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Linengate2014 and How You Can Help #normalizebreastfeeding

Ever since Phoenixgate 2013, I’ve been pretty lax about nursing in public (and by pretty lax I really mean “I really don’t give a shit if you see my boobs”). For the most part, people have been great about it outwardly – even if in their head they are uncomfortable or freaking out. I generally like to go out in public and bring my baby, so I knew some sort of nursing-in-public run-in was bound to happen. Unfortunately, it happened at one of our favorite restaurants (that ironically hosted my baby shower)… let’s go back a few months to brunch for my father’s birthday.

Help me understand what you mean by “a clean linen?”

I was breastfeeding my daughter after we ate when our server approached and asked if I wanted a “clean linen.” Why the hell would I need a “clean linen” when we were done eating and what exactly did that mean? Was it a napkin? A tablecloth? Then the lightbulb went off – he was offering me the best nursing cover he could muster up from the restaurant’s linen closet. Aside from the fact that I probably wouldn’t be so nonchalant about nursing in the first place if I had indeed been in need of a cover, I politely declined.

Dude should have stopped while he was ahead. And, for the record, he was ahead – I had given him the benefit of the doubt and assumed he was actually trying to make me more comfortable based on what he thought would be most helpful to me. HA! But really…  I did want to think he was being helpful. My new friend brought me back down to reality, where lactating boobs are a no-no but a string bikini is sexy: “No, I meant in case it bothers other people.”

OHYOUVEGOTTOBEF&*KINGKIDDINGME.

photo 2 (1)

#normalizebreastfeeding | photograph by Katie Slater  www.katieslaterphotography.com

Did this guy think that I was suddenly going to change my mind and take him up on his offer? NO. The opposite.”Other people?” PUH-leaze. Enough is enough. Just the offer of the cover implied so many things – that breastfeeding should be hidden; that it’s dirty, offensive or wrong; that a hungry infant is LESS important than self-sufficient adults who just gorged themselves on all you can eat brunch and have the choice whether they watch a mother breastfeed or not; and so on – but to imply that I should prioritize the comfort of “other” people over the comfort of my baby? EHHH… WRONG ANSWER. Again, I politely declined and shut the conversation down. So as not to cause a scene, I planned to find him before we left and inform him of things like, oh, you know, THE LAW that protects women like me.

Clean Linens for All!

During that meal, bothering other people with a boob was the last thing on my mind – in fact, I was much more concerned about bothering people when my kid lost her shit because she was hungry – I would think most people would find a screaming baby more annoying than a boob. Nursing was a pretty solid solution to prevent said meltdown and make everyone’s brunch enjoyable. And for the record, since apparently it cannot be said often enough: a nursing mother is not out to make a scene or bother anyone or make anyone uncomfortable. Say it with me now: she just wants to feed or comfort her baby. 

This whole thing got me thinking that maybe I should start going off on people in public who do things that bother ME! Why should I be the target of other people’s pet peeves about nursing while everyone else gets off scot-free for being total assholes in public ALL the time? So, in honor of Linengate2014, I’ll be handing out some linens to the following groups of people (and others at my discretion):

