Friday, July 9, 2010

Stay-At-Home-Mom: Carnival of Nursing in Public

Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public

This post was written for inclusion in the All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public ("NIP"). See the bottom of this post for more information.

I would love to be breastfeeding and/or pregnant for pretty much the next 10-15 years of my life. Crazy? Maybe a little. But let me explain. My hubby comes from a family of 6, and his mom is one of 8 kids. His aunts have between 2 and 9 kids (the one with only 2 is the youngest and may have more!) Family gatherings at his grandparents' house are some of the most joyful events I've ever been exposed to, with kids running around, teenaged cousins watching sports together, engaged 20-somethings showing off their rings, middle aged aunts cooking and gushing about their grandkids and bragging about their honors students, and nursing mamas and their grinning babies. Seeing these happy large families has given me the confidence that I could successfully raise 6-8 kids if I'm able to have that many.

So for me, and for other mamas who want or already have large families, the issue of nursing in public seems even more pressing. I guess it's sort of like taking the concept to the logical extreme. Because the nursing phase of my life (hopefully) won't be over anytime soon. It will be a big chunk of my life. In fact, when my almost-year-old baby is a teenager, there's a good chance I'll be nursing a new baby.

Very few people in contemporary American society would argue against the proposition that women in general have the right to be in public places. Yet many of them do argue that nursing moms should just stay home until their babies are old enough/weaned enough that they don't need to nurse in public. I've seen this proposed in the comments on pretty much every news story I've read about a nursing mom being told to stop or leave the public place she was at. I've also heard it from relatives.

Which leads me back to my 10-15 year plan. If I have older kids and teenagers and nurslings at the same time, I can't live in some sort of babies-and-mommies-only-dreamworld. I will have to (and want to) be out in public, driving my kids to stuff and watching them compete and perform.

And you know, babies don't "choose" when they want to nurse. They get hungry and want to eat, or get frightened and want to nurse for comfort. Period. There isn't a thought process like there is for adults, or an understanding of time that allows babies to think "well, we're almost done here, so I'll just wait 15 minutes to nurse." At some point (although I'm not sure when) a nursling may be old enough to be asked to wait and to understand what that means enough to be willing to do it. But not for a long while. Anyway, if a nursing mama and her nursling are out in public for hours at a time, there's a good chance the little one will want to nurse at some point.

My question for people who say nursing mamas should stay home is this: if my current baby turns into a baseball player, and has a tournament, do I not have as much right as any other parent to go watch him play? And what if I do have a nursing baby-say 4 months old, old enough to be out and about, but young enough to be nursing exclusively and frequently? To argue that I should stay at home instead of being present at my older children's activities is an infringement of my rights as a parent, and my human right to go out in public.

Guess what? I'm not hiding in my house for the next 15 years so I can nurse my babies. I'm going to nurse my babies in front of their older siblings. And any of their friends who happen to be around. I'll try to use discretion, but I honestly don't think it damages kids psychologically to see mothers breastfeeding (which seems to be the implication of many people who argue that they don't want their kids to "see that"). I think it's probably good for them, if anything.

If you can make it work financially, I think being a stay-at-home mom is best for kids, which I believe is well-supported by social science data and anecdotal evidence. But to argue that moms actually have to literally stay in their homes? Absurd.

Art by Erika Hastings at

Welcome to the Carnival of Nursing in Public

Please join us all week, July 5-9, as we celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. And visit any time to connect with other breastfeeding supporters, learn more about your legal right to nurse in public, and read (and contribute!) articles about breastfeeding and N.I.P.

Do you support breastfeeding in public? Grab this badge for your blog or website to show your support and encourage others to educate themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers and children.

This post is just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts - new articles will be posted on the following days:
July 5 - Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World
July 6 – Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child
July 7 – Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.
July 8 – Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives
July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It


  1. Well put. Bieng a nursing mama requires being present with our children at all times, and if that isn't something that is already expected of most parents as the ideal then what's the problem?

  2. I've never understood people who expect nursing moms to stay home - where is the logic in that? Of course that inevitably brings on the argument about "well just pump and give a bottle." Ugh. (And I admire your desire to have a large family - I'd love to, but I think I started to late to do it naturally. Adoption is always a possibility though!)

  3. When people tell us to "stay home until the baby's weaned," they usually expect that we will be only nursing for the first 6-12 weeks. This is "cultural breastfeeding," but it's not enough to give the baby what he needs. We're recommended to nurse for at least a year, but so few people do it! As more people *try* nursing, but wean to a bottle early on, I hear the comment more and more, "I nursed my babies and I never did it in public, so I don't see why anyone else has to." Then you find out they weaned at 8 weeks.

    I don't have a solution for this, except to remind people that one year is the *minimum* recommended by the AAP and at least *two* years is recommended by the WHO. I don't think any rational person would suggest that a woman stay homebound for two years for every child -- that's kind of chauvinist. They just have to understand that that's what they're asking when they ask us to stay home as long as we're nursing.

  4. I love this. You and me are so much alike. You're right though, how can you be a good mom if you are always home with your nursing baby. That's crazy.

  5. wonderful argument, Maman. My older son and I are social butterflies; I can't imagine how difficult it would be if i were housebound for the past 5 years and 3 months "just" because I've been nursing that long! ;)

  6. I have a husband that works two jobs, so I am the one who has to go out in 'the public' for needed items in the house. I could not imagine how our house would be like in the 3 years of me nursing my daughter, which looks like will be going towards 4 years).

    The commentors are right, it's usually the people who never breastfeed (or couldn't if you're male), or did not breastfeed for a long period of time who says there ignorant remarks.

  7. So glad to have found your blog!! You have such a good point, and I think it is one that most people don't think of since so many do not have large families any more, just as so many do not nurse more than a few months. Their perception of the nursing years is that it will be a few months, maybe twice in your life. So not only is our culture biased against people who nurse for longer periods, but also to those who have several children.

    Way to be a proponent of larger families and extended breastfeeding!! I love your description of your large extended family... that sounds delightful, and I hope to be able to have more children too. I'm one of four children and my dad is one of five - never a dull moment when there is a family gathering! :)

  8. I am so grateful for other Mom's like you out there. I recently had a "break up" of sorts with a friend of mine because of our opposing views on nursing. Which is unfortunate. Her new husband was offended when THEY came to visit ME three days after my youngest was born and saw me nursing without cover. Oh. Brother. :::Sigh:::
    I really think it's unfortunate when so called "Christian conservatives" oppose to public breastfeeding. Let me tell you, I am LDS (Mormon) and I don't even leave during the main meeting in church to nurse. And no one gives me a sideways glance for nursing in the meeting. That's also the only instance in which I do attempt to cover, for the speaker's sake. But if covering doesn't work out...sorry for distracting from the meeting...
    I think LDS is about as conservative as you can I tend to chuckle when "conservatives" play the Christian manners card on me. :)

  9. "oppose to public breast feeding" should be "are opposed to public breast feeding". That was my typo and it's driving me batty rereading it. :)

  10. My husband is terminally ill. He has been in the hospital since the end of April. This makes me a single mom of three boys, one is 10 months old and nurses like crazy. How exactly am I supposed to take my oldest to school, go to the park, get shopping done, etc while staying at home? These people really need to think before they speak!

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