What would you do? - Mothering Forums
Lactivism > What would you do?
hakeber's Avatar hakeber 12:24 AM 02-20-2010
I work at a school that is really awesome about breastfeeding rights. Several teacher moms have their babies hang out with their caregivers in the residential half of campus and they bring the babies up to academic area for feedings. It isn't unheard of to see mothers nursing while teaching class, or in the staff common area over a cup of tea, or in staff or whole community meetings. I this about my job, and hope very much to be able to do so when I return.

Here's the thing...I have ONE co-worker who I think is sort of ruining it for everyone. She has an 18 month old, and that in and of itself is enough to freak a lot of the more conservative staff members out that she still nurses him as frequently as she does (especially because he is a boy...they see it as slightly perverse, really!), but that's not even really the part that upsets them...

Last week, as an extreme example of her normal BFing behavior, there was a very serious staff meeting wherein several redundancies (lay-offs) were announced, major financial news was discussed, and an entire restructuring of the school program was explained. She was nursing her little boy in the meeting...in the front row, with no discretion at all, t-shirt lifted up, bra undone on both sides...HANGING OUT...But this is the part that upset people:

He is 18 months so focused attention on nursing is not really his thing, he fiddles, he squirms, he looks around every so often, he screams with delight...He had both boobs out, her shirt lifted to her chin, and he was taking sips of the boob, then twiddling her nipples in between, squealing with delight...

REALLY sweet and funny and cute among close friends, or in the home, but in a formal business meeting? When people's future employment and livelihood are being dissected for the whole staff to see?



How do we (the nursing moms on campus) approach her and gently tell her that she may very well ruin the chill vibe we have going for us by pushing people's sensibilities beyond reason? Several of us have fought really hard to get the freedoms we do, and we KNOW we are already pushing the limits for most people here, why does she have to go so far?!

Is there anyway to ask her to take it down a notch without ostracizing her from the cause?

*Erin*'s Avatar *Erin* 01:15 AM 02-20-2010
eeeeek!
that's.... uncomfortable!
I wish i had some constructive advice. in my gut, i'd say just be blunt. be empathetic, but be honest.

stinks, because, theoretically, i think we should all be able to NIP however and whenever we want and whoever doesn't like it can just deal, but that's not the way the real world works, and this mama's behavior (with the 2 boobs just both hanging out and chilling out, doubling as a busy box for the babe, lol) is realllllllly stomping all over social boundaries.

seriously, my kids do/did some goofy nursing stuff and yes, it is hilarious and adorable, but i would be uncomfortable (and at the very least, distracted) if I was trying to hold a professional meeting while that was happening.

im wondering too, thinking about my kids at 18 months, how in the world you could have a quiet and thoughtful meeting with an 18 month old around in the first place? i mean, nursing craziness aside, just the mere presence of an average 18 month old would be enough to make it a bit chaotic, i'd think.
i don't know.
i hope you get some good suggestions. youre a really awesome lactivist to be sensitive to both sides like you are, that is the way to make headway....
hakeber's Avatar hakeber 01:05 PM 02-20-2010
I wonder if it would be better coming from one mother or all of us...if we all go it looks like we are ganging up, but if just I go, it looks like we have all been talking about her behind her back (which we have.).

She's extremely sensitive for someone who is not at all sensitive to other people's sensibilities. She is the only single mom on campus and it's her only child, so she takes everything as a criticism of her parenting, ya know? But I do think something has to be said.

The thing that concerns me is that in a staff meeting at the beginning of the year teachers were asked to suggest rules for the staff code of conduct, and one of the rules suggested was no nursing in classrooms, or common staff areas. Another rule suggested was nursing should only be allowed in a designated nursing lounge (thereby nullifying the ability to nurse on demand or forcing women who nurse out of their role in the community as they would be isolated and unable to attend meetings, nurse in class...etc.), and another rule was that they could only nurse in quiet places, not in meetings or classrooms and only if they were discreet and the child's head and the mother's breast was fully covered.

As it is we have such great rights here, and I think some people on staff are campaigning to have those rights restricted because some people just haven't got enough common sense to see when they are crossing a very generous line to begin with.

I wonder how to word it.
khaoskat's Avatar khaoskat 01:21 PM 02-20-2010
IMHO, it doesn't sound like she was actually nursing him, rather she was using nursing as an excuse to have him with her in the meeting and not get someone to watch him.

I have gone to our State Bar Association 2-3 day Conference before with a 9 month old, because she needed to nurse.

