Lisa Willis, a mother in Essex, UK, had quite a traumatizing experience when the owner of The White Coffee House reportedly screamed at her, accused her of being an exhibitionist, followed her out to her car, and threw in the trash from her table all because she was breastfeeding her 10-month-old daughter. Willis says she was wearing nursing clothes and was being discreet, even without using a cover.
While that's a shockingly aggressive example of how breastfeeding women are treated when trying to feed their babies in public, women being harassed for nursing is horribly common, and has even happened to multiple writers here at The Stir, myself included.
What gets me is whether or not you feel a woman should be able to nurse where she wants, or have to use a cover or not, the issue is much bigger than that. It should be considered by ALL moms as it's not just about breastfeeding -- it's about the right to not be harassed for parenting.
The fact of the matter is that it is completely legal for a mother to nurse her baby wherever she has the right to be, and in many states, she is specifically protected from being charged with indecent exposure as well.
Everyone parents differently, for better or worse. Sometimes situations arise that make people have to parent differently than they'd otherwise want to, such as a mom who wanted to nurse having to bottle feed. Imagine if that bottle-feeding mom was approached in public and told that formula was disgusting, so she needed to go sit in the bathroom or leave. Ridiculous, right?
Breastfeeding is no different than many other parenting choices we make that have nothing to do with anyone else. It's my job to talk about my opinions here, where you have a choice as to whether or not you want to read them. Still, I certainly would never walk up to a mom in a restaurant and declare that her baby was too little to eat solids, even if I had internal dialogue of ranting and fact-spewing. Frankly, it's just none of my business unless she's doing something illegal or something that outright harms someone. Breastfeeding in public should be treated the same way -- a mom who is nursing and being harassed for it should no more be treated like "she deserved harassment" than, say, someone walking up to a bottle-feeding mom and declaring she's feeding her baby "poison" (which she isn't, obviously). It's just not acceptable.
No matter your stand on public breastfeeding, put yourself in the mom's shoes -- what if it were you? Choose one thing you do in public with your kids -- giving sippy cups with juice. Giving a toddler a pacifier. Letting them go without shoes in the summer. Letting your kids nibble on cookies at the grocery store. Now imagine being treated like you're disgusting or criminal for it. No one deserves that.
We need to stand up for moms who are just taking care of their babies, and their right to do so, no matter what method they're using. If you're ever in a situation where you see a mother who is just caring for her children being treated like Lisa Willis, stand up for her, even if you're not a nursing mom or don't love what she's doing. After all, what goes around comes around.
Have you ever been attacked by a stranger for your parenting choices? Ever defended a stranger?
Image via Jennifer Fisher