I could not have stood up for myself as I have without the support of my amazing mama network. Thank you Alenna, Anne, Brittney, Cherrie, Chrissy, Christie, Emily, Jenna and Jenna, Jennifer, Katie and Katie, Lesley, Lillie, Melissa, Nicholette, Peggy, Sally, Sarah, Shannon, Shauna, Sierra, Teri, Ticia and so many others whom I have never met who sent me emails, cyber hugs, wrote fantastic, thoughtful comments here, and persuaded Fred Meyer to pronounce its support for mothers who nurse in its stores: without your empathy and outrage, your ideas and encouragement, I wouldn't have started this blog, nursed on the news, or withstood the backlash of the self-absorbed folks who think that their comfort is more important than that of mothers meeting the basic needs of their babies.
Throughout this experience, I have thought a lot about the moms who don't have such support for their decision to nurse in public or to breastfeed at all. Really, this fight has been for them and their babies. Thanks to my commitment to breastfeeding and the support of my friends, I would have bounced back from the Fred Meyer incident eventually, but what about those mothers who don't have such support and are discouraged from breastfeeding at all because of the cultural attitudes that led to those customers to complain, that store manager to tell me about their complaints, and that regional manager to tell me the situation had been handled appropriately? More importantly, what about their babies, who do not enjoy the food they were born to eat?
While some say that it's prefectly okay to breastfeed, as long as you are discreet when you do it in public, to that I say, define discreet and tell me why it is that the breastfeeding mother, who is making herself vulnerable to looks and comments from strangers while trying to do some of the most essential work on the planet, isn't the person who should get to define that for herself, her baby, and the particular situation in which they find themselves when hunger strikes. If you tell women they may only nurse at home or nurse in public with their breasts completely under cover at all times, you might as well tell them not to breastfeed or only to breastfeed for a few months. You're also suggesting that there's something about breastfeeding that's patently offensive or lewd, which of course just feeds into some women's existing discomfort with breastfeeding, no doubt leading to fewer babies enjoying their most fundamental human right.
My friend Chrissy and I have been talking about starting a group that provides a supportive atmosphere for mothers who want to nurse in public. Yesterday, she created a new Yahoo! group and blog for those of us who want to make sure every mother who wants to nurse her baby in public can gain the confidence she needs to do so. I don't want to fight with those who think breastfeeding is disgusting or should only be done according to their notions of discretion. It's every mother's right to nurse in public and the rude, self-absorbed people who think they can change that by shaming mothers will eventually find, to their dismay, that nursing in public has become as accepted as being pregnant in public and that a bare breast gets as much attention as a bare ankle. In the meantime, those of you who wish to support breastfeeding mothers and their babies, please join our campaign to make nursing in public normal. You can join whether you're currently a nursing mother or not. We plan to meet regularly, in public, to talk about breastfeeding issues and all the other things mothers talk about and to provide a safe, supportive atmosphere for moms who want to NIP for the first time or to regain their confidence after being shamed as I was. Join here now. Nippers Unite!