Breastfeeding on Capitol Hill at the Great Nurse-In

Why take breastfeeding – a vital, intimate exchange between a mother and baby – to the West Lawn of the United States Capitol Building? Over 600 mothers and their babies, as well as hundreds more partners, children, and other supporters, gathered in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, August 4, 2012, for just such a cause. The first-ever Great Nurse-In was a peaceful celebration of breastfeeding, designed by local mother Rachel Papantonakis to raise awareness of the need for pro-breastfeeding legislation to support mothers and babies.

A show of hands at the event demonstrated how many women experience mistreatment for breastfeeding in public. It’s way too common, and can easily happen to a discreet breastfeeder. I might not have believed it, until it happened to me. As I explained to the crowd during open-mic time, in my early years of mothering I viewed breastfeeding as a loving exchange between mother and child that should simply take place wherever the hungry baby needed to eat. Being a relatively shy and modest person who also did not want to feel trapped inside my home, I nursed baby discreetly wherever we needed. A total of three uneventful years of nursing in public unfolded and then I experienced breastfeeding harassment at a Pottery Barn store while nursing my second child – just a wee 7-week-old baby. That rude experience taught me that even when we breastfeeding mamas quietly go about our business of caring for our babes, others might try to stand in our way.

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My Bittersweet World Breastfeeding Week 2012

It’s so exciting to feel the incredible sisterhood of breastfeeding supporters celebrating our natural means of caring for our little ones during World Breastfeeding Week. Had I never experienced breastfeeding mistreatment firsthand, I would probably not be as tickled by all the hoopla of breastfeeding advocacy that makes early August so fun. If I had the time, I could have spent long hours the last two days immersed in the sea of pro-breastfeeding messages, youtube videos, blog posts, GE’s Olympics commercial, and more floating around the Internet.

So, when asked how I was celebrating World Breastfeeding Week (by the Breastfeeding Blog Hop), I convinced baby we should pause the 10th replay of this sweet video long enough to compose a couple thoughts:

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Birth of a ​Breastfeeding Advocate

This post is part of the weekly breastfeeding blog hop, hosted by The Slacker Mom, and co-hosted by The Gnome’s Mom and Happiness Redefined. This week’s topic is “What Breastfeeding Advocacy Means to Us.” Please visit The Slacker Mom to see the linky list and read everyone’s entries, as WordPress.com can’t show it here.

This week’s topic is dear to my heart. I was lucky to find help and recover from a rocky start to breastfeeding (see this post) and graduate from sweating-like-crazy nervousness while nursing in public to blissful comfort and ease. Then, I had an experience that shook my breastfeeding world and launched me into breastfeeding advocacy. This is my story. (The following is excerpted and slightly adapted from the About page at Breastfeeding Friendly.)

On a cold March evening, I paused to nurse my hungry baby while shopping at a Pottery Barn store. The store manager approached and asked me to stop breastfeeding my seven-week-old baby. I was shocked and deeply disturbed that such ignorance could interrupt a baby’s basic human need being met. Such mistreatment could even upset a woman to the point that she limits or stops breastfeeding her baby altogether, increasing health risks to her and her baby.

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Return to the Blog

Dear Reader(s),

As you may have noticed, I started this blog in 2008 and have entered nothing since the day it went live. I think I did mention “gradually” adding to it. Let’s remember, many good things happen only once every four years: the Olympics and Leap Year for example!

Now to explain: A colorful and challenging string of life’s adventures has held higher priority in my life the last four years than growing and maintaining a blog. It’s funny (to me) that this is a blog, because at the time I set it up, all I was really looking to do was get a copy of my letter to Pottery Barn regarding the mistreatment I received while breastfeeding in one of their stores out on the internet. I had numerous requests from other breastfeeding moms for the letter after the article about my experience ran in Mothering magazine and thought it’d save us all time to put the letter out there.

Anyhow, back to 2008. Quick research on the best way to get the letter out there resulted in me setting up a free WordPress blog. Blog? I hadn’t planned to blog. At the least the letter would be available to the world. Blog? Huh. What would I write about or feature? How could I use the blog to have a positive impact on the breastfeeding landscape? Blog? Maybe… So, I started with a couple basic entries.

And then my 20-month-old lobbed a matchbox car at my laptop screen. Crack! Continue reading

Laura Alber Reinforces Pottery Barn’s Breastfeeding-Friendly Stance

Laura Alber deserves the first Breastfeeding-Friendly Award. That’s it. We’ll start an award – but more on that later. Let me share the latest on her rise to breastfeeding promotion heights!

Hopefully you’ve caught the low-down on my Pottery Barn breastfeeding mistreatment and all that ensued from this site, Mothering, or talks on the playground. If not, read “Birth of a Lactivist” to truly appreciate this:

After “Birth of a Lactivist” appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of Mothering and the kind staff there sent me the pdf of the essay, I forwarded it to Laura Alber, President of Williams-Sonoma and the Pottery Barn brand. She’s the one who made things right after the mistreatment.

Alber emailed back less than half an hour later. She applauded the article and said she plans to send it to all Pottery Barn stores as a friendly reminder of their new breastfeeding-welcome-here policy.  Way to seize the opportunity.

On a personal note, she added that she’ll share it with her mother, a lactation consultant! “She will be proud.”

Yes, she should be proud — of you Laura. Well done!

 International Breastfeeding Symbol

Welcome to Breastfeeding Friendly

I dream of our world being breastfeeding friendly. I dream of attitudes, policies, support, resources, and smiling faces surrounding every mama caring for her baby.

I dream of support as simple as a book from a friend, an example set by a confident nursing woman at the store, or a word of support from a relative. In a breastfeeding-friendly world, I imagine a pregnant woman’s path toward motherhood might include breastfeeding classes and discussions with her health care providers about what to expect during that first nursing session. Following the baby’s birth, I envision it might include a husband’s loving embrace or the valuable assistance from a midwife, nurse, or lactation consultant as baby latches on for the first time, connecting with the body that has nourished it for nine months in a new way, deriving superior health and developmental benefits. Weeks later, as a new mama ventures out with her newborn to new places, a breastfeeding-friendly world implies accommodating a mother in need of nursing her baby.

It means strangers walking by smile admiringly, happy to see the beautiful biological norm of a human baby feeding. It means a mother, relaxed and confident that she is supported in her new role as she provides for her baby. It means a working mother receiving support from her employer to pump breastmilk for her baby. It means a baby experiencing life as nature intended.

I have experienced such support a myriad of times in my role as a breastfeeding mother. I am grateful to all who created such breastfeeding-friendly environments.

However, I had one experience of breastfeeding mistreatment at a Pottery Barn store that led to the creation of this site – a blog that I hope will inspire and equip others to create a more breastfeeding-friendly world. I welcome you to read more about it in the About section and in “Birth of a Lactivisit,” my personal essay which appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of Mothering. I plan to gradually enrich this blog with resources and more stories about creating a breastfeeding-friendly world, and invite you to share your resources and stories too.

Thanks for visiting and come again soon.  And thanks to all of you who encouraged me to start this blog!