This morning, CBC shared a story on its website about how the Breastfeeding Coalition of P.E.I is working towards establishing breastfeeding rooms in various venues across the province. This piece featured a hockey arena which has converted an unused dressing room into a place for moms to nurse. This way moms who don't want to sit on the cold hard benches in the arena have a place to go, and the room even has some toys to occupy siblings.
I'm always happy to see breastfeeding discussed in a positive light in the media. I'm also thrilled to see that efforts have been put into making it easier to meet the needs of babies. Taking care of tiny people is intense and just the thought of someone being accommodating can be a huge blessing to a frazzled parent.
Part of me, though, cringes as the other side of the message that this breastfeeding room might send. Will people think that moms are "supposed" to breastfeed only in these rooms? Will moms who feed their babies in the stands be subjected to pressure to move since there's an entire room dedicated to them? Will this help or hinder the message that breastfeeding is a normal part of parenting?
Mother's rooms or nursing rooms can be extremely useful in some situations. For the mom of a distractible nursling, a quiet place can sometimes serve as the only place where the baby will breastfeed. Or sometimes a quiet room can be what the mom needs in order to catch a few minutes of downtime to recharge. Some moms are not comfortable breastfeeding in public in the early days or at all, and so the availability of a nursing room can allow her to attend events she might otherwise miss out on.In these situations, nursing rooms are a fantastic tool.
On the other hand, there are plenty of moms who would choose not to use the nursing rooms. There are moms who don't want to miss out on the hockey game, moms who are comfortable nursing in front of others, moms who want to remain with their friends or family, or moms whose child who nurses for 30 seconds at a time every 5 minutes. For these moms, staying where they are is what would make them most comfortable and while the option of using a nursing room is nice, there should be no implication that they need to move there before feeding their child.
Whether a mom chooses to nurse in the nursing room or while watching the hockey game, I would hope that both choices are seen as acceptable. Breastfeeding is often something that we as a society support to in theory but that we have problems showing support for in reality. Showing support for mothers who are breastfeeding in public goes a long way in normalizing breastfeeding and in helping families to meet their breastfeeding goals.
So I welcome these nursing rooms and I think it's great to let moms know that the option to use them exists, but let's also continue to send the message that nursing in public wherever a mom may be is also an equally-acceptable option.