In case you have not heard, a mother was recently harassed in a Target store while she tried to breastfeed her 4 month old baby under the cover of a baby blanket. Initially an employee of the Texas Target informed her that she should nurse in one of the changing rooms. When she declined another employee told her that she could be cited for indecent exposure. Within minutes word must have spread throughout their staff and several other workers walked by to get a peek and shake their head in disapproval. Disapproval of a woman feeding her baby. Apparently these employees were concerned that her public act of breastfeeding would bother her fellow shoppers. How many customers complained? Not one. After this story had garnered national attention (at least among those concerned with breastfeeding and women's right), Target issued a statement saying that “guests who choose to breastfeed in public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable".
Unfortunately, I did not find this story very shocking. As a mother that breastfed two babies for a total of 35 months between them I had experienced a fair amount of ignorance and ill treatment. A museum employee once approached me while I nursed my son under a nursing cover and told me that I would be more comfortable in the "mom's lounge" in the bathroom? When I walked into the stale air of the restroom I was greeted by a folding chair. I turned right around and assumed my former position and fed my son. I have several stories like this and they all end in me standing my ground and feeding my baby. Many times I was able to nurse my babies while wearing them and no one was the wiser. Who was I hurting??
What disturbed me most about this incident was reading the comments on articles about the story. Grown men and women referring to breastfeeding as "icky" and "inappropriate". That this woman must have wanted to cause a scene because she refused to be relegated to a stall to feed her baby. Others questioned her fitness as a mother for not pumping bottles in anticipation of his hunger. Still more made rude comments about her body (HELLO, she just had a baby four months before!. I was aghast. Do these same people clutch their pearls when they pass a Victoria's Secret? when they watch cable? Can't they understand that this woman was just trying to provide milk to her baby??
Listen, I know that not everyone can or wants to breastfeed. I feel very strongly that "breast is best" but I know that every mother just wants to raise a healthy baby and has to make her own choices. What I do not understand is why all the moms of the world are not enraged at what happened in Target. Why it is okay for corporate America to use images of breasts to sell clothes, beer, cars and so much more but not okay for me to feed my baby? Nursing moms are not trying to expose themselves, to shock people or to cause a commotion- they just want to feed their babies. They do not want to feed them in a dank public restroom or in the broom closet. Why aren't we more concerned with nurturing these moms so that they can feel more comfortable in their role as a mother? Why are breastfeeding moms being harassed in 21st century America??
My sons are 5 and 2. I have no problem with them witnessing a mother nurse their child. I want them to grow up knowing that breasts serve a biological purpose and are not just there to be ogled. If I am ever blessed with a daughter I want her to know the power of her body and all that it is capable of. I want her to breastfeed confidently without feeling as though she is going to be harassed. I want her to feel as though her rights as a woman are upheld.