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Thread: Nursing toddler in public in US

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    Default Nursing toddler in public in US

    Hi everyone,

    Where I live (small town in South America) it is normal to breastfeed in public without thinking much about it. It is also normal to breastfeed toddlers, and to do so in public.

    I will be moving to the southern US (Louisiana) for a few months with my 14 mo daughter. I understand from coming across some things on the internet that nursing a toddler in public might not really be accepted culturally in the US.

    Do you think people in Louisiana would consider me "rude" or "indecent" to nurse my daughter in public places like a bus, park, or grocery store? Or would it be ok?

    I'm just going as a visiting researcher and don't want to offend any sensibilities, especially not my colleagues, but at the same time my daughter still nurses every hour or two when with me, certainly whenever she falls or gets fussy) and I was planning to have my husband bring her to the university to nurse at least once every day. It seems like it will be very inconvenient if we have to look for private places to nurse??? I don't think she'd nurse under a cover either, as we have never used one. I don't have special nursing clothes or much money but I guess I could invest in a nursing tank or something like that if it would solve the problem (although I can't wear the same shirt every day!).

    I did notice at some international meetings that colleagues from the states really avert their eyes when you are nursing a baby, and look uncomfortable, so I imagine they might feel even more uncomfortable about a toddler.

    I got a bit worried reading things on the internet. But then I think she's a pretty well-behaved nurser (not too much acrobatics anymore, thankfully!), and I have small breasts so there's not much skin to see. I am not used to worrying about exposing my breast so I think I do show quite a bit of nipple when I'm latching her on. and I still have a pretty active letdown with squirting if she pulls off at the wrong time!

    Is this a stupid thing to be worrying about? I hope so!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Nursing toddler in public in US

    People in the South are actually more likely to be offended by it than in the North. Check online to see what your rights will be around nursing in that state. In some of the southern states your right to do it publically is only protected up to the year point. So CHECK. Because if it's covered indefinitely you can stand your ground. If your rights to feed in public are ONLY protected to the year point you actually could be charged with indecent exposure if asked to stop and you don't. Which is stupid. But HAS happened. So don't worry about offending your colleagues. You can't worry about other peoples ignorance. We all as breastfeeding mothers need to work to normalize it wherever possible and you'll likely be given a pass by your colleagues as it being considered a "Cultural Difference." BUT if you are only protected by law until the year point.....you want to KNOW that and act accordingly. And yes you are coming to a place where breastfeeding in public has to be be protected BY LAW. So really you need to understand that it's about way more here than people being uncomfortable. The reach of the formula companies in this country are very insidious, and long reaching because of their entanglement with out pediatric industry. The WHO code of ethics is routinely violated with no penalty, and it makes for a ENTIRELY different feel here around breastfeeding in general. It's pretty horrible actually. Breastfeeding mothers in this country are not the norm. And that is due in large part to Pediatric doctors and nurses in Labor and delivery wards giving out terrible advice about supplementing. And breast are completely over sexualized. It's NOT a stupid thing for you to be worried about. But I would focus way more on the rights of you and your child to continue your relationship with as little interruption as possible, rather than making anyone around you uncomfortable. Come here as often as you need support. As there is always strength in numbers.

    Way too lazy for formula

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Nursing toddler in public in US

    I think it's really hard to predict in advance how your colleagues will react. They may be horribly offended, or they may just be interested, or they may be relieved to find someone willing to do it openly, while they are feeling inhibited and only doing it privately. It is entirely possible that you might "get away" with it more being from South America than someone who is clearly a local - they may be willing to chalk it up to cultural differences.

    I wouldn't assume that someone who is averting their eyes is offended, either. I used to do that before I had kids (and I came from a lactivist family, so should have known better). I thought I was being polite by giving them privacy.

    So I'd be prepared for some cultural discomfort on both sides, but I don't think you have to relinquish your cultural norms just because someone MIGHT be offended. Take it one moment at a time...

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Nursing toddler in public in US

    Also, academics tend to be more liberal and potentially more accepting of nursing in public. Plus if you're in an academic institution, many of the folks there are likely to be from other places, like you.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Nursing toddler in public in US

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*manitobamommy View Post
    Also, academics tend to be more liberal and potentially more accepting of nursing in public. Plus if you're in an academic institution, many of the folks there are likely to be from other places, like you.
    This. If you're going to be working at a university or college, I really wouldn't worry for a moment. Just treat nursing on the job as normal and no big deal, and the people around you will probably be equally sanguine.

    Nursing in public outside an academic institution can be a very different propositionm, though. You might get stares or comments, but just remind yourself that in the US, if someone is rude to you it is your God-given right to be rude right back.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Nursing toddler in public in US

    Just know that whatever discomfort you feel is shared by all of us, immigrant, visiting, or native. When it comes to breast feeding in public, especially toddlers, people have very strong feelings, often rooted in our Puritanical heritage, and not too much science. My son turns 2 in January and I have been struggling with making nursing in public a firm boundary for him, but I am leaning toward continuing to breast feed as WE see fit, not as society sees fit. I won't lie. My family and friends are mostly supportive, so I am no hero. A lot of women are basically shunned for breast feeding in public - ESPECIALLY toddlers. Just read the comments on YouTube in toddler BFing videos. Anyway. Yours is not an easy choice, so of course you have to do what is best under your circumstances, but know that any help you can offer in the effort to normalize breast feeding at all, let alone in public, is greatly appreciated. Welcome to the U.S.
    DS#1: Aidan, born 1/7/11 - 9 lbs. 5 oz. 22 in. (a difficult induced labor), BFed for 2.5 years after a VERY rocky start (indebted to LLL for the support)!
    DS#2: Amiel, born 12/11/13 - 9lbs, 22 in., 8 days "late," spontaneously, naturally & unmedicated after resisting pressure to induce.
    :

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Nursing toddler in public in US

    I think it's a bit of an exaggeration to say a lot of women are shunned for nursing in public. I think there are isolated situations where mothers are targeted by ignorant individuals or get rude comments or dirty looks in passing, but by and large I think most women that do it have no problems. Comments on the internet are much more common and aggressive than someone actually saying something to your face.

    I nursed both my kids in public, in the south, and no one ever said a word to me (except a couple of family members).
    “We are not put on earth for ourselves, but are placed here for each other. If you are there always for others, then in time of need, someone will be there for you.”
    --Anonymous

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Nursing toddler in public in US

    Here is a link to breastfeeding laws in Louisiana: http://breastfeedinglaw.com/state-laws/louisiana/

    Breastfeeding not a violation of law. A mother breastfeeding her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, shall not be deemed to be in violation of R.S. 14:106 or of any other provision of law.
    I imagine that the RS 14:106 must be public indecency or something like that. The only concern might be that they are saying baby and who knows how that is defined. They may mean under 12 months because they mention that in the first section.
    Tracie

    Mommy to
    Lilah 10/08 nursed 25 months
    Beatrix 01/11 nursed 30 months

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Nursing toddler in public in US

    I would personally just nurse however and wherever you feel comfortable. It is not your problem if someone else is uncomfortable - it is their problem.
    Tracie

    Mommy to
    Lilah 10/08 nursed 25 months
    Beatrix 01/11 nursed 30 months

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Nursing toddler in public in US

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*mommy2lilah View Post
    I would personally just nurse however and wherever you feel comfortable. It is not your problem if someone else is uncomfortable - it is their problem.
    Exactly. And I am with Still.here that the south gets a bad rap when it comes to breastfeeding. I mean, sure, there are isolated incidents but in general people are live-and-let-live no matter where you are in the US.
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

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