Sunday, January 13, 2013

Nursing Normalcy

by Sarah Bailey, Guest Blogger

If you were in Parkway Place Mall Saturday afternoon  week ago, you may have witnessed a nurse-in.  Didn't notice?  Maybe you noticed a small group of cute babies with mommies and families hanging out inside and outside of Hollister?  This was a nurse-in.

Although we were small in number with just over a dozen Tennessee Valley moms, dads, nurslings, and siblings participating, I think we perfectly represented what it means to nurse in public. Wearing our babies in slings and wraps, we met outside the store, walked around inside a bit, and sat in the big comfy chairs, shopping like any other customer.  The only difference is we nursed our babies while doing so.  No one stared, looked, or even seemed to notice.  One security guard was around at first, but he quickly lost interest. We were normal shoppers.  And that's what nursing in public should be.

Nationally, almost a thousand people gathered at 140 Hollister Stores in malls around the country on Saturday, January 5 at 3:00 pm.  Canadians organized and participated in 4 Hollister stores.  In Virginia Beach, VA, over 80 protesters showed.  A Texas location drew an impressive crowd of over 50 people to the nurse-in at the mall where Brittany Warfield  was screamed at by a Hollister manager on December 26, 2012.  He created a scene by yelling that she could not nurse her baby in front of their store.  She knew her rights, but was humiliated while she discreetly nursed.  This specific incident fueled this Hollister Nurse-in, planned entirely via social media outlets.  Friends, acquaintances, and strangers came together across two countries to back up this mother and support a woman's right to nurse in public.  Facebook entries indicate that nursing in public rights are receiving global attention, with posts and comments hailing from as far away as Australia. 

Most of the nurse-ins this past Saturday were comparable to ours.  Five or less moms and babies participated at many stores with no drama. Just a normal day out with baby, albeit carrying a copy of our rights  in our back pockets should we be challenged. 

Unfortunately, a few moms needed their copies of these rights on Saturday.  Most notable was a small group questioned by security guards at Concord Mall  in Delaware. The mom and nursling pairs participating in the nurse-in were told to stop breastfeeding or leave by mall security. The security guards called the police, and the guards followed the mothers around the mall.  The event was called "an eyesore" on the mall's Facebook page, and a subsequent post contained a sexual slur   The page has since been taken down, and the mall is denying involvement of any of its employees in these offensive posts.  After making a call to the mall myself stating I was writing about the event in a blog post, I was advised to wait until the investigation was completed for an official public announcement on their website.  Coincidentally, I checked their site and this statement  posted within hours of my call. It states that the mall intends to comply with breastfeeding laws and issues an apology for the inconvenience at the nurse-in.  The security officers have reportedly been removed pending investigation. The mall denies having an official Facebook page, and claims to be in the process of reporting violations for the crude unauthorized posts.

The moms at Concord Mall were harassed.  Although the law protects the right to nurse in public, most state laws lack an enforcement provision.  This means that moms who are harassed for breastfeeding in public have absolutely no recourse in most states.  Moms are unable to take legal action against the harasser.  Wondering why this matters?  Imagine missing a flight, being unable to console your sick baby in a hospital, or being interrupted while peacefully eating a meal you purchase in a restaurant because someone is interfering with your rights.  This site  provides detailed accounts of just a few of the actual situations in which recourse is certainly justifiable. 

Should you find yourself challenged while breastfeeding in public, continue nursing confidently and ask for the owner or manager of the business.  Administrators are more likely to have appropriate training and may end the confrontation immediately.  Have a copy of your rights with you at all times.  Note the names of the people confronting you, and snap pictures with cell phones if possible. If harassment does not cease, you may call the police as the harassers are breaking the law by interfering with your right to nurse in public.  Simply stating to the harasser that you intend to call the police may be effective in getting them to bug off.  Unfortunately complete strangers or family members may also comment unfavorably on your decision to breastfeed in public. Be ready with responses  and talking points  if you feel inclined to defend your choice.

Working together, we can raise awareness of rights to nurse in public and hopefully prevent confrontations from happening to nursing moms.  Nurse-in events are an effective vehicle for raising awareness even though enforcement provisions are few and far between for now.  Corporations are forced to quickly disseminate information or provide sensitivity training to their employees on laws about breastfeeding in public or face the consequences of unfavorable publicity for inappropriate responses to nursing in public and organized nurse-ins.
Being a Nurturing Moments follower myself, I know this post is reaching the choir.  Participating in this nurse-in may not have fit your schedule this past Saturday, but you can still help normalize nursing in public. Here are six things you can do to make a difference:

1)  Nurse confidently in public, knowing your right to do so is protected by law.
2)  Support other moms who nurse in public.  Should you see a nursing mom being harassed in public for nursing, go stand by her. . Bullies are less likely to continue attacking a mother with support. 

3)  Report any harassment to the Nursing in Public Harassment Hotline - - 1-888-NIP-FREE.  Learn why reporting is important here.

4)  Plan to attend a future nurse-in for your area, with a nursling or not.  Support from family, friends, and moms with weaned babies is very helpful.  Join a new Nurse-Ins group on Facebook to be sure to learn about any upcoming events. 

5)  Use social media to spread the message. Feel free to share this post or an article of your choice. The more people see information about nursing in mainstream media, the better educated the public will be on nursing in public rights.

6) Help by advocating for an enforcement provision.  You can get started here

1 comment:

  1. LOVE IT! Great job, Sarah! Keep up the good work!