Friday, February 13, 2009


Why is nursing in public such an important cause?
To ask a breastfeeding woman to cover up or leave or hide in any way while leaving alone a parent feeding their child in other ways is discrimination. To interfere with a child's eating at the breast while not interfering while other children eat in other ways is discrimination. It's harassment. This is why over 40 states have created laws to protect public breastfeeding: discrimination is wrong and should not be tolerated. It sometimes takes time for the majority of society to catch up with the legislation (Little Rock Nine, anyone?), but it does happen.

Can't you just nurse covered?
This question brings in a discussion of "discreet." There's an interesting discussion of discreet here, but I'll summarize some of the issues. First, discreet is different for different people. Some people feel discreet means no flesh showing, so they use blankets or other nursing covers. Some people feel discreet means that it's not obvious to most of the people around them and feel that nursing covers are too blatantly declaring, "Breastfeeding is happening over here!" They feel that without one, less people notice and so they're being discreet. Some people feel discreet means they never leave the house. Obviously a wide spectrum. Additionally, in that linked discussion there is a mom who says she just cannot nurse "discreetly" because of the size of her breasts. For women in her situation the discrimination is not just a gender issue, but a body shape discrimination issue.

There is also the issue that covering doesn't mean that people will be comfortable. Some people are just not comfortable with breastfeeding in general. Using a cover doesn't stop the looks and harassment.

Does this mean everyone should breastfeed uncovered?
Only if they want to. If a mom is more comfortable covered, then she should do that. How "discreet" you are is up to you and your child's comfort level. It should never be decided by the people around you, even me. I am trying to ensure that no mom will be harassed for breastfeeding no matter how she chooses to do it.

Why fight it- aren't there other ways to promote breastfeeding?
Yes, but as long as women are told to be ashamed, that mental roadblock of "people don't approve of this" will still be there. We worry about what people will think about us. We shouldn't, but we do; we are social beings. Even if no free formula samples were handed out, if every hospital and WIC lactation consultant was IBCLC certified, if every mom was fully educated on latch and positioning and how to increase and maintain supply, moms would still quit early because they would feel too confined, too restricted, shamed by society's lack of acceptance.

"When an actress takes off her clothes onscreen but a nursing mother is told to leave, what message do we send about the roles of women? In some ways we're as committed to the old madonna/whore dichotomy as ever. And the madonna stays home, feeding the baby behind the blinds, a vestige of those days when for a lady to venture out was a flagrant act of public exposure." -Anna Quindlen


  1. two thumbs up

    I continue to be impressed by your articulate blog posts on this topic. Thank you for what you do for us nursing mums.

  2. Discrimination is too strong of a label. Harassment is too strong of a word. Your child is not being denied food.

    To compare yourself with the Little Rock Nine is a major stretch. I can't even begin to describe the differences there.

    You better believe that I interfere with my toddler's eating when it makes other people uncomfortable. The moment he starts bugging people around us, we finish up and leave. Its common courtesy. If we don't show some consideration for those around us, we are harassing them.

    Women shouldn't be ashamed to breastfeed, you are absolutely right. But it is shameful to completely disregard the people around you.

    I don't believe that a woman should be asked to leave if nursing. But I do believe that woman should've been nursing in such a way that she doesn't need to be asked to leave.

    When it comes down to it, I don't know why I bother reading your blog or even commenting anymore. Every time I do, I get nasty comments back from your friends. It enrages me that people who declare themselves to be members of the true church would be doing so much to isolate themselves, thus even more confirming the idea that Mormons are crazy.

    I've always respected you Heather. Those days in color guard were so much fun. I remember praying for you daily when you were going through the rough times with your missionary. I was so excited when I found out you were engaged to such a wonderful guy. I've always been impressed with your fire and spunk. When I was going through that awful time during my last year with the band, you always had some way of helping me laugh through it. You probably don't even remember doing that, but it impacted my life greatly. I have also always been grateful for the time you and McKay helped us move. It was more than just moving help- it reminded me that I had a friend who was there for me. We haven't always agreed on everything- and clearly, we still don't- but we always were able to agree to disagree.

    I support you in your desire to be the best mother you can be. I will continue to keep you in my prayers because as mothers, we all need prayer. I would love to chat with you sometime about anything-except this topic. I would even love to have you and your sweet baby over sometime- I don't think you live very far from us because I saw you walking to the laundromat a few months ago. I am going to be done with this topic. I still count you among my friends, and I hope that you will still count me among yours. May you find happiness.

  3. I thought the post was pretty open to both sides of the spectrum.

  4. I wasn't trying to compare myself to the Little Rock Nine. I was giving an example of an instance where the society's views didn't yet reflect the legislation in place.

  5. Hear, Hear, you rock, Heather! You are so inspiring to me :)

  6. I love that quote at the end. :-)

  7. great post and great quote.

    i nursed my toddler on a plane this week. i'm all for public nursing--baby's gotta eat, and mom's can't and shouldn't spend all their time in hiding--especially moms who nurse infants round the clock.

    it should be normal to see a mom breastfeeding--it's the most natural, healthy thing.

  8. You know what, I think I get it now. I still will probably nurse covered in front of people I know would be uncomfortable, but this whole time I've been wondering "why is she spending so much time promoting this?" I honestly didn't think about the fact that nursing is often looked at as weird, or uncomfortable, because most people don't see women nurse. I still think it's important to be as discreet as possible, but I like that you mention that each woman should do what she is comfortable with. I still don't know how to deal with the fact that SO many people (at least here in Utah) are completely embarassed by an uncovered nursing baby. I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable. But if you can do it in a way that shows how dignified and beautiful nursing is, then go for it.

    Some people still think nursing is just a private thing. I think I'm just more open to the argument that if you gotta feed your baby, and they won't do it covered, or it's 100 degrees outside (I nursed uncovered at a BYU game in August) then there should be no discrimination, and people should accept the law, or else change it (which I hope doesn't happen.)

    BTW, I was reading that in Alabama, homebirths are illegal. Do you know anything about that?

  9. I don't feel discrimination is too strong of a word. When a person is being asked to hide from or leave an area- being asked to separate themselves from their family and friends because of how they are eating, that is segregation. It's not racial segregation, but it's segregation nonetheless.

    And Crystal- homebirths aren't illegal in Alabama, but it is illegal to practice midwifery there. There's no way they could stop a woman from birthing so fast that she couldn't make it to the hospital on time, so they can't make having a baby at home illegal. Also, I've found on homebirth forums, some Alabama moms who want midwives will cross the border for prenatal care and birth to Mississippi where there are some homebirth midwives who'll attend births.

  10. I agree that women should be able to breastfeed how they and the baby feel most comfortable. I also agree that society as a whole has trained itself to think that any kind of breast exposure is awkward. I think mothers and the general public, if they could find some kind of cultural balance, should be okay with the natural process of feeding a baby at the breast and being discreet and respectful of others in public. It's just all about personal preference, as you've said.

    Personally I can see myself being more openly breastfeeding at home unless there was company over that I didn't feel comfortable enough with to openly breastfeed in front of. The same would probably go in public---and then it would all depend on where I was and what I was wearing as to if I would feel the need to cover up. I think my main goal overall would be to just make sure that myself and the baby were still able to have that bonding moment during feeding time that should happen wherever we were.


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