Some years ago, a parent left “business” cards at a La Leche League meeting I was leading, each simply stating:
“Thank you for nursing in public. You make it easier for other mommies to do the same. You are setting an amazing example!”
These cards sat stacked in a box meeting after meeting. One day, I decided to take several with a thought of passing them on as I saw the opportunity. I put a few in my car, a couple in my wallet, and began quietly handing them out when I saw mothers breastfeeding, whether at a restaurant, airport, or park, among other places. Eventually, I found myself reaching for them often enough that my then four- and nine-year-old daughters caught on and became eager to gift a card to mothers and babies. Their eyes became more skilled than mine at spotting this expression of love and nourishment!
Not too far beyond their own nursing phase, perhaps they knew just what was at stake for these couples: amazing food security, emotional attachment, warmth, and comfort all in one that can only be sustained by demand regardless of location. One offsetting glance and a new mother may feel defeated for even trying to get out of the house to enjoy some company and a change of scenery. A cascade of missed feedings, milk supply changes, and a baby that struggles to gain weight can ensue as this new couple navigates much needed social outings without confidence in breastfeeding around others. Counter this with one smile and a statement of assurance and a mother may feel renewed trust in her body and its life-giving energy. Feeding on cue becomes easier, milk production is sustained, and baby thrives wherever life takes them from day to day!
I have since ordered new batches of cards and pass them on to mothers I see nursing in public and occasionally those I work with as an IBCLC. I encourage everyone I work with to attend community support groups ranging from our own with Nurture Columbus to La Leche League meetings. Although there are many reasons to attend, I often emphasize the confidence with breastfeeding around others that is grown at meetings. Some go on to attend meetings for several months. Others choose to simply pass the cards on. Hopefully all feel more empowered to share their amazing example that can help families grow whether at home or beyond.
One of the advantages of breastfeeding is being able to provide a baby with nutrition any time and anywhere. The more we support those able to do this, the more it can be gifted on to others!
As of 2018, all 50 United States have provisions that protect those who are breastfeeding in any public place or space.
About the author: Allyson Wessells is a physical therapist and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) with Nurture Columbus, in Columbus, Ohio. As a PT and IBCLC, she focuses on optimizing nourishment and growth for lifelong health. Other services include presentations emphasizing the interdependence of breastfeeding and infant development as a foundation for preventative healthcare.