Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Importance of N.I.P (nursing in public)

Nursing Frankie at my pottery studio

There have been a couple of situations recently that have again started up dialogues and debates about nursing in public. They have both gotten media attention, and one sparked a nation-wide "nurse-in."

The first involved a college professor who brought her daughter to class on the first day because she was ill and had no child care options. She nursed her child during her feminist anthropology class, Sex, Gender and Culture, as one normally would throughout the course of the day.

This simple act created an uproar when a student tweeted negative comments about it during class. The school newspaper picked up the story, sensationalizing it into a major campus incident rather than life as usual for humans.

Some have claimed that they didn't have a problem with the baby nursing, but rather with the fact that a sick child was in class. If that were true, then why isn't it a news story each time a professor teaches class sick or students show up to class sick?

In Georgia, a mother nursed her baby at an Applebee's restaurant and was told by the manager that she needed to go to the bathroom or leave the restaurant. When the mother stated her right to nurse in public, the police were called. The police backed up the parents' statements of the law, but there is no punitive provision within the Georgia law.

Due to this humiliating and unfair treatment of this family by the Applebee's manager, a nation-wide nurse-in took place on Sept. 29, 2012. These peaceful protests went a long way towards raising awareness for breastfeeding.

These two stories shouldn't have to be stories at all.

The fact of the matter is that it is important to nurse in public, not to make a political statement, but to return nursing to the biological and cultural norm. There are many reasons why it is important to return to a culture where nursing children is just a normal part of life.

Nursing is normal:
I'm about to make a controversial statement... There are no benefits to breastfeeding. That's right, there are no benefits. How can there be benefits to a normal part of biology? We don't say, "There are benefits to using your body's own insulin." Instead, we say, "There are risks to being diabetic." It is important that nursing be viewed as normal.

When mothers separate themselves from the rest of society to nurse, it sends the message that they are doing something wrong. They send the message that they should be ashamed.

Nursing will only be viewed as normal when it is done wherever, whenever, as needed. The more it is seen, the less it will be sensationalized.

Nursing is a learned skill:
We are mammals, named for our mammary glands and defined, in part, by our ability to nurse our young. It is natural and instinctive, yet it is a learned skill. It is not the type of thing best learned by taking a class or reading a textbook. It is best learned by seeing it. Nursing needs to be seen in everyday life, not as clinical sketches.

Nursing is social:
Humans are social. We participate in many different activities to socialize. Eating is one of the biggest social activities we have. A baby should be able to nurse in a restaurant without sparking a national incident or starting a movement.

The argument has been made that because breasts are also sexual, it makes public nursing inappropriate. Well, mouths are sexual and are also used for eating, and yet public eating is not considered provocative.

It has to be something more. I clearly remember a Nurse Out celebration I hosted for World Breastfeeding Week. It had been going well all day with a lot of positive responses. Towards the end of the day, my 3 month old needed to nurse. I asked my sister to stay by the table display while I nursed him a few feet away on a blanket.

Shortly after I left the table, a grandmother, mother, and two kids got out of their car. The kids were naturally drawn the the poster with the two ice cream scoops with cherries on top. The grandmother came over to get the kids and express her disgust at the poster. She was offended by the poster vaguely representing breasts and said that we should not be promoting breastfeeding. She did not even notice that I was nursing a baby with my own real life breasts just a few feet away in plain view.

I have heard comments many times that whether or not any part of the breast is seen, it is the idea of it, of nursing, that is offensive.

When mothers are shamed and humiliated until they retreat to the bathroom, car, or their own home to nurse, they wean their babies earlier. Mothers need to continue to be part of society. Many mothers report feeling isolated after giving birth, and some mothers suffer from postpartum depression. It is important for mothers to be embraced, not shunned.

Nursing is ancient, nursing is modern:
If you could take a peek into an indigenous, hunter-gatherer culture you would see mothers nursing anywhere and everywhere, not held up in huts or on the outskirts of the village. Nursing would be infused in village life, yet not given a second glance.

Some people are put off by breastfeeding because they equate it with "primitive" life or something that's done in developing countries because they have no choice due to poverty.

The fact is that nursing is both ancient and modern. When we nurse our babies, we are honoring our ancestors. When we look to them for their wisdom, we are not regressing. We are only moving forward. Why re-invent the wheel? If we waste time trying to re-invent something that does not need re-inventing, we are wasting time.

In our busy modern culture time is more important than ever. Nursing helps us multi-task. It helps us to sit down for a minute and relax. It keeps kids and moms healthy, reducing time spent at the doctor or sick in bed.

Nursing is practical:
For some reason we have become a culture critical of mothers. The pressure on mothers is enormous. Anything that can make the blending of biological wisdom with modern lifestyle easier reduces this pressure.

The formula industry has worked hard to portray breastfeeding as difficult and inconvenient and bottle feeding as easy and convenient. But the fact is that nursing is much more convenient. It is essential to support nursing. Nursing becomes difficult when it is not supported. It becomes impractical when barriers and restrictions are imposed by an overly critical society.

What do you think? Does this post change your view on nursing in public? What are your stories, good or bad, of nursing in pubic?

No comments:

Post a Comment