Monday, September 14, 2009
Breastfeeding at the Zoo: Lions & Tigers & Boobs = Oh My?!?
My family and I went to the Brookfield Zoo yesterday along with hundreds of other families who had the same idea to hang with the animals on a beautiful Chicagoland day. Our time there was wonderful, despite my getting riled up at a woman who apparently feels public breastfeeding is disgusting.
You see, on our walk around the park, we noticed a woman off to the side, sitting on a bench, nursing her baby. She was covered in a breastfeeding "cape," the same kind I used when I nursed my daughter in public. Zero skin was exposed. You couldn't even see the baby, except for his tiny feet dangling from beneath the fabric. As we walked past the mother, a woman in a group next to us declared, "That is disgusting! With all of these people around, look at her breastfeeding in public! Doesn't she know there's a place for her to go and do that in private!"
I'm kind of a shy person generally, until my buttons are pushed, and this time, consider them pushed to the point of no return.
I stayed relatively calm and said, "Breastfeeding is not disgusting! She has a right to sit there and do that just as anyone else does."
The woman didn't respond, but just walked away. I am assuming she also bypassed the gorilla house too, since -- heaven forbid -- she see an ape nursing her young, like we did on a prior zoo visit.
Any child passing by the nursing mother would have no clue that a baby was being breastfed beneath, unless perhaps his or her own mother used a similar cape with a younger sibling. Let's just say the mother was being extremely discreet. No boobage was being exposed. Nary a nipple was being revealed to passersby. What this disapproving woman disliked was THE IDEA that a boob lay beneath the garment doing its God-given job. (BTW, her husband who accompanied her didn't seem to have an opinion on the subject; in fact, no one in her group seconded her declaration).
And this "place" she referred to for nursing a child in private? A "nursing station" located in the women's bathroom. Let me first say that I commend the Brookfield Zoo for conceiving such a place at all. That's the first time I have ever seen a place specifically made for mothers to go nurse their babies other than a nursing station at a hospital where I once visited someone with my infant daughter in tow.
However, the nursing station at the zoo was a doorless nook located at the back of the very stuffy, hot, and rather smelly women's bathroom. It included a bench and a sink, but not much fresh air, and honestly -- I myself wouldn't want to eat a meal in there. In fact, when I finished my business, I escaped ASAP. The doors were propped open to alleviate some of the stuffiness on an 80-degree day, so others at the zoo must have agreed that the place was hot and stinky.
In addition, when I nursed my daughter, I spent so much time indoors nursing her, that when we went on a picnic, to a festival or the zoo, I was so thrilled to be outdoors, I didn't want to go inside and find a "nursing station!" My daughter at times nursed for up to an hour. There's no way I would or should spend a beautiful day cooped up in a john for an hour to feed my child. No one should have to. And thank heavens that--at least in Illinois--legally, no one has to.
For more information on Breastfeeding Rights and laws in your area, check out this article on Parenting.com.
'Til next time,