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NIP in America: An Insider’s Perspective From 10,000 Miles Away

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 Katesurfsbreastfeeding

NIP stands for Nursing in Public

A year ago, I would have never posted a picture of myself breastfeeding on the internet. Now, I feel like there’s no better way.

I’m American through and through. Born and raised in New Jersey on pizza and bagels. I grew up in Small Town America. We never locked our front door. I sold girl scout cookies and caught minnows in the creek with all the kids in the neighborhood. I played soccer and remember nearly peeing my pants while playing man hunt with all the kids who lived on our street. You get the idea? One day, when I was about 5 years old and walking home from school, I distinctly remember thinking how lucky I was to have been born in America. I mean, really, what a fantastic place, we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted.

But today, my thoughts on America have changed dramatically. And, it’s mostly over one small, but very important topic to me: breastfeeding in public. What happened, America?! What’s with the crazy social no-nos? Are we, are women, really free to do it as we please need? I was reading the comments in a thread on a recent story about a woman who was asked to stop breastfeeding in public and I found something that went like this:

Well, breastfeeding in public is not written in the constitution, so therefore, it shouldn’t be any woman’s right to do so.

Excuse. Me. Wait… EXCUSE ME?!?!

Not in the constitution?! You mean it’s not mentioned in a document that sets out the rules for a government? Maybe because breastfeeding a baby is a natural/God given right and has nothing to do with politics? Maybe the constitution writers didn’t put breastfeeding in the constitution because babies need to eat no matter where you are and they knew that life just had to go on whether your baby was hungry or not! I’m pretty sure our founding fathers would be rolling in their graves if they could somehow read what I read today.

The person who wrote this comment was not joking. He sincerely and 100% meant it. And, when I started scrolling through the comments, I found even more words that broke my heart, like, “I breastfed three children, but I never would dare to feed them out of the house, you can just pump a bottle, then no one has to see what a woman should be doing in private.” And on. And on. And on.

I nearly cried because it suddenly all came together for me that there is something so twisted and backwards about my country. For years, I’ve never been able to understand all these American organizations and facebook pages with hundreds of thousands of followers, who were all fighting for normalization of breastfeeding in public. I never wanted to believe it. I thought that maybe people were making up this unacceptance of breastfeeding in public. But no, I read the comments, and now I see that it’s true. The laws are there to say it’s ok, but in reality, it’s ‘not ok‘ in many MANY people’s minds.

You see, I don’t live in the USA right now. In the past six years, I’ve only spent five weeks of that time in America. My husband and I moved to Australia in 2008 and we’ve had two children here. I haven’t stopped breastfeeding in almost 4 1/2 years. I’ve breastfed my kids in more public places than you could shake a stick at and nobody, I mean NOBODY has batted an eyelash. The worst comment I’ve ever heard was from a lady walking past with her own two year old. When she saw me, she mischievously winked and said, “Oh, titty time.” I smiled back because I knew what she was saying, but I thought to myself, “Ewww.. who calls them titties?!

I honestly can’t remember too clearly what it’s like to breastfeed in America. When I visited the USA, my older daughter was about 8 months old.  And, probably because I was too naive and too tired from traveling and having culture shock, I didn’t even noticed anything at the time. Looking back now though, I do remember everyone sort of clearing the room when it was ‘booby time‘. It was way more awkward than what I was used to in Australia, that was for sure.

The attitude I’ve seen displayed on the internet and TV towards breastfeeding in public in America is shocking. It’s rude. It’s uneducated and it leaves me scratching me head. Hearing American reporters or TV talkshow hosts talk about breastfeeding is actually hilarious and sad all at once. I can just see them squirming and writhing inside, because they’re totally uncomfortable talking about ‘boobs and babies‘ in the same sentence.

When I was a kid, my mother breastfed all three of us, it was just the way you fed a baby. I never remember it being a big deal. Maybe it still isn’t a big deal, but because of the internet and TV, I’m able to see the whole yucky spectrum of people’s closed minded opinions on breastfeeding in public. Breastfeeding in public needs to be normal. It needs to be normal because it IS normal. Most of the laws are there, it’s just a matter of a shift in people’s attitude. Nobody should be shamed for doing something so natural. It’s something that is going to take time and a lot of loud voices to change. What I wish I could say to every breastfeeding woman in America (or in the world really) is, hold your chin up, don’t let anyone tell you you’re doing something gross. When in doubt, whip ’em out, it’s what most of the rest of the world does.

 

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