My family and I were enjoying a nice dinner at a local restaurant. We have three children each several years apart – two boys, 11 and 8, and my little 12-month old princess. I had breastfed my little girl since she was born while the boys were bottle fed when they were babies. It was a choice I made, and I don’t question other parents who decide not to breastfeed. I’ve done both.
In the restaurant we had already ordered and were waiting for the food to arrive. My little princess suddenly became a royal problem when she decided it was time to eat, screaming at the top of her lungs. I wasn’t going to console her by distracting her toward something else; instead, my weapons are built in and ready to go at all times. My baby was getting nursed. So, I sit her on my lap, cradle her, kiss the top of her head, and let her begin to feed – instantly, the crying stopped.
During this day and age we have advanced in so many ways, but in other ways we are stumbling to call ourselves civilized. We offer our children the best in processed milk, and a nipple placed on the end of a bottle, but acceptance and support for breastfeeding mothers is available as long as you do it in the privacy of your own home.
In that restaurant I didn’t have a cover-up over her head. It was hot in their – not that I need to make excuses for breastfeeding in public. I was wearing a maya wrap, a cloth baby carrier that contours to my curves, and my baby’s head was blocked by the wrap.
Here’s where the story gets weird. I was approached by our server and informed that there was a bench in the bathroom that can be used for that. I was so stunned I think I muttered “thanks” before she walked away. Not that I went anywhere, and a few minutes later another person came to ask, “Do you know about the restroom to feed your baby?” What kind of idiots are these people? I asked to speak on the manager.
When the manager came over I asked him if he would mind taking my dinner and serving it to me in the restroom. He looked as though I was off my rocker, and I proceeded to inform him that when he was ready to serve food in a restroom, then I would be willing to feed my daughter in the restroom as well. Dirty looks later, he informed me that I was welcome to feed my daughter at the dinner table – that the meal was on the house.
Well done, sir.
To be fair, there are those who still believe breastfeeding in public is illegal. Then again there are those who don’t think women shouldn’t vote, either. A United States House of Representatives appropriations bill (HR 2490) had to be passed for the likes of these folks in 1999, an amendment specifically permitting breastfeeding.
It is important to let all mothers know the benefits of breastfeeding – but it’s equally important for women to stand up to those who don’t accept our decision to breastfeed in public. In the US more than 75 percent of mothers begin breastfeeding their little ones, but only 15 percent of those mothers are breastfeeding after six months. One might assume the decline is a result, at least partly, of the threats mothers face by a general public who is not accepting of the practice.
Teaching women to be comfortable breastfeeding in public boosts the confidence of other women who desire nursing, as well as those that are nursing. Having a support group similar to what La Leche League can provide will also help to build the confidence of a breastfeeding mother.
That confidence for breastfeeding in public is what makes and empowers women of the world to stand up and tell people that feeding babies is acceptable no matter where we are – breastfeeding or not.