Posts Tagged 'breastfeeding criticism'

Mother Banned From School for Breastfeeding

 

One of the posts today on the babywearer forum really upset me, and I wanted to share it with you as an example of why we need further education about breastfeeding (and also to make sure that word gets around about this principal’s actions).  This was posted by one of the babywearer members in response to what happened to a local mom:

This is the mama’s post on a local board:

“I went to my son’s school on Monday. It is Flower Mound high school. I was picking him up and school had been out for 20 minutes and most kids were gone. I asked my son if he remembered to turn in a particular assignment he had previously forgotten to turn in. He said he was going to turn it in the next day, but I told him to take it up to the classroom now and get it there so it does not get forgotten. We walked to the classroom. I had all 5 of my children with me. The teacher was still in there with one other student. My son started digging through his folder for the assignment and the teacher had just had a baby and had a big announcement up with a bunch of pictures so I made small chit chat like telling her the baby was cute, nice name….where did she deliver, ..just ordinary chit chat, while my son was going through the folder. My son then handed her his paper and she started correcting it. I had not planned to stay at all. I had all 5 children with me, the baby had just made a poopoo in his diaper, but I did not want to be rude and cut her off, so we stayed. At this point, there were no other students in there but my own children. Since the baby was fussing so much, I tried to breastfeed him. This is in the classroom with the door shut and only the teacher and my children in there. Eventually, one high schooler came in so I turned to the back of the room so that one student could not see me. He dropped off what he was dropping off and left. Eventually, she finished explaining everything and we left.

Today, I get a call from the principal (and I can see from the caller ID that he had called before) informing me that he found breastfeeding there to be insulting and not appropriate to expose the high schoolers to. He informed me that from now on, I was not welcome in the building and when I arrive, I had to stay in the front office and would be provided with a restroom to breastfeed in private in!! If there is anyone I need to talk to, they would be brought to the front office to visit with me there.

I tried to tell him that in Texas, it is legal for me to breastfeed anywhere and that it is illegal to intimidate someone for breastfeeding, and he told me then get a lawyer if I don’t like it!!!

I got off the phone and have just been bawling. I am angry and humiliated all at once. What would you do?

Oh, and he claimed that he got calls from “many parents” complaining about me. That is sooo bogus! He is completely lying.”

She was banned from her son’s school building, besides the front office and office bathroom, because she nursed her baby. Discreetly, in an almost empty classroom, after school hours. The state of Texas has a law to protect nursing mothers.

Here is the exact law:

Tex. Health & Safety Code § 165.001 et seq.
1995 Tex. ALS 600; 1995 Tex. Gen. Laws 600; 1995 Tex. Ch 600; 1995 Tex. HB 359
Chapter 165. Breast-Feeding
Subchapter A. Breast-Feeding Rights and Policies
Sec. 165.001. Legislative Finding
The legislature finds that breast-feeding a baby is an important and basic act of nurture that must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health and family values. In compliance with the breast-feeding promotion program established under the Federal Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. section 1771 et seq.), the Legislature recognizes breast-feeding as the best method of infant nutrition.
Sec. 165.002. Right to Breast-Feed
A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be

Originally, the poster was calling for letters to be written on the mama’s behalf, but since then the Lewisville ISD has released this statment:

“”The Lewisville ISD will fully comply with State law regarding the right of mothers to nurse a baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be. We apologize for any inconvenience our miscommunication may have caused. We will inform all the principals of this law and also the District’s official position.”

I am so appalled by this, on so many levels.  Yes, asses were covered, offical appologies were given, the principal will be scolded.  But in the meantime, this mother was humiliated and discriminated against for feeding her baby.  She went out of her way to be discrete (which, again, why should she have to hide in the corner to nurse, as if she is doing something wrong).  This is a big-scale example of the attitudes that many moms deal with on a daily basis when they try to breastfeed in public.  The message is clear:  it may be the healthiest thing you can do for you and your baby, but it’s shameful, disgusting, and wrong, so do it in the privacy of your own home.  Preferably in a closet, with the lights out.  Or better yet, the bathroom (since that’s apparently where people feed their babies these days).  How is this mom supposed to explain this to her other children?  Will they grow up being supportive of breastfeeding?  Will they now feel uncomfortable when she tries to nurse in public?  I can just imagine the coversations they are having at their house right now.

The principal wouldn’t have even thought to say anything to her if she had been bottle feeding.  Of course not, you say, that’s completely different.  You say, that’s not the point.  That’s exactly the point.  The point is that bottle feeding is the accepted norm, the point is that our society still promotes images of bottles but not ones of breastfeeding, the point is that breastfeeding is treated as offensive, shameful, and pornographic.   The point is that it’s time to change.

This shouldn’t have ever been allowed to happen.

Suck This (I Will Breastfeed Wherever I Please)

NursingA few months ago, I went to lunch with a friend of mine.  Predictably, halfway through the meal, J wanted to nurse.  As I settled him down to the task, she made a comment about it weirding her out.  “It’s just food,” I told her.  “No, it isn’t,” she said firmly.

I changed the subject after that, but the comment has stayed with me, along with the many others made by family, friends, and complete strangers. I remember feeling embarrassed, like I should apologize for needing to feed my son in her presence. 

