On June 28, 2009, Lauren and I received an e-mail from Jennifer O'Hern, a writer for the Dayton Parenting Examiner. She said that she had been following the "Hooray for Boobies!" event online and would like to write a follow-up article. Lauren has answered the questions we asked, and I hope to fill in some blanks with my blog about the event.
I am fortunate to not have experienced harsh discrimination in terms of my breastfeeding. The most is a slight discomfort from family that were not comfortable being in the same room as I nursed and some comments that probably came from a place of ignorance rather than spite, such as "You're feeding him again?" Most of the feelings I felt about being nervous or embarrassed about nursing in public I probably projected on myself, harboring a fear of being repelled by society which may or may not have been warranted. Honestly, while I haven't been confronted by any rude person, I have been made very well aware that others were uncomfortable.
Seeking out kindred spirits of the lactating kind, I didn't know any in person and therefore ended up in the group "Hey Facebook! Breastfeeding is not obscene!". There new thought-provoking ideas and intensive education were presented and I absorbed it all like a sponge, seeking out more and more. A passion ignited, and when I attempted to share this passion, I was met with opposition from my family. This only made my flame grow stronger. I had a desire to be a part of something bigger in the lactivism equation, contemplated becoming a lactation consultant, urged the group to plan another M.I.L.K. event so I could participate, got braver in the nursing photos I posted online as I actively pursued avenues online on which I could advocate breastfeeding.
When my breastfeeding picture (left) got banned by Facebook, that prompted me to take the next step and I launched "The Crunchy Lactavist" website. About that time, Lauren had the idea to have a nursing event at ComFest. I offered my help in publicizing the event using my marketing and graphic design skills, and advertising it on my website. While becoming a lactation consultant could take years (I've recently enrolled in college to pursue this avenue as well), I have talents I can utilize now to have an impact.
I have spent the last six months since my son was born educating myself about breastfeeding... the biological facts, the politics, the statistics. It bothers me greatly that the state of Kentucky ranks so low on their nursing rates, a good 20% behind 45 other states. I have radical ideas about the W.I.C. program and government legislation and programs supporting breastfeeding mothers. I desire that everyone be informed about breastfeeding, so that through knowledge and awareness, nursing will be normalized in our society to the point that it will be unusual to see a formula-fed infant.
The "Hooray for Boobies!" nursing picnic hosted at ComFest in Columbus, Ohio, on June 26-27, 2009, might not have had many participants. We knew from the beginning that it might not; it was a rather last-minute idea, but ComFest is not the end but rather the beginning for "Hooray for Boobies!" Thanks to the publicity of the event, it helped create awareness about the topic, and that in itself is a success. The knowledge we gained about what to do and what not to do will help with future event coordination (the next event is planned for Elizabethtown, Kentucky in August). One expectant mother approached me, asking questions about breastfeeding (I think she asked it if hurt when my six-month old latched on in front of her). As Lauren said, we "literally exposed thousands of people to our issue" between the media coverage and the actual public nursing. Even though there weren't many mothers with us, we were still able to impact thousands of people by walking around and allowing them to witness breastfeeding in person, and for many that might have been the first time they had ever seen it. I did nurse while topfree Saturday afternoon.
We arrvied a little late. The first problem we encountered was parking. Second, we realized that we should have been more specific about what part of the playground we were meeting at, the place was huge and so were the crowds. When we got bored sitting, we decided to walk around. I opted to go topfree while carrying my son in a sling, and he would nurse off and on as we circulated around the festival. Two women spoke to us, it was great that they treated me like I had my clothes on, I felt so awkward! They talked to the baby, and cheered me on and let us know how great they thought it was we were advocating breastfeeding.
I tried my best to look everyone in the eye and smile, per the Indiscreet Breastfeeding Manifesto on my website. It got easier the more I did it, especially towards the end of the day when more and more women were going topfree as well. The highlight of my day was when I was letting my son have some air-time sans diaper in the grass and a woman came over with her little dog, who was interested in the baby. My son loves dogs, and we struck up a conversation. In the midst of our discussing pregnancy (as it turned out, she was expecting), my son decided he was hungry and he latched on in front of her. She asked if it hurt, I was honest and admitted that sometimes, especially at first, it can hurt... but over time it gets so easy. We spoke for a while about various parenting isuues, and she let us know how encouraged to breast feed she was after our chat. That truly truly made all of this worth it!
For more about the nursing picnic in Columbus, please visit the special page designated to ComFest on the TERA website: http://tera.ca/photos8.html
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