There are some days when I seriously need to ask myself “What planet am I on?” The story that I am about to tell you is definitely one of those situations.
Why is it that in 2017 there are still some people shaming women for nursing publicly or sharing nursing photos on Facebook?
Erika Gorman is a natural mamma and like all mommies she wants what is best for her babies. After ample research on the many benefits of extended breastfeeding, she knew that it was right for her daughter (baby number 2). When baby number three came quicker than anticipated she knew that tandem nursing was even more important.
As a mother of three boys I can only imagine her excitement once the opportunity arrived. Naturally many photos were taken of the event. And like so many modern day natural mammas, she shared the exciting event on FB with her family and friends.
Shortly afterwards the Sheriff and Human Services Agency knocked on her door. Her and her husband were accused of drugging and beating their children and exposing them to child pornography. One of her FB friends could just not tolerate tandem nursing photos and wanted to make sure Erika knew it was not acceptable and made the call.
Fortunately all of the accusations were deemed unfounded. But the damage was done. A great mama doing what was right for her babies felt shamed in the worst imaginable way. For just about a year she hid away in her house.
I cannot imagine what this would have been like. Motherhood is just about the hardest job in the entire world even if something like this never happens. It is one of the worst times to feel isolated and alone.
And in the bigger picture what does this event say about our culture and society? While this is an extreme example of how some women are shamed for nursing in public, it is sadly not unusual. I frequently hear stories about women who simply give up because they are not supported during this amazing time of their lives.
What many breast feeding shamers don’t realize is that American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that women breastfeed for a minimum of one year, and longer if desired. The World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.
And yet, the average American woman only makes it three months.
I am perplexed that that I live in a culture whereby many mothers who are just trying their best are shamed by a few extremely vocal people who are afraid to see a breast-a breast doing something it was designed to do, feed a baby.
Now I understand that there are legitimate circumstances in which case nursing is not possible. And I do no mean to make any of those mothers feel bad either. My point is that no one should feel bad for doing what is best for their baby.
However, given that there are some people that feel it is their right to shame nursing mothers it is evident that someone needs to stand up to them. And apparently, they need it spelled out to them.
- Calling the authorities because you are afraid of seeing a woman nurse or tandem nurse is not an acceptable outlet for your fears.
- Asking a woman to cover up while she is nursing in public because you feel uncomfortable is also not appropriate.
- Telling a woman that she needs to nurse in the bathroom out of sight is also not ok.
- Making a snarky remark about seeing a mother nurse a toddler is also none of your business.
- Shaming a mother for participating in one of the most natural activities she could ever have, is just not ok, ever!
And telling a woman she can not breastfeed in public is illegal in most states.
Forty-seven states have laws specifically on the books to protect a mother’s right to breastfeed in public. South Dakota and Virginia, two of the three remaining states, exempt breastfeeding moms from public indecency or nudity laws. Idaho is the only state that does not protect nursing mothers.
Bottom line mothers are protected in all but ONE state of the United States when it comes to nursing in public.
Fortunately this story has a happy outcome. Erika realized that her story can yield a powerful message that is perfect for spreading awareness and acceptance of nursing.
Here are some words of her wisdom:
“For me, the fact that there is a question that this is somehow not acceptable means that it NEEDS to be shared in order to change the status quo. In order to ensure that the next generation grows up without a FEAR of breastfeeding they need to see, on a regular basis, images of women breastfeeding, and yes, they need to see images of women breastfeeding 2 children at once. Because sometimes children arrive close together, or more then one at a time, or sometimes the weaning process is a longer journey then expected…we need to see these images. We need to honor these images. We need to love these images that strive to support the future of the sibling relationship by supporting it on the most fundamental level.” Erika
And thus this tragic story has turned into a beautiful mission to normalize breastfeeding and to honor this very special moment in a mother’s life with her children.
To further her cause she has set up a website outlining the many benefits of nursing and tandem nursing.
She is also holding a nurse-in at a local park in September 2017. In order to spread as much awareness as possible about healthy nursing the event will be photographed, filmed, and then shared for local media outlets and magazines.
This is the design of the nurse in. Drawn by Erika and her three children.
If you would like to take part in the event as a nursing mom, please visit her website at https://www.gatheringintandem.com for more information and to sign up.
More Information and Resources on Breastfeeding
- “Nursing toddlers get sick less often, and usually less severely, than those who have been weaned. ” http://www.mothering.com/articles/tandem-nursing/
- “Perhaps the most compelling reason women choose to tandem nurse is to avoid having to wean a child before he/she is ready.” http://www.naturalchild.org/guest/tamra_orr.html
- Relieves engourgment for the mother and helps with gag-free drinking for the infant. http://diaryofafirstchild.com/2012/06/05/nine-benefits-of-tandem-breastfeeding/
- “Twenty Breastfeeding Benefits for Mom and Baby” https://www.fitpregnancy.com/baby/breastfeeding/20-breastfeeding-benefits-mom-baby
- The Many Benefits of Breastfeeding, by Kelly Mom” http://kellymom.com/pregnancy/bf-prep/bf-benefits/