Thursday, April 27, 2006

Happy Birthday, Baby!

I'm spending the next couple days focused on celebrating the birth of the girl who made me a mom. Happy Birthday, My Fairy Princess! (Those of you who know her in person may be surprised to know that my bruiser of a tomboy is a closet princess who loves dressing up in pink!)

I have a guest blogger writing in my stead today. Chrissy is a friend and fellow knitter. In fact, the response from her and my other NE Knitting Mom friends after I told them my story convinced me to start this blog. I'll let her tell you how it happened and why she and so many other moms are still fired up about what happened to me, despite Fred Meyer's apology.

Chris was just going to forget about the incident and Fred Meyer's initial response, and was seriously thinking of never nursing her son in public ever again, when she told the story to a group of friends (including me) and we got really mad about the whole situation.

Despite the fact that Fred Meyer has publicly apologized and promised to do some "sensitivity training" of its employees, there are still many people out there who think that breastfeeding mothers should nurse in a bathroom, at home, in the car, or anywhere out of the sight of others. This is due to their own discomfort at seeing a mother feeding her baby in the way that nature intended. However, trying to find a private place to nurse a screaming, hungry baby isn't always possible (as I well know as a nursing mom myself of a one-year-old son) and covering up with a blanket isn't always an option since many babies will just pull it off or get even more upset. Breastfeeding will continue to be viewed as something obscene as long as we keep nursing mothers "in the closet" and don't educate the general public as to why breastfeeding is an important issue for everyone (not just the "feminazis").

When I had my daughter, I was terrified to nurse in public and it was months before I did so. I suffered from severe post-partum depression, exacerbated by the fact that I felt like I needed to stay close to home in case she decided she needed to eat. I was dedicated to breastfeeding, so I stuck with it. However, I strongly believe that the breastfeeding rate in this country is so low because new moms refuse to be stuck in the house and also because breastfeeding is seen as somehow sexual or obscene when it is neither. The perception that women should be "as discreet as possible" just feeds the fire and allows people to continue to feel like a breastfeeding mom is doing something lewd if she doesn't do it in private.

I am now nursing my second child, and I do nurse in public but I'm still uncomfortable doing it unless I'm in a place that I know is accepting. I've always tried to be extremely discreet, and have a closet full of nursing tops to prove it. However, I've still gotten funny looks from people who realize what I'm doing even though there is absolutely NO skin showing. The issue isn't people accidentally seeing breasts (which they have the opportunity to do on a daily basis anyway in magazines, on tv and on billboards). It's seeing a woman breastfeeding. I want this perception to change so that by the time my daughter is a mom, she can breastfeed her kids and feel like it is the most natural thing in the world - not something she needs to be doing furtively, like some kind of criminal or sexual deviant.

While this issue is of great importance to breastfeeding moms, it is also a public health issue. Breastfeeding is endorsed by both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization as THE WAY to feed babies. You can go to either of these sites to see the enormous benefits of breastfeeding over formula feeding. Besides the health benefits, breastfeeding is free (other than the extra 500 calories a day the mother requires), sterile (no bottles to deal with or water cleanliness issues) and always available (no need to worry about getting trapped with your baby somewhere - a snowstorm, an elevator, a traffic jam - and not having enough formula or water with you). While formula is a fine substitute for breast milk in cases where the mother can't nurse her baby, breast milk is still much superior (just like fresh fruits and vegetables are better than canned).

The final point to make about the controversy over breastfeeding in public is that the ones who really suffer are the babies. Whether it's a baby who misses out on the health benefits of breastfeeding because the mother decides it's too difficult to breastfeed, or a baby who has to wait to eat because his mom has to find a private place to nurse, it's ultimately the baby who is punished for society's hang-ups about breastfeeding. This fight isn't only about the rights of breastfeeding moms - it's about the rights of all babies to eat the food that nature intended for them, in peace. It's just not always convenient to stay home all day with a nursing baby, or to expect a baby to only eat when it's at home (as Chris found out with her son at Fred Meyer - she'd nursed him 30 minutes before entering the store, but he decided that he wanted to eat again and wasn't going to take no for an answer). Nursing moms are not exhbitionists trying to force you to look at their exposed breasts - they are just concerned mothers trying to do what's best for their babies while going about their daily lives.


rebecca marie said...

can you hear me clapping from milwaukie?

(we should start a knitting club... knursing knitters)

Anonymous said...

wonderfully written-but what do we do? How do you get the word out? All the blog posts and nurse-ins aren't doing enough, there are only 36 states that support breastfeeding. This has breastfeeding supporters acroos the country fired up there as to be more we can do.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic blog :-)
says it all - well done!!!

