Give Breast-feeding Moms a Place to Nurse in Public Buildings

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Imagine you and a friend are out shopping with your 4-month-old baby. It’s baby’s snack time NOW.
You leave your friend at the sales rack and run, bouncing baby up and down while you search for a spot to feed her.

You find the bathroom and sigh. No lounge, no chair. Baby’s wailing by now. Opening the stall door, you spread paper on the seat and sit down, fully clothed.

You feed baby to the sounds of toilets flushing on either side of you and women shuffling in and out. You count voices and remember the number of stalls,hoping no one’s waiting to use your toilet.

“I would never feed my baby on a public toilet,” you think.

No? What if you exclusively breast-feed your infant?

Trust me, regardless of women’s “right” to breast-feed, unless you are extremely self-confident and really don’t care what others think, you are going to search out the toilet or head all the way out to your car to nurse.

I know, because I’ve nursed all three of my girls for their first year of life. I strongly believe in the health benefits of breast- feeding and believe it’s a natural, beautiful bonding experience. It also saves money you don’t spend on formula. I even believe I have the right to nurse, discretely covered, in the food court, but I never will. That’s because breast-feeding my child is a private moment for me, not something I want to do in front of strangers, with or without strategically placed shawls or baby blankets. I defend any mother’s right to nurse discretely in public, but it’s not my own style, and I know I am not alone.

The problem is, it’s almost impossible to find a good private place to breast feed in public buildings. For all the medical community’s advice encouraging us to breast-feed for at least six months, preferably 12, and for the politically correct talk supporting the practice, there’s actually very little accommodation for it.

Babies are not foreign to public bathrooms. Most restrooms now have diaper-changing facilities, some even with fresh diaper machines. In fact, some airports, malls and other large bathrooms have diaper tables in the men’s side, too, so dad can do his share of bottom-cleaning.

So why not add a breast-feeding station? Ideally, this would be a comfortable chair in a private nook next to or just inside the bathroom, perhaps shielded by a partial wall. Realistically, a simple chair in the bathroom would suffice, even if it were in plain view of other women coming in to use the toilets. At least they’d know the breast-feeding woman was not tying up a stall for 20 minutes.

Although some bathrooms in restaurants, stores, libraries, malls, government halls and other public bathrooms do have chairs that can be used for nursing or resting, they are the exception. I bet people designing bathrooms just don’t imagine someone eating lunch there. They should.

Sonja Meyer Duntley is a freelance writer and mother of three girls.

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