“Ma’am, you can’t do that here, you’re a fire hazard, ” is what the lady said to me when I tried to breastfeed in her local Long Island restaurant. We were seated at a booth, but there wasn’t enough room between the table and where I was sitting in the booth to hold the baby at chest level. I tried to do that first, but the only way to fit the baby would have been to lay the baby on the table, but surely my dining companions would not have appreciated that. See what I mean in my crude illustration:
So I did the next best thing, I grabbed a chair from one of the dozen empty tables around us and propped it at the head of the booth where there was plenty of room. I covered myself with a nursing apron so I was more than decent… though, as I mentioned, the restaurant was basically empty except for one other table who also had a small child with them so the cover was more for my comfort than anyone else’s.
As I got cozy and started to feed my hungry baby the not-so-nice lady came over and told me that by putting a chair at the head of the table/booth I was creating a fire hazard, despite the restaurant being all but empty. I asked her where would be a more appropriate place to feed my child and she only responded all snippy and awkward, “I don’t know. You are a fire hazard,” again and she walked away.
I am quickly learning that breastfeeding in public is a hotly contested subject. Have you seen the very recent Luvs commercial featuring a breastfeeding mom? In the first scene a new mom is struggles to breastfeed under a cover, clearly frazzled, in a public space. Then in the second scene, on her second child, she has abandoned the cover and bravely feeds her child at the table. She is so over being covered up, now being an expert mom and not giving a shit about dumb stuff like covers.
Even this fairly innocuous commercial created controversy. This quote in the article, Luvs commercial about public breastfeeding creates controversy sums up the opposition pretty well, “Luvs should stick to selling diapers and stay out of the politics!” wrote “Tasteless” from Temecula, Calif., on the Luvs website. “I found the ad tasteless and crude.”
As recently as last month Facebook got into hot water about removing images posted of women breastfeeding in a breastfeeding group because it was first assumed they were indecent.
This is all confusing to me given the mixed messages society is sending. Ever since I hit the 3rd trimester of my pregnancy I have been bombarded with literature, doctors and nurses telling me that, “Breast is Best!!” and pushing the breast feeding regimen. New moms are practically bullied into it and those who choose to go the formula route are made to feel that they have to feed their baby in secret to avoid judgement for choosing not to breastfeed as though they are deliberately poisoning their child. So why isn’t breastfeeding met with applause and cheers of approval in public? I should be cheered and celebrated! It doesn’t make any sense at all. Is it so indecent? More indecent than the window display in your local Victoria’s Secret? Or even worse, American Apparel? I don’t think so.
No one tells you how hard breastfeeding is before you have a baby.
It’s really hard. Painful at times, time consuming, sweaty, exhausting. But I am glad I am choosing this route, though I hold no judgement towards mammas who choose other routes (‘do what you gotta do’ is my motto when it comes to motherhood). If I can’t breastfeed in public that means I am perpetually tied to my house since the little guy eats every 1.5 to 2 hours during the day. If it’s so important that I choose to breastfeed, everyone else in our community needs to get on board and support mothers like me, especially new moms who feel vulnerable and exhausted.
If I want any kind of life as a breastfeeding mother, I will need to get out there and brave idiots like that lady in the restaurant. Was I a fire hazard in that empty restaurant? Perhaps. Could she have handled the situation better? Definitely. So for now, I am just going to continue rocking it out and be the honeybadger of mothers.