I know I’m not the only one who faces such negative attitudes towards breastfeeding.  Go to any parenting forum, and you’ll find at least one post about some poor mom trying to deal with criticism.  In fact, La Leche League has an entire forum devoted to dealing with criticism.  You’ll find stories of strangers telling breastfeeding moms that it’s “disgusting,” that they’re being “indecent,” husbands pressuring their wives to give it up, family members asking them to leave the room to nurse, and doctors paying lip service to breastfeeding while encouraging the use of formula.  I personally have been asked to take my baby in the bathroom to feed him, told (at the beginning) that I needed to supplement with formula because he wanted to nurse all the time, and told I was spoiling him by feeding him on demand (why is it spoiling a baby to nurse him, but not to give him a bottle?).  My doctor, while being a pretty cool doctor in general, seems unsure about the fact that I’m still breastfeeding, and when J was four months old the people in the WIC office expressed shock that I was “still breastfeeding.”  That’s not counting disapproving looks I frequently receive when nursing in public, even though I am decently covered and try to place myself in the most discrete location so as not to offend anyone. 

It is frustrating and disheartening.  I didn’t start out feeling self-conscious about breastfeeding, but I quickly learned to be.  It’s no wonder that so many moms give up breastfeeding, or don’t try at all.

Despite the Breast is Best campaign, which strives to promote breastfeeding in order to improve general health, the majority of Americans remain fairly uneducated about breastfeeding, and the negative attitudes remain.  Even doctors seem to lack critical knowledge of breastfeeding, which is why we see a lot of instances where supplementing is encouraged.  In one survey, it was found that only 37% of pediatricians encouraged breastfeeding for the first year, and most of them felt that formula feeding was equal to breastfeeding.  The majority of them had not been to any sort of presentation on  breastfeeding for at least three years, and admitted to needing more education about breastfeeding.  Without doctor support, many women not only lack the encouragement they need to breastfeed successfully, but also lack vital information–or in some cases, receive incorrect information.  For example, as I said before, I was told that I needed to supplement in the beginning, but all that would have done is reduce my milk supply.  A lot of women fall into that trap, where they are told to supplement with formula, but then they are not keeping up with baby’s demand, so they have to supplement more and more, and eventually they give up breastfeeding altogether.

The campaign has not been totally ineffective.  Most Americans seem to agree that breastfeeding provides a lot of health benefits for mom and baby, which is an improvement.  Yet many still feel that women should not breastfeed in public and feel grossed out by breastfeeding in general.  It seems that the attitude is Breast is Okay, but Bottle is Better.  I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.  After all, you can’t turn on the TV or open a magazine without seeing an ad for formula that claims in some way to provide the same benefits as breast milk.  And isn’t bottle feeding easier/more convenient/less embarrassing?  And don’t you have to stop breastfeeding as soon as they get teeth anyway?  The misconceptions abound, fueled by a multi-million dollar ad budget.  (For more on this, there’s a really wonderful blog post  about formula ad campaigns.) 

At the same time, I know a lot of moms who feel pressured to breastfeed and feel like they’re bad moms if they end up bottle feeding for whatever reason. Yet  there’s all this negative feedback about breastfeeding, especially in public.   You really can’t win.  (And just so everyone is clear:  I am not in any way against those who bottle-feed.  My issue is with attitudes towards breastfeeding, not other’s parenting choices.  🙂

I talked to a friend of mine about this, and she said she thought it was more of a modesty thing: that people just don’t want to see something they shouldn’t.  I thought about it, and while that may be true in some cases, I think as a generalization it doesn’t work.  (Besides, I have an issue with the idea that women’s bodies are something that should not be revealed, unless of course you’re at Hooters or an act on America’s Got Talent.)  For one thing, no one seems to have a problem with skimpy bathing suits, and they’re way more revealing than the average woman breastfeeding.  For another, it’s not just actual breastfeeding that freaks people out, but breast milk as well.  There was an article in Parent’s magazine just last month about a lady who was trying to bring home milk she had expressed during vacation.  It was really quite amusing to read about people’s reactions, and yet it got me thinking… why is breast milk, this amazing fluid specifically designed to provide the perfect nutrition for our babies, treated as something gross/weird?  Why do we see so many instances on TV shows/movies where someone inadvertently picks up a bottle of breast milk or, God forbid, drinks it? (I know I’ve seen it on Friends, Look Who’s Talking, Seinfeld.. and I don’t even watch TV!)  I have never seen this happen with formula (and have you *smelled* that stuff?). 

I don’t get it.  I really want to understand, but I just don’t.  Is it that breasts are viewed as  sexual objects in our culture?  Is it simply the lack of education?  The result of formula marketing campaigns?  An extension of sexism?  What, please tell me, so we can fix it. 

When we trust the makers of baby formula more than we do our own ability to nourish our babies, we lose a chance to claim an aspect of our power as women. Thinking that baby formula is as good as breast milk is believing that thirty years of technology is superior to three million years of nature’s evolution. Countless women have regained trust in their bodies through nursing their children, even if they weren’t sure at first that they could do it. It is an act of female power, and I think of it as feminism in its purest form.” —– Christine Northrup M.D.