Emily Medley, public programs director for Houston’s Health Museum, looked out from the podium to explain what led her to this place of passion for normalizing breastfeeding in public.
She recalled a time she went into the museum bathroom, and an uncomfortable scuffling drew her attention from one of the farthest stalls. She realized almost immediately there was a mother inside that stall, breastfeeding her baby on the toilet. It broke her heart.
Emily was pained to realize a mother could so greatly fear the stigma and criticisms (whether quiet or loud) that come with public nursing, that even with laws to protect her right to naturally feed in many states, she still doesn’t feel welcome enough to care for her baby where people can see her. A place of isolation and privacy only… a toilet.
She planned to close out this year’s World Breastfeeding Week in a very special way by hosting this museum presentation by Leilani Rogers, an Austin photographer and founder of The Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project. The exhibit called “Cradle Me Here” featured mothers nursing their babies and children throughout the museum on demand –“live breastfeeding art,” if you will — in response to a need, just like they would any other day or place.
Emily wanted us to know how thrilled she felt to host the event for us and that the museum not only welcomes breastfeeding mothers and our “SO beautiful babies!” but cherishes and respects us, too. After all, the museum board is on track to refocus what their education is “all about.” Now the museum touches most upon “the things that make us human,” and recognizes breastfeeding as one of the first major (and most normal) impressions upon childhood and lifelong physical and emotional health.
Despite all the attention given to those who just don’t “get it,” many people like Emily and Leilani do commiserate with the plight of a publicly breastfeeding mother. I myself have endured a few disappointing experiences breastfeeding in public (read about two here and here), but I’ve enjoyed some memorably positive ones too.
By sharing a few personal stories of positive NIP experiences, I hope that any mother who fears or hesitates to feed her child in public may be encouraged to do what she feels is best for her child — which will never be, at any age or level of publicity or food type, to serve him a meal on the toilet.