Breastfeeding in Class

So, in one of my classes, there is a new mom. She mentioned the possibility of breastfeeding in class (it is a smallish seminar) to which I and a few other students responded positively, with no one really seeming to oppose it. The prof. (who is actually a ph.d. student, a new mom herself) responded that she had an office if the mom would feel more comfortable there. I feel strongly that moms should be able to breastfeed where ever and whenever the baby is hungry. I subscribe to Mothering magazine which is not perfect, but overall is really good and fits well with how I hope to raise children someday. There are frequently articles about how new moms often have to deal with being asked to go somewhere else or being made to feel ashamed for breastfeeding in public. (As a side note, while it wouldn’t bother me if a breast was showing, we aren’t talking about topless women feeding here – typically no skin can be seen due to very creative breastfeeding tops or a light blanket thrown over the shoulder.) But back to the class story. So after class the professor send an email to all of us except the breastfeeding mom asking if we would feel comfortable with her breastfeeding in class. If someone didn’t feel comfortable with it, the mom and baby would go somewhere else to feed. I was not in love with the idea of a breastfeeding mom needing permission from the class and responded to the prof. that breastfeeding is a perfectly natural and normal thing and that if someone felt uncomfortable with it, perhaps they could leave for a while while the baby was breastfeeding. I tried to say this very diplomatically, but firmly, noting that I do not believe that it is the responsibility of the breastfeeding mom to take responsibility for other people’s uncomfortableness with it. I am not a very conflict-seeking person, and typically avoid it at all cost unless it seems very important to me. This seemed sort of important, but I also felt like I needed to say it to be true to myself instead of just rolling over and playing fair-weather-feminist. The professor was very nice about it, but in the end I felt like all my standing up for breastfeeding justice was a little misguided when the professor told me that it was in fact the breastfeeding mom who asked the professor to ask the class if they would be comfortable with it. So here I thought I was standing up for a mom (for moms everywhere! for breasts everywhere!) who might be banished to an office to feed when, instead, the mom (presumably) was pretty chill about the whole thing and trying to be thoughtful to those who might be uncomfortable. Still, I’m glad I wrote the letter. But it still made me feel a little sheepish. I have another sheepish story to tell at some point (two in one day! yay!), but I’m off to WomenChurch, an ecumenical gathering of women at the divinity school tonight. I wrote the opening prayer. Perhaps I’ll post it.

4 Responses to Breastfeeding in Class

  1. Lizard Eater says:

    Can I just say “Bless You” for your attitude? Wish I could hug you. I’m feeling a bit blue right now … a bunch of women in my church are going off to a women’s retreat, but I was told that no, I could not bring my breastfeeding baby. So, I’ll be staying home.

    Mothering is a good magazine. Sometime, for grins, you should pick up “Compleat Mother.” It makes “Mothering” look “Parenting magazine” — i.e. more mainstream. I thought I was a hippie mom til I read CM.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Oh, that’s just terrible that you weren’t able to go on the retreat. I am always amazed at how un-parent friendly (in particular, un-mom friendly) the world still is. And it somehow seems worse when it is in one’s own church. I’ll take a look at Compleat Mother. While I love Mothering, I get the feeling Compleat Mother might be a little much for me. Of course, as my mom says, “Nothing you say about children counts until you have them,” so it will be a little while before my opinion counts :) Best to you and Little Warrior. So glad to hear that she is in remission…. Peace, Elizabeth

  3. birthingjourney says:

    Thanks for this post. We had an incident in our small town in N. California where a mom nursed at the public pool and was asked to leave. Well, this mom mentioned the legal ramifications and also told certain key people in the community and our town almost had a nurse-in. Things changed fast and the pool apologized. I love Mothering and Compleat Mother.

  4. Anonymous says:

    You did the right thing…. you stood up for a principle and that’s the important factor. The teacher’s suggestion that the mother might be more comfortable in her office was a signal to the mother that breastfeeding was not really okay. The mother’s resulting request for a class-member poll would not have otherwise happened. Your response to the teacher was appropriate and needed to be said. I applaude it. It’s the teacher who should be uncomfortable, not you.

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