Nursing in Public or Just Nursing?

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Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public This post was written for inclusion in the 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. ***

People say your life changes when you have a baby and I guess they’re right. The way I see it, though, your perceptions change and because of that, your life changes. I must admit I never thought about breastfeeding much. Why would you, really? Looking back, however, I can’t remember if I ever thought I would or wouldn’t breastfeed, in public or otherwise.


Becoming a mother has opened a whole new world to me, and it’s a world I’ve loved – frustrating as I have found it at times. Once you’ve moved beyond the breast vs bottle debate, you find another – the ‘to cover or not to cover’ debate, with fierce voices and firm opinions on both sides.

Breastfeeding in BrusselsI have found myself often surprised by even the existence of the ‘nursing in public’ debate. Don’t get me wrong, I think promoting breastfeeding in public is fantastic, and I think spreading the message of the normality of breastfeeding is wonderful, but it always takes me by surprise that we even have to.

I have breastfed my daughter all over the place. In the Eiffel Tower, outside Buckingham Palace, on an open top tour bus, at my old workplace, in an Embassy – in two Embassies, actually; in church, in Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, in a lecture hall, a restaurant, a plane, on a punt in Cambridge, walking down the street with her in a sling, in a businessman’s café, a solicitor’s lobby. The list goes on. I could fill a book.

And I have never stopped and thought, “Ooh, I am nursing in public”. If I have thought about it at all, I have thought, “I am nursing”. I wrote a post recently called “Comebacks for Breastfeeding Comments” where I wrote down everything I would say if someone made a comment about the fact that I was feeding my daughter. But the truth is, no one ever has.

This morning I was sitting on a train nursing, or should I say, nursing in public, and a man sat across from me. He looked up, looked at the back of my baby’s head and looked back down at his book. The woman next to him looked at my nursing baby, then looked at me – and smiled. And I smiled back.

And this in ‘stiff upper lip’ England.

Now, some women will tell you that nursing is a feminist issue, and some will say that covering or not covering is a feminist issue. I don’t always agree with either view. I think it is a human issue. It is a human rights issue.

It is my right as a mother to provide for my child and this is how I choose to do it. If I choose to cover up in some situations, that is my right, if I choose not to cover up that too is my right. I love that we can talk about ‘nursing in public’, but to my mind that makes it sounds like something we have to discuss, something we have to fight for, a right we need to claim.

I don’t think of it as ‘nursing in public’. I think of it as ‘nursing’. And that is already my right, and it is already protected by law and recommended by ‘them’. It is something I claim and it isn’t something I have to think about – it is just something I do.

Art by Erika Hastings at http://mudspice.wordpress.com/

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

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20 thoughts on “Nursing in Public or Just Nursing?

  1. Kristy

    All well said, I totally agree it is just nursing. I feed my baby everywhere too, if he is hungry I feed him where I happen to be. Mostly I don’t cover up, not to make a point, more I am comfortable feeding and the thought just doesn’t occur to me. Occasionally I cover up in a crowd to give my baby some peace, not for the benefit of others. No one has ever said anything to me when I feed in public. Despite my comfort with feeding I have even used parents rooms, mainly because I want somewhere peaceful to feed my baby, not so I wouldn’t make others uncomfortable.

    • @Kristy, I agree – it’s really about what makes the mum comfortable. I sometimes used a cover just to stop Kyra from being so distracted, but I’ve not even taken it out with us in at least six months. Thanks for the comment!

  2. It’s nice to read something nice about people supporting breastfeeding mothers in England. I really have only ever read negative things. Other mums in Britain will appreciate reading your experiences.

    • Thank you Melodie! I’m both surprised and not by that. It’s a funny ol’ place. But I think a lot has to do with your attitude. If you’re apologetic, people will take advantage of that. The only time I ever ask if the guys in the room mind if I breastfeed, is when I’m in their homes. In my own or out in public, they have to accept that my child has a right to eat.

  3. I appreciate your thoughts about the term “nursing in public” – it does emphasize the fact that the subject is up for discussions (when it shouldn’t be). It’s kind of like the “breast is best” term – it should be the STANDARD, not the “best.”
    Dionna @ Code Name: Mama’s last blog post ..Toddler Nursing Under Cover

    • @Dionna @ Code Name: Mama, Absolutely agreed! Breast is normal – Nursing is normal, wherever. That’s what I’d like to see.

      But then I also don’t like the term ‘alternative healing’ – I prefer ‘original healing’ – what we have here today is the alternative!

  4. I agree with you. Breastfeeding in public is one way of sending a message to other mothers to promote breastfeeding.

  5. I am just a nurser. And I feed her a lot in public. I am not going to leave the “party” to feed my daughter. I don’t think this is even a question for people who bottle feed, it shouldn’t be one for those who nurse.
    georgine’s last blog post ..This Just In- Charlie Barely Has A Tooth

    • @georgine, Absolutely! Nor is it for toddlers who eat – so at what point do babies become people too? They’re always people in my view and should be treated as such

    • @Kathie Dapbim, Thank you for sharing. I love the ’emotional bandwidth’ concept. And I think it’s a true reality! I think the author and I have the same ideas in mind – bringing feeding to place where it is a ‘norm’. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  6. Lauren @ Hobo Mama

    I really think this is beautiful. I hope we can move beyond the breastfeeding in public debate so that one day we’ll look back on all the kerfuffle over public nursing and wonder why it was ever contested. Babies need to eat; mamas can provide that food, wherever they are; the end.
    Lauren @ Hobo Mama’s last blog post ..Wordless Wednesday- Nursing in public

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