On Monday, June 20, hundreds of women joined on the steps of the Trafford Centre in Manchester, UK, in celebration of their national breastfeeding week. According to the Daily Mail, the Trafford Centre fully supported this “flashmob” and used the national breastfeeding week to announce they refurbished their breastfeeding facilities for shoppers. The article went on to say that many people supported this cause.
Across the United States, whenever a mom is asked by an employee of a public establishment to either cover up while breastfeeding or leave, that establishment can count on being put in the news. Inevitably, the mom will grow offended, call her friends and stage a nurse in.
A nurse in is a silent protest where 2 or more mothers (events like this usually draw at least 5) gather at the place of business and all nurse their babies/toddlers at the same time. In this way they are hoping to draw attention to the fact that the business was wrong in asking the mother to leave and they are acting out their right to breastfeed in public. Mothers are legally allowed to breastfeed wherever she is allowed to be.
I am torn about the issue of nurse-ins. I do believe they are the most calm way to bring attention to a very serious issue. Breastfeeding in public should not even be an issue. A baby is hungry, a mom should feed it. End of story. Unfortunately, moms still fight the backwards thinking from business owners that breastfeeding ought to be a private thing. That somehow showing a sliver of skin – much less than people show off at Wal-Mart – will sexually offend someone in some way.
By joining as a group and nursing in these places, moms are stating clearly that this is normal. Breastfeeding is not sexual, it is something lots of people do.
But here is where I am torn: by performing nurse-ins are we making a bigger deal about it than it needs to be? Is there a better way to handle it? To me, a nurse in is simple and small. But then the news gets involved and the story spreads over the internet. Everyone hears about “those lactivists” nursing in the store together. By protesting are we adding to the stereotype that breastfeeding moms are hippies?
But we cannot ignore the problem either. We cannot just go home and fume about how it felt to be told you are not allowed to feed your baby in their store because you use your boob and not a bottle. So nurse ins are a way to help normalize this way of feeding our babies.
Really, the solution will be if everyone just accepts that babies need to eat and breastfeeding is how they get their food, and stop asking these moms to cover up or leave. If everyone just accepted it, we wouldn’t have to deal with nurse ins at all. Will we ever get to that point? I think we will and I think some parts of the country are much more accepting than others. For now, I am glad there are groups like La Leche League and encouraging lactivists that boost a discouraged mom’s confidence.