Originally posted Sept. 12, 2009
What's that expression? Don't bring up religion or
politics unless you wanna pick a fight? Well, go on and add
public breastfeeding to the list. It seems it still raises
eyebrows and ire, as Chicago mom Lauren Trost recently learned.
Various news outlets reported that last month, Trost nursed her
seven-month-old son in Giddings Plaza in Lincoln Square when a
woman approached her and threatened to call the police.
Trost's behavior was "indecent," she claimed, then she cited the
other children present as her concern.
Maybe those other children were hers. Maybe she didn't
want them to see a mother bonding with and feeding her baby,
perhaps in a way unfamiliar to them. They might get ideas
about what others consider natural and normal, and learn that
breasts are more than mere sex toys.
They might even be inspired to breastfeed their own babies
And that would be a bad thing?
Trost, who reported that she's always discreet when nursing in
public, was stunned. "I'm just feeding my baby," she
Public breastfeeding is perfectly legal in the U.S.
At least 43 states, including Illinois, specifically protect a
"mother's right to breastfeed her baby in any location, public or
private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be."
Trost was so upset by the incident that she decided to take a
stand and staged a nurse-in last Friday at the same park. She
figured on a few friends, but word spread and sixty mothers showed
up. Some even drove a couple of hours or more just to be
These days it's common knowledge that breastfeeding is
beneficial to both mothers and babies, but I get that sometimes
it's hard to watch. I think that breastfeeding, like other
public displays of such obviously intimate experiences, inspires
curiosity and a myriad of thoughts and emotions for
observers. So maybe your heckler was really just having a
'moment,' Trost, while you and your baby were having yours.
Long before I had kids I got a glimpse of what the debate was
Oh, but maybe glimpse' isn't the right word...
Wanting to contest a speeding ticket, I reported to the crowded
courthouse and took my seat in the corridor outside the
courtroom. A teenaged boy nervously sat down beside me.
Directly opposite us was a mom and her children and before long she
unbuttoned her shirt. My neighbor squirmed when her daughter,
who looked to be about four-years-old, climbed into her lap and
asked to nurse, but then her much older brother kicked her off and
demanded his "turn." His feet never left the floor. He
just kind of leaned over and, well, you get the picture.
"I will never speed again, I swear," my neighbor
whispered. Beads of sweat appeared above the peach-fuzz on
his upper lip as he turned to me wide-eyed. "I can't
Giving up your seat meant forfeiting your space in line, so we
were forced to stay put and wait it out.
"There there, it's gonna be okay," I shushed, patting his
Traffic court was nothing compared to the scene in the
Later, I had my own babies.
Like Trost, I chose to breastfeed. I also nursed in
public, because, frankly, breastfeeding newborns need to be nursed
every two to three hours and I had places to go and things to
do. I made my first attempt when Noah was four weeks
old. I sat toward the rear of the group of writers I'd
recently joined but the moderator came and stood behind me to make
his announcements, forcing the group to look my way. I wanted
to disappear, but, as you know if you've ever nursed a new baby,
you don't just get up 'midstream' and relocate.
Nursing in public isn't always easy, but if you want to get a
life, it's necessary.
By the time Holly came along I had it down. I rescued my
toddler from various perils while the baby was "latched-on" and
even engaged in witty repartee with other parents while I nursed
and scanned the jungle-gym for signs that my three-year-old, caked
in a gritty mix of sunscreen and sand, still had a heartbeat.
It was thrilling and I miss it.
I thought I could leap over tall buildings back then.
My mom used to claim she could cook dinner while nursing.
I never tried that, but I admit I often typed columns with one hand
while nursing, particularly at deadline time.
Aren't you glad I gave that up?
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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