Kiki said...

*Wild applause* I couldn't agree more!!

My 5-month-old daughter and I recently nursed in public for the first time at a Pizza Plant (a restaurant I'd never been in before, but totally low-key, family friendly). We were attending a Moms Club lunch for the first time and got so much support from all the moms that I decided to just go for it and started breastfeeding Emma on a bench tucked away in a little niche in the back of our separate party room.
After nursing for 10 minutes I noticed a group of adults being seated in a room about 25 feet away. They stared at me with gaping jaws, but I focused my attention on my daughter and looked up 5 minutes later to discovered they'd moved tables. I have no doubt that they moved because of us; obviously I was being obscene. (bahaha).
When I mentioned this to the other moms (we moved right to the table when the food came and kept nursing) they all spoke up loudly:
"What, Emma shouldn't eat too?"
"Breastfeeding should happen whenever and wherever Emma is hungry!"
"This is your first time breastfeeding in public? You go, girl!"

I don't know about organizing any widespread group thing, but I think that by nursing in public Emma and I are doing our part to educate people about breastfeeding.

Cheers for a great blog and post!

Cherrie said...

What a great post Chrissy.

I wanted to share that I had an interesting chat with my FM checker this afternoon. This is the first time I've been back to FM, and I asked my checker if she'd heard anything about the situation. (she hadn't) I told her about it, named the director of the Gateway store, and she laughed and said he wasn't the director any more! She didn't share if he'd quit, or was canned, and I didn't ask. But maybe there's some movin' and shakin' going on behind the scenes???

MomToTracyNSheri said...

I can't imagine that a single ignorant loser (and there are several hanging around this blog as we know) could read this post and STILL have something idiotic to say.

But I lack imagination sometimes.

It's all cut and dry to me. Here is my philosophy in 3 easy steps:

1. My state laws protect my right to breastfeed in public and in fact state that if someone asks me to stop, I can sue them for harrassment. I'm ready to do it but have never even had to threaten it - Floridians KNOW.
2. I have every right to feed my baby whenever and wherever said baby would like to be fed, and anyone who doesn't like it can go fuck themselves (sorry for the bad language Chris! but it had to be said)
3. I'll do my best to cover skin. If someone doesn't like seeing my breasts, not only are they insane, but they can also look away. Unless they are paralyzed from the neck down, I don't feel sorry for people who don't know how to move their own heads.

I wish every nursing mother shared my outlook. I will just keep pep-talking to every nursing mom I can find who is not 100% comfortable with nursing in public, without embarrassment!

evil cake lady said...

first off happy birthday to your fairy princess!!
I'm so excited by all the buzz you have created about breastfeeding in public--on a national level! Kudos to your knitting ladies for encouraging you to stand up for your rights as a mother, and your baby's rights to eat when he is hungry. You are a caring and devoted mom to your little ones and I hope you never feel ashamed of that ever again.
Love, Jennifer (the doula)

mickey said...

this is the first time i came across your blog. I want to say I enjoyed it alot. I live in vegas and i am a breastfeeding mom. recently we had a mom who was asked to leave a major hotel and casino for breastfeeding her infant. i felt so bad for her. she did not stand up for herself but her husband threw a fight kudos to him and you.

katie said...

Happy Birthday to your beautiful baby!
I just came across your blog. I am an active member of La Leche League Canada and actively breastfeeding my two year old boy. It is so impotant for women to relate their stories to on another instead of being shamed into silence. Kiki commented on a group breastfeeding event, I live on Vancouver Island and we do breatfeeding sit-ins to raise awareness and create support. Wow, I am so pleased to see this blog out here and all the positive comments you are receiving!

Traci Perg said...

I am sorry that you had this experience with Fred Meyer. I emailed them this morning, athough I'm probably a bit behind the times.


Traci Perg, R.N.

jen said...

OK, so I just got off the phone with my sister-in-law, who works at the Beaverton FM, & she's heard nothing about this. No staff eeting letting them know what the law is, nothing at all. I think it's time for a statewide FM nursein.

Heathrr said...

Nursing moms everywhere will benefit from you standing up for what's *normal*. I can't wait for the day when nobody bats an eye at mamas nourishing their babes in the normal way. I can't wait for the day that the only thing a nursing mom ever hears from an onlooker is "Would you like a cup of water?"

As I've said before about things like this,
I'll nurse only at home, in my car, or in *gag* a public bathroom,
as soon as all FORMULA BOTTLE feeding moms have to feed their babies only at home, in their car, or in the bathroom.

thank you, and good night. :)