This week, it seems like I have seen more NIP news stories than ever before. For those that are not aware, NIP is an acronym for Nursing In Public. Target stores across the country were descended upon yesterday for "nurse-ins" to protest the treatment one nursing mother received in November. That nursing mother was sitting in a quiet corner, nursing her baby, using a blanket to cover up. Not one but TWO Target employees at the store in question told her that she needed to move somewhere else if she was going to be nursing her baby.
But, it's not just Target. Nursing mothers have been told that they should move to a different location in businesses, parks, and even in their own home. There is a history in our country of nursing mothers being told they should move to the restroom to nurse. Yet each flush of each toilet creates a microscopic mist of germs that takes hours to settle on the surfaces in the bathroom. I certainly don't want my BABY touching the wall of the toilet stall that some jerk is trying to tell me I should be nursing in instead of nursing discreetly at a restaurant. Unless he wants to come in and lick the walls clean first.
This is a bit of a touchy subject for me for several reasons:
First, while I have had great success breastfeeding (BF) this time around, I was not very successful with my older children. I attribute this to many things (lack of proper BF education being #1), but one of the reasons is that BF is not something that is normalized in my area. It was something to "try," but it was also something that was "gross" once the baby lost the newborn smell. I've heard moms told that they only need to nurse for the first few weeks because after that it is gross or perverted.
Second, I know many moms who are afraid to BF because they are afraid of being harassed and embarrassed by other people if they might have to NIP. I know several moms who had anxiety attacks at the mere thought of going to the grocery store or out to eat after having their first baby. What if the baby needed to eat and they weren't home yet? What would she do? These women were so scared at the possible reactions of others that they might encounter that it kept them from having establishing BF after baby was born, causing issues that made many of them eventually give up.
Finally, I have witnessed first-hand the commentary that nursing mothers receive in my area. At family functions when a baby is hungry and the mom sits down to feed the baby, she'll get "You're not going to feed the baby HERE, are you?!" When out in a public place, a nursing mom will prepare to nurse and you can see strangers giving disapproving looks. I've even had friends and family ask if I'm going to the bathroom to nurse. When I say, "No, I don't eat in the bathroom, I don't see why a baby would want to," I usually get a response of, "Oh, I thought you might be more comfortable there."
THAT tells me that our society thinks a nursing mother will be more comfortable hovering or sitting on an unsanitary toilet nursing her baby instead of sitting at a table in a restaurant, a park bench, a couch at a relative's house, etc.
Now think about that for a minute. Really think about that image. Which image looks more like a comfortable, clean, safe place to feed a baby?
If your answer is the stalls on the left, try this fun experiment: Find a nursing mother. Invite her to lunch. When the meals arrive at the table, promptly excuse yourself and take your meal to the bathroom and eat in one of the stalls while she sits at the comfortable table, eating her meal, discreetly feeding her baby. After you have finished your meal, return to the table. While you are having dessert, talk to the nursing mother and see if you can tell how enjoyed their meal more, who was more comfortable, and who feels like they just exposed to a host of germs. Then look at the picture and see if you still think the bathroom stalls are a better choice.
Let me clarify that I personally do not care how you choose to feed your child. If you do the research and make an informed choice, I will not judge you for whatever choice you make. I have seen mothers from both sides of the aisle judged for their choice. Those that BF are made to feel that they shouldn't discreetly NIP, that feeding their baby is gross, and that it is sexual (EWW!). Those that FF are made to feel that they don't love their babies as much if they do not BF, that they are feeding their baby gross formula, and that they are less of a woman. BOTH sides are judged when they should not be.
But, I BF and FF my older children. Sometimes people would shoot me looks when I was NIP with them, but I never received looks when I was feeding them a bottle of formula. I've never heard of a mom being told that she needed to take her baby to the bathroom to feed them a bottle. I've never heard of a mom feeding her baby a bottle at the park and being called a "whore."
So if a nursing mother is discreetly feeding her child, there should be no reason for her to be banished to another room, especially not an unsanitary bathroom. Sure, NIP can be a bit awkward in the beginning, so you might see a mom frustrated and struggling to feed baby while not showing you the amount of boob that you see in most movies and TV shows. But it gets easier with practice. Nursing moms learn the best "tricks" that work for them.
And some, like myself, attain Nursing Ninja status. I can latch, nurse, unlatch (all without using a cover sometimes), and go back to what I'm doing, only to hear someone say 5 minutes later, "Didn't you need to feed the baby?"