Monday, January 30, 2012

Thoughts on Nurse-Ins

A few weeks ago, there was a lot of buzz around facebook and the breastfeeding community because of a Target Nurse In.
What is a nurse in? Well, kind of like a sit in, but moms go to nurse their children, or support nursing moms, at an establishment that has had a "breastfeeding incident". Recently, a mom was asked to leave a Target store for nursing her child USING A COVER. This of course, resulted in outrage from the breastfeeding community, and a nurse in resulted.

I have mixed feelings on nurse-ins. On one hand, I feel companies need to have their employees understand breastfeeding, the right of the child to eat wherever it needs to be, laws that protect breastfeeding in most states, and have a company policy regarding breastfeeding. The lax policy target has on breastfeeding is an issue. However, on the other hand, as someone who worked as a manager in fast food, I know that no matter what your company policy may be- you will always have employees who let their own feelings get in the way, and don't follow the policy.

So how do I feel about nurse ins? I don't think they are wrong by any means. BUT- I think they may be ineffective. Most of the things I read regarding the nurse ins at Target were from those who already advocate breastfeeding. Those who are uncomfortable with breastfeeding in public were still uncomfortable and actually felt these women who participated in the nurse in were "hippies", "pushy", "weird", and one person even used the term "breastfeeding freaks".

A nurse-in shows an extreme. A bunch of mothers coming to make a statement. Sure, it may send the message to a company, but most the time the company itself is not the issue. Plenty of mothers have breastfed in Target with little to no issues. Both with and without using a cover. And few that have had issues, have been asked to leave once they inform the employee of their legal right to breastfeed in public.
The issue is with individuals. People. Employees. Not because of what the company says is appropriate, but because what they have been taught by society as being appropriate and not appropriate.

Just like the sit-ins in the 60s & 70s didn't change most peoples opinions (that were not part of the movement), and made them think those who participated were extremists, rebels, freaks (with few exceptions like the civil rights movement), I have noticed nurse ins have the same effect. I read more negative comments then positive from those who were not already strong breastfeeding advocates.

Part of me thinks that this is because women feel that just because someone supports breastfeeding it means they are against formula and are trying to attack formula feeding. This is not the case. Honestly, all we are concerned about is being able to nourish our baby, just like a mother who bottle feeds. With nobody telling us to go to a bathroom, a car, or pump before coming out.

However, part of this is because society has sexualized breasts. BREASTS WERE MADE TO FEED BABIES. END OF STORY. The sexual pleasure of breasts is just an added bonus. It gets old hearing how people say breastfeeding is sexual, will make babies obsessed with breasts, and the such. CHILDREN DO NOT KNOW ABOUT SEXUALITY OF BREASTS UNTIL THEY ARE TAUGHT ABOUT IT. Because of the view our society has placed on breasts, people think these nurse ins are inappropriate and as wild and extreme as bra burning, or hippies going topless.

So, if I think nurse-ins are ineffective, what do we do? The way to change society's beliefs on breastfeeding and get the message across is to breastfeed. Not in large groups, organized to do so and trying to send a message to a company. If we want to change the mind of the individual, we need to normalize breastfeeding by doing it like we normally would, wherever we may be. Making a special trip to Target just to nurse my baby doesn't change the mind of Target....and especially not of an employee who was embarrassed about a mom nursing with a cover. All it does is get on the news and makes those who are already uncomfortable with breastfeeding in public think we are all "freaks". I have found extreme actions and words end up pushing people away from breastfeeding more than helping them see our side.

While I always knew I would breastfeed, those who had the biggest effect on me were those who nursed without making a big deal of the fact that they were breastfeeding. It was those who just went about their business and never made a big deal about what they were doing. It was those who quietly fed their baby at the table at Olive Garden, those who would nurse during a movie, the moms I see nursing at the zoo, amusement parks, and such, with now words, no large groups, no sign that says "breast is best" or the likes. It was those who treated breastfeeding like it should be- a normal, everyday action that is not shameful, but not something you have to yell from the rooftops.

I am not saying that you shouldn't share breastfeeding information. I would be a huge hypocrite if I said that. What I am saying is that sometimes we get so gung-ho about things, we forget how we might be coming off to the mother who is still debating about breastfeeding. We forget about those who have never thought to breastfeed and are just really thinking about it for the first time.

I look at it like religion. We all want to share our religion if we believe it is true. We want others to have the joy we have. But posting a million articles on the evils of other religions or how are religion is the "best" choice, or having demonstrations at local businesses to say our religion is great- come join now, does not make people want to join. What does make them want to join? Seeing the happiness in our lives, the example we set on a daily basis, not just when an entire group gets together. Thoughtful conversations at the right time. Those are the things that get them interested. Same with breastfeeding.

When deciding to go to a nurse-in- please, really think about it. Do you believe this will make a change? If so go for it. Are you doing it because it fits your role as the breastfeeding advocate? Is the company really the problem, or is it the employee, the single person. Is this a company that is known to treat breastfeeding mothers poorly, or is this a rare occurrence?

I don't see anything wrong with nurse ins, and have wished I could attend a few when I know that it is really a specific company that has issues, and not just individual employees, but I think they are not as effective as the breastfeeding community would like to believe they are.