Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

'Nurse-In' Aims to Erase Breastfeeding Stigma

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

'Nurse-In' Aims to Erase Breastfeeding Stigma

Article excerpt

Sarah Ellison admits she sometimes chickens out when it comes to feeding her daughter in public. "Sometimes I do chicken out and hide - I'll feed her when I'm out to eat, but I'll get nervous when people look at me, she said.

But on Friday, Ellison joined a handful of other women on the state Capitol steps for a "nurse-in to help erase the stigma that sometimes comes with mothers nursing their children in public.

Madison Fitzwater, a mother from Belle who nurses her 18-month- old son, said she helped organize the event to hopefully change perceptions and make breastfeeding in public commonplace.

"If people don't see it, it isn't going to be normalized, and if people keep nursing in corners and in bathrooms, people are going to think that's where you're supposed to nurse, Fitzwater said. "My goal is that when people see nursing moms, it will be so normal that it will be like when you see someone feeding their child with a bottle.

Stories of moms getting pushback for trying to nurse their children in public have become frequent in recent years - from the mother who was barred from using a Victoria's Secret dressing room to nurse and instead directed to a nearby alley, to the North Carolina woman kicked out of her own custody hearing for nursing her infant.

In response, proponents of breastfeeding in public have started organizing "nurse-ins, where women gather to nurse their children in a show of support for other breastfeeding mothers.

Julie Wells, from Belle, has chosen to bottle feed her baby, but she said she supports moms who choose to breastfeed and would like to see the practice of breastfeeding in public become more accepted.

"It's kind of hard on women. Women in my mom's generation didn't breastfeed, and now more people are starting to do it, and I think we should support them as much as we can, Wells said. "If it's legal for them to do it in public, they should be able to do it in public without any fear.

West Virginia did not pass legislation expressly protecting breastfeeding in public until 2014. The law calls breastfeeding "an important, basic act of nurturing that is protected in the interests of maternal and child health and states that "a mother may breast feed a child in any location open to the public. …

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