Maintaining a United Front in the Face of Nursing in Public (NIP) Incidents
It’s not unusual when reporting on NIP incidents for me to witness women creating a divide rather than a united front. The scenario is generally the same; a woman has taken to social media by posting on her own Facebook page, private group or the wall of a breastfeeding support page and reports that she has experienced discrimination at the hands of an employee of a business. Sometimes I share these, sometimes I don’t, and the reason is usually surrounding how much time I can take from my family to track a story. When I do share these stories I can always expect that there will be a slew of comments from breastfeeding supporters that go something like this:
“She shouldn’t have gone to the media.”
“She shouldn’t have reacted that way.”
“She shouldn’t have handled this situation like this.”
I’m not talking about commenters suggesting that a woman should have been covered or that she should have been more discreet or any other type condition that we are fighting against in the area of NIP. I am strictly talking about the comments from women who are actively involved in this mission in every way and who have in other situations been supportive.
I want to remind everyone that we are all different. As if we haven’t gone over this enough when it comes to parenting in general. Co-sleeping doesn’t work for everyone; homebirth doesn’t work for everyone. There is no cookie cutter way to parent because we are all very different. We all have had different childhoods, different experiences, different brains, different personalities and have had different relationships with society at large. These differences all add up to very different responses when confronted with discrimination or harassment.
We often talk about how the stress of parenting can trigger a lifetime of issues. If this can happen in the privacy of our own home then we can expect that these factors are going to come into play even more intensely when in public when already feeling vulnerable breastfeeding in a culture where this act is not always accepted. Different women will feel differing levels of threat in various situations, some that may even seem harmless to others. For example, I walk down the street with little sense of imminent harm from the men around me; however, many women do, and for good reason.
Please, next time you read a story about a mother who reacted to a NIP incident in a way that you disagree with or that you feel you would be able to handle in a more “appropriate” way, please consider looking past that, recognizing that this person has experienced the discrimination that we are all united to fight against, and lend her some supportive words. We cannot speak for her.
Remember, you weren’t in the room, you don’t know her history and you haven’t walked in her shoes. We are united in our fight to normalize breastfeeding in public.
Abby Theuring, MSW