Saturday, January 7, 2012

Guest Blog: The Target Nurse-in - A Vital Event

I'm a Mommy of 3 boys- Isaac is 3, Jared is 2, and Grayson is 2 months. I started a blog after the amazing home birth of Grayson (all 10 pounds, 8 ounces of him!) to have a place to get out all the feelings and thoughts I have about birth, cloth diapering and more. We are the prime example of a family who found out that the "traditional" ways of parenting didn't work for us and we are loving our exploration of a parenting style to call our own!

I'll be honest, I wasn't quite sure how I felt when I first heard about the Target nurse-in. When I first heard the story it seemed almost too harsh to be true and I couldn't help but think of that old saying, "There are 3 sides to every story- yours, mine, and the truth." Then I read that the woman was actually sitting in the middle of the walkway. But then I read that the employees didn't understand the dressing room courtesy and thought it was a rule, not an offering.

Then I realized it doesn't matter.

What matters is that so many women want to breastfeed and so few women actually reach their personal breastfeeding goals. A part of that difficulty is nursing in public and any time a story comes out where a woman is or at least feels like she has been harassed, it makes other new moms take a step back and think, Is this really worth it to me?

I recently had my third son and I have finally been successful at breastfeeding. One day when he was just a few weeks old we went to Walmart. On cue, he started giving his "I'm-starving-to-death-and-nobody-will-ever-feed-me" cry right as we walked through the doors. I was wearing him in the Moby Wrap and had on a nursing top. I pulled the shirt back and latched him on. I'd like to think that no one around me even noticed what I was doing, but the fact is, I'm a pretty clumsy person and the fact that my screaming baby became a silent baby after I was tugging and pulling inside my shirt probably gave some onlookers a pretty good idea of what was going on. This was a significant moment for me. All of a sudden I had it. After all the tears, all the poor latch-ons, all the pumping, all the guilt, all the senses of failure, I finally did it. I was good enough at nursing this time that I could do it while wearing a wrap, standing up, in a place surrounded by people. I was so excited that I had my husband take a picture of me and I sent it to my mom and a friend. My dad texted me back and asked, (jokingly) if that was legal. His question threw me. Of course it was legal! Why wouldn't it be legal? Right? Hmm... was it legal? I googled on my phone (while still walking around Walmart and breastfeeding thankyouverymuch) and found that it was, in fact, legal. At least in my state. I texted my parents back and told them that since I was legally allowed to be in Walmart, and my son was legally allowed to be in Walmart, then yes, I could legally nurse him in Walmart. Success!

And then I realized something. I realized that I had taken it for granted that it is legal for me to feed my baby in a public place. I had heard so many times over and over Breast is Best! that I assumed that meant Breast is Best Everywhere. But apparently, to some people, it's not. And that's really sad.

My hope is that I'm part of a new generation of breastfeeding mothers. My hope is that I'm a part of a generation of women who can afford to take it for granted that I can breastfeed in public. But the fact is, I'm not. And that's why the Target Nurse-Ins were such an important event. As long as all 50 states do not have laws protecting breastfeeding mothers, and as long as breastfeeding goals are not reached, things like the Target Nurse-In need to happen. We need to stand together and show that nursing in public is not an inappropriate act. It's a necessary act. So many women quit breastfeeding because it's "difficult" to nurse in public. We need to show women that it doesn't have to be difficult. We need to show stores and restaurants that the breastfeeding community will not tolerate when one is mistreated.

To all the women who attended the Target Nurse-Ins, thank you. Thank you for ensuring that the law I was taking for granted will remain. Thank you for showing the public what it really looks like to nurse in public. Thank you for showing support to nursing women everywhere that we do not deserve to be mistreated for doing what is best for our children.

Who knows, maybe someday we will have a generation of women who can take it for granted that they can nurse in public. And let's hope that we raise those women to respect their right to breastfeed and make sure that it never goes away.

*Author's Note: Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the nurse-ins. At 10 AM that day I was in our van, traveling with my family to see grandparents. I'll be there at the next one. ;)


  1. Here we go again...another mother talking about breastfeeding in public. As a nursing mother I get so tired of people being on their soap box talking about they can't feed their baby in public. Somehow for 6 months now I have managed to not nurse in public without a problem and I LOVE nursing my baby. Yes, nursing is a great natural, beautiful thing but the world does not revolve around you and your baby. I also respect my baby enough to not haul him around trying to nurse him in stores and I wouldn't bottle feed my baby walking around a store either. You should also respect the views of other people and realize that some people do not want to see your boob. Get over it. I know babies get hungry but you should somewhat know your child's schedule. It also says to nurse in a peaceful, quiet, place in a lot of books. Walmart is far from that, and not to mention the germs going on in there. I think I have nursed in my minivan once and it was fine. I also saw a card floating around referring to Happy Hooter Holidays and I find it ironic that women get offended when people say "whip it out" (your post) but are ok with referring to their breasts as "Hooters. " Target is awesome and I am sure if that women was being discreet there would not have been a problem. I think a lot of women want to draw attention to the fact they are nursing and want someone to challenge them. These people should get a life. I admit sometimes it is necessary to nurse your baby at an inopportune time but with planning you know most of that is avoidable.
    With so many huge issues in the world going on right now, a nurse-in is way down on the list in my book.

