'When Nurture Calls' breastfeeding ad fights mom-shaming

A student-created ad raising awareness about proposed Texas legislation supporting nursing moms has raised eyebrows, specifically for its direct visuals. How can the public lovingly respond to the public nursing debate?

Isn’t it scandalous to see a breast at a restaurant? Actually, no – not when a mom is nourishing her baby by nursing. It’s certainly better than nursing in a public restroom.

That’s the message of a proposed campaign called “When Nurture Calls” designed by students Johnathan Wenske and Kris Haro from the University of North Texas.

The campaign plan includes bathroom stall poster ads featuring mothers nursing in public bathroom stalls, and calls for support of HB 1706, a 2013 bill that would be reintroduced in the Texas state legislature that adds an enforcement element to existing laws to protect breastfeeding mothers from harassment and discrimination. The bill would give mothers legal backing for nursing their babies in public. While many states have laws supporting public breastfeeding, few include enforcement provisions if a mother is harassed.

The campaign actually began as a school assignment that has unexpectedly gathered momentum online. The original Texas bill died in last year's legislative session. But Texas state Rep. Jessica Farrar says she plans to reintroduce it again next year.

By picturing moms nursing their babies in public restrooms – and asking the question "Would you eat here?" – the campaign brings out the fact that many moms don’t feel comfortable nursing their babies in public because they often receive stares and rude comments. 

Having to retreat to a public bathroom makes nursing a baby a much less comfortable, enjoyable experience for mom and baby – not to mention the “ick” factor involved. 

Thankfully, my experience breastfeeding my daughter since she was born last April sheds a more hopeful light on what it’s like to nurse a baby in the US these days. I’ve received more supportive smiles than I can count, mostly from other women. Men just politely look away, like it’s no big deal, as it should be. Kids are often curious about what I’m doing, and might peer over my cover to check out the baby, and then keep playing happily nearby. 

Think about it this way: Would you rather listen to a screaming, hungry baby or see a peacefully nursing one? 

Outside of government initiatives, we can do our part as individuals to support moms, person-to-person, by treating each nursing mom with respect and kindness, maybe even offering to get her a glass of water or a snack. That almost guarantees she’ll be shocked by thoughtfulness more than anything else.

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