Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Breastfeeding in public is NOT bad

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 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.

Art by Erika Hastings at

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 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


Rebekah Costello said...

How completely shameful for someone to act that way and then have HIS actions validated by someone so ignorant! How could she be like "I know the law but HE was uncomfortable so I don't care?"

I'm sorry this happened to but I also want to thank you for not letting it stop you. You sound like an amazing, strong Mama to me.

Noveltyspoons said...

I cried reading your story. I'm sorry that happened to you. It was horrible and disturbing. Bless the women who were supportive around you. Thank you for sharing this experience. You are a strong woman.

oursentiments said...

Oh man I am all teary eyed here. I too have a Silent GERD child, 4 weeks premature to add. I know the importance of NOT covering up a baby with GERD because it goes along with breathing issues. I am so glad that someone made a post about the medical reasons of why babies care not covered. I think this is the major reason I have a need (don't do it) to pull a heavy cover off when I see one used.

I really wish there would be a study on oxygen levels and different covers, because man, some things that are used....

Dionna said...

What an awful experience, but I am so glad that you had women there who comforted and encouraged you. I hate to think how many women are harassed and subsequently quit breastfeeding because they got no support.

~Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

Meghan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jessica said...

Rebekah -I agree. I was really surprised that they agreed that I was legally able to breastfeed, but were still asking me to cover up due to someone that was just walking by.

Noveltyspoons-thank you for your kindness. I have heard of this being asked of others before and never thought it would happen to me.

Oursentiments-I agree, there are medical reasons that covering up is not good. Even for a full term healthy child: the oxygen levels are restricted underneath a blanket and that is just plain not good.

Dionna-thank you for your support. It is horrible when something that is so natural as breastfeeding your child is made into a humiliating incident and you are made to feel as if you are doing something wrong. I bet that gentleman would not have been upset if I had been merely sitting there with a very low cut blouse on with half my chest hanging out-he probably would have stopped and oogled. But because I was feeding my child I was disgusting. hmmm. There is something wrong with that.

Audra said...

I am so proud of you! I hope I have that courage if I ever get confronted the same way. You are a very strong woman! You brought me to tears.

CJ and Ale said...

Hi..This is crazy because the same thing happened to me at a Wal Mart too. Except I was just going to start nursing and took a blanket to cover up and a this old lady that works in the changing room told me "you CAN'T do that in here"..I told her, "but I have a blanket" and she told me to go into one of the changing rooms....unfortunately, I was not as strong as you and I did go in a changing room, but when I came out I told her she was walking in a fine line and that she could get fired if I made a big deal about it. I complained to the manager, a friendly older guy and he told me " come back and nurse that baby anytime you want, right here, by the entrance". Thanks for sharing your story!

veryveryfine said...

good for you for standing up for yourself, your babe and breastfeeding mamas everywhere. a witnessed a similar situation just last month, in target. a woman was feeding a super tiny nursling -- couldn't have been more than a month old, just like yours! i heard him crying, then didn't, and happened upon them sitting in the lawn furniture area when a worker approached them and said other customers had complained. she got flustered, started trying to unlatch her baby, and i hustled over there, plunked myself down next to her and started nursing my own little guy. other mama laughed, we high fived and i told the employee that i'd be happy to explain our legal right to breastfeed to the store manager. booyah!