I always attempted to remain in the back of the room, in case she got fussy, I could get up and stand outside the door, while still listening to the lecture/CLE till she calmed down.

There were a few times I did end up towards the front, because so many had taken the back seats first and I needed an end seat for the stroller.

Even though I have the right to nurse and have my child with me, I also need to be mindful of the other individuals in the CLE who want to learn the materials, to not provide a distraction.

I always tried to be a little more discreet and not draw attention to myself or my child, so that it would not interfere with the class going on. If I needed to nurse, I just scooted my chair back a little bit from the table, unhooked myself, and did most of the revealing under my shirt, and just raised enough to latch baby on and nursed.

IMHO, there is no reason, in a professional setting/meeting like that to totally expose and reveal yourself. I know I will get slammed for that opinion by some, but if you are in a serious important meeting, you don't need to be drawing unwanted attention to yourself, especially when our rights are so precarious in some areas and you have such a wonderful situation as you do.

Is there someone on campus who is sort of the lead/charge person for the breastfeeding, that you and the other Mother's could go to and maybe that person can speak to her? I don't see it being an issue that she is nursing past 12 months, but rather that she needs to be mindful of how she presents herself in meetings so as not to distract people from what is going on, especially when you are talking about people being laid off/terminated/loosing their jobs.
krystyn33's Avatar krystyn33 03:58 PM 02-20-2010
What a wonderful workplace--I wish that was the norm!

You might focus on to what degree the possibility of negative changes to this mother-baby friendly work environment is real. Are there specific people taking specific actions against nursing there? In that case, you could approach this mom in a way in which you remain on the same side: WE don't want this situation to change vs. YOUR behavior might instigate a change we don't want. You could meet together to brainstorm preventative measures to keep the policy in place. If you decide to mention issues regarding the nursing behavior you described, you might preface the discussion by saying that you wish we lived in a culture in which an on & off again, twiddling, nursing toddler was normal and even appreciated. (Assuming you feel that way.) Again--the point is too keep you focused on being on the same side.

Good luck!
Amatullah0's Avatar Amatullah0 02:07 AM 02-21-2010


"I think its great that you're still nursing your 18mo! But, you know, I think that sometimes, it can be distracting to others, like, you know, the other day, at that meeting, I was really trying to focus on what ____ was saying, and it was getting kind of difficult to hear/focus with your cutie-pie making his presence so well known. I noticed that he was distracting others too. Do you think, maybe in the future, you could move to the back, or quickly step out of the room when [ds's name] needs to nurse? I really think its excellent that you're still nursing him, but i'm a little concerned that some of the more conservative employees might find this grounds for taking away the awesome atmosphere we have here for nursing, by either putting an age limit on it, or taking it away completely, ya know?"


i dunno, just a thought i wish you well
SallyN's Avatar SallyN 01:21 PM 02-21-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Amatullah0 View Post


"I think its great that you're still nursing your 18mo! But, you know, I think that sometimes, it can be distracting to others, like, you know, the other day, at that meeting, I was really trying to focus on what ____ was saying, and it was getting kind of difficult to hear/focus with your cutie-pie making his presence so well known. I noticed that he was distracting others too. Do you think, maybe in the future, you could move to the back, or quickly step out of the room when [ds's name] needs to nurse? I really think its excellent that you're still nursing him, but i'm a little concerned that some of the more conservative employees might find this grounds for taking away the awesome atmosphere we have here for nursing, by either putting an age limit on it, or taking it away completely, ya know?"


i dunno, just a thought i wish you well
Ditto. It sounds like there was enough distractable behavior even without the inconsiderate nursing manners. I'd perhaps focus on the distraction aspect.
I would try to avoid using the word "discreet" since that's a sensitive word.

I'm all for nursing on demand. And not having to hide to nurse. But I do think that what she did was inconsiderate for others. I mean, it would also be inappropriate for you to bring in a meal/snack that had a strong odor and perhaps loud noise, and you were messy/disruptive while eating it.
Were there any other 18 month olds there? What if he had been eating a loud/messy snack? Or drinking a bottle? (And there'd probably be a difference b/w drinking a bottle vs. her preparing a bottle and then offering it to him.)

