Nursing Mothers demand apology from Fox/ABC News Chicago

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Women host nurse-in at TV studios following derogatory on-air remarks by news anchors

Chicago, IL – This Sunday, mothers will gather from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. to “nurse in” at FOX News Chicago studios (205 N. Michigan Ave.), followed by a walk to ABC’s studios at 190 N. State Street.  The nurse-in is an exercise of the right of Illinois women to breastfeed their babies where and how they deem best, and is in response to this week’s derogatory statements by FOX and ABC anchors, comparing breastfeeding to “picking your nose in public” and questioning why a woman would not simply cover up so as not to offend those around her.s

Organizers of the nurse-in hope for a dialogue with the news studios about the issue, citing the following:

  1. Breastfeeding is not sexual.  Nursing is a necessary and beneficial act, done by a mother primarily to benefit her baby.  Those who see a woman using her breast to feed her child as a sexual or offensive act are viewing a biological function through the lens of a hypersexualized society – one where it is acceptable to flaunt and cheapen our bodies, but less acceptable to use them in a natural and healthy way to benefit our babies.Heather McMackin, nurse-in co-organizer and mother of a 12 month old daughter, said, “It’s sensational and inaccurate to say – as was said on these news programs – that women are ‘exposing themselves’ or being inconsiderate of others by nursing their babies.  None of us are exhibitionists.  It’s demeaning to imply anything close to that, when many of us already feel uncomfortable about feeding our babies in public.  And it’s backwards that we are open to public criticism for showing much less breast over a nursing baby than what would be shown in a low-cut top or any bathing suit.”
  2. As a public health issue, mothers need support for breastfeeding – not shaming.  Multiple studies cite a lack of social support as a major barrier to increasing breastfeeding rates in the U.S., where we lag behind other developed countries in a simple, accessible, scientifically proven way to provide our babies with the best “nutrition, immunity, and digestion” possible.  Section 5 of Illinois’ Right to Breastfeed Act (740 ILCS 137/5) confirms that the Surgeon General of the United States recommends that babies be fed breastmilk “in order to attain an optimal healthy start,” while research continuously affirms the long-term benefits to the public health (for example, drastically reduced risks of diabetes, obesity, cancer, and autoimmune diseases, all now on the rise in our country).As a matter of public health, women and babies need encouragement for breastfeeding – including from public figures.
  3. It is a woman’s right to breastfeed where and how she chooses. Section 10 of the same Act cited above provides mothers with the legal right to nurse in “any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be.”  Nursing in public is a protected civil right in Illinois.
  4. Women should support women.  How we choose to feed our babies should not be fodder for ridicule.  If a woman chooses to use formula or is unable to breastfeed, she should expect support for that, as well.  All women, and especially women in the public eye, should take every opportunity to lift each other up, regardless of the issue.

Co-organizer and mother of one, Nina-Carolina Fraser Portela, said: “Shaming women in any way for nursing, including public speculation on whether or not they should cover up, is a step backwards.  We’d appreciate an acknowledgment of that from FOX and ABC news, and a more thoughtful look at this issue.  They and the public figures they put on the air can help set a new standard of respect for women who prioritize their babies’ needs in this way.”

“Our goal is to get people to think about breastfeeding in a different, more pragmatic, and more positive way.  Society needs to shift its views, instead of mothers and babies having to shift themselves – relegated to dirty public restrooms to avoid potentially offending someone,” McMackin added.  “It may be a little uncomfortable at first, but ‘normalizing’ breastfeeding is a healthy step forward for families.”

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