On Saturday, August 4, the U.S. Capitol Building was the place to be on for breastfeeding moms or supporters anywhere near the Washington DC metro area. The mission of the Great Nurse-In is to normalize breastfeeding for today’s society and future generations by promoting public breastfeeding.
Why Should Breastfeeding Moms Demonstrate in Washington?
“Women have a right to breastfeed and not encounter difficulties in public. While in public, there is fear that one is risking ridicule and expulsion. This is far too common and unacceptable,” explain organizers on the Great Nurse-In website. “While there are laws allowing public breastfeeding in 48 of the 50 states, many are out-of-date and restrictive. Additionally, without public awareness and support of these laws, the burden is still on the nursing mother to defend her right to breastfeed.”
Channeling Outrage About Breastfeeding Discrimination
The Great Nurse-In was the brainstorm of one local mother, Rachel Papantonakis, outraged about a spate of incidents where women were asked to stop breastfeeding their children in public places, places they were legally allowed to breastfeed. The Washington Post reports:
A D.C. mother was told (incorrectly) that nursing in a public building was illegal. A few weeks later, women across the country gathered to protest an incident at a Houston Target when employees harassed a mother for breast-feeding. At almost the same time, NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne tweeted that he’d just witnessed a mother nursing her child in public and it was “nasty.” Kahne later publicly apologized.
Papantonakis was especially incensed by an incident last year at the Hirshhorn Museum when a guard told a mother she could only nurse her child in the restroom — which would have meant feeding the baby on a toilet seat. Smithsonian officials later apologized for the guard’s actions and said they welcomed the nurse-in it prompted.
Papantonakis began posting to local listservs about her idea for a “Million Boob March” on Washington and the Great Nurse-In grew out of interest she generated.
Since Papantonakis and other organizers began putting together Saturday’s and related events, media and public attention to breastbeeding has grown, especially since Time Magazine declared breastfeeding an extreme parenting technique in a highly controversial cover article.
Great Nurse-In To Focus on aWoman’s Right to Fed Her Child in Public
“While there are laws allowing public breastfeeding in 48 of the 50 states, many are out-of-date and restrictive, putting the stress and burden of enforcement on the nursing mother rather than those who violate them,” organizers explain in their FAQ.
In another highly publicized incident, a DC mom and lawyer was harassed by two guards at the Department of Motor Vehicles for breastfeeding her infant son while she waited to contest a traffic ticket. “I was shocked, upset and angry that by providing food for my son, I was being treated like a criminal,” Simone Manigo-Truell dos Santos wrote in the Washington Post. Manigo-Truell dos Santos immediately called her law firm to confirm that, since 2007, there has been a law in the District protecting a woman’s right to breastfeed anywhere she is legally allowed to be herself.
Many Great Nurse-In participants were already in town for Friday’s Congressional action day. Moms will be meeting with their members of Congress to lobby for federal laws supporting breastfeeding rights. ”While there is a law allowing breastfeeding on federal property, we’d like to go one step further and call for the creation of an overarching federal law protecting public breastfeeding equally and completely in all states.”
Get Involved with World Breastfeeding Week and The Big Latch-On
The Great Nurse-In is being organized in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week. Organizers are encouraging supporters who can’t make this year’s event to get involved online or with events in their own areas.
This post was originally published on Care2.com,©Jennifer Mueller