Okay, I'm rambling but now I'm starting to wonder if having her 18 month old at this kind of serious meeting was even proper/considerate in the first place, let alone how she was nursing him. kwim?
mauinokaoi's Avatar mauinokaoi 02:35 PM 02-21-2010
I'm not so sure you should say anything. If anything it should come from her supervisor.
Is it possible that this mom helped pave the way to the great nursing environment you all share?
I would never tell a colleauge they need to be more professional. Let them hang themselves.
Just because the topic of restricting nursing has come up doesn't mean it was this mom that made people uncomfortable. How do you know students aren't complaining about others nursing in class? I would focus on fighting for your rights instead of trying to get her to cover up.
hakeber's Avatar hakeber 05:46 PM 02-21-2010
True SallyN. And no there weren't other babies or children in attendance.

I definitely don't think discreet is what we want, to be forced to cover the baby's head and ourselves is belittling and HOT. It's a question of being reasonable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mauinokaoi View Post
I'm not so sure you should say anything. If anything it should come from her supervisor.
Is it possible that this mom helped pave the way to the great nursing environment you all share?
I would never tell a colleauge they need to be more professional. Let them hang themselves.
Just because the topic of restricting nursing has come up doesn't mean it was this mom that made people uncomfortable. How do you know students aren't complaining about others nursing in class? I would focus on fighting for your rights instead of trying to get her to cover up.
hmmmm good points.

No, she has not been one of the moms who paved the way.

I am a pretty sociable teacher, and before i went on Mat leave I was also Staff rep, so I got the bulk of the complaints right in my ear. They were mostly about her, but you're right, not all of them. I also was asked to represent staff concerns to admin...so probably that's why I feel something should be said...but maybe you are right. Leave it to admin.

And maybe it was the students, but I really dont think so. The student council campaigned on behalf of the moms to admin so...I don't know. The other mom nursing at the moment in class has a 21 month old, but all her students have agreed that it's okay with them. Maybe some didn't really mean it? They are only 16 or 17 years old, so maybe they were lying to her and then complained behind her back...that would be pretty stinky.

anyway, no one wants her to cover up while nursing but being basically topless (not with a nursing tank on, or buttoned shirt open just T-shirt hauled up on both side with the bra lifted up or undone...totally exposed) half the day at school while a toddler flicks your nipples, in the staff lounge, in a meeting, in the cafeteria, in assembly, in the science lab...c'mon! Nobody wants to cover up the baby, but we do want to protect the rights we already have, and if the admin feels we cannot be trusted to use our rights reasonably, they very likely will restrict them and make rules like you have to use a cover or only in certain areas or times .

Ideally when they call a meeting where this behavior is going to freak people out they should say "no children, please" but the more likely result (since others who do not nurse, or who have less active nursers would feel this was unfair) is they will just take back or reign in the rights we have.

But these are some good ideas. Thanks! I think I'll approach it through a friendly way. We are all good friends, so it is always very treacherous territory when approaching sensitive issues. Thanks for the wise words!

ETA: Maybe I will make her a few nice nursing tanks, too. I believe her birthday is in a few weeks!
Ellien C's Avatar Ellien C 05:16 PM 02-22-2010
hmmm -

This is a tough one. Is it possible to approach it from the other direction and say to the supervisors or HR or whoever made/enforces the policy that you certainly would not expect the actions of a single individual to ruin it for the whole group? Like instead of making her aware that she might wreck something, can you make them aware that you all shouldn't be judged/punished by the actions of one person? "cause it is SUCH a mangement copout when they change the policy for one person out of line. They should just deal with that person.
Lil'M's Avatar Lil'M 09:44 AM 02-24-2010
The mom you described wasn't causing issues because she was nursing, but because she wasn't. Unless you have twins on simultaneously, it is not necessary for nursing to have both breasts exposed. Likewise twiddling is not nursing. I think asking someone to cover a breast that is not being nursed on is not unreasonable while at a professional meeting.

A quietly nursing babe is not distracting, cover or not, but a squirmy twiddling toddler is. And if I had a toddler in an important meeting, I would be sitting near the door, away from the action as possible, so I could leave or keep my child as quiet as possible during the meeting. It seems like this mom needs to be encouraged to set some boundaries for herself and her child. A newborn needs to be nursed on demand with fairly unlimited access. An 18 month old does not.
GoBecGo's Avatar GoBecGo 10:01 AM 02-24-2010
Can all the currently-nursing and PG members of staff be called together for a meeting on the pretext of complaints being made and the worry of new rules being instated? A sort of "we need to set our own limits before someone steps in and sets them for us, because non-nursing folks are far more likely to say "no kids" than "no distracting kids!"?

