually quickly learned to listen to how he was sucking on the pacifier — if he was vigorously sucking and/or swallowing, it meant he was hungry, and I’d nurse him. Otherwise, he would calm down relatively quickly.

    Bottles are even trickier. There’s a window for introducing a bottle, at 6-8 weeks. Too early, and you risk nipple confusion. Too late, and they might not take it at all. We were a bit on the late side, and my son only just got the hang of it as I went back to work, when he was 3.5 months old. He wouldn’t take a bottle if I was in the same room, let alone take one from me.

There are other important keys, too — particularly a good latch — but these two are the most relevant for nursing in public. Babies need to eat frequently, and bottles should be carefully introduced.

Tomorrow: a look at the practicality of nursing in public.


09 2010

The Case for Nursing in Public: Prologue

It seems like every week I see an article about a nursing woman harassed or asked to leave an establishment, despite laws in 44 states protecting the right of a woman to nurse in public. I’m writing a series of posts on nursing in public, but first I thought I’d provide links to some of these articles. If you click through a few of them — and for the sake of your blood pressure, you shouldn’t check out too many — you’ll see some of the crazy and vile comments on them. The articles also often share the exact details of the actual confrontation, so this is not just a case of people being jerks behind a shield of anonymity. They’re often jerks in real life, too. (In other words, I have not concocted a strawman to argue against.)

This is not a comprehensive list; just some of the incidents I’ve read about via my normal web-browsing. (NB: I will continue updating this list as events happen.)

Tomorrow: the basics of breastfeeding.


09 2010