Breastfeeding in public

Breastfeeding in public shouldn't be a political act; it's an act of parenting.

KENSINGTON, MD, December 30, 2011 ― So here’s the thing: What’s the hang-up about breastfeeding?

When my son was a newborn, at least once a week I needed to venture from my home on Capitol Hill to the ‘burbs to run baby related errands. By the end of my maternity leave, I had this down to a finely calibrated science wherein I could time the drive and a stop at Target before winding up at a baby stuff superstore where I could complete my errands and nurse my infant.

I liked to nurse at the baby store because they had a little room for nursing, complete with comfy chairs and other shell-shocked new mothers to commiserate with about how tired we were. I opted not to nurse at Target because it lacked that amenity and the only place to sit down there that I could see was the café. I was vaguely aware that some people might not be super into seeing a mom breastfeed among the hot dogs and slushies at the Target café, but those people didn’t concern me. What did concern me was the people who might see a mom struggling with exhaustion, a shopping cart, a baby carrier, a diaper bag and a nursing infant and decide to help themselves to her wallet while she was distracted.

I am nothing if not practical. Or paranoid. Either way.

Apparently, I would have been unwelcome in the café if I’d wanted to breastfeed there back in the day. According to Target staff at a Chicago area store who confronted a woman nursing on the sales floor, the proper place to nourish a baby while in Target is in the fitting room. Not entirely unreasonable for Target to offer the fitting rooms up for baby feeding, but nursing in a room with a large mirror might cause a post-partum woman to have to see her own abdomen, and that’s never fun unless she’s Giselle Bundchen or something.

The woman who was asked to move from her seat on the floor near a rack of jeans did not like being asked to move or the suggestions that public nursing could net her an indecency citation (it actually couldn’t under Illinois law). The end result has been a series of “nurse-ins” at Target locations to highlight the right of women to nurse wherever they want. That’s genius, if you ask me, because the participants can make their point then pick up the 50 things you always realize you need the minute you set foot into Target.

I see no reason other than fire codes that a woman shouldn’t be able to feed her baby wherever she wants, however she wants. Obviously, reason and common sense should apply and I’m not sure pulling up a section of floor space near a clothing rack in a store is really common sense, so Target staff should not be faulted for offering her a more comfortable spot. But for them to threaten her with an indecency charge and give her a hard time for staying put, well, that’s not cool. She was feeding a baby, not performing a strip tease. There’s no reason to get uptight about it.

The thing is, the mom in Target was one of the 75% of American mothers who breastfeed at some point in a baby’s first year and the act of breastfeeding, wherever one does it, should not be a political act.  It’s parenting. End of story. Sometimes it has to happen in public. Nursing moms should do their best to stay out of the path of shoppers or pedestrians and adhere to basic fashion rules. And everyone else should just walk on by, averting their eyes if they don’t care to see nursing in public.

Rebekah is a DC-area mom with an over-developed sense of irreverence, socialist tendencies, ADD, and a blog. She recently quit her non-profit sector job to pursue her dream of not working. She now spends her time answering her 3-year-old son’s questions and ranting at her blog Mom-in-a-Million, talking about life as a DC Mom at The DC Moms and sharing her political views at The Broad Side. You can find her on Twitter at MomIn_AMillion.


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Rebekah Kuschmider

Rebekah Kuschmider is a mom with an over-developed sense of irreverence, a cable news addiction, a blog and a stubborn affection for working in the non-profit sector. She blames her parents who told her to go forth and do good in the world instead of telling her to be a glamorous socialite with scads of money and expensive shoes.  This summer, she abruptly decided to try staying at home which is even less lucrative than the non-profit sector.

Rebekah holds and undergraduate degree in theatre (which is more useful than you think) and Master’s in Arts Policy and Administration (which is less useful than you think) and a decade of experience managing arts organizations and advocating in the public health sector. She arrived in the DC area in 1996, left in 2000, and returned in 2003, which by her math, means she's lived in either Northern VA, DC, or Montgomery County for 13 years and has spent far too much time in the different DMVs changing her automobile registration to stay current.

Rebekah also blogs about her life, her thoughts, and her opinions at Mom-In-A-Million.com.

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