“Feeding rooms” and more breastfeeding in public

So we went to a big brand new baby store in the area today. I find those places overwhelming but we needed something (cause every baby needs a thanksgiving outfit, right?) and my wife loves shopping. It had a lot of nice stuff as well as the usually obnoxious “boys” and “girls” sections and so much stuff that we don’t need that is marketed to new parent anxieties. But what I want to talk about is the feeding room, which is code for a private and separate breastfeeding room.

Many of these big baby stores have these room as do many malls. On the one hand how nice and thoughtful, right? The rooms usually have comfortable chairs and are bright and cheerful. For breastfeeding parents who don’t feel comfortable in public what a nice option.

BUT, rooms like this segregate breastfeeding moms and further enforce the message that we need to hide. I refuse to go into these rooms to feed my daughter. I realize this can be a complicated choice for some moms. I totally respect women who make the choice to use those rooms. But I choose not to. And I want to change things so that women can feel comfortable breastfeeding in public.

I had to breastfeed while we were there and I sat at a chair at the front of the store and fed her. I hate being told to hide when feeding her. It means I can’t participate in whatever is going on. Lately, because she is very distractible, I’ve had to go in a quiet room when we are at friends houses or our bedroom if we have company. But that is because of where she is at not because I feel I need to hide. My job as a mom is not to make other people comfortable by hiding my body. My job is to care for and feed my daughter whenever and wherever I need to. And maybe to teach her some self esteem and body confidence along the way.
-Rachel

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5 comments on ““Feeding rooms” and more breastfeeding in public

  1. wnparker says:

    Its funny, I don’t see those rooms as telling women to hide, rather, giving moms a separate place to feed their kids if they want. I like that the option exists, and will use it. I don’t feel the need to hide my body or breast feeding, but I don’t necessarily want every stranger being a part of a time that I consider a bonding experience. Maybe my opinion is reflective of the fact that I’m not doing it yet, I don’t know…. Either way, I find it a great respect to women to offer a place with less distractions, a beautiful environment and privacy to breast feed, or bottle feed your child.
    However, even though I’m all about the right to breast feed anywhere, I’m also a fan of covering my self up with with one of those nursing wraps or a blanket because I don’t believe my body is for the viewing of every stranger that happens to walk past as I’m feeding my child. Just another opinion.

    • rachhs2 says:

      Thanks for making these points. I guess I wish we lived in a world where the existence of those separate rooms didn’t then mean you aren’t supposed to breastfeed wherever. I think those rooms create a dichotomy of where it is and is not okay to breastfeed. But I’m glad you find them inviting and useful. One other point. There is research that says that partners of breastfeeding moms are more likely to be supportive of breastfeeding if they have seen it and have experience with it. So I think creating a culture where all moms feel comfortable in public breastfeeding is a way of supporting future moms to breastfeed. I like to think of all those future partners when I breastfeed in public.

  2. allisonjf says:

    I was definitely a “nurse wherever I want, whenever the baby wants” type of person 99% of the time. I had a really hard time nursing in front of my dad, but that made sense because I know that he pressured my mom to stop nursing and we don’t have a close relationship at all. The other time that I did not nurse in public was when I was at a wedding with friends (but not my close friends, more of Paul’s friends) from college, none of whom had kids or were even really thinking about kids. Somehow, it was harder to nurse in front of them than it was to nurse in front of complete strangers. I felt so strange about it afterwards. Almost guilty about not having nursed in front of them and opened them up to the idea. Fascinating reversal of the shame that women feel around nursing.

    Thanks for another great post.

  3. kaitlin says:

    love your posts Rachel! keep writing 🙂 so much food for thought

  4. Great post. I also nurse in public, thinking that the more that I do it, the more likely other moms will as well–making life easier on all of us and our babies.

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