Monday, May 7, 2012

Breastfeeding In Tents

You've heard from Shannon before through bits and tidbits here.  You've seen her birth video.  She has grown to be a close friend -- my joke is that I talk to her about every 15 minutes!  She is probably the most clever person I know, as comes through in her writing.  She is in charge of marketing for Birth Boot Camp and I'm grateful to have her on the Board of Directors.

This week we were discussing Breastfeeding Tents that are starting to be used at a number of baby fairs and events.  Neither of us particularly like them.  Shannon wrote this post and summed it up nicely for my Banned From Baby Showers readers.  Enjoy.

I don't like Breastfeeding Tents. I kinda think they suck, actually.

Before you get riled, give me 4 minutes and then you can decide if it's worth the time to insist I be excommunicated from the crunchy mom club (I homebirth, ingest placenta and nursed until 3 --  my stripes are legit).

1) They are bad for breastfeeding moms. They imply you should nurse your baby in them.  In fact, I have been approached at an event while nursing and told there was a breastfeeding tent. I was sitting within eyesight of it. I didn't need to be told.  I have no desire to interrupt my conversation or relocate it somewhere I don't want to be.  Even if I see it as optional, the person who told me about the tent did not.  She thought I needed to be in the tent.

This makes the tent more offensive, in my opinion, than the controversial Hooter Hider, or nursing cover.  At least with a nursing cover, I have to pack it in my bag and make the choice to put it on my body.  A Breastfeeding Tent is kinda like having a stack of Hooter Hiders in the corner for "those" breastfeeders.  And empowering someone to walk up and hand me one.

2) They are offensive to moms who bottle-feed.   Do those moms not also deserve a special place to put their feet up and rest on a soft rocker while their baby eats?  Or should they just sit in the sun and suffer?  While I'm all about breastfeeding, I have no idea why the bottle feeding mom next to me made that choice, or if it was made for her.  She isn't a second-class mommy, she doesn't love her baby less and she shouldn't be excluded from the Tent of Happiness and Joy.  Oh wait, it's called a Breastfeeding Tent.  Bet she feels really great about going in there and mixing up a bottle. And if she fought really hard for a breastfeeding relationship and lost, she's gonna feel even better about herself after hanging out outside of the tent.

3) There is an easier way to still give moms a quiet place to nurse without alienating everyone. Just don't call it a darn breastfeeding tent. Call it a Baby Pit Stop, call it a Mommy Oasis, call it whatever you want -- just find a name that says it's a spot to feed and care for babies without shaming (by insinuating some moms should hide or others just plain aren't welcome there). I totally get that babies are distracted at some ages and mommies need to sit and look at what they are doing while nursing their baby. Some bottle-feeding babies are also distracted and need a quiet spot. If you are a super shy mom who is just getting started breastfeeding and REALLY needs the privacy you won't be comfortable in a small nylon tent where anyone could wander in anyway.

I'm not saying to banish the tent, just change the marketing a little. Go on, someone in your organization can come up with a catchy name.

P.S. One more thing - breastfeeding moms are not the only ones who need information on breastfeeding. The masses should be exposed to the breastfeeding propaganda. Otherwise you are just preaching to the choir. Sequestering the breastfeeding information within a tent only for certain people implies that breastfeeding is for an exclusive group.

It's not. Breastfeeding is something every mom should feel is accessible and attainable, and the marketing of those promoting it should reflect that.


momto5 said...

LOVE THIS!!! so very true. i have felt the same way. i, personally, don't need a special place to nurse to be hidden away... but some moms do; both breastfeeding moms and bottle feeding moms. and DANG, YES! get the info out to everyone!

Kelly said...

I completely agree! I really feel like when there is a specific "tent" or "room", that people expect me to use it. I think I should be able to feed my babe anywhere...

Sarah H. said...

I don't find nursing tents offensive at all. I think they are a great idea and that it means some people recognize nursing moms and want to meet their needs. I am thankful for them trying to make my life more comfortable!
Now, I do see your point about calling it a baby tent or something like that so that moms who need to bottle feed can use it, but I highly doubt they are just trying to get nursing moms off the street so they don't have to look at them.
You know, a few years ago, it was all the rage amough crunchy moms to make breast feeding normal. Now, it is becoming more popular, and it seems some people are trying to be helpful and thughtful with the nursing tents. It seems to me very silly of us to get our panties in a wad over people recognizing breast feeding(duh, was that not what we wanted??) and now trying to make it easier for us. Lets take the tents and be pleasent women about it!

Janie said...

I am totally on board with the tent whatever its called until someone feels like they can tell you to go only there to nurse. then I am pissed.

Lize said...

I've never seen the tent variety, but here we have parents rooms where you can change or fees baby. It's basically a bathroom with no toilet and the feeding rooms are small cubicles like changing rooms. Personally, I don't feel the need to nurse in public but I'm glad they're there for those that do.

I'm not sure about the US but here in Australia, it's illegal for someone to tell you that you can't breastfeed. It comes under the sex discrimination act.

Bri said...

Thank you for taking a moment to recognize bottle feeding mothers. My first son was born at 35 weeks and spent the first 2 weeks of life in NICU. While we tried our best to establish breastfeeding he never got it (found out 2 years later there were other issues that made this difficult). My second son, despite my 24/7 attempts, would only take one feeding a day. After a week of that, I started pumping. Both of my children, on average, had exclusive breastmilk for the first 6 months.

It's not uncommon for me to feel out of place among many "crunchy" moms. It wasn't uncommon for me to get dirty looks from women breastfeeding their children. I wanted to run up to them and explain everything, let them know I wish to high heaven I could do what they were doing. It's nice to have someone acknowledge that not every bottle may be full of formula and not every c-section/bottle feeding mommy made those choices out of selfishness or "ease". Thanks!

Jennifer said...

I have supported. These are supportive to moms who want to sit comfortably, as often there is nowhere else to do so at an art show. Also babies are often very distracted by all the activity and moms like a quiet boring nook to nurse. All the feedback from the mothers was positive and we staffed it with a comementary IBCLC for simple question and answer time while visiting the tent. Nursing in public is still not overwhelmingly accepted and increased visibility of the tent is s bridge the gap measure to help with that. The mothers appreciated a space that they would not be insulted or directed to another location. I think the formula feeding moms can handle it--if not they might need some therapy.