You have the right to nurse in public. But more importantly, you have the right to decide whether or not you will nurse in public. This is a distinct and frequently misunderstood point. Nursing in public is a human rights issue, and it impacts women who choose not to nurse in public.
In a future post I will address the topic from the angle of women who choose to nurse in public. Today let's focus in on the mother who chooses not to nurse in public. Why? Nursing in public is often seen as a benchmark for a truly liberated nursing mother: anyone can nurse at home, but only the best of the best will nurse in public.
I find this problematic on a number of levels. First, the fact that nursing in public in considered a daring move at all is a reflection of the trouble with how our society views things. It's feeding a baby, not disarming a grenade. Second, by looking down on the mother who chooses to feed in private only, we are committing an act of hypocrisy. Are you morally superior by nursing in public? Not if you turn around and scowl at the bottle feeding mother the same way that the ignorant stranger scowls at you.
There are plenty of good reasons why a mother may opt out of nursing in public. These are just a few examples:
-She exclusively pumps for her baby
-Nursing in public is physically awkward (no nursing pillow, hard to find a good position to nurse in)
-Her personal or religious beliefs dictate a degree of modest dress where she is not comfortable partially exposing her breast
-She is not completely comfortable with the people around her and is nervous about nursing in front of them
-A previous experience with nursing in public resulted in some type of harassment
-Her baby is having difficulty latching, making an experience of nursing in public particularly stressful
If you decide not to nurse in public, there is nothing wrong with that. Nursing in public is a choice. It's a choice to be made by the nursing mother. It doesn't make you any less of a good nursing mother if you decide that nursing in public simply isn't right for you. You may one day change your mind. You may not. Either way, feel confident in your decision. And if you see someone else out in public feeding their baby in a way that's different from you, just respect their decision and move on.