This past weekend, several of the Montana Childbirth Collective ladies, including myself and six-year-old Ellie, conducted a campaign of distributing Mothering Magazine’s International Breastfeeding Symbol stickers and window clings to well over 100 businesses in the greater Bozeman area.
1. To promote wide-spread recognition of this symbol, just as we are accustomed to these symbols:
2. To encourage businesses to show support for nursing moms and babies by displaying the symbol and, better yet, providing a comfortable, quiet and/or welcoming place for mothers to nurse their children while away from home.
3. To teach our culture that whenever/wherever anyone (mothers needing to breastfeed or just plain anyone) sees this symbol, it represents a friendly place for nursing–A.K.A not a place where a breastfeeding mom ought to expect to be on the receiving end of dirty looks, chiding comments and, worst of all, requests that she “cover up” or discontinue feeding her child or find an alternative location (such as a public bathroom stall).
It’s hard to say how much affect we’ve had just yet. Because we were distributing on the weekend, plenty of stores, staffed by workers other than the owners themselves, are in possession of the stickers/window clings, but few have displayed them as of yet. (It’s far too easy and, in most cases, required, for a barista or book store worker to punt to higher management or the shop owner for making the final decision as to whether or not a little 4×4″ sticker might be placed on a window.
What we, as a group, found interesting during this little exercise, was the response we received in the most unexpected of places.
Of course we expected businesses like maternity clothing and baby toy stores to be more than willing to display the sticker as well as some locally owned stores with known breastfeeding families at the helm. But who would’ve thought the employee at Taco Bell would’ve been so excited about the sticker? Or a trendy women’s shoe store? Or one of the twelve or so coffee shops in town?
Moreover, who would’ve thought one of the natural food stores in town (Oak Street Market) would’ve flat out turned us down, claiming “they don’t like to put anything on their windows”? Or the Family Christian Book Store, in which the employee approached by one of our members went out of her way to state she wouldn’t mind a mom breastfeeding in their store as long as she “went in the bathroom and shut the door.” This was the same woman who referred to breastfeeding on several occasions as “disgusting.”
Did I mention public breastfeeding has been a legally protected activity, according to Montana State Law, since 1999?
I’m sorry, but wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that Mary breastfed baby Jesus? Does the woman at the Christian book store mentioned above presume that, upon the arrival of the Three Wisemen, Joseph whispered into Mary’s ear, “better cover up honey, we’ve got company” ?
Well I must presume that, back in the day, Caesar didn’t carve a law into stone (literally) to protect a mother’s right to breastfeed outside the confines of her tent. He wouldn’t have had to. Chances are, people in the first century AD weren’t quite as prudish as our culture has strangely become. (Prudish, despite the thousands of images of scantily clad women that drip from newsstands each day: Images contained in the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Edition. Maxxim. When Girls Go Wild–Spring Break videos. Do folks that abhor the idea of breastfeeding ever stop to consider the fact that way more boobieis most likely displayed by their neighbor’s teenage daughter while taking notes in Algebra than by a mother discreetly breastfeeding her child?
Call me naive, but I would’ve thought a store with the words family and Christian in the title might have been a little more supportive of a HUGE family-oriented issue.
Anyway, we garnered some nice local media coverage for the project (check out Gabe and I during my interview with KBZK’s Beth Saboe) and, hopefully, we will start to see those stickers appearing in windows around town as the powers that be make their decisions.
If you’re reading this and are local to Bozeman, the following is a short list of businesses included in the distribution. If you happen into one of these places and don’t see a sticker/window cling, would you consider asking them about it?
Stores that received International Breastfeeding Symbol stickers:
Leaf & Bean – Main & N 19th
Country Book Shelf
8 Miles to the Border
Rocky Mountain Roasters
Barnes & Nobles
Sweet Pea Bakery
Western Drug Store
Bozeman Public Library
Main Street Overeasy
Bozeman Birth Center
Bibs & Binkies
Taco Del Mar