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A Public Breastfeeding Challenge

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Public Breastfeeding is a subject that evokes a great reaction in people. On one side, there is a strong opinion that women should breastfeed anywhere and anytime the baby is hungry. Many others agree that public breastfeeding is fine IF the woman stays covered up, and does it in a discreet manner. There is still a third group that may be reluctant to admit it, but feel uncomfortable around women breastfeeding among them. It is not a popular opinion but it happens. If you are a nursing Mother and have been in a situation where you must feed your baby in public, you may have experienced a disapproving look but hopefully, have been too busy to notice or care. Here is one woman’s story.

She was out with her newborn and a friend. Her baby was 5 weeks old and it was one of her first trips out with her new baby. They were at a large indoor mall and just walked into a large home store. (Similar in size to a Linens & Things type of store) Her baby began to wail the easy-to- recognize-newborn cry. It had been about 2 hours since she had fed him and it was time again.

She glanced out into the mall. All the seats were filled. Her car was at the other side of the mall, too far away to get to. She asked an employee in the store, “Do you have a restroom?” The answer that she was given was “No. There is a public restroom about 12 stores down the hallway.” As she tried to think of another option, she noticed a sign in the back that said BEDDING.

She made her way to the back of the store, hoping to find a chair or other piece of furniture. There was nothing. In the semi-private bedding section at the back of the store, she attempted to stand with her newborn as she got ready to feed him. It was too awkward. She would have to find something to sit on. The numerous display beds seemed to be the only option.

She took her blanket and her baby and discreetly as she could, got the tiny baby to latch on. She was not as experienced at feeding as some mothers and couldn’t help but feel nervous in the store, out of her comfort zone. Her baby sensed this and was having trouble staying latched on and eating.

Add a Comment4 Comments

I remember being a first-time mom lactating in the middle of grocery shopping because my son started making those tiny hungry newborn noises (got those mammaries going every time!). This was long before the time of baby-friendly restrooms, so I left the shopping to my DH and returned to the car park for to hide discreetly in the car and take care of business with my baby.

I can certainly understand this young new mom's frustration. She did try to find a ladies room; but, I think I would have trudged the 12 doors down to get to one, rather than take chances on the merchant's furnishings.

We really are living a double standard in the USA - promoting sex to our adolescents with near pornography on TV, in fashion magazines and billboards and their stage idols' scanty costuming, while attacking breast feeding in public. It doesn't make any sense.

Susan - good grief about the fellow who behaved inappropriately! Thankfully, even though I had to travel quite a bit with my little ones, I never had that creepy experience.

April 24, 2009 - 4:18pm
EmpowHER Guest

the displays were not for sitting, this includes everyone.
"a time where public breastfeeding is suppose to be acceptable"
unfortunately, this is not all true.
I think in 3 states it is still ILLEGAL to breastfeed in public: Nebraska, North Dakota, and Idaho. A N.Dakota bill in the senate demands that women feed in a "discreet and modest" manner. This might end up being WORSE then no law at all.

Offended people need to go to overseas places such as Europe, Australia, Malaysia, MANY others. This will mellow them out.
Some older Americans are too sensitive.

the Topfree Equal Rights Association defends women who breastfeed.
you should see their FAQ at tera.ca/FAQ.html
I wish women had equal rights everywhere.
Even Jay Leno agreed with gotopless.org a while back

April 24, 2009 - 4:00pm
EmpowHER Guest

well i dont breastfeed any longer, but if when i was breastfeeding or i was still doing it, and someone had the nerve to come up to me, id simply tell them "u told me u have no public restroom here, u have no chairs to sit on, so guess what, my child is hungry im gonna feed him here and ur gonna deal with it" i wouldnt give them an option to tell me i couldnt, id tell them what was gonna happen. giving, i have never been polite when it came to the care of my child, and i am by nature very outspoken... so it was never a problem breastfeeding in public for me, if someone didnt like it that was tough for them

April 24, 2009 - 3:40pm
HERWriter Guide

I can understand an employee of the store asking her to not sit on the furniture, if that is store policy. No doubt there are legal issues to that, since store furniture is often not secured properly and we live in such a litigious society!

When my babies were that young, I'd nurse at home, leave to do whatever I needed to do, and be home again in a couple of hours to nurse again. Two hours at a mall would be a nightmare for me, whether with a baby or not! And being out in malls or downtown with a 5 week old is usually a fairly short trip.

I'm sure she could have found a seat if she had really looked. How does one look into a mall and see that "all the seats" are filled? I know malls can get busy but the whole situation seems a little contrived to me. And how big is the mall? I think within 5-6 minutes she could have made it out to her car. Definitely under 10. She may have experienced this, of course, but in all my years of nursing, I never was in such a lose-lose situation over nursing a baby! Most malls have restrooms with sofas and proper seats - away from the stalls.

But then again, to a first time mom, the whole thing may have been over-whelming. I do remember those days.

Maybe I'm too relaxed. I traveled to Europe by myself as a first time mom, with a 13 week old and nursed with few problems at all. I went to an empty terminal with no flights due, and nursed there. A man sat close to me (there were hundreds of empty seats and he chose to sit by me) and I knew he was being inappropriate so I got up and went somewhere else. Other than that I was fine. In fact, I had lots of support from very kind people. No-one gave a hoot if I quietly nursed. And I only very occasionally see a woman nursing. It's not like there is some kind of 'epidemic' of topless women running around public places!

So to answer the question, I probably would have found a seat at the mall. Or I would have just taken a few minutes to make it out to the car. I think this was a new mom just over-reacting to her circumstances, due to being a new mom in a busy mall. Can't say I blame her but again, I think the story is either contrived or exaggerated.

Me as a first time mom? I'd be upset. Me having nursed three kids back to back - I'd sit down anywhere and discreetly nurse if I had to. It's like water off a duck's back to me! I hope this mom was not dissuaded from nursing!

As always, I have to wonder why breastfeeding outside the home is such a heated debate. Whether pro or con, I just don't understand the fuss. It really has no effect on our lives if someone at a mall nurses. If it does, we're in trouble!

April 22, 2009 - 12:47pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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