That way you could, as a group of ladies, come up with some "guidelines" (make good ones as well as those which could be seen as restricting - i don't know what your provision for private nursing is for instance, but if you DO have a room where you can all nurse privately if you felt you wanted to you could instigate a snack-buying rotation so there is always a bowl of apples and a pack of crackers in there?) for yourSELVES about what you think will help avoid you all having to lose the rights to nurse altogether.

If you don't want to be seen as criticising or singling out you can brief a few others ahead of time and have "moles" call out various things like "let's try to be discrete and just have the one breast out and not have kids playing overly there - i know it squicks my IL's out when my kid does that!" or similar?
hakeber's Avatar hakeber 12:26 PM 02-24-2010
oooooh GoBecGo, That is an excellent idea! We are all about committees and sharing and brainstorming solutions at our school. EXCELLENT idea!

I love it.

We do not currently have a nursing lounge, but it has been discussed that we need one with over 5 mothers currently nursing on campus and two more to come, and legally they have to give us each 1 hour of paid nursing time each day up to one year, and unpaid thereafter...gotta love Latin America for those sort of laws, seriously!

Lil M -- that is really what the co-workers who are not parents and who are not nursing tend to say. all of that. I have to concede their point at times. I think every mom has the right to nurse on demand until whatever age they see fit, but that shouldn't necessarily mean all ettiquette goes out the window.
Lil'M's Avatar Lil'M 06:58 PM 02-24-2010
I think what I wanted to emphasize is the difference between a want and a need. And not all wants can necessarily be rights in the workplace unless there is a general consensus that it works for that environment.

For example, as there exists the right in your workplace to have babies present, it makes sense that there is the right for babies who have the actual NEED to be able to bf on demand. But toddlers don't NEED to be bf on demand, with mom completely exposed, bringing more attention to the nursing dyad than the meeting's purpose. So I'm not sure that there is a right to this activity in the same way a nondisruptive younger nursing baby has a right to bf anywhere anytime.

Don't get my wrong--I nursed my kids to toddlerhood (and beyond) and did so in many public places either uncovered or with a sling. And I think your workplace sounds amazing. But in a work environment there are things that have to get accomplished, and I don't know if this mother's desire to do whatever she wants in complete freedom trumps the objectives of the organization.

GoBecGo's suggestion sounds like a very diplomatic and feasible approach. I'm just giving my 2cents that this is not strictly just a bf issue and could be approached as if there was any other kind of disruptive toddler behavior in a meeting.
brennan's Avatar brennan 02:38 AM 02-25-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by *Erin* View Post
doubling as a busy box for the babe.
Oh my goodness, I just spit out my tea laughing so hard!

Sorry to hijack, that was just hilarious
calpurnia's Avatar calpurnia 07:16 AM 02-25-2010
I particularly like LilM & GoBecGo's posts. I am bfing a 20 month old who *has* to have my other breast out so she can pull on the nipple while feeding from the other (yes, I want to crawl out of my skin) - the thought of breastfeeding her in front of most people let alone in a serious meeting makes my mind boggle!

I, however, now harbour a secret desire to work at your workplace
sarahdavida's Avatar sarahdavida 08:35 AM 02-25-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lil'M View Post
it makes sense that there is the right for babies who have the actual NEED to be able to bf on demand. But toddlers don't NEED to be bf on demand
This is an excellent point...

Also, it might get tricky to come up with what nursing styles are acceptable and what arenĀ“t, but it seems perfectly reasonable to me that, within a work environment that is mostly supportive of BF (much more so than most), there can be certain limitations on when you can BF while actually working. For instance - not during faculty meetings.
jecombs's Avatar jecombs 01:20 PM 02-26-2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lil'M View Post
GoBecGo's suggestion sounds like a very diplomatic and feasible approach. I'm just giving my 2cents that this is not strictly just a bf issue and could be approached as if there was any other kind of disruptive toddler behavior in a meeting.
This is exactly what I was thinking. Maybe approach this more from the angle of disruptive toddler behavior, rather than Mom's nursing behavior.

My DD is now 2.5 and I nursed her until she was 26 mo. old. She was pretty loud and disruptive in public once she got close to a year old and there is no way I would have taken her into a meeting to nurse! I would try not to be judgemental of Mom's or toddler's behavior... it is what it is and being disruptive and exhuberant is just the nature of a healthy toddler! Sometimes it can be hard, as a Mom, to recognize that your "baby" is really no longer a baby and has moved to a new stage in life.

I hope you guys can find a resolution because your workplace sounds awesome!
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