Breastfeeding alfresco: not in my backyard

It seems like every week or so there is another story of a woman being given a hard time for breastfeeding in public. Last week, it was a woman breastfeeding at an IHOP in Chesapeake. But the incident a few days ago in Texas takes the cake.

Erin Peña says she was kicked out of her OB/GYN office for breastfeeding her four-month-old baby in the waiting area of University Medical Center (UMC). Read that again – kicked out of her doctor’s office!

It’s disheartening to hear stories of women being harassed or asked to leave while they are breastfeeding because it is their legal right to breastfeed wherever the mother is allowed to be. But it is absolutely appalling to hear of it happening in a healthcare environment.

I imagine the doctors and nurses at this facility are aware of the recommendations to breastfeed infants for at least a year to two years and beyond, so it creates an awful double standard where women are urged to breastfeed but then are made to feel like it’s wrong to do it in view.

Clearly, there is work to be done to raise awareness – both in the public sector and even in some healthcare settings – of why babies sometimes need to nurse when out in public.

I have been very lucky in my public breastfeeding experiences. I have gotten a few people looking twice, but, for the most part, people just move on or avert their eyes. Sometimes I feel a little weird about the fact that people try to avoid me when I am breastfeeding because it still makes me feel like I am doing something dirty or it makes me feel invisible. However, I would rather feel invisible than have misguided and uneducated people harass me for nursing.

Nursing outside Eli's in Hamden, Conn.

The first time we nursed in public was outside Eli’s in Hamden.

The first time I ever nursed in public, I used a cover. I used a cover for a number of reasons, but my main reason was that we weren’t all that good at breastfeeding. Leo took six weeks to latch for the first time, and then he had a lot of trouble getting onto the breast for several weeks after that. So in those first few weeks, we fumbled around a lot and I was pretty embarrassed to let people see how bad I was at getting him latched. I would cover up or duck into another room, even among some family members, because I was so anxious about it.

But we caught on and we got a lot better at latching.

Then came the four-month-old curiosity stage. The long and the short of it is: there was no way Leo would let me leave the cover on over his head. He was a flailing mad man, hell-bent on continuing to observe the world around him. With all the body language he could muster, he clearly told me “Get this thing off me!” Plus, it was really hot under there for both of us and it was a pain to use. So we’ve been nursing cover-free and haven’t looked back.

Nursing at Pepe's Pizza in New Haven, Conn.

Nursing at Pepe’s Pizza in New Haven, Conn., sans cover 🙂

This is us on Sunday breastfeeding at Pepe’s Pizza in New Haven. Right before this he was excitedly chanting, “Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!” But, we had gone to Pepe’s following an exciting adventure at the Shoreline Trolley Museum Pumpkin Patch, so he ended up conking out and sleeping on my chest while I chowed down on the world-famous pizza. (Sorry about those crumbs in your hair, kid).

Eating pizza over my sleepy baby

Sleepy baby missed out on pizza…

Where have you breastfed or pumped? How did people react?

 

If you are harassed for breastfeeding in public

Know your rights:

If you are approached and asked to cover up, stop, or leave, please know that you are protected. Mothers and babies can “breastfeed at a time, place and manner of their choosing while in a place of public accommodation. They do not have to cover the baby with a towel or blanket.” (For more, please visit the Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition, a project of the Connecticut Department of Public Health).

Also, Facebook does allow pictures of breastfeeding and does not consider them nudity. Your right is to post your pictures and not have them reported as offensive.

Explain your rights:

If you are asked to cover up, move, or leave, here are some tips for how to handle the situation from the Best for Babes Foundation, which include remain calm, make your complaint known to the establishment, and determine what form of action needs to be taken.

Report it:

The more we share our stories, the more awareness we can raise to help educate people that babies can and should be nursed whenever, wherever and however.

 

Last, if you want to LOL, here’s some good tips for breastfeeding in a way that won’t offend others (FYI: this article is satire).

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