Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NIP, no tuck

Welcome to my contribution to this month's Carnival of Breastfeeding - the theme is nursing in public. Read on, then hop on the Carnival Ride of links at the bottom of this post!
Nursing in public, or NIP as it's known in internet speak, is one of those red herring subjects for me. Just the fact that it has its own internet acronym tells me there is something wrong - after all, there's no acronym for babies leaving the house, is there? In a normal world, if babies leave the house, then they breastfeed in public. Period.
But it's not a world where breastfeeding is as normal as it should be and that leads to all kinds of weird and contradictory dialogue among women and mothers. A very common comment I hear is: "Well, of course, you should be able to breastfeed your baby, but you should be discreet about it."
I would like to meet these legions of women who revel in the idea of shaking their milk-filled boobies and post-partum bellies in the faces of horrified strangers. Those would be interesting mamas to chat with. The reality is that breastfeeding mothers are just that - mothers who are trying to feed their hungry babies and comfort their sad/tired ones.
Discretion is in the eye of the beholder, really. What's discreet and comfortable for one nursing couple might be crazy exhibitionism for another. The trouble becomes that as soon as you allow a third party to decide what is and isn't acceptable, mothers lose the power to nurse their babies when they need it. They just do.
In 2007, I attended the LLLI Conference in Chicago. It was an amazing, fantastic week, so nourishing to be surrounded by women and their nurslings/slinglings - it's how the world should always be. But in the conference materials, there was a little warning box - reminding participants that we would be showcased and to exercise discretion in breastfeeding our babies outside the conference areas. It still bothers me that that was in there - though it didn't seem to change anyone's behaviour.
About that, I don't have a ton of pictures of me nursing in public (or nursing at all, really) - flashes and nursing babies don't get along so well. But here are a few of my favourites from that Chicago conference:

Tom having his dinner between courses at the LLLI Closing Banquet. Look how little his head is and how bald he is!

Nursing at the top of the Navy Pier Ferris Wheel

Same spot, different angle so you can a bit of the city. One of my favourite pictures EVER.

Want to read more? Hop on the Carnival 'ride':


Elita said...

Blech, I'm so sick of "discretion." When your baby needs to be fed, you should be able to feed your baby. Anyone who sees something is probably looking too hard. I'm surprised LLLI would add something in their conference materials about being "discrete" but maybe they were worried about a confrontation with hotel staff?

Melodie said...

An acronym for babies leaving the house - indeed! Great point.

Sinead at BreastfeedingMums said...

I really enjoyed and related to this post. The photos are really lovely - I only wish I had more photos of my time as a breastfeeding mum!

Michelle said...

Elita, I think the inclusion in the LLLI materials speaks to differences of opinion even among women who are ardent breastfeeding advocates. I think it came from a place of caring and wanting everyone to have a positive experience, but it left a bad taste with me. In the end, a reminder of the importance of big picture (fab week with extraordinary women) vs. small picture (one phrase that a small committee probbaly agonized over many more hours than they needed to).

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