  2. Jessica, if you don't feel comfortable nursing in public and have found ways around it, that's fine. But please do not force that lifestyle on others, especially not when so many women give up breastfeeding because of the perceived inconvenience. Not every child has a schedule, and not everyone has the luxury or desire to stay at home while nursing. I have been nursing my son for 2 years now and during that time I have nursed in my car many times but I have also nursed in public - not as a political statement, but because my son was hungry. And while I might attempt to stay covered, I have one of those children who dislikes anything over his head and is easily distracted. It is what it is. There are MANY times when there just isn't anywhere private to go (festivals are a good example) and why should I have to leave? If someone doesn't want to see my breast, they can look away. Are you going to wear a hijab or head covering because other people think that's what modest women should do? If someone is wearing something I think is tacky or ill-fitting, do I have the right to ask them to remain out of sight? Perhaps in a bathroom stall? Of course not! That would be silly. I live in a society with other people and I can respect when their viewpoint differs from mine. I will do what I can to avoid offending others but the final burden to be accommodating falls on the party doing the looking. Your reaction to this post exemplifies the importance of normalizing public breastfeeding.

  3. Jessica. What in the WORLD??? I'm floored. You "respect" your baby enough not to haul him around trying to nurse him in stores? Your baby doesn't care one iota where you fill his little tummy--only that his food and his mommy are available when he needs a feeding. I can only assume that this is your first child (a whopping six months into parenthood, eh?), and that you were blessed with a baby who actually HAS a schedule. If you were like any number of us with more than one child, you would realize that you can easily find yourself running around trying to get it all done--there are never enough hours in the day--and, yeah, you usually have to bring your baby along. I'm sure my daughter appreciated the fact that I "respected" her enough to pick her up on time from preschool instead of leaving her waiting until her baby brother was done nursing at home. So what if I had to nurse (under a nursing cover--I'm a very modest person) in the corner of my daughter's class as she finished putting her blocks away? And I'm quite positive that my infant son appreciated that I (1) didn't leave him at home with a babysitter and instead chose to keep him close to me as I ran my completely necessary and non-frivolous errands and (2) "respected" him enough to listen to his cues and feed him on demand rather than according to some imposed schedule, whether that was 3 hours after his last feeding or 20 minutes after his last feeding. Lo and behold, it turns out my poor baby (who was an awful sleeper, only wanted mama, and never ate on any schedule--quite unlike his big sister, who was an easy baby like yours seems to be) has a rare and painful disorder of the esophagus. I was praised by more than one doctor for my choice to nurse, to do so exclusively, and to do it on demand, because nursing was the only relief that poor baby got from his pain for months and months as we struggled to find out what was wrong with him. I won't apologize for ANY. SINGLE. ONE. of the countless occasions on which I had to nurse my son outside of the privacy of my home.

    Jessica, you come across as arrogant ("with planning you know most of that is avoidable"--um. NO. Maybe for YOUR baby and YOUR situation) and ignorant and judgmental (Are you also one of those people who disdainfully looks at the parent of a toddler having a meltdown in the checkout line, thinking "MY child will never do that"? Heaven help you when your day comes, because it WILL come--happens to even the best of the best at some point during mommyhood). Yes, there may be nursing mothers out there who go overboard and flaunt their bare breasts to make a statement, but the VAST majority of women who nurse in public are just moms who love their babies (AND their other children), who are trying to make the best choice for their babies' health and emotional development, and who must juggle countless things at one time to make life run smoothly while holding down jobs, feeding the family, keeping infants alive and all that jazz. Superstar moms don't have the luxury of sitting in a darkened, calm nursery quietly reading parenting books about when and how to nurse their babies. They have life to sustain via breastfeeding, but they also have LIFE to attend to--and if that means keeping baby happy under a nursing cover in the middle of Target, so be it. Remember, Jessica--Karma's only a b**** if you are. How about a little compassion and understanding that not everyone's life (or baby) is like yours, and we're all just doing the best we can?

  4. Wow, did I say I enforced a schedule on my baby? Um no. He fed on demand and still pretty much does and he was 20lbs by 4 months. By schedule I meant that I fed him and then took him out! Talk about judgmental! Did I mention screaming toddlers, no. Also know that my baby was a VERY poor sleeper and I had to deal with that as well. You guys talk about me being judgmental but you both managed to put words in my mouth and made a lot of assumptions about my life! And for the first post comparing a hijab to breastfeeding in public is quite a stretch! It is funny to me that I have a different opinion on something and other breastfeeding moms want to crucify me for not agreeing with them.And I guess I am not a "superstar" mom. Yeah, way to belittle people.

  5. Jessica - no one is crucifying you for not agreeing with them. If you made a personal decision to nurse only covered or only in private and left it at that, that would be entirely up to you and not for any of us to judge. What is happening here is us reacting to the fact that you're judging US. You're publicly instructing other women to adhere to YOUR beliefs and norms. If you do that, expect the people you're lecturing about "respect" to have something to say in response.

    Why is comparing an exposed breast to someone not wearing a hijab or covering their head a "stretch"? Because those aren't your beliefs? Well, guess what! Not everyone shares your beliefs. That's kind of the point.

  6. Jessica, I have a feeling you are Amanda. If you are, would you mind emailing me your phone number to I'd love to call you so we can chat and clear some things up. Thanks!