  • People who are noisy chewers. Nails on a chalkboard to me, an epidemic of epic proportions. Cover them up – and see how they like to eat under a cover – two birds with one stone!
  • Anyone who refuses to stop talking on the phone while their server is trying to take their order. For you… a tablecloth! Poof! Now you’re gone, hiding under your linen, and your rudeness is contained to your tablecloth bubble.
  • Couples who insist on being SAME SIDE SITTERS. If we’re being honest, this bothers me so much that the next time I see it happen, I may ask my server to escort the lovebirds out of the restaurant. If that doesn’t work, let’s make sure they get two tablecloths so they can snuggle under the covers – which is where they clearly would rather be…amiright?
  • People who step on my yoga mat with their toe-fungus-hot-yoga-feet. You have the entire room to tromp around – get the hell off my mat! Yoga under a blanket for you – AND STAY THERE!
  • Drivers who don’t stop to let pedestrians standing in the crosswalk actually cross the street. Next to the park. With a stroller. In a neighborhood full of kids. Maybe if they had a tablecloth on their car, they’d be forced to hit the brake.
  • People who pee on the toilet seat in a public restroom and then don’t clean it up. You’re not a savage, and at least if you had a tablecloth you could mop up your piss. How did you miss the toilet by that much anyway? If you insist on peeing all over everything, you may as well just drop trou wherever you are and let it flow. Own it, bitches.
  • People who push the door close button on the elevator even though they see others waiting to get on. I do hope your elevator gets stuck and all you have to get through the day is snuggling with your linen.
  • People who make a half-assed attempt to hold the door for you, but then decide they can’t hold the door long enough for you to actually walk through and they let go. It doesn’t count as chivalrious or polite if you can’t hold it for the duration of someone else crossing the threshold – but hey, don’t let the door hit you on the way out when I hand you a freshly pressed napkin!

There’s more, I’m sure. But back to the issue at hand – my story has a happyish ending! Although I couldn’t find our server to say something to him on our way out (weird that he was MIA, right?), I did write the manager a note and included information about Connecticut breastfeeding laws. He apologized and said he would make sure to share during the morning wait staff meetings and at the end of the day, sharing this type of information is a great first step to normalize breastfeeding but we have a long way to go.

#normalizebreastfeeding

#normalizebreastfeeding | photograph by Katie Slater http://www.katieslaterphotography.com

World Breastfeeding Week 2014 – Resources

If no one is doing anything about the same-side sitters plaguing restaurants around the world, then at least let nursing mamas feed their babies free of harassment and discrimination. In honor of World Breastfeeding Week 2014, I wanted to spread some knowledge and resources.

  • Here’s a summary of the Connecticut General Statutes §46a-64 that I sent to the restaurant (excerpt from the Connecticut Breastfeeding Coalition) that protect nursingmamas:
    • BREASTFEEDING IN PLACES OF PUBLIC ACCOMMODATION
      Connecticut General Statutes §46a-64 allows mothers to breastfeed their babies in places of public accommodation. This law is enforced by the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO), which enforces anti-discrimination laws in Connecticut.
    • This law states that mothers can generally breastfeed at a time, place and manner of their choosing while in a place of public accommodation. They do not have to go to a special area or go into the restroom. They do not have to cover the baby with a towel or blanket. The owner, manager or employee of a place of public accommodation cannot request that the mother stop breastfeeding her baby, cover up, move to a different room or area, or leave.
  • Breastfeeding Laws by State. We have a long way to go, but there are laws in place in many states to protect breastfeeding moms in public, at work, and at daycares.
  • Break TIme for Nursing Mothers. This is, for the most part, the bare minimum. Encourage your employer to go above and beyond!
  • Under the ACA, many mamas are eligible for a free breast pump and covered lactation services. FREE!
  • Breastfeeding support and education can drastically change a mother’s experience with nursing. Organizations like La Leche League, Breastfeeding USA, and websites like KellyMom provide FREE mother-to-mother support online, in person, and over the phone. Did I say FREE? Yes, that’s right – there are people who care so much about seeing mothers successfully breastfeed that there are more free and accessible resources than one could fathom.

So aside from supporting nursing mothers (or any mother for that matter!) any time you see them – a kind smile, an offer of help, a glass of water, or simple acknowledgement that they are doing a good job – please take a few minutes to share some of these resources with people in your life – friends, family, colleagues, moms, moms-to-be, and more. Let’s get women out from under the covers and #normalizebreastfeeding. Because seeing a boob is way less offensive than same side sitters – I’ll stand by that forever – and maybe by the time our children are parents, this kind of conversation won’t even be a blip on their radar.

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Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

Happy World Breastfeeding Week! In honor of this week, I wanted to share our own somewhat tumultuous journey over the past couple of months. It has a very happy ending, so if you’re facing challenges breastfeeding, stick with it. It’s worth it!

