Nursing Moms: Still Getting Harassed

In all but 3 U.S. states, women are protected by a law allowing us to feed our babies anyplace we are legally allowed to be. And yet, nursing mothers are harassed Every. Single. Day. for trying to feed their hungry babies. And these are just the cases that make the news! For every mother brave enough to speak up for herself, we know there are countless others getting shamed, tossed out of establishments, or asked to feed their babies in restrooms.iStock_000000534111Medium

My family went to an amusement park last week (here in PA, where we are protected by law to nurse wherever our babies are hungry). While there, we ran into my friends M and H, who had also had nursing babes in tow. M and I spent the day with our families, nursing our babies whenever they were hungry, and thinking nothing of it.

H, on the other hand, was harassed by a lifeguard when she nursed her hungry baby in the water section of the park. The lifeguard blew a whistle, insisted H move to a tent, that she couldn’t “do that” here. My brave friend stood her ground and kept nursing, and also located a manager to report the lifeguard. Brava!

But later, H was venting and seeking support in an online message board when she encountered what is, for me, the meat of the problem:

Other mothers are quick to berate, shame, and scold women who nurse in public.

I saw a woman going after H, using phrases like “tits” and “common courtesy” to shame her into nursing away from the eyes of the theoretically-ogling world. For me, the other mothers spewing such hatred sting the most.

When I was writing about The Milk Truck project for Bust magazine, I was surprised to learn that a poll from our local newspaper showed the people most violently opposed to a project supporting nursing in public were other women. Women!

(To be fair, I also learned that the majority of the small funders to the project were also women, ┬ásometimes from other countries sending in a few dollars just so this project could exist somewhere, even if they couldn’t benefit directly)

Every person who’s ever parented a child knows how challenging this job is. All of us. We’ve all made vows before having children and then eaten large bowls of crow as we settle into the reality of parenting. How, then, can other people continue to attack mothers who are just trying to feed their babies?

Nursing babies aren’t crying–though maybe their older siblings are–or making a “scene.” At an amusement park, of all places, where most of us are stomping around eating fried, battered foods, these nursing babes are just taking some time to quietly drink a really healthy meal.

I’m baffled and heartbroken that other mothers spread such hate and shame.

So, I’m going to do something active about it. When I see a mother nursing a baby in public, I’m going to thank her for doing so. I’m also going to continue teaching my sons that nursing is normal, so that they might spread this message to their own future families.

I clearly can’t stop the haters, but I sure can lift up and support the nursing mothers!

How have you supported moms nursing in public? Leave us a comment to share some ideas!

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