07 February 2011

This morning, CBC shared a story on its website about how the Breastfeeding Coalition of P.E.I is working towards establishing  breastfeeding rooms in various venues across the province. This piece featured a hockey arena which has converted an unused dressing room into a place for moms to nurse. This way moms who don't want to sit on the cold hard benches in the arena have a place to go, and the room even has some toys to occupy siblings.

I'm always happy to see breastfeeding discussed in a positive light in the media. I'm also thrilled to see that efforts have been put into making it easier to meet the needs of babies. Taking care of tiny people is intense and just the thought of someone being accommodating can be a huge blessing to a frazzled parent.

Part of me, though, cringes as the other side of the message that this breastfeeding room might send. Will people think that moms are "supposed" to breastfeed only in these rooms? Will moms who feed their babies in the stands be subjected to pressure to move since there's an entire room dedicated to them? Will this help or hinder the message that breastfeeding is a normal part of parenting?

Mother's rooms or nursing rooms can be extremely useful in some situations. For the mom of a distractible nursling, a quiet place can sometimes serve as the only place where the baby will breastfeed. Or sometimes a quiet room can be what the mom needs in order to catch a few minutes of downtime to recharge. Some moms are not comfortable breastfeeding in public in the early days or at all, and so the availability of a nursing room can allow her to attend events she might otherwise miss out on.In these situations, nursing rooms are a fantastic tool.

On the other hand, there are plenty of moms who would choose not to use the nursing rooms. There are moms who don't want to miss out on the hockey game, moms who are comfortable nursing in front of others, moms who want to remain with their friends or family, or moms whose child who nurses for 30 seconds at a time every 5 minutes. For these moms, staying where they are is what would make them most comfortable and while the option of using a nursing room is nice, there should be no implication that they need to move there before feeding their child.

Whether a mom chooses to  nurse in the nursing room or while watching the hockey game, I would hope that both choices are seen as acceptable. Breastfeeding is often something that we as a society support to in theory but that we have problems showing support for in reality. Showing support for mothers who are breastfeeding in public goes a long way in normalizing breastfeeding and in helping families to meet their breastfeeding goals.

So I welcome these nursing rooms and I think it's great to let moms know that the option to use them exists, but let's also continue to send the message that nursing in public wherever a mom may be is also an equally-acceptable option.


Rae said...

I agree completely. It is good to have the option, but not good if it becomes the only option.

Samantha said...

I think they should change the name from a Nursing room to a Parenting room.
They've had a parenting room for a long time in the Kelowna BC Mall (always been labled Parenting room). Just makes it more open and friendly

SingleMama said...

I remember when Saoirse was a baby and Rob would stand in front of me holding up a receiving blanket to cover us up as I got her latched on.
When Brighid was born my primary concern was latching her on; not making other people feel comfortable.
I've never liked nursing rooms.

Liam J. said...

It seems to come down to an accommodation versus alienation thing. Are you being provided for or are you being moved aside? Is it for you or is it for everyone else? Being as optimistic and positive on the human condition as I am, I have to assume that this is merely for convenience and you would be welcome to nurse in the stands, during the game.

Having refereed little kids playing sports, though, I have to wonder if we want to encourage more parents to stay for the games. Those hockey parents are vicious.

Erie said...

I love this post, Kim! I think that "parenting rooms" are a wonderful idea, and I have made use of them in the past. But it's so important that moms (and dads!) know that these rooms are for them to use at THEIR convenience, not anyone else's.

Jessica said...

I suppose it's considerate, but I think in a perfect world rooms like this would be unnecessary. I've been nursing for only 3.5 weeks and the only reason I've ever needed a room to go to was because I was afraid those around me wouldn't be comfortable with me nursing in front of them. It should be my right to breastfeed anywhere at all, but in practice I don't feel that is true. And my little one IS one of those who wants to nurse every 5 minutes so that is a really good point that it isn't convenient for everyone to leave the public area.

KimProbable said...

My technical guy (AKA Liam) is in the midst of changing my comments style so I can reply directly to each person but for now I'm just going to reply to everyone down here.

Rae: I think the word option is what it all comes down to. Many options are good because they mean that more needs can be met and each mom can choose what works best for her.

Sam: I liked our discussion on Facebook about this. Calling it a parenting room certainly opens the door to giving dads a place to care for their children too, and taking the word "nursing" out can remove the possible implication that this is the only place breastfeeding should take place.

SingleMama: It's neat how much our views change, hey? I still remember feeling like people were uncomfortable with me nursing Nick in front of them and then feeling they were fine with me nursing Lily in front of them. It took me a bit to realize that all that had changed was my perception and assumptions.

Liam: Have I ever mentioned that I love your optimism? (And the fact that we've chosen not to become hockey parents?)

Erie: I love your point about the rooms being for the parents' convenience. I think if everyone approached the situation with that mindset it would completely eliminate the problem of expectations of where moms should nurse.

Jessica: I think it's tricky territory for each of us to figure out. I've breastfed in situations before where others might have been uncomfortable but my child's needs were more important. Conversely, I've put off breastfeeding at other times if the situation was one where I felt my child could wait and either I or others were uncomfortable to a degree that it played into my decision. I've imagined before what breastfeeding would look like in my perfect world, and I think it mainly boils down to everyone being understanding of babies' needs.

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