Did you hear about the breastfeeding incident at the Hirshhorn Museum last month? In short, a mother sat down to nurse and was told by a guard to take it into the restroom. The woman said there wasn't anywhere to sit in the ladies room, so the guard told her to feed her baby while sitting on the toilet. The woman and her family left the museum. The Hirshhorn has since apologized to the woman because a woman's right to breastfeed on federal property (the Hirshhorn is part of the Smithsonian Institute) is protected by a 1999 federal law stating that "...a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a federal building or on federal property, if the woman and her child are otherwise authorized to be present at the location."
This put me in mind of a similar incident last summer at the Frederick Mall in Maryland (story here). In that case female security guards tried to force a nursing mother to relocate to a nursing lounge in the mall even though Maryland law permits a woman to breastfeed her baby in any public or private place. Check out your state's breastfeeding laws to see if your rights are protected.
Not quite six weeks into nursing, I'm not fully comfortable with nursing in public yet. Theresa made me a "nursing apron," and Jessie is constructing a "hooter hider." I might lash the two capes together to feel the security of full coverage. But I am grateful my right to feed my daughter is protected. When I posted the photo of Robb giving Maureen a bottle a couple weeks ago I had a pang of jealousy. It is all well and good to photograph her drinking breast milk from a bottle with her Dad (something she has done about 5 times so far). But it would be indecent to photograph her eating with me (something she has done more than 300 times in her short time on this earth). It has a stigma, no? Which is a major cultural disconnect. If breastfeeding is strongly recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, then why do I feel like nursing in public would mean subjecting my infant daughter to hatred and ridicule--like Frankenstein's monster being chased out of town by a mob of pitchfork-wielding villagers? It's enough to make a nursing mother not want to leave the house. Instead I joined the lactation support group at my local hospital. Here's to hoping I can make it through at least 6 months!
You might recall that several years ago I interviewed for a job in which the interviewer nursed her 2 year old and argued with her husband? (See Interview the Third.) I have been thinking about it, and I don't think I was being squeamish about breastfeeding when I turned down the job. Rather the casual, familiar attitude was what turned me off. The same as if the couple had ordered and consumed a pizza in front of me while they were asking about my work experience. Eating is eating, and closely watching a stranger eat is always a little gross. That's why you don't usually want to do it. Unless you're on a date, in which case you should totally watch and take notes so you know what you're in for. Because if you're not careful you could be watching that spectacle for years.
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Calling mommas in the DC Metro area: if you would like to help raise public awareness about the rights of mothers to feed their children in public, you can join the "nurse-in" at the Hirshhorn on Saturday. More details are here.