“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.

Participating in Occupy Boston

So as I said I would do all week I went down to Occupy Boston today. My intent was to listen to a lecture, but that is not what happened. I met a friend down there and tried to listen, but since its been almost a month since I had been there I was so overwhelmed and interested in how much had changed that we decided to walk around instead. The baby was snug in her ergo and enjoying looking around, it was a beautiful sunny day, and while I still find the site inspiring, I was also a little unsettled. Not by anything I saw, I still find the occupation to be amazing, but by my role, or lack there of gave me pause. This was an issue the other two times I went. Both times I just walked around. The big question, the thing that I find upsetting is how do I participate? Is just going, adding my body to the camp for an hour in the middle of the day, is that enough? Because of the baby I can’t participate in the general assembly (7pm?!?! way to close to bedtime), I don’t feel safe bringing her to a large march where things could easily get out of hand. I am often left feeling like I’m missing out on the movement of my generation because of the baby. I find the space so inspiring, that folks who are living in the encampment as creating a version of what they want the world to look like, that decisions are made by consensus, that some conversations about privilege, power, and oppressions are happening, and happening with folks who perhaps have not yet considered them. I am also aware of all the challenges and problematic elements of the space, but none of them would cause me not to participate. I am struck by the irony of the fact that a movement like this, long term social change/social justice, is precisely for future generations, for my daughter, and yet, what role can I play with a 6 month old?

Then I remember that if the movement really is about long term social change, than being at the encampment, going to marches, while exciting, are not all that needs to occur. I remember that there are many ways I can make this change occur. One is how we decide to raise our daughter, not just making sure we are aware of not limiting her options, but also making sure that she truly understands the reality of the world around her, her role, and how to truly treat other human beings.

It means at Halloween, I don’t want her to walk around with a UNICEF collection box, thinking that is the way to solve problems. I want her to understand why there is poverty and how we benefit from the systems that create that poverty. I want us all, as a family, as a community, to think about change that doesn’t just involve feeding people, but involves changing the system so that people aren’t hungry in the first place. I know that all these lessons have to come at different times developmentally, but I think there is a way to have that broader understanding in mind, when doing the little things. I’m just not sure how to do that yet.

Thank god her biggest problem right now is getting everything in her mouth. We will deal with the bigger things when the time comes.