Because I am still nursing full-time, Adeline went with me to Atlanta this past weekend. (Our freezer stockpile is in the single digits!)
I am one of those moms who does not have a problem nursing in public places, though I try to always do it as discretely as possible – sitting in the back of a room, always using my hooter hider, etc. Adeline is a quiet nurser and I have never encountered an issue.
That is, until yesterday.
I decided to go to a large, popular, well-known Atlanta church on my way out of town yesterday. I was really looking forward to hearing the pastor, whom I respect, and the worship team. When I got to church, I knew I was pushing Adeline. She was tired and hadn't nursed well earlier. So I planned to take things in stride, prepared to not stay the whole service if she wasn't up for it. I sat on the aisle in the second to last row.
After about 30 minutes, Adeline was fussing a bit, and I decided to take her into the lobby (which was the biggest church lobby I have ever seen), nurse her and be on my way. A kind church member who was sitting behind me mentioned earlier in the service that there was a “mother's room” and offered to take me there, but I declined, knowing that I would likely be leaving early and didn't want to disturb folks more than necessary.
When I got into the lobby, I sat down on one of the giant square ottoman/couch type things. It had four distinct sides and there was no one on three of the sides. I sat just as I am sitting in the above picture and started nursing Adeline. (I had Matthew take the picture when I got home from Atlanta.) After just a couple minutes, a woman came up to me and said, “we have a mother's room, if you would like to go there.” I said that we were just fine, but let her tell me where it was in case I changed my mind about leaving.
I continued to nurse Adeline and two minutes later ANOTHER woman came up to me and said “There are going to be about 70 people coming through here for communion, so it would probably be better if you went to our nursing mothers' room. I can help you carry your things.”
My mind exploded with retorts.
I am FINE here.
Do you not see me nursing? Why would I want to move?
The 70 people won't bother me or my daughter.
Do you have a problem with a mother nursing?
What is it with you people and the mothers' room?
Instead, as calmly as I could I said, “you know, I was planning to leave town after feeding her, so I guess I will just leave now instead.”
She didn't reply.
I pulled Adeline off and she WAILED.
I put Adeline in her carseat and left the church as quickly as possible. I nursed her in the car, called Matthew crying about the incident and headed home.
It is ridiculous in this day and age that people have such issues with public nursing. The CDC has a fascinating “breastfeeding report card” which illustrates facts about breastfeeding in America.
Interestingly, in Georgia only 10% of mothers are still exclusively nursing their babies at six months. So I am an anomaly (I only supplement a few ounces a couple times a week, so I think I can say that I am almost exclusively nursing:) ). I can't help but think that the culture of the state impacted the way I was treated.
Have you ever encountered being treated poorly because you were nursing your child? How did you handle it?
Update: To those who have mentioned writing a letter, I sent several tweets yesterday to the church, who is VERY active in social media. They have not responded.
The point of this post is to discuss how women are sometimes treated for nursing in public. My situation happened to occur in a very popular, “hip” church.
Also, to clarify, this was not my church. I was visiting this church while in Atlanta. I had never been there before.
Update 2 (Feb 15): I received a kind apology from the church yesterday afternoon. Again I want to emphasize that this post was about breastfeeding in public and how women are sometimes made to feel – not the church itself.
Update 3: I have disabled comments because they have turned from a dialogue to mostly being hateful, which is not helpful to anyone.