Monday, March 12, 2007

Nursing In Public...Again

It seems people will never tire of discussing nursing in public. This is just the latest. I will put the article in italics, and my responses in bold.
Nursing mothers don't appeal to everyone


It used to cost the publishers of National Geographic thousands to send photographers to far-off lands to get pictures of women breast-feeding their children.

Now they need go no further than an airliner or the Charcoal Pit to get the same kind of copy.

What used to be acceptable only in Papua, New Guinea or Botswana has now been adopted as the norm by a certain segment of our community.

I recently took a Pennsylvania borough manager to a business lunch at the Charcoal Pit in Pike Creek.

Seated at a table about 10 feet from us were two women about 30 years old. One had a child perhaps eight months old with her; this was in a restaurant that had about 75 customers, including many children of various ages. She proceeded to take out her breast and begin feeding the child. She made no attempt to conceal what she was doing or respect the views or sensitivities of anyone else.

When she saw that my companion and I were looking at her with obvious surprise and dismay, she defiantly bared her other breast and glared at us with the eyes of a true zealot.

This is just one of several such incidents that I have witnessed in the last two or three years.

This is the point at which my BS detector first began going off. After essentially saying that nursing is uncivilized, he then goes on to tell a story that I find dubious at best. I can't imagine a breastfeeding mother whipping out the other breast just for spite. We mothers NIP (nurse in public) because our babies need to eat. Not to make a point. That a point is sometimes made (breastfeeding is perfectly fine whenever and wherever) is simply an added bonus. It's completely secondary to the feeding of our children.
I once had a stranger seated next to me on an airplane ask me to help her breast-feed her child.

And this is where I KNEW he was just making things up. I simply cannot accept that a breastfeeding mother asked a strange man on an airplane to help her nurse. Something you don't usually need help with, and certainly not help from someone you've never met, in a public place. Nope. Uh-uh. I reject him totally.
When I recoiled in horror and asked the stewardess to move me to another seat both the woman with the child and the stewardess called me all kinds of names. Several passengers joined the fray on both sides. It was only after I threatened to sue everyone involved that the woman agreed to take her baby to the lavatory where she wouldn't bother anybody else.

Yup, more evidence that he's not telling the truth. It's perfectly legal to breastfeed on an airplane, and I can't imaging a mother who is, at one moment, asking someone to help her breastfeed, suddenly decides to go feed her baby in a filthy airplane toilet. Nope. Not buying it.
If airlines are going to allow this sort of thing, they should provide areas where it can be done in private without annoying other passengers.

Segregated planes because some people aren't comfortable with babies eating? I don't think that's necessary. Perhaps we should simply make sure that all the adult passengers have the maturity of an 11 year old before boarding.
This kind of behavior can also cause problems in the workplace. I have heard of a number of cases where women who were nursing insisted on using breast pumps at work and storing the milk in refrigerators provided for employees to keep their lunches.

No! Heaven forbid! They insist on pumping their breastmilk so that they don't leak all over their clothing and have food for their babies? And they insist on keeping it cold so that it doesn't go bad? He must be making that up! (insert sarcasm here)
People don't want their food stored next to your body fluids. In my mind this is no different than storing urine or fecal samples to be taken to a medical lab.

For a man who has a legal background, one would think he could make a better argument than this. What exactly do people eat, anyway? Animal body parts, animal fluids, and plants, generally. I'm sure he wouldn't mind if someone had a carton of cow's milk in the fridge. So, he's okay with some body fluids, just not human? I'm sure he wouldn't mind if someone had bacon on a sandwich, so body parts are okay. The difference between breastmilk and urine is that one is a food and one is a waste product. I'm fine with someone putting hamburger in the fridge, but not cow feces. I'm fine with people keeping milk in the fridge. Bovine, or otherwise.
I cannot guess why some women who are nursing insist on sharing it with the rest of us. They remind me of people who leave the bathroom door open. There is nothing endearing about that practice, either.

Then don't look.
The fact that certain things are natural doesn't make doing them in public acceptable.

Everyone should always be aware of the effect of their actions on others and realize that what's OK in private, or among family and close friends, is not always OK when interacting with the general public.

Feeding your baby is okay when interacting with the general public. Sorry.
Breast milk can easily be placed in a bottle and transported in the same manner as formula.The baby can be fed from a bottle without annoying others who are attempting to enjoy a meal or travel on public transportation.

Only a man, with no experience with breastfeeding women, would say this. To put my milk in a bottle, I have to pump it first, which requires time, and a certain amount of supplies. Then I have to get my baby to take it from a bottle. Some babies really don't like to do that, especially when mom is right there. While baby is eating, I have to take care of what is in my breasts, which means pumping again, and we all know how this man feels about pumping breastmilk! It's not so easy, and it's not necessary.
I often see women with small children carrying large bags that contain most of the things necessary to feed and take care of a child. It's long past time for the silent majority who object to such things to stop being silent. We should insist that everyone observe minimal behavioral norms in public environments.

Being a mother doesn't give anybody a license to be what I consider a public nuisance.

Nor does completing law school make one an expert on proper etiquette or social behavior. If you don't like it, don't look. But I'd think twice about infringing on the right of a mother to feed her baby. Somehow I don't think the author would find the screaming, hungry baby at the restaurant or on the plane to be socially acceptable either.
Thomas Beach, a member of the News Journal's Community Advisory Board, is an attorney who lives and teaches in Cecil County, Md.

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