Three days after Elizabeth was born, my milk “came in.” Right on cue. But wait, I was in serious pain when she latched (or tried to latch) and things didn’t feel right. I knew she needed to eat, I could tell by her wails, and I needed to get my milk out somehow. I figured I could pump and we could give her bottles until we could see an LC (it was Memorial Day), so I opened up my breast pump and for some reason (ahem… pregnancy hormones… ahem) I was completely overwhelmed. Between all of the fun post-partum stuff happening, plus the pain and lack of sleep… I didn’t have the brain capacity to clean the parts, put them together, and read the damn manual. So I did the next best thing: hand expressed milk into a Pyrex bowl while sitting on the side of our bed and then gave it to Elizabeth with a spoon (it made sense at the time and got the job done!). I was still in a lot of pain, and at one point saw blood-tinged milk come out of my breast. Crying baby, crying mom. YIKES!

This wasn’t exactly the peaceful, angelic picture of breastfeeding I had envisioned. While I was hand expressing like a boss, I couldn’t help but think back to one of my early prenatal visits when my midwife asked me if I planned to breastfeed. The obvious answer, to me, was “Yes! Of course!” She then threw me a curveball and asked, “Do you feel like you have the support you need to breastfeed?” I asked her what she meant by that – support? I was just going to breastfeed, simple as that. I even thought (which now seems ironic), “How hard could it be?”

Anyway, I needed support that morning, and I needed it immediately. I reached out to a local La Leche League Leader and she helped me wrap my head around what to do next, including how to get through the next couple of days until we could see a lactation consultant. She was a lifesaver and talked me off a ledge that morning but I got really sad thinking that maybe there was something wrong with me, that I couldn’t provide for my daughter, and felt like I was headings towards failure – my goal had been to breastfeed for a year and here I was, a few days in, and having doubts.

To cut to the chase, it turned out I had a nipple infection (yes, OUCH!) because Elizabeth had a posterior tongue-tie and was basically using her gums to breastfeed. It prevented her from latching properly (read: chomp chomp!) and was a relatively easy fix once our LC figured out what was going on. We saw a specialist, Dr. Dahl in New York City, who was great – she clipped the tie for us in mere seconds and had me feed Elizabeth right in her office, moments after the procedure. It took us longer to get off the FDR and across town than it did for us to have the entire office visit. It felt immediately better, and it was there that I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It took about six (long) weeks, multiple sessions with the LC, and lots of time dedicated to nursing until we hit our stride. I’ve nursed her everywhere – from restaurants to the car to airplanes – and every way – standing, in the baby carrier, lying down, sitting. It’s pretty cool now! But back to that “support” my midwife asked me about… having the support of the LLL, lactation consultant, and midwives was indispensable but what really meant the most to me was having support from my husband. Not once did he tell me to give up, suggest we switch to formula, or say he didn’t think we could get through it. Instead, he was right next to me as I spoke to the LLL leader, sat for hours in our lactation consultant appointments remembering everything the LC said so that I didn’t have to, drove the family down to Dr. Dahl’s office in NYC, reminded me to treat the infection in my breasts, cooked for me, brought me glass after glass of water, made sure I was taking care of myself so I could take care of the baby, and held my hand when I cried out of frustration, pain, hormonal mood swings, and finally out of pure joy once things started to get better.

But, most importantly, he frequently reminds me how cool it is that my body, quite literally, keeps our baby alive and he thanks me for feeding her. In those “thank yous” I know he means much more – thank you for being dedicated to feeding our daughter, for the time you spend nursing, for the time you will spend pumping back at work, and on and on. I never thought he would be anything BUT supportive, but just hearing him say it out loud makes me feel great.

To all the pregnant mamas planning to breastfeed – my best advice is this: have a support system in place before you give birth – talk to your doctor, your pediatrician, go to La Leche League meetings, watch women breastfeed in real life, and learn how to use your breast pump, you know, just in case you need it right away.

Cheers to all you mamas out there who breastfed/feed your babies, and cheers to all the support people who help along the way. It’s a labor of love but hey, I hear that’s what parenting is all about anyway!

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