Saturday, August 18, 2012

Was the Great Nurse-In a total bust?

This was the site of the Nurse-In as we left just before 2pm. 

The First Annual Great Nurse-In was held on August 4th in Washington DC.  The event took place on the west lawn of the Capital Building.  No, it was not a total bust but how could I resist that cheesy headline! I did find the event a little disappointing but that was mostly because I did not educate myself on the event before I went.  I just saw this was happening and went.  In typical Charlotte fashion, I did not read the details. 

We were there from noon until 2 and the place was pretty empty.  The event started at 9am and was scheduled till 4pm. People came and went throughout the day but it was pretty empty when we were there.  It was in the upper 90’s which may have kept some people away.  Since it wasn’t crowded, we were able to find a nice spot in the shade.  Their facebook page listed  an unofficial attendance of 600 people.  We did not register because we never thought to (more on that later).

The area on the west lawn was difficult to access with a stroller because the lower part of the lawn was closed for turf restoration.  There were metal steps set up over the small wall for people to walk over.  I was very glad to be there with a friend because we could work together to hoist our strollers over the wall without too much difficulty.  Of course, Orion became obsessed with the dirty old rusty stairs and they were all he wanted to play with during the event.  There were baby pools set up which I had thought belonged to an individual but were actually apart of the event.  Had I realized this before we were about to leave, Orion would have enjoyed splashing and I could have chased him less.

When we got there we took a stroll past all the tables. The first table we visited had a display of nursing bras and tops. The woman working the table was very engaging and explained where they were from and that they can’t sell anything on the National mall.  The next few tables had face painting, crafts for kids, and bubbles for the kids to play with.  Orion is a bit young for face painting and crafts but I am glad they had activities for the kids.  Both sides of the lawn had water stations set up with a couple of cisterns and cups.  I made sure to bring extra water but was happy to see a spot to refill my bottles.  I also witnessed a cyclist who just happened to be in the area take advantage of the water.  Ti was such a hot day that staying hydrated was vital especially when you are breastfeeding.   

There was a first aid table set up which I am glad we did not need.  The next table had samples of Milkmakers cookies and Happy Baby snacks.  We picked up the sunny buddies and mixed fruit yogis.  Orion likes them both and I only wish we had grabbed more! The cookies were decent but I make pretty great lactation boosting cookies.  So far pretty awesome and off to a good start!

There was a nice wind blowing which was good for us but not so good for the tables they had set up.  The blue plastic table cloths would blow away from the table and whatever was on them would fly off.  We were camped out near two tables with laminated maps and no one sitting there.  One map you could put a sticker to note where you were from and the other where you had breastfed.  They had sharpie markers and stickers which kept blowing away and being destroyed by toddlers, mine included.

A few of the tables were not engaging.  I saw a sign on one table about letters to a nursing mom but I wasn’t drawn in to investigate it further.  It is hard to take the time to write something when chasing or holding a toddler.  No one asked us to register our attendance at any of the tables so we never thought to register.  I did end up talking with a few of the event organizers at the water station who thanked me for coming out which was very nice to hear.  I thanked them for having the event and think it will get better every year. 

We saw people walking around with buttons and temporary tattoos and wanted to know where we could get some.  I asked the mom next to us who told me she got her’s at last night’s latch party but I could ask at the volunteer table.  I went to the volunteer table and asked for a button.  I was given one by someone who did not have very much to say, I felt like I was getting away with something. I was very happy to score a button and what can I say, I like free stuff.  i would have bought a T-shirt or bumper sticker if they had any for sale.

There was a stage set up and speakers playing music.  The music stopped for a while and I was afraid they were packing up early.  I guess it was just a lunch break and shorty the music resumed.  We saw Marsha Goodman preform and enjoyed her fun songs like Why Can’t you Dance on Jupiter, Sheep Don’t Wear Shoes, and Ninja School.  If I was a performer I would have been shitting my pants.  It was like playing for no one or a bunch of vampires because very few ventured out of the shade.  She did not let that stop her and put on a nice show.

I did not know about the BigLatch-On which took place at 10:30am.  This was a public breast feeding record attempt which takes place every year.  I missed it last year but the chances are pretty good that Orion will still be nursing next year so I will defiantly want to participate.  The record to beat was last year's world record of 5,867 woman breastfeeding children.  This year the record has been set at 8,862 breastfeeders in 626 locations over 23 different countries around the world.     That is pretty awesome!

The Nurse-In’s mission is to normalize breastfeeding.  This topic has been all over the news since the attachment parenting article graced the cover of Time magazine with a mom nursing her 4 year old.  That image had very little to do with the article but it was a sure way to increase dwindling magazine sales.  I think it is funny that in the US we have to normalize breastfeeding.  This was the norm before the invention of formula in 1867 and its increase in popularity in 1907.  I am amazed by how prudish Americans are when it comes to flashing a bit of female nipple.   

I do believe that breast is best.  Mothers need to know that there is support for them if they want to breastfeed and the laws supporting breastfeeding in public.  Not every mother chooses or is able to breastfeed and it is their personal choice.  (I read this post today and it totally made me cry) Babies can be raised happily and healthily on formula.    Each individual mother needs to assess their situation, their body, and their child to decide what is best for them.  I think they will always chose to do what is best for their family.  Breastfeeding can seem like a daunting task.  There are pumps, special bras and tops, nursing pads, and creams.  WIC will pay for formula but not for supplies that assist in breastfeeding. 

If you want to breastfeed exclusively, do not keep formula in the house as it will make it so easy to cave in and use it when you are having a rough day.  You could choose keep it in your attic, basement, or garage but not in the kitchen staring you in the face taunting you.  You could even ask a friend to hold it for you in case of an emergency.  Formula companies market heavily towards mothers who choose to breastfeed.  If you want more coupons for formula, tell Motherhood Maternity that you plan to breastfed when checking out and you will get more coupons than you would if you were to tell them your plans to use formula.  This post by the Feminist Breeder on this topic is awesome!  Breastfeeding is not easy but it helps to have a great lactation consultant or support group to reach out to when you are having a hard time or have questions. 

I look forward to the Great Nurse-In and the Big Latch On next year and hope to be more involved and informed about these events.  I think they will get bigger and better every year!  I also expect it will educate many women on their rights as a breastfeeding mom and the resources that are available to them.

You can read more about this event here, here, and here.   


  1. I'm so glad you went!

    I work for a MAJOR public health agency and we don't even have a place to pump. It's disgusting. Someday I'm going to revolutionize EBF for working moms.

    1. I hope you do because it really needs to be done! I think if maternity leave was for one year in the US like it is in many other countries, more women would nurse and nurse for longer.