There are many aspects in life in which I have become increasingly sensitive since my wife and I brought our beautiful baby Chaim Yosef into the world. One of those things is the ever important nutrition of our son. In more recent times it has become less of an issue as he is normally very happy to take milk from a sippy cup (soy, almond, or otherwise) as well as a number of extremely healthy solid foods but for the first nine months of his life he relied on breast milk as a means of sustenance.
I have never thought of public nursing as being even remotely offensive — the women doing it are doing it for the purpose of feeding their children, not to titillate or arouse passersby. For the most part people who nurse their children, like my wife once did regularly, employ a cloth shield so that you cannot possibly see anything that the mother is doing unless you push your head into her business — and why would you do that?
Well apparently this was not good enough for some people who were grossly offended by a nursing mother at Target — who asked said nursing mother to relocate, perhaps to the restroom. As a result, a large group of breastfeeding mothers staged so-called nurse-in protests at a number of Targets. (I find it interesting that the media chooses to generally depict women who nurse without a cloth modesty shield — is it an anti-nursing bias or are they too overly sexualizing what is an act of nutrition?)
To the people who suggested that the mother feed her baby in the restroom, I would like to offer them a gourmet dinner — served inside a restroom, that is. If they protest that it would be beneath their dignity to eat food in a restroom, I would counter by saying that not only is it beneath the dignity of the baby to have to eat in such conditions, but it is beneath the dignity of the mother as the chef, so to speak, to have to prepare and then serve the food in such conditions.
Then there are the people who say that mothers should just have pumped breast milk with them on hand for when they want to feed their children in public, or to switch to formula. Would you like some melamine with your food? I think I will pass on the formula. As for the pumped milk, anyone who suggests pumped milk as an alternative has clearly never spent a single minute trying to pump out milk. Short of having a multi-thousand dollar machine (they were divine when Elizabeth was in the hospital and were nice to rent while Chaim was in the NICU and needed more milk than would have been feasible for Elizabeth to provide in just her visits but are generally cost prohibitive for we in the 99%) one must hope to get a good breast pump and even with one, must hope that the timing of the pumping is just right to get a good quantity of milk for the baby. Almost no breast pump is as effective at getting milk as an actual baby.
Elizabeth tells me that she has gotten dirty looks from people but that nobody has ever told her to relocate her nursing activity. This could be because Elizabeth looks like she could serve a good beating if verbally provoked — with toddler in hand, no less!
I ask that you please consider this when you see a mother nursing her child in public — that child needs the milk more than you need your perfect world with no nursing mothers in view. Try looking away, or finding somewhere else to look if it bothers you that much. Don’t relegate nursing women to the level of second class citizens just because you’re incapable of looking somewhere else.