Every now and then, a mother will be asked to cover up a bit when breastfeeding in public. And once in while, when such a simple, innocent request is made, all hell breaks loose.
A Knoxville, Tennessee, Chick-Fil-A became the site of a “nurse-in” last week.
The reason? An employee told a woman who was finishing up nursing of her 5-month old daughter that doing so without a cover was making some other customers uncomfortable, particularly with the thought of letting their own children play nearby.
It’s perfectly legal to breastfeed in public as long as the mom has a legal right to be in the location she wishes to breastfeed.
There’s nothing wrong with breastfeeding at all.
What’s wrong isn’t the act itself. What’s wrong is the manner in which the act is done. And what’s even more wrong is the stubbornness with which some moms operate when they refuse the extraordinarily simple request to be more discreet.
When I’ve broached this controversial subject before, I’ve received several notable responses.
I’m told that breastfeeding is a perfectly natural biological function. No one disputes that.
I’m told that breastfeeding at the table is much better than having to breastfeed in a “filthy” restroom. No one disputes that, either.
I’m told that if society has a problem with seeing a woman’s breast as something other than a sex object, you shouldn’t blame the mother for that. No one is really blaming the mother. The fact is there are plenty of women who do all they can to make their breasts sex objects. There are plenty, in fact, who seem to take great delight in doing so, and take even greater delight in the attention doing so provides. That’s not a breastfeeding mother’s fault, but it does contribute to the attitudes of those around her.
And, most often, I’m told that breastfeeding is only about the child. That’s where I draw the line when it comes to a staged event like a “nurse-in.” At a nurse-in, it’s not about the child.
It’s about making a statement. It’s winning an argument. It’s about pushing the envelope, even making people uncomfortable intentionally.
The child is merely a prop, a tool in that battle. No one should pretend otherwise.
I’m sure I’ve told this story before, but it’s worth a quick repeat.
Years ago, I was having dinner with my “second family”, and one of its members had a baby with her. She sat towards the end of a table at a family restaurant two or three seats down from me. It was a well-lit restaurant and we were having dinner. Over the course of a fun, laugh-filled conversation, I happened to glance her way as she made a comment, and I noticed that she was breastfeeding.
Actually, that’s incorrect.
I noticed a navy blue drape over her shoulder partially covering her baby’s head for that process. Out of respect, I went on with the conversation and paid it no attention. It took a second or two, in fact, for my brain to even process what I saw.
The point is this: through her modesty, she accomplished exactly what needed to be done without putting on a show. I was at the same table with her and didn’t realize it was happening. No one in the restaurant could possibly have had a valid reason to object.
A simple cover, a light drape, is not too much to ask. It really isn’t.
Those who are offended by seeing a woman breastfeed don’t have to watch. But those who breastfeed don’t necessarily have to breastfeed at that exact moment, either: there are breast pumps, after all.
There’s always an alternative, one way or another, if one is willing to make a little effort.
There’s no reason to say a woman shouldn’t breastfeed in public. It is a natural thing. But some natural things make others uncomfortable. They have every much right to be uncomfortable as mothers have to be outraged. No two people look at the same situation exactly the same way.
Any moms who really want to “educate” the public about how “natural” breastfeeding should be regarded ought to be willing to use a simple cover. It shows a little respect to those around them and simultaneously commands respect in return.
A little compromise goes a long way. That’s common sense.