thanks? I think?

Readers, I am curious. How do we mothers feel about signs like these?

A teacher friend of mine (male) posted this photo on Facebook this morning, saying this made about as much sense as the “Free Speech Zone” sign at his university. Assuming that sign actually exists, I would be deeply ambivalent about it, just as I am about designated nursing mothers’ areas. On the one hand, I think that they are a lovely gesture, and when I visited SeaWorld a year and a half ago, I called the room pictured here “a mother’s dream.”

I was out of the Orlando sun, in a clean and air-conditioned room, nursing Maggie in peace while Connor and Seamus ran their grandparents ragged. Maggie only nursed for two minutes that day, but I confess I was in that room for a good bit longer, enjoying the respite. I think there should be rooms like this for mothers at every amusement park, and you should not have to be lactating in order to gain entry, either.

On the other hand, I think that a “nursing mother’s lounge” is less about a breastfeeding mother’s comfort, and more about the comfort of everyone else. Please, mommy, go nurse your baby somewhere we can’t see you. If breastfeeding were truly accepted in our society as it should be, there wouldn’t be a need for designated boob-out areas. There aren’t designated bottle-feeding areas, and I think that’s because no one gets skeeved out when a mom pulls out a Dr. Brown’s.

Here’s what one Facebook responder to this photo had to say:

Like the Free Speech Zone, these areas are condescending and limiting in their designation. The whole U.S. should be a free speech zone, much as any chair or lounge should feel suitable for a nursing mom. Shouldn’t be a question.

I totally agree with her. On the other hand, these rooms are kind of nice, as long as they’re not filthy.

So I’m curious as to what you all think. Are these rooms pro-nursing? Or are they counterproductive, because they perpetuate the idea that nursing is something that should not be done in public?

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Paola October 5, 2009 at 5:29 pm

I understand your point of view as it was mine when I started to go out with my newborn daughter who I was breasfeeding. But then I quickly got used to those nice rooms and found myself locating them wherever I went the same you would with the washrooms when potty training a toddler. And as you mention they are so comfortable that you don't want to leave….In a big mall near where I live the "nursing lounge" consisted of a big room divided in a nursing room, with 3 rocking chairs and footstools, in a dimmed light environment (better than what I had at home), a huge washroom with 2 toilets: one for the mom and one for a toddler, plus a lot of room for the stroller, another washroom for an adult plus room for a stroller, and a changing table, supplied with diapers and wipes, even a big sink with soap and warm water.
I started to think of it as a privilege! Only nursing mothers can go in these areas!

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Tash October 5, 2009 at 7:09 pm

I'll nurse anywhere I need to, but those rooms are nice for the mothers who don't feel comfortable doing so.
My nearby malls all have family restrooms like Paola described. They aren't limited to nursing mothers, but anyone who needs it.
I also agree that mothers should be able to nurse anywhere, without rude comments, or glaring strangers. There is a really great article in the recent issue of mothering magazine that talks about Mongolias approach to nursing, it's refreshing. The author talks about an engorged mother, will share her extra milk with anyone of the family. Add to cooking? LOL Those are "special brownies" for sure. All kidding aside, I would like American's to recognize, and accept such a thing.

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Ellie October 5, 2009 at 11:04 pm

I too will nurse anywhere. With my first a hacking woman approached me to ask me to stop nursing in public. I simply said it was my right to nurse where I wanted. With my second I was asked to use a bathroom…to them I said sure..grab your lunch and you and the baby can dine together over the toilet! God gave me breasts to nurture and nurse my babies.

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Anonymous October 5, 2009 at 11:44 pm

I have not had any incidents with "hacking" women, and I've never been asked to go elsewhere to nurse. In fact, all I've had are very supportive and kind folks. In fact, one lady congratulated me on choosing what is best for my child~this disturbed me somewhat, given that some women don't have the luxury of breastfeeding, and aren't necessarily choosing what is second best. All that aside, I am more comfortable when in a calm, secluded place with my child. Socialite that she is, my little one simply doesn't concentrate well on eating when in public. So from that standpoint, hooray for the nursing lounge concept…and boo for those who overthink generous concepts.

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Roxane B. Salonen October 6, 2009 at 2:45 am

When I was nursing my firstborn 13 years ago, I was always so incredibly grateful whenever I found any kind of setup for a nursing mother. I have nursed in the most grungy of places. Back then there were so very few of these sorts of spots. So I think they are heaven for a nursing mother.

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Anonymous October 6, 2009 at 11:42 am

I always felt conflicted too. Believe me, after nursing for over a year I fed my son just about everywhere and made no apologies! But when I stopped looking at those rooms from the perspective of the mother and started thinking about my son, those rooms were a blessing. He was very distractable and didn't nurse well out of the house, and those rooms sure helped him have a better meal!

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Stephanie October 7, 2009 at 2:59 am

I live in Orlando and we have "Baby Care Stations" in all of our theme parks and malls. I personally love them. I was unable to nurse so my children were bottle fed. I could have whipped out the bottle anywhere but it was so much nicer in these special areas. My children always ate much better in a quiet cool room while being rocked. In fact, they often fell asleep and took a nap after eating. They have the nicest changing tables which are much more user friendly that fold down tables in restrooms. I consider them a blessing and I don't think they send any message other than moms and kids are special.

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Mary Pat October 7, 2009 at 8:26 pm

I personally think it's silly for women to be offended by such rooms/signs. I think people are reading a bit too much into it if they think the rooms are "really" for the benefit of the general public. A nursing mom doesn't HAVE to use it if they don't want to…just like I have no problem with women that nurse in public, they shouldn't have a problem if other moms WANT to nurse in private. Moms have different preferences and it's nice to have an option.

Also, to me, it's hard to compare nursing and bottle-feeding in public. With my kids, it WAS way easier to give them a bottle in public because you can hold the bottle as they turn their head while looking around. With nursing, not so much! My kids tended to get too distracted and would turn their heads and I'd be exposing myself constantly(which I was certainly not comfortable with). To me, a quiet place to nurse = fewer distractions and a more efficient eater!

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Mollie October 8, 2009 at 8:44 pm

I have no real right to have an opinion on this, not being a mother. But I do anyway. Which is: I think it's best to do as Paola and others suggest and think of designated nursing areas as a "privilege" (or an accomodation) rather than an attempt to marginalize. If you decide they're offensive because they're trying to hide nursing from the public, then you also have to come down against women who use them because they prefer a quiet, private spot to nurse, for whatever reason. And that's unsustainable. Well, I shouldn't say that, I'm sure there are people who CAN sustain that hard of a line, but it would be uncomfortable and not worth the effort.

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Anonymous October 10, 2009 at 4:45 am

After about six months, my baby was so distracted while nursing that she refused to nurse in public. She's still nursing at 15 months, and rooms like these have been my only option besides going to my car when I'm out in public.

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Marketing Mama October 14, 2009 at 4:53 am

Better to have than not have, me thinks.

That said, I can bf anywhere I want and don't try to push me to that room if I don't want to go there.

You know what really pisses me off? The sign at my mall outside the "nursing" room with the word "Nursing" but a pic of a baby bottle.

Really? Huh. I think actually I use a BOOB to bf my kid, not a bottle.

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Anonymous October 19, 2009 at 3:37 pm

All hail the women who choose to not make this a huge issue!! And to Anonymous who said that those of us who could not breast feed were not choosing second best, I bow to you. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
K

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