It’s Simply the Breast

A local mom arranges an event to encourage federal protection for nursing everywhere

July 31, 2012

Women breast-feed their babies at the Hirshhorn Museum in D.C. on Feb. 12, 2011, during a ‘nurse-in’ organized after a woman was stopped from nursing in public there.

Rachel Papantonakis is tired of people who behave like boobs when it comes to breast-feeding.

“Breast-feeding mothers, on the whole, are not exhibitionists or looking to flaunt what they’re doing,” says the District resident, a 32-year-old mom of two. “If a child can be bottle-fed someplace, so too should he be able to be breast-fed.”

It doesn’t always work that way in Washington, despite a law that recognizes the right to breast-feed in public. In December, at a D.C. government building, a mom nursing her 4-month-old was accused by a security guard of indecent exposure. Earlier last year, guards at the Hirshhorn Museum suggested a mom sit on a toilet instead of a bench to feed her daughter.

Spurred on by these incidents, Papantonakis has organized The Great Nurse-In on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Capitol grounds. She expects up to 1,000 attendees for the event, which will feature performers and activities, as well as speeches by breast-feeding proponents.

Papantonakis’ goal is a federal mandate that provides for full protection for public breast-feeding, repercussions for harassers of nursing moms, space to breast-feed or pump and store milk at workplaces and federal funding for breast-feeding education.

There’s no reason to take baby steps, says Ivor Horn, a pediatrician at Children’s National Medical Center. Research has shown that breast milk can reduce childhood infection rates and boost growth and development.

Even when nursing continues beyond a year — the duration recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics — mother and child reap bonding benefits, Horn says. And the big winners? Other people who don’t want to hear a screaming kid.

“When we get on an airplane, the easiest way to quiet him down is to boob him,” says Desiree Lomer-Clarke, a 33-year-old Arlington mom who still nurses her 2-year-old. “I feel like everyone should thank me for doing it.”

Papantonakis will settle for everyone allowing her to do it.

74.8%

The percentage of moms in D.C. who try breast-feeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2011 Breastfeeding Report Card.

Details

The Great Nurse-In kicks off Friday with registration (10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tabula Rasa, 731 8th St. SE) and a Congressional Action Day. The Capitol event Saturday will also serve as a location for the Big Latch On: At 10:30 a.m., participants around the world will attempt to break the record for the most women breast-feeding simultaneously. More details can be found at Biglatchon.org.

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