Yesterday, Garret and I ducked out of the office during lunch hour to go downtown and join over a hundred people gathered in protest of an incident a few days ago at H&M. Essentially, Manuela Valle was harassed for breastfeeding her infant daughter in the store while her husband was in the change room. You can read more about the story here. Naturally, the incident sparked an organized ‘nurse-in’ calling for women to come publicly breastfeed their babies at H&M.
I felt I couldn’t miss the chance to show my support and attend the nurse-in and become a lactivist right here in Vancouver. I remember so well the few occasions when I took my first baby shopping with me. I never felt comfortable breastfeeding in the stores for fear of exactly what Manuela went through and resorted to nursing him in change rooms and washrooms. But, second time around, armed with more confidence and a better understanding of my rights, I breastfed Garret in public whenever he needed to be fed. My confidence and understanding is in part thanks to women like Manuela, and dozens of others who have stood up for their (and their baby’s) rights. High profile incidents involving Delta Airlines, Starbucks (who now have teaching notes for their employee training sessions!) and the video below about what Barbara Walters said on The View, have resulted in a nurse-ins at all these corporate headquarters.
It felt so good to be a part of this show of lactivism. Regardless of what people think of breastfeeding and nurse-ins, I think all the resulting media attention is good; if a would-be or new mom sees the story on the evening news or reads it in the paper and becomes more informed, it is all worthwhile. I know it helped me!
Breastfeeding in public needs to be normalized and women deserve to feel confident and rely on their instincts in caring for their babies. After the H&M nurse-in, a lively discussion on the CBC website has ensued. I feel quite sad and angry about many of the recent posts. Yes, breastfeeding can be a very intimate and private experience, but that doesn’t mean women need to be shamed or made to feel uncomfortable while taking care of their babies most important needs. There is nothing sexual about breastfeeding and we (well at least not me, anyways) are not flagrantly baring our breasts to nurse our babies!
On a personal note, nursing Garret at H&M was a bittersweet moment, as I’ve been gradually trying to wean him. (Here is me and Garret chatting with Michelle Hoar of The Tyee, with her daugher Olivia, just before the big ‘latch-on’ moment.) Weaning has been a challenging phase for both of us – on the one hand, after almost 2 years of breastfeeding him, I am ready to close this chapter with him and get more sleep at night and have the freedom to leave him for a few days, but on the other hand, I know he’d like to hang on to his ‘nie nie’ (milk in Chinese) a little longer. I’ve come to terms that weaning him will result in growth for both of us, but it is still hard to deal with emotionally.
Learning to breastfeed my babies was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, but definitely one of the most rewarding experiences in my life and one that I will treasure forever. I smile everytime I see a breastfeeding mom in public and will fondly remember those precious times with my babies.