Monday, February 1, 2010

Nursing in Public, Episode I: The Church Nursing Room

Okay, I'll have to admit it. I don't get it. What's up?

Here's the situation: Our church has a nursing room, directly off the sanctuary, where mamas can go to nurse infants. It's entirely enclosed, no windows, darkened, with a TV screen of the pastor speaking. There's even a sign that says "Since this room is for women and infants, no men are allowed in this room." Thus, we have a private, low-light, women-and-babies-only nursing situation.

But what do I find?

I find that women, even in these circumstances, take the time to elaborately cover themselves with nursing covers before they are willing to nurse. Baby is screaming, mama is stressed - but they won't nurse until they've swathed themselves in the heavy folds of their nursing covers.

What gives?

I mean, seriously! It's ALL WOMEN. There are no men present, and not even any children. (Not that I'd object to that, but some would.) So WHY? Do they think other women are going to be grossed out by their breast-feeding? ("I'm sitting here breastfeeding my baby, but if I see another baby nursing I'll puke!") Are they that modest that they can't show one inch of skin to nurse a baby?

I find it puzzling. All the more so because, statistically, I know that most of these women are hospital-birthers, meaning that they have undergone demeaning and immodest procedures and situations that I would never wish on anyone - such as nudity before multiple complete strangers, vaginal exams by multiple complete strangers, birth in the lithotomy position before complete strangers.... and yet they cannot possibly nurse in front of other women without being completely covered. Can I say that this is a little strange?

I'm not an "in-your-face" nurser, but I don't cover myself completely. It's an unnecessary pain in the neck! But I find myself worrying and feeling self-conscious about nursing normally when surrounded by nursing-cover moms. "Are they thinking I'm weird? Are they grossed out by the sight of me breastfeeding? Are they going to talk about me when I leave?" All my insecurities come out in the nursing room.

This past week I finally saw one woman nurse who only partially covered herself with a blanket. I could have kissed her in gratitude - I felt an immediate sisterhood. :)

Weird stuff.... Thoughts, anyone?

6 comments:

  1. Wow.....That is really susprising.

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  2. I found that about half the women in my church "nursing mom's room" cover. mostly it is the women who are wearing a dress and don't feel comfortable nursing from the top down in "public". I agree with you though, it is fascinating. I don't cover up, but I don't feel judged either. I must add I LOVE my nursing moms room. comfy glider chairs, and nice to be around other nursing moms.

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  3. Maybe it's peer pressure -- everybody is covered up, so everybody else thinks that somebody is going to think badly of her if *she* is the only one uncovered, so everybody covers up even though nobody really thinks it necessary. That may be why after you nursed uncovered that the next time someone else didn't cover up -- she finally didn't feel like "the only one" who didn't feel it necessary to cover up.

    -Kathy

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  4. I am a parishioner at a large, extremely traditional Catholic parish in the middle of Chicago. We mostly attend the "old Latin Mass."
    We have no nursing room.
    I don't know anyone who leaves to feed their child and there are hundreds of babies.
    Matter of fact, at post-Mass breakfast in a cafe across the street, the moms (at least the ones I eat with) do the same. No one leaves to feed their baby. Men, women, children - no one bats an eye when mom is doing her thing.
    I am SO glad it's like this.
    I hope I am dexterous (and confident) enough to manage this!
    :)

    -Cathy

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  5. With my first born, I never used a cover. I'd never heard of them until my second was on the way and all the ladies I knew insisted they were a must-have item. Once my son arrived, I tried it once and found it far too cumbersome. I'm still wearing my maternity shirts which have a lot of stretch in them. I stick baby's head under the shirt to get latched and then uncover his head while he eats. I've never shown more than an inch of skin, far less than what you see on the covers of magazines while waiting at the grocery checkout.

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  6. Just posted on my blog today about nursing in public.

    I don't get it at all. I had a friend asked to leave church for nursing in the sanctuary. It is nonsense.

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