Oliver nursing while I visit with another supporter. (photo credit: Kim Smith)
Oliver and I attended our first ever nurse-in on Saturday. While it was absolutely appalling to me that such activism was needed in my community I was really quite happy to unite with other local families to defend our babies' right to nurse whenever and wherever they need to.
The story goes like this: last Wednesday a DJ from a local rock radio station posted on the station's Facebook page that one of his Facebook friends had posted images of herself breastfeeding which I guess made him uncomfortable or something. His exact words were "[...]That's a major Facebook Faux Pas! Kind of like breast feeding at the mall, it's just not something you should do." Not surprisingly, as ignorance tends to fester & multiply onto itself like mold, other fans of the station jumped into the attack on women and babies while the small but fierce local breastfeeding community tried tirelessly to educate and put an end to the public shaming of this radio DJ's 'friend'.
The next day, instead of apologizing for his behavior and letting the matter drop, the DJ talked about the incident on air, repeating his thoughts about breastfeeding on Facebook and in malls while adding repeatedly that women should cover up or leave public spaces to breastfeed and allowing callers to add even more negativity while airing only one of the many phone calls, texts, and emails from the many breastfeeding supporters who tuned in to defend nursing in public.
Even more astounding is that even after talks of a nurse-in had started and the outrage grew louder from the parenting community, the station brought up the matter AGAIN online and on air, while I have not heard the third attack, I've been told that the segment is sans apology or admission they are in the wrong.
Seriously. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.
The whole thing was awful. Neither the radio DJ nor any of his supporters said anything that I hadn't heard before. Their hateful words were, unfortunately, completely unimaginative and absolutely nothing new. Except the people saying these things aren't in the community of some online friend somewhere else, they live in MY community. They could live in my apartment building, perhaps work at my local grocery. Maybe they ride the same bus or go to the same events as my family and I. The people saying these awful things had maybe seen my son breastfeeding and called me names or thought me disgusting in their heads or to their friends without me ever knowing, and that thought ties my stomach in knots.
It bothers me to say it, but the next time I need to feed my son in public (because there will most certainly be a next time) I will be thinking of this incident. I will be reminded that to do what feels so natural to me and feed my child on demand no matter where we are, is not the norm to everyone else. I will be looking around and wondering which of the people around me are sharing their disapproval of me through social media, and which ones are just calling me indecent in their heads.
But the beauty of the nurse-in, the overwhelming positivity, strength, support and solidarity of the women who came out last Saturday, is that I'll also be looking around for something else:
I'll be watching for the young woman who has never seen anyone breastfeed before. I will hope that when she is finding the confidence to mother in public one day, she will remember me, that woman who so naturally nursed her baby in that coffee shop.
I'll be watching for the worried new mom desperately trying to put off her newborn because she isn't sure if she can 'just whip it out'. I will hope she sees me calmly nursing and know she's not alone, that she has nothing to feel ashamed of.
I will be looking for the proud looks of the women who came before, who worked hard and nursed their babies despite social and cultural sabotage both subtle and overt to keep breastfeeding culture alive (if a little underground). I will hope they know how thankful I am that they helped pave the way for me. I will return the favor by paving even further for the next women.
So even though this relentless public attack on breastfeeding was so very awful and never ever should have been allowed to happen in the first place, I am glad I had the opportunity to reconnect with other breastfeeding mothers, activists, and professionals in my community. It was nice to be reminded that support is out there.
Also as a result of our protest, another DJ from the same station has offered us the chance to have a spokesperson from the community speak on their morning show this coming Monday. A local IBCLC is in the process of gathering every one's thoughts and putting together a statement that represents a good cross section of the mamas in our community. I call that a win.
For more information on breastfeeding in public and the legal rights of breastfeeding pairs in your area, please see INFACT Canada to search my province, or check out nursingfreedom.org to search by state if you are in the US.
If any of our readers have resorces for mothers in other parts of the world please link us in the comments and I will add them!