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The Worst Committee Charge Ever
December 20, 2001 11:04 AM   Subscribe

The Worst Committee Charge Ever
A rather interesting Story from Normal, Indiana, where after an "animated" 1 1/2-hour meeting Wednesday, the Normal library board voted 5-1 to form a committee to develop suggestions in the wake of a dispute over a board member breast-feeding her toddler at the library during story time. They say about two dozen people were in the audience, some passionately explaining the importance of breast-feeding, including in public, and it gets waaay funnier. And, no, I am not making this up.
posted by Blake (48 comments total)

 
I've got an 8 month old, and my wife is breast feeding. I support her breast feeding anywhere she needs to; of course that also means in public.

But I'm not a dumbass...I know that people are not comfortable with that...and I know myself well enough to know that I'm not comfortable with my wife exposing herself in public (though she's okay with it...go figure).

So she uses a blanket to cover herself. Makes a lot of sense considering all the factors. Makes everybody comfortable. End of story.

I think breast-feeding in public is fine...but take into account people's sensabilities. Go outside to the car...the bathroom, or at least cover yourself if you're not going to move. I don't pull down my pants to itch my jock area, even though it itches. Good Grief.
posted by taumeson at 11:09 AM on December 20, 2001


...who earlier said she had discreetly nursed her 2-year-old in November...

Call me an ignorant male, but breastfeeding a 2-year old!??!?
posted by FreezBoy at 11:17 AM on December 20, 2001


Is breastfeeding a 2-year-old normal?
posted by MeetMegan at 11:20 AM on December 20, 2001


breastfeeding a 2-year-old

it's so odd that it's no wonder she was discreet about it!
posted by m2bcubed at 11:22 AM on December 20, 2001


Is breastfeeding a 2-year-old normal?
posted by MeetMegan at 11:20 AM PST on December 20


It certainly isn't unheard of.
posted by Skot at 11:25 AM on December 20, 2001


This is funny why?
posted by jpoulos at 11:27 AM on December 20, 2001


While most Americans apparently stop breastfeeding well before 6 months, this article on the FDA's website says that "there aren't any rules about when to stop breast-feeding."

My (apparently strange) peers seem to be weaning at about 2 years.
posted by evac at 11:34 AM on December 20, 2001


Clearly I've missed the humor here, and so have most of the other posters. This is a legitimate issue. Simply as a matter of public heath, it's a good idea for society to support women breastfeeding. I've never seen a study on the subject that hasn't come in favor of breastfeeding in terms of healthy babies.

Strikes me as important and committee-worthy an issue as something like seeing-eye dogs in public places.
posted by mragreeable at 11:39 AM on December 20, 2001


"there aren't any rules about when to stop breast-feeding."

My wife's rule was "As soon as they have teeth."

Eminently logical.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:46 AM on December 20, 2001


I am willing and capable of organizing a nonconfrontational nurse-in at your library

Mountain Dew-ey Decimal System?


posted by nagchampa at 11:48 AM on December 20, 2001


I just don't understand why so many people in the U.S. have such hang-ups about breastfeeding. So, they might see a little of the mother's breast. Big whoop.

Sure, a little discretion (e.g., putting a burp rag over exposed areas) makes sense when brestfeeding in public places, but I wholeheartedly agree with breastfeeding moms who argue they shouldn't have to go sit in a public bathroom (on the only available seat, the toilet) or to their car, if they have one, to breastfeed when they're in public.

As for breast-feeding a two-year-old. Yes, it's not particularly common in the U.S., but there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. As I understand it, in places where artificial feeding options (formula) are not readily available, mothers regularly breastfeed to this age and older.

Get past it, people!
posted by tippiedog at 11:51 AM on December 20, 2001


In most of the world, infants are breastfed for two years or longer. It's only in the USA (maybe Europe too) that we have this weird prejudice against what is obviously the natural way for young children to be fed. The American Acadamy of Pediatricians recommends breastfeeding for at least 6-12 months for a long list of health reasons.

My wife breastfed our twin girls until they were almost two. Not exclusively, of course. They were eating other foods as well much earlier. It was a great joy for her and a great comfort for them and no one was eager to quit. Of course it was a lot easier for her than many women since she was able to work at home.

And yes, she occasionally nursed them in public, but discreetly, with a blanket or wearing clothing that covered her. I think she even nursed them in church occasionally.
posted by straight at 11:55 AM on December 20, 2001


I think she even nursed them in church occasionally.

That's too bad, since she is clearly a pervert and will go to Hell.
posted by Skot at 11:56 AM on December 20, 2001


Oh my god, somebody saw a boobie! Call the authorities!
posted by ph00dz at 11:58 AM on December 20, 2001


"and it gets waaay funnier."

Please explain the joke to the rest of the class