A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

The Ugly Side of Nursing Rooms

I support a woman’s right to choose what is best for her and her family. I support women who choose to cover when breastfeeding in public even though I choose not to. I support women who choose to use formula or to wean their babies even though this is not something that I personally choose. I genuinely believe that true empowerment comes when a woman has access to information and is able to make her own choice. I believe that empowerment is about the ability to choose, not the choice itself. I want women to be able to choose when, how and where they breastfeed their children. I know that there are women who would choose to use a Nursing Room if they have access to one. I applaud businesses and public areas that strive to be “family friendly” and provide a comfortable space for a mother. But I will never step foot in a Nursing Room and here is why.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, breastfeeding in public

We are allowed to be in public. We do not have to go anywhere besides where we choose to be in that moment to breastfeed our child. I don’t like the sour smell of segregation being emitted from the doors of these rooms. These rooms could end up biting us in the ass. Breastfeeding in public for all the world to see is the only way to normalize breastfeeding. I don’t like the idea of these rooms becoming another place that society tells breastfeeding mothers they must go to feed their children. “Ma’am, you can’t do that here, we have a Nursing Room for that, you can go in there.” I understand that this is not the purpose of Nursing Rooms. I understand that they are for women who choose to use them. I understand they are built with the most genuine of good intentions; for our comfort, pleasure and choice. But I remain skeptical about their benefit toward normalizing breastfeeding, about how they could be manipulated in the future. We have as much of a right to be in public as anyone else. I think there could be a time when we might start to hear “why don’t you go to the Nursing Room to do that,” and to me this is the same as “why don’t you go to the bathroom to do that.” Again, I am clear that this is not the intention, but in the Unites States we are in a delicate situation. Breastfeeding is not normalized here. The cultural climate could lead to the misuse of these rooms. By society, not nursing mothers.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, breastfeeding in public.

The message that breastfeeding needs to be hidden perpetuates the oversexualization of the female body and the act of breastfeeding. It can be yet another way to control women, to keep us separated from the rest of society. These Nursing Rooms could perpetuate the idea that breastfeeding is supposed to be “private,” “modest,” or whatever subjective words are tossed around. No group of people should have to go to a separate room, to the back of the bus, stand outside or whatever just because they all share a certain characteristic that the majority or mainstream finds unusual or offensive. No one has ever made any progress toward normalizing something by going behind closed doors to do it. Especially something that is normal, natural and nurturing. The act of breastfeeding is feeding, cuddling and comforting our young. This needs to be seen as much as possible. And it needs to be seen now.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, breastfeeding in public.

My fear has come true in many ways. I have seen long discussions about the quality and condition of many Nursing Rooms. Mothers upset that this one was in a bathroom, that one didn’t have comfortable chairs; and mothers praising businesses for the welcoming sign outside of this room and the extra amenities in that room. I completely agree that bathrooms should not be Nursing Rooms. I agree that comfortable chairs show a great deal of effort to making mothers feel welcome. I agree that these conversations are important to furthering the cause. My concern lies when we step back and look at the bigger picture. Is it really furthering the cause? Here we are arguing, calling news stations and scheduling nurse-ins over the details of Nursing Rooms; meanwhile we are still being pushed into another room to breastfeed. Our mission is to NORMALIZE BREASTFEEDING . To stand up to societal norms that tell us we need to hide. To fight back against the majority saying we should cover, go to another room or stay home.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeeder, breastfeeding in public.

I will go out of my way to avoid Nursing Rooms. I do understand that there are mothers who do not feel comfortable doing this. Or mothers that have babies that are just too distracted. Or mothers that frequent areas where you can’t find a place to get comfortable. Or the pumping Mom who needs an outlet. I do not want to make this a black and white situation. I just want to keep us on our toes and do what we do best when we QUESTION EVERYTHING. I do understand there are benefits to these rooms and I encourage mothers who need to use them to do so. I also encourage more rooms to be built for the purpose of serving the comforts of nursing mothers everywhere. I am not wishing the rooms away. First and foremost I want you to be supported and comfortable. I simply want to present another side of the issue for us to keep in mind as we move forward. I want us to think critically about our behavior and how it can affect future generations of breastfeeders. I want us to think about how these rooms affect how society sees breastfeeding. Are they helping to normalize breastfeeding?

It’s tough; really, really tough to look at our everyday behaviors. I get that. But I do think it’s so important and of great value to think and have an open mind about what we are doing. If you want to go into the Nursing Room then I support you. I will hold your coffee, I will watch your stuff, I will keep shopping with you when you are done! But I will wait out here and breastfeed, uncovered, for everyone to see in hopes that one day you or your daughters don’t feel that you have to go in there.

If you feel you are in need of more support to feel comfortable breastfeeding in public please click here for my free NIP course!

Abby Theuring, MSW