A good ol’ fashioned nurse-in. That’s how I, along with at least 30 other moms, spent our Saturday morning at Costco. The reason? To shine a spotlight on the importance of normalizing breastfeeding in our culture.
Breasts are socially acceptable when on display here.
Nursing in public, although completely legal, is still considered taboo causing many mothers to feel pressure to nurse their babies in bathrooms, cars, small rooms, or shrouded under cover. While some mothers prefer the privacy, others would love to nurse openly and are scared to.
But it’s taboo here?
This exact issue came up yesterday afternoon when Yael Symes, a local mother (pictured right), was shopping at Costco with her husband and 7 month old daughter. During the trip, Symes noticed her daughter needing to eat, so she sat down in a discreet corner of the patio furniture section and proceeded to do what any mother would do in that moment- she fed her daughter.
After about a half an hour, a manager approached Symes and invited her to use the lactation room. Symes was glad to learn that there was a lactation room, but was hesitant to pack up her belongings and disrupt her daughter just to move across the store and do it all over again. The manager said she would go get the key and bring it back, which made Symes feel as if though she didn’t have a choice in the matter. When Symes asked if she wasn’t allowed to nurse where she was, she was told by the manager “well, a customer said they felt uncomfortable so that’s why we want you to use the lactation room- because we want everyone to feel comfortable here.”
Symes took to a local Facebook group, SoDu Parents Posse, to get feedback on the situation and see if she was justified in her negative feelings about the encounter. Within minutes, the thread blew up with people showing support for Symes, expressing shock that she had that experience, and citing her right to breastfeed in public. Symes states that she did not know her rights prior to this incident, but was pleased to learn that there is, in fact, a law that supports her in this way. Under Statue § 14-190.9
, “…a woman may breastfeed in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breastfeeding.”
Through the Facebook discussion thread, one mother suggested a nurse-in. The goal was not to shame Costco or its management. It also was not meant to be a spectacle or a scene. Instead, it was intended to be a peaceful gathering of anyone who wanted to come and bring awareness to the need for more education on normalizing breastfeeding.
Mothers and fathers, with babies nursing and bottle feeding alike, showed up at 10:30 on Saturday morning. It was an all-inclusive event. It was not a protest, but rather, a positive meeting of community members who sat, talked, and enjoyed each other’s company. While they did that, they fed their kids openly and comfortably.
“I cant speak for everyone, but i think that we are here to show some solidarity for the mother who had a negative experience at Costco yesterday and we want to send a message with our presence that we are together.” says Crystal Dreisbach, another local mother. Laughing, she adds, “And you can’t mess with Durham mommas!”
The takeaway? That our culture should move towards being more open-minded about mother feeding their babies in public spaces. For the mothers that want a little more privacy, it’s great that there are lactation rooms available as well. As stated by Symes, the lactation rooms are “meant for the mom to feel comfortable if she wants. It should be an option, not a demand.”
In the end, the nurse-in was something positive that came out of the negative experience. It opened up a dialogue about normalizing breastfeeding and was an avenue to bring mothers together. “I love this community,” Symes says. “It helped me pick out a pediatrician and find events like storytime. I’ve met so many moms through [SoDu] and I’ve become closer with other moms that I’ve already known. It’s a really tight knit community and I’m proud to be a part of it.”