Monday, October 14, 2013

Two Ways to Normalize Breastfeeding in Public

#1.  Do it as you normally would in private.

#2.  Be normal when others do it in your vicinity. 

Whenever I see a mom breastfeeding in public, I cheer on the inside.  I do a little mental cartwheel and think of encouraging things I can say to her, like “Good for you for nursing in public!” or “I did that, too!” or “You’re doing such a great thing nursing your child!”

See, I believe breastfeeding in public takes a bit of courage in our culture, and I applaud moms who do it.  Because even though breastfeeding is normal and really no big deal, our culture often says otherwise.

And I feel quite passionate about supporting moms who want to breastfeed and about supporting women’s rights to breastfeed anywhere their babies need to eat (which is anywhere they happen to be at the moment).  I don’t think nursing moms should be relegated to “nursing rooms” or nurseries at church or any other designated space, unless the mom herself feels more comfortable there.

But, I’ve yet to say one of my “go breastfeeding in public!” encouragements to a mom that I’ve seen in the act.  It just feels a little awkward and intrusive, I guess.  Because to me, what she’s doing is normal.  And normally I don’t comment on things that are normal.  I just go about my normal business. 

Today at the gym, a mom was breastfeeding her baby near the play area.  She wasn’t being particularly discreet; neither was she being indiscreet, and who cares?  I don’t.  Apparently another mom near me did, as evidenced by her staring a little too long and then turning to me to give me a disapproving, conspiratorial look. 

What to do, what to do?  Should I go along with Disapproving Mom to not rock the boat?  Should I make a pro-breastfeeding comment to make my stance known and support Breastfeeding Mom? 

I chose the “be normal” route.  I anticipated Disapproving Mom’s glance and diverted my eyes so as not to participate in it.  I sat near Breastfeeding Mom and interacted with her as I normally would – a little chit chat here and there, eye contact. 

Sometimes normalizing breastfeeding calls for political action, nurse-ins, letters to managers, and encouraging comments. 

And sometimes normalizing breastfeeding calls for not turning every normal act into a political opportunity or a chance to declare sides in the mommy wars. 

Sometimes the best way to make something normal is to acknowledge that it already is normal by just acting normal. 

Eden was playing near Breastfeeding Mom and I, and at one point noticed the baby nursing.  She watched for two seconds while climbing down a ladder, and then went on her way playing.  She didn’t need to comment or ask questions; she didn’t need to do anything.  She saw a mom nursing her baby, and in her world there is nothing in particular to comment on when she sees this. 

And I hoped that maybe Breastfeeding Mom was encouraged by the fact that as she fed her child, life went on as normal around her.   

1 comment:

Mary Beth said...

Good job! I, too have struggled with this and you did well describing the conflict.