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On Parenting
Posted at 05:18 PM ET, 12/20/2011

Target nurse-ins to show that breast-feeding is not ‘exhibitionism’

Target is bracing for a nationwide nurse-in after a Houston-area woman reported that she had been asked to stop breast-feeding her child at a local store.


A nurse-in at the Hirshhorn Museum in February. (Sarah L. Voisin - THE WASHINGTON POST)
Michelle Hickman told the breast-feeding advocacy group Best for Babes that she had been Christmas shopping when her baby woke hungry. She found a remote area and tried to discreetly breast-feed, but several employees tried to discourage her, and when that didn’t work, embarrass her so that she’d stop.

Now the Facebook page where the nurse-in is being organized has more than 3,000 members. Hundreds of them signed up this week as media picked up the story.

Antoine LaFromboise, a Target spokesman, told me that Target had apologized to Hickman and was aware of the planned nurse-ins.

LaFromboise said that store employees will “feel proud to support” the women who join the protest. “Guests who choose to breast-feed in public places in our stores should feel welcome to do so.”

The apology is important, but it doesn’t address the main problem. From the guards at D.C.’s Department of Motor Vehicles to the Target employees, misguided ideas about nursing persist. I was reminded of that last week when I read through the comments for a post about a Washington lawyer who had been forced to stop nursing at Washington’s DMV headquarters. Many of them were surprisingly reactionary.

Here are a few examples:

“It’s legal and inappropriate. This is clearly supposed to be a private act, but we don’t want to criminalize a mother feeding her child. So it was made legal so mothers wouldn’t be harassed by the police in the rare event that a mother had to feed her child and could not find a discreet place. However, making it legal was not a license to flaunt one’s breasts in public like many women do.”

“I don’t want to see anyone breast feeding in public no more than I want to see people making out. Or using the bathroom, ect.”

“There’s a huge streak of exhibitionism in some of the women who breastfeed — they get a real thrill out of whipping ‘em out on the front steps of City Hall, and so they do it. AND they get ugly with people who don’t want to look at that.”

(Read that last one again if you really want to get angry.)

One of my favorite responses to those comments:

“The best way to ‘spread the word’ that it’s ‘legal’ (the very idea that we have to ‘prove’ this is ‘legal’ and have legal protection to do something that is so very, very NORMAL is a sad statement on modern society) is for mamas to do it as needed and if someone gives them flak, they let them know it’s legal and make a stink. Don’t be embarrassed, don’t be shy!”

What are your thoughts about changing misperceptions of breast-feeding? Are nurse-ins the way to change attitudes?

By  |  05:18 PM ET, 12/20/2011

Tags:  nursing, nurse-in, breast-feeding

 
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