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What are breastfeeding nurse-ins all about?

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Why moms protest

You may have heard of a nurse-in, but what are they really all about? We talk with a few moms who have participated in breastfeeding nurse-ins as well as some who have orchestrated them.

Nurse-ins are a form of peaceful protest that breastfeeding women and their supporters undertake to raise awareness of breastfeeding, and often breastfeeding in public. They usually follow an incident where a breastfeeding mother is told by employees of a company to cover up, go to a bathroom, or that she simply can’t breastfeed wherever she is trying to nurse her baby.

The message

Rachelle, mother of two, helped stage a nurse-in earlier this year at an Ohio water park after another mother was asked to stop nursing her baby — even though Ohio law dictates that moms may nurse their baby wherever she is legally allowed to be.

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She told us that nurse-ins often follow attempts to notify the business in question of the state laws. “They are a good tool to use when there isn't a good response to complaints of harassment,” Rachelle shared. “It should never be the first step, but it is great to show people that we will be listened to and our rights to nurse anywhere are protected in most states.”

Spreading the word

Target became the host of a nationwide nurse-in after a customer was asked to move while nursing her infant son, even though state law and store policy guaranteed that she could breastfeed her baby where she was. Stores across the nation became the stopping point for moms to gather peacefully to prove a point — that breastfeeding in public is not — and has never been — illegal.

Read about the nurse-in at Target >>

Most states actually have language in their laws that specifically protect a mother’s right to nurse her baby regardless of where she is. She is not required to cover up, head to a bathroom or nursing room or go outside to her vehicle to feed her child.

Some nurse-ins happen on a local level, while others, such as the one that took place in August on the West Lawn of the nation’s Capitol Building, happen on a larger scale. Organizer Rachel Papantonakis explained her reasoning for the event. “I was moved to organize this event because I was hearing an increasing number of stories in the news and through friends about women being harassed for breastfeeding in public,” she reported. “There are moms today who had never seen breastfeeding until they nursed their own child. We're working against inadequate workplace policies, lack of knowledge and education on breastfeeding and fear of public scrutiny.”

The future

As more mothers breastfeed their children, it is hoped that in the future, breastfeeding in public will again become a non-issue like it was when our grandmothers and great-grandmothers were having babies. “I hope my daughters will feel comfortable nursing their babies in public,” said Amanda, mother of four. “And I hope that more and more people realize that nursing a baby is what our breasts were made for.”

More on breastfeeding in public

Is breastfeeding in public still unacceptable?
Breastfeeding in public a breeze for Beyonce
Kicked off a plane for breastfeeding?

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