Standing Up for a Mother’s Right to Nurse in Public

This post was originally posted on Attached at the Boob on June 3, 2011. Thank you, Suzi, for allowing us to repost it!

Last month I attended my first nurse-in.  If you’re not familiar with the term, a “nurse-in” is essentially a peaceful protest including mothers who sit in or near a public place and nurse their children.  This is done in response to a mother being asked to leave said location for exercising her rights to breastfeed her child.  44 states have laws which allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location.  28 states exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws.

In our state of IL, we are covered under both of these laws.  But apparently the owner of No Strings Attached, a resale shop in downtown DeKalb, felt that his position as a shop owner made him exempt from the law.  So when my friend Nichole began nursing her daughter in his store, John Rapp asked her to leave.  Nichole’s fiance informed Mr Rapp of the laws protecting the mother of his child, but he did not care.

Nichole, helping to promote breastfeeding

So on June 2nd, a group of about 45 mothers and our children all met outside of No Strings Attached for a nurse-in.  It was amazing.  Over the course of 24 hours, news of our impending nurse-in spread all over facebook.  There was an article in the local paper about it, and a few of us were interviewed.  Lots of press showed up, from WGN news to the Chicago Tribune, and I think those of us involved are still amazed that so many people from all over are interested in this story.

I had a little interview with DeKalb County Online:

There are still tons of people arguing that John Rapp was correct in asking Nichole to leave and that mothers should find a private place (like a bathroom-seriously, when is this suggestion going to go away?) to nurse her child.  But here’s the deal, folks, the law is the law.  We have laws put in place to protect ourselves and our children, and it doesn’t matter if you feel that a mother should pump her milk and bring bottles when she goes out, or put a cover over her baby’s head, or nurse the baby in the car.  What matters is that it is our right as mothers to feed our babies when they want to be fed.  Period.  Any opposition to the law should be taken up with your state’s representative.

I, for one, feel that our nurse-in was a success.  So much awareness was created about breastfeeding and breastfeeding in public and that’s a great first step towards normalization.  We need to get people comfortable talking about breastfeeding first, get them to challenge their ideas and perceptions about it so that we can have an open dialogue.  And the more people see women nursing their babies, the less they’ll be disgusted or offended by it, because it will be seen as normal.

Balloons were given out to the kids by local shop owners
Does this look obscene?
Suzi, being offensive. 🙂

Suzi Leigh is a Certified Lactation Counselor and currently nursing her son. She offers her readers and clients evidence-based information, as well as support and encouragement during this beautiful time of life. She teaches breastfeeding classes for new and expectant mothers, those going back to work, and for babies and children over 6 months. She can be found blogging at Attached at the Boob.

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