Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public
This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige at NursingFreedom.org. All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public ("NIP"). See the bottom of this post for more information.
I will never forget the humiliated feeling I had the day I was asked to cover up while breastfeeding my son in Wal-Mart. He was my 7th child, but only the 2nd child that I was able to successfully breastfeed. I thought I was a very strong woman and would never encounter anything like it. And then, it happened.
Harrison was a few weeks old and had a pretty rough start. He was born with silent GERD and spent the days crying a lot. He was in a car accident when he was just 10 days old that totaled our vehicle. Our moments throughout the days went back and forth between me holding him constantly on my chest while I tried to sleep sitting up, or wearing him in a sling. Either way, he was upright and being held all the time. He also had difficulty breathing, so I never covered his face while nursing as to not restrict his air flow.
I had to go the store for Christmas shopping, so I loaded all 7 kids up in the van and off we went to Wal-Mart. As happens with young babies (he was 1 month old at the time), he needed to eat while we were there. I looked for somewhere to sit and could not find an empty bench, so I went to the changing area in the middle of the store. I proceeded to sit quietly with the other kids and nurse him. The ladies that worked back there just smiled at us, and I like to think nodded approvingly. Within a few minutes a man walked by and made a comment of total disgust and I was approached not even 2 minutes later by a store manager. She said to me “'ma'am, if you are going to do that, I am going to ask you to please cover up with a blanket or something" I froze. I was in shock. I felt sick to my stomach and started to shake. I responded “sorry, no I won't-but thank you” The other 2 employees and the shoppers (there was a lady from my church right there) all made comments like "you are fine honey" etc. to me and I continued on: "I have a legal right to sit here and feed him!" The manager then said "I realize that, but some man walked by and was uncomfortable" to which I replied "well that isn't MY FAULT!"
The manager left and the other ladies (the Wal-Mart employees) offered me support for what I was doing. I then got really upset and started to cry. I asked for the employees name and said I wanted to make a complaint. They immediately got me a manager who basically offered me platitudes and said she would address it. I told her that I had planned on doing a lot of shopping that day but I was now going to leave and not spend my money there. I even called the corporate offices and was basically shot down.
As I was leaving the older woman employee came over again and told me how proud she was of me for feeding him like that. When she saw my tears, she gave me a hug. I will never forget that lady.
To this day, my eyes still well with tears when I remember the situation and how I felt. I was totally covered. I am very modest. What was so offensive? Why was it ok for their employees to have shirts so low their breasts are hanging out, but I could not breastfeed my son while totally covered without enduring harassment?
I am proud of myself for standing up and saying NO to being asked to cover up. But I am also equally sad for how that experience made me feel about breastfeeding that day-like it was shameful or dirty. Breastfeeding is a beautiful gift that we give to our children. That should never be taken away from us.
Welcome to the Carnival of Nursing in Public
Please join us all week, July 5-9, as we celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. And visit NursingFreedom.org any time to connect with other breastfeeding supporters, learn more about your legal right to nurse in public, and read (and contribute!) articles about breastfeeding and N.I.P.
Do you support breastfeeding in public? Grab this badge for your blog or website to show your support and encourage others to educate themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers and children.
This post is just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts - new articles will be posted on the following days:
July 5 - Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World
July 6 – Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child
July 7 – Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.
July 8 – Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives
July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It