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Nursing Is Not Gross

One thing I have never been able to call myself in my entire life is an Activist. I don’t care much for politics, and sadly, most of my bizarrely strong opinions are about the types of things in this life for which there are no need for opinions at all. (Should you care to be a You Should Never Drink Soda From A Can Through A Straw activist with me?) (Thought not.)

So it came as quite a shock to me the other day when, in the company of some good friends, I found myself getting all hot and bothered over the reaction to a photo of a woman nursing her child in the meat aisle of a grocery store.

“The proper time and place for nursing is any time and any place your baby happens to be hungry!” I heard myself declaring hotly, and then I stopped myself and thought, “Whuh–??”

More (including that hilariously rad photo) after the jump.

To be fair, this *is* a little ridiculous.

So, cat’s outta the bag, I guess I feel really strongly about a woman’s right to feed her child however, whenever, and whereever said child needs feeding. Especially if it involves my boobs. (After all, nobody responds with “gross!” or “inappropriate!” when you whip out an apple in public.)

A few months ago, one of my international readers emailed to ask why I covered my baby’s face while he was eating. (I have a photo of me nursing Huck under his Bebe Au Lait cover.) She was fascinated by what she assumed was a cultural feeding ritual. “Is it not considered good for him to see while he eats?” she asked.  I replied to her that, in America, people are often quite squeamish about the sight of breasts when they are doing things that aren’t “sexy.” You know, boobs that are hoisted up high in the air and jiggling for all in the room to enjoy are fine and dandy, but the minute you put them to their proper use, it’s all, “gross!” and “inappropriate!” and “public nudity!”

Three days after Huck was born I found myself at the Upper Breast Side, a nursing bra heaven of a store in my neighborhood where you are served fresh water with cucumber slices while caring ladies scoot all about the room locating the proper bra for your girls. Like Ollivander’s Wand Shop for the lactating wizard.

This is where I discovered that breastfeeding in public has been legal in New York since 1994. The shop owner was very proud of this fact, and mentioned it no less than three times. She even handed me a laminated card with the Mother’s Bill of Rights printed on it, so I could show it to anyone who gave me grief about nursing in public. Now, the fact that anyone would have to go out of their way to make breastfeeding not illegal is indicative that we have a problem here, people!

According to New York’s Civil Rights Law, a woman can breastfeed anywhere in public, “irrespective of whether or not the nipple of the mother’s breast is covered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.” So.

All of this is such mumbo jumbo to me. Until shirts vs. skins basketball at the West 4th basketball courts is proclaimed illegal and inappropriate, then there’s no reason breastfeeding in public should even need defending in the first place, but there I go again, getting all hot and bothered, and etc.

And so it was, in a fit of frustration on Sunday at church, when Huck was pushing his Bebe Au Lait cover away from his face for the fourth time, and it was just me and three other nursing mothers in the mother’s lounge (all dutifully covering up their girls while their babies also attacked their nursing covers) that I decided I was through with hiding while nursing.

Through with it, I say!

So I stripped that boob cape off and let Huck breathe fresh air while he ate. Oh, freedom! (Anyway, how would you feel if you were forced to eat under a blanket? Thought so.)

I decided that for one week, as a sort of experiment, I would nurse freely and openly (and discreetly of course), just to see how the other (European) half lives. No boob capes, no bathroom stalls. No embarrassment, no shame. Just an artfully draped shirt, and a quiet corner. (Anyway, babies shouldn’t be forced to eat in a bustling room, after all. A little respect for the babies while they eat, please.)

I’ll be chronicling my attempts here, and sharing any tips I may pick up along the way.

Who’s with me?

(Anybody?)

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