On Saturday, a group of breastfeeding mothers met at The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC for a nurse-in.
The event was organized after Noriko Aita was told by a museum guard last January to go to a women’s restroom to nurse her 11-month-old daughter. When she couldn’t find a place to sit in the restroom, another guard told her to sit on the toilet.
According to the Washington Post, “150 parents and babies at the museum to draw attention to the woman’s plight, encourage women to exercise their federal right to breast-feed in public and remove the stigma associated with nursing in pubic.”
The museum issued an apology. And the protesters insisted this wasn’t an attack on the Smithsonian but an awareness raising campaign, a “teachable moment.”
And it sounds like the message was heard: “As volunteers at the ‘nurse-in’ handed out laminated cards with information about breast-feeding rights to parents, the Alexandria City Council amended its indecent-exposure law Saturday to exclude breast-feeding.”
I remember the first time I heard the words “nurse in” and “lactivist.” This was back in 2005 when Barbara Walters said that public breastfeeding was distasteful on The View. I joined about 100 NYC mothers in front of ABC studios for a nurse-in. My From The Hips co-author and fellow Being Pregnant blogger, Rebecca Odes was quoted in the New York Times and interviewed about the nurse-in on Keith Olbermann’s show. We wrote about it here and here.
I’ve always felt passionate about a woman’s rights to nurse in public. It’s terrible to suggest that a woman nurse her baby in the the bathroom while sitting on a public toilet. Nursing can take half an hour. Babies nurse 8-12 times a day. Pumping is possible, but women who skip feedings (and use bottles) often experience a dip in supply. It’s recommended by the AAP that we feed JUST breastmilk for the first six months. You do the math: You basically can’t risk going into public if you’re the mother of a young baby. It’s really the kind of debate you CAN’T ENGAGE IN, unless you understand the biology of breastfeeding.
And to pundits like Bill Maher, who actually speak out against icky public nursing, I’ll say this: Do some home work. You’re always going on about waste and healthcare. According to an April study in the American Academy of Pediatrics journal, the US would save about $13 billion and 911 babies’ lives annually if 90 percent of mothers breast-fed exclusively for six months. The Obama administration has been pushing breastfeeding and trying to make the federal workplace more accommodating to nursing mothers.
So, come on. Loosen up folks. It’s just a boob.
photo: Annie Liebowitz/Vanity Fair