Friday, February 24, 2006

On Breastfeeding and Chicken Wing Eating

When my oldest son Johnny was a baby, we went to an Arizona restaurant with family and friends. I wore an orange sundress and ate chips and salsa, thinking, "Yeah, I'm a mom. But I still dress cute." I was so pleased with myself.

Then Johnny wanted to nurse. This happens when you're a breastfeeding mother. If you only nursed your baby in the privacy of your own home, you would never leave your house.

So I draped a blanket over my shoulder, unzipped the dress and tried to slip it off my shoulder. The blanket fell off me and there I was in my bra, looking like I was taking my clothes off at a restaurant. The long table of people looked at me, bemused, and I ran for the door, mortified.

It was a rookie mistake. And terribly indiscrete.

I think most nursing mothers could tell similar stories.

In Kansas, a House Bill was passed yesterday that allowed breastfeeding in public. It was after a mom encountered rude comments while breastfeeding her baby at a health club. But the house added one little word to the bill: "discretely." A woman must breastfeed the baby discretely, which is easier said than done. Advocates of breastfeeding pointed out that that term is open to interpretation.

I agree. What is indiscrete breastfeeding? Is it when you attach tassels to your breasts and swing them around to get your baby focused on his food source? Or is it when you put a blanket over your shoulder, and in the same instant, the baby bites your breast, pulls down the blanket and jerks his head away? You scream, "Ah, jaysus," in pain, attracting attention to your now exposed breast.

If it is the latter, I agree that it is indiscrete, and those babies should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. No offense J.J. Furthermore, there should be no statute of limitations. Sorry, Johnny and Richie.

Let's face it, babies are the least discrete beings on the planet, beating out even orangutans. They scream during church and sit quietly at the park. They wait until they have their new baptismal gown on to have a blow-out diaper. And they don't like eating with a blanket over their heads. Who does?

For instance, last year I tried to pass a bill in the Senate that required people eating hot chicken wings to do so with a blanket over their heads. I find orange grease dripping from chins offensive. But my husband is a bulldog lobbyist and shot that legislation right out of the water. He claimed that he couldn't breath well while eating with a blanket over his head. People have gone overboard with individual rights, is what I say. "We need our air." Wa wa wa.

In all fairness, I think this language is in the interest of business owners who might not want mothers to nurse on their property. Business is tough, and I understand that owners have to consider the attitudes of their patrons. If those patrons think babies should cower under a blanket drinking bland milk while they eat hot chicken wings indiscretely, that's their opinion, and one I respect.

Luckily, acceptance of breastfeeding has come a long way. My friend Grandma Ruby said that when she was a young mother in the 1940s or 50s, doctors discouraged breastfeeding. It was considered a country bumpkin thing to do. She breastfed anyway because something told her it was good for the babies.

Now, lactation specialists are available at hospitals to help new mothers with breastfeeding. My sister in law Erin said that some corporations now hire lactation consultants to help working moms continue to breastfeed. I've never heard negative comments while I've breastfed my sons--not even after the Arizona fiasco. Sometimes, a woman will walk by and say, "Good for you, mom."

But the whole reason behind this bill is that nursing mothers were being discriminated against. And adding such a subjective word as "discretely" to the bill could render it useless. I doubt that women who looked as if they weren't nursing encountered much grief in the first place.

Make no mistake. Breastfeeding in public is not currently illegal in Kansas. This bill just says you can't ask a woman to leave for breastfeeding discretely. It says nothing about chicken wings.

Today the house takes a final vote before the bill is considered by the Senate. Advocates of breastfeeding hope lawmakers take out the word "discretely."

Some lawmakers argue that the language is necessary because some women are not nursing discretely. I agree, but I'm sure they are sufficiently embarrassed, as I was, when that happens, and don't need to be further mortified by being asked to leave. To summarize my earlier point, if anything, the squirmy, bitey babies should be jailed. (Not that anyone is going to jail for breastfeeding.)

I think House Committee Chairman Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, said it best in an article in the Lawrence World Journal. "I trust women to know when they are being discrete."

37 states have laws legalizing breastfeeding in public. Only one says they must do so discretely. And well, well, well. Look who it is. My home state of Missouri. To which I just have one thing to say. It's a good thing I did my breastfeeding striptease in Arizona.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adorable article! So clever! I'm so proud of my girls for breast feeding, discretely or not. It's the best for the babes! Mom

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

its always funny to hear people make comments on breast feeding...why are they looking anyway??

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Betsy said...

Fantastic! Eddie just forwarded this to me and I read them all. I knew you were talented.... Great stuff. I will watch for more. Betsy

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love it, Bridge!! We are such pro's now that most of the time people don't even realize what is going on!

10:21 AM  

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