Commentary | While public breastfeeding is legal in most states, mothers who try to do it are often harassed. But when babies get hungry, what’s a nursing mother to do other than pop it out and feed her kid? Not long ago, my family and I were enjoying a pleasant evening on the patio of our favorite fro-yo shop. When my 8-month-old got hungry, I complied. Not three minutes into my little one’s snack-time did I hear sneers from the table near us.
“Oh my gosh, that woman is breastfeeding!” “No way!” “In public? I’m trying to eat!” “That’s disgusting.” Surprisingly, the snickers came from a table or women. To be honest, I kind of wish I was still nursing my near-three-year-old. That really would have freaked them out.
If only I lived in Pittsburgh. If I lived in Pittsburgh, I could have called on The Milk Truck to come and save the day. I would love to see the look on the faces of those rudely staring women when the pink and blue truck pulled up, complete with gigantic boob affixed to the top, to offer my baby and me a judgement-free zone in which to breastfeed.
Apparently I’m not the only mother who has been judged for — gasp! — feeding her baby in public. Artist and mom Jill Miller had heard so many stories of women being asked to cover up, nurse in the restroom, or leave public places that she decided that enough was enough. Someone had to teach the public a lesson.
Here’s how it works. When a nursing mother finds herself being harassed for breastfeeding, she tweets her location. The Milk Truck, armed with angry Mamas out for justice, pulls up in front of the offending establishment. The back of the truck opens, and The Milk Truck staff set up a street-side nursing room, complete with area rug and papasan chairs. The harassed mother is free to breastfeed, surrounded by other supportive moms while staff of the establishment look on in embarrassment.
In the words of founder Jill Miller, she’s out for vengeance.
“When a woman finds herself in a situation where she is discouraged, harassed, or unwelcome to breastfeed her baby in public, she summons The Milk Truck. The truck arrives to the location of the woman in need and provides her with a shelter for feeding her baby. The woman feeds her child, the shopkeeper who harassed her feels like a dweeb, and the truck does what it does best – creates a spectacle. (Which is, incidentally, the very thing that the shopkeeper thought he was trying to avoid. Alas, some people have to learn the hard way.)”
While the medical profession touts breastfeeding as the best possible means of infant nutrition, moms are still often made to feel unwelcome when they need to feed their babies. But babies get hungry. Even in public. And nursing in a public restroom is disgusting. Personally, I don’t want to nurse my baby anywhere that I wouldn’t want to eat.
Miller, an artist and faculty member in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, created The Milk Truck last year “as a way to help hungry babies eat by providing a supportive environment for women to nurse their babies.” Her hope is that her truck will inspire more like it in other cities.
Not everyone finds the idea appealing.
After the Milk Truck made its debut last year, she got an email from a man who thought the whole idea was ridiculous. “What an insane cause you chose to rally behind. … Pointless!” he wrote, according to NBC News.
What do you think of Miller’s idea for a public breastfeeding space?