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I can’t count the times I’ve been told by a fellow mom that she was asked to “cover-up” “leave” or “use a bottle” because a stranger was uncomfortable that she was breastfeeding in public.
American culture has sexualized women’s breasts so much that breastfeeding mothers have to defend their right to breastfeed in public. And, it’s completely unnecessary.
In 2011, Nebraska joined many other states that legally recognized a mother’s right to breast-feed public.
I recently asked my mother Stephanie Johnston, a lactation consultant at Alegent Creighton University Medical Center (photographed above), to help answer some common questions about breastfeeding in public.
Here’s her advice:
Q: Should a breastfeeding mother use a nursing cover in public?
A: The simple answer: whatever the breastfeeding mother is comfort with.
Some women choose to cover up because it’s what they’re comfortable with; some choose to cover up because that’s what other people are comfortable with; and then there are women who choose not to cover up at all.
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We got a kick out of the mom in this Luvs breastfeeding commercial. Click the video below to see how she reacts to breastfeeding the first and second time around.
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Q: Is there such a thing as breastfeeding etiquette?
A: I’ve read some harsh opinions about how a “polite” mother breastfeeds. My view is pretty basic, the female body is designed to nourish her child. Somewhere along the line our culture lost sight of this and now we’re all afraid to catch a glimpse of a baby latched to her mother’s breast.
Good breastfeeding etiquette is not intruding on the rights of a breastfeeding mother. If breastfeeding offends you and you happen to see a mother breastfeeding, look away.
Q: How do should a breastfeeding mother voice her legal right?
A: My daughter Lydia currently breastfeeds her 9-month-old son. A few weeks ago she was out shopping when she needed to feed her baby. So she found a place in the back of the store and sat down and began to feed him. As she was breastfeeding an employee approached her and asked if she could find somewhere else to do so. This probably sounds mortifying to some women, but Lydia simply said, “I have a legal right.” And that was the end of the discussion.
Saying “I have a legal right” is usually all someone needs to hear. If not, ask to speak to a manager and again verbalize that you are within your legal rights. If you’re still being asked not to breastfeed, you should call the store’s corporate office and file a complaint.
I understand that confrontation is uncomfortable and it’s easier to say, “OK,” pack-up and move. But, we are pioneers for this change and if we don’t stand up for our right, then we leave this battle for our daughters and granddaughters to fight.
Q: What exactly is Nebraska’s law?
A: It (2011 Neb. Laws, L.B. 197) specifies that a mother may breastfeed her child in any public or private location where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.
Unfortunately, women have been sent to public restrooms, where they are forced to feed their babies in unsanitary conditions. No mother wants to feed her child by a toilet. Would you eat at the toilet?
Q: Should women pump and prepare a bottle before going out?
A: It’s an option. But each mother should decide what’s best for her family. Mothers should follow their intuitions and comfort level while keeping their legal rights in mind. Feel empowered to make breastfeeding decisions on your convictions alone.
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Here are a few community resources you might find helpful:
Visit a breastfeeding support group at your local hospital. For instance, the Alegent Creighton University Medical Center has one, click here for details.
Check out Methodist Women’s Hospital breastfeeding support group.
For consulting, supplies and class visit Breastfeeding Support and Supplies of Omaha’s website, by clicking here.
La Leche League is a national organization that provides support for breastfeeding mothers by breastfeeding mothers, for more information on Omaha’s group, click here.
Milkworks, in Lincoln creates a healthier community by helping mothers breastfeed their babies.
OneWorld is a inexpensive community health center that provides wonderful medical care for new mothers including breastfeeding support.
Visit a local WIC office, which provide nutrient guidance, vouchers for certain food and even have programs that give women who exclusively breast feed pumps, for more information, click here.
Anna Backhaus, 29, is a mother of three boys and student at University of Nebraska at Omaha, interning for momaha this fall. Read more of her blogs, by clicking here.
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