Between my two kids, I breast-fed for a total of about 3 1/2 years. Yes, I spent that many years exposing my boobs in a variety of places to feed my kids, who never took a bottle and went straight from breast-feeding to drinking from a sippy cup.
I finished nursing my youngest almost five years ago but have fond memories of those years. For one, it’s a heckuva a lot easier to lift your shirt than to cook dinner for a family. Some days, I wish my kids were still so easy to feed.
As all of you news hounds and parents know, breast feeding in public is back in the news. About two weeks ago, Asheville mom Crystal Everitt says, while she was breast feeding at the Denny’s on Patton Avenue, she was asked to cover up or take her 1-year-old baby to the bathroom to nurse him. According to news reports, the Denny’s manager said Everitt’s lactating mammary was offending patrons.
Would you feed your kids in a publicly-used bathroom? Me neither. When Everitt refused the manager’s illegal request, she called the cops, who said they could arrest Everitt for trespassing, if not for lactating. Everitt and her family wisely, though hungrily, skedaddled.
According to state law, a mother is allowed to breastfeed in any public or private location.
So why hasn’t the manager at Denny’s been charged? As I see it, the manager failed to protect Everitt’s right to breast feed her baby wherever and whenever needed. Even if Everitt’s nipple was showing, she was within her rights according to the law (why do some folks consider women’s exposed nipples indecent, but not men’s? Does this seem sexist to anyone else but me?)
I breast-fed all over Asheville (and in several other cities). I never had a problem, other than with the leerers. As Everitt says, “They might be offended by my breast feeding, but I’m offended by them staring at me.”
“People don’t realize that I’m not trying to turn them on, offend them or disrespect them. I’m just trying to feed my kid. They aren’t in the equation at all,” she says.
I’m with you, sister.
However, I’m sure I provided entertainment for local diners on a few occasions during my nursing years. My left breast operated as a pretty powerful spigot, and when my babies would pull off (as they liked to do while nursing), breast milk often would spray across the table before I could staunch the leak. It was always exciting to watch my dinner companions dodge my milk squirt gun. It was a lot like when you’re a kid on a field trip to the local dairy, and the tour guide grabs one of Bessie’s udders and starts shooting milk at you. Fun!
People, listen to me for a moment, kay? Breasts, like udders, are food-conveyance devices. They’re naturally hygienic delivery systems. No need to sterilize bottles or warm the fricking milk. Boobs are natural bottle warmers. How cool is that?
I have tons more arguments (facts) about the efficacy, efficiency and power of breast feeding, but I’m going to change tacks here, and let Crystal talk, who has the honor of having her boobs star in a national brouhaha (move over, Helen of Troy).
Everitt’s a 28-year-old mom of two—a 6-year-old girl and the nursing boy. She moved to Asheville three years ago when her husband was transferred with the U.S. Air Force. Because he’s in the military, the family’s lived all over the country and in Europe and Asia. Crystal currently is a stay-at-home home-schooling mom. She said she had to stop nursing her girl when the child was about 4 months old when she was injured in a car accident. So she’s thrilled that she’s able to nurse her boy for longer.
Everitt says that while she did approach the media after the incident, the resultant feeding frenzy has taken her aback.
“I’m stunned and shocked that this happened in Asheville,” she says. “It’s crazy that this even has to be talked about.”
“All I want is an apology from Denny’s. … Denny’s management are making it sound like I was standing on the table doing a strip tease.”
She’s also been criticized for not covering her son (and her legal breast) with a blanket while she nursed. She notes that mothers who’ve nursed babies over 4 months old know that babies often won’t put up with being covered by a blanket, as her son won’t. She also says her son isn’t really eating solid foods yet, as he has a strong gag reflex. Hold the eggs, Denny’s.
I remember my oldest child had difficulty latching on initially. In order to help her, I really needed to be able to see where her mouth was and position her head correctly. So, on more than one occasion, I was in a public place or a restaurant, and to feed my screaming baby, I had to unbutton my shirt (I’d wear a button-up men’s shirt for this purpose), undo my nursing bra, and expose my entire breast to whomever wanted to look while I tried to get my baby latched on (and tried to keep the spigot from premature spraying). It’s not always easy to be discreet.
I attended the nurse-in and took some photographs (see the photo galleries at www.mountainx.com). I was surprised that Everitt refused to accept Rick Pate’s apology (he’s Denny’s regional director of operations—see videos at www.mountainx.com). She now wants a written policy change for all Denny’s restaurants. Given Denny’s past civil rights issues, this isn’t a bad idea. And yet, I talked to one mom who was breast feeding her baby inside while having a cup of coffee and another who was going to eat lunch and nurse her baby in the restaurant because she wanted to get her kids out of the cold. So it seems that Denny’s has been influenced positively by Everitt’s actions. I hope they’ll offer a policy change and that lactating moms everywhere can relax and enjoy eating out with their babies—wherever they are and without covering up.
Because this is about babies, not boobs.