Nurse In

October 5, 2017

In 2005, Barbara Walters spoke on The View about her discomfort with nursing in public and particularly called out an incident on an airplane where a woman nursed her baby next to Ms. Walters. A group of parents and activists gathered outside the studio in a peaceful protest. I was pregnant with my third baby and was excited to be part of this nurse-in. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/07/nyregion/lactivists-taking-their-cause-and-their-babies-to-the-streets.html

Much has changed over the last decade. Breastfeeding is promoted by celebrities and is seen as a good thing generally speaking.

 
As an IBCLC I mentor up and coming Lactation Consultants.

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I was contacted by, Perrine, one of my interns last week. She told me that her friend was asked to move and to cover up at a store in Columbus Circle. Perrine is from France and wanted to know what the rules and laws are in the US and NYC.
The laws are clear, you have a right to breastfeed where you have a right to be in NYC.https://www.nysbreastfeeding.org/laws-and-legislation/

My first thought was, “we need a good old fashioned Nurse In!”
Perrine was thrilled. Thrilled to be able to stand up for her friend, to do something that could effect change and to take action.
It was easy to put together. A quick Facebook event and a bit of sharing.
Last Friday, September 29, just before 10:00am I arrived at the Shops at Columbus Circle and the first thing I noticed just outside the store were these beautiful twelve foot Adam & Eve sculptures by Botero.
They are impressive bronze statues that are nude. Of course, Adam & Eve are nude.
I find it ironic that a woman wanting to feed her child in the most normal manner is told to turn away so no one can see her while twenty feet away from these colossal nudes.

By 10:10 several moms and babies arrived at the atrium and gathered in the shadow of the Botero sculptures. A camera man from a local news station walked into the mall. I asked him if he was there for the nurse in. He was but told me he could not film inside the mall. We walked outside the mall and he began to focus his camera on me. A security guard approached us and told the camera man he could not film there. The camera man told him he had cleared it with head of security and to go ask him. As the guard swiftly went in search of his boss I spoke into the camera. I told whomever would be listening that it is important to normalize breastfeeding and that people should not be shamed for feeding their babies. I said that the breast is overly sexualized and that people in our culture cannot separate the sexual from the simply functional.

Back inside as we all gathered I was approached by a man in a suit whom I assume was the head of security for The Shops. Our exchange went something like this:

Him: Hi, what is going on here?”
Me: “Oh, my friends and I are going to do some shopping at Williams Sonoma. And, we may feed our babies if they get hungry.”
Him: “alright.” He nodded his head and smirked a knowing smirk.

We walked into the festively decorated shop, it smelled of cranberries and roasted turkey. We were offered tastes of their mulled cider. It was delicious.
A baby started to wiggle and her mom said her baby was ready to nurse. We were standing next to a beautifully appointed table and I asked an employee if my friend could sit and feed her baby. She smiled and replied, “of course.”
Then other moms pulled out the chairs and nursed their babies. It was beautiful and peaceful and ordinary. I watched the moms one by one get comfortable in their act of “defiance.” A bit sheepish at first then, one by one, easing into a setting of just a few moms sitting around talking and nursing and admiring the beautiful décor.

I asked if I could take their pictures. One of the moms was at first shy about being photographed and then as time went on she said, yeah, I can be photographed. She smiled and looked up at me and said, “I am a Lactavist!” She held her head a bit higher and she beamed at her baby and at herself.

I decided to “out” us. I asked the woman who allowed us to use the table and chairs if I could speak to a manager about an incident that had occurred earlier in the week. She seemed genuinely disturbed that there was an incident and got the manager immediately.
August is a tall man with dark hair pulled into a neat ponytail. He approached me and when I told him of the Perrine’s friend he was upset. He wanted to know which employee it was who had made this mom so uncomfortable. He assured me that the store policy is that a person can feed their baby anywhere and they do not have to hide or cover up. This was heartening and I wondered if I had made a big deal out of an isolated incident.
I approached the moms some of whom were nursing their babies and others whose babies had drifted off into milk drunkenness.
When I told them they were happy. They commented that they were happy to be a part of something.
I realized this is important for them, for the store manager, for the employees, the head of security and the channel 7 camera man.
This was not a big rally but it had an impact. The ripple effects will carry on. The social media sharing that happened continued throughout the week. Every little bit makes a difference. I cannot be quiet when it comes to social justice. I may not always have the right things to do or say but I will not sit idly by and let people be harassed for feeding their babies.

We quietly dispersed, I went home, got my gear and went to see a couple of families in their homes to help them feed their babies. Just another Friday!

 

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