Stand Up for Your Rights to N.I.P.
Shawna was not anti-breastfeeding, but she was doubtful. I remember her asking “the question” on several occasions: “Are you still nursing Kieran?” And once when we were walking through the downtown area of Kansas City together and I was breastfeeding Kieran in a sling, she and my dad both made several remarks about whether I really needed to do that right now and – oh my goodness – people were looking at me!
And now? Now she is a mama too. Not only does she breastfeed her own 5 month old son, but she is also an active member of a parenting group that advocates for breastfeeding mothers. She is considering donating breastmilk to a breastmilk bank. She has successfully encouraged several of her pregnant friends to at least give breastfeeding a try.
She no longer questions the fact that I am nursing my 2.5 year old. She has read and understands the benefits of nursing past infancy, and I have no doubt that her little one will enjoy his mama’s milk well past his first year.
We Nurse in Public So That the Next Mother Can, Too
Shawna proudly breastfeeds in public, and she is educated and confident. Just last week, she and a friend were at Kelly (Rock Springs) Park in Apopka, Florida.2 A young lifeguard blew his whistle at them and hollered over the heads of several other patrons, “you guys cannot breastfeed here, you need to stop.” Shawna and her friend assured him that they were within their rights under state law to breastfeed there. The lifeguard said that no, they were in violation of the law about “public exposure” and needed to stop or leave.
Eventually, Shawna went to visit management. She has a card with the Florida state law about breastfeeding, and she calmly told the supervisor that the park employees need to be educated about the rights of breastfeeding mothers. The supervisor on duty was unaware of any specific laws, and she made a copy of the card.
Instead of apologizing to Shawna for the ignorance of the employee, the supervisor instead said, “you do realize that many of the people out there are under 20. They were all staring at you.”
I was incredibly proud of Shawna’s response. Instead of being offended or angry, she simply said “and that’s the problem with our society – it’s not normal to see a mother feeding her child in the most natural way.” She explained to the supervisor that she did not want to get the lifeguard in trouble, she just wanted to make the park safe for the next breastfeeding mother.
After several unsuccessful attempts to contact the park management, Shawna’s local parenting group decided to organize a peaceful nurse-in. Someone contacted the media, and the local Channel 13 News did a story on the incident.
I am impressed by the coverage of the story – the video shows the mothers breastfeeding and talking about the state law on nursing in public.
Stand Up for Your Breastfeeding Rights
When you are confronted by someone for nursing in public, do not be afraid to stand up for your legal rights. How can you do that? Here are a few ideas:
- Carry a card that quotes the relevant breastfeeding laws. Be sure to visit NursingFreedom.org on Friday – we will be unveiling our own breastfeeding state law cards!
- If you are confronted by an employee at a business or other facility (parks, government, etc.), talk to a supervisor. Calmly explain what happened, your right to nurse in public, and ask her to educate her employees about breastfeeding rights and benefits. Let her know you will follow up later.
- If you are not satisfied with your in-person talk, call and talk to someone higher up.
- Write a follow up letter to someone with authority. Check back Thursday for a sample letter at NursingFreedom.org and a personalized version of that letter here at Code Name: Mama (it’s the one I wrote for Shawna to send to the Orange County Attorney).
- Follow up to make sure they have given their employees education (or done something to remedy the violation).
- If you cannot get anyone to work with you, you might consider staging a peaceful nurse-in.
We need to educate others about the rights of breastfeeding children and mothers. The next breastfeeding mother might not know her rights, she might not be confident enough to stand up for herself, she might even be discouraged enough that she stops breastfeeding.
That is why I nurse in public. That is why I was inspired to celebrate breastfeeding mothers in a Carnival of N.I.P. and to create (with Paige of Baby Dust Diaries) NursingFreedom.org: a website that will work to educate and advocate for breastfeeding rights.
Have you ever been confronted for nursing in public? How did you handle it? What would you do differently next time?
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"Stand Up for Your Rights to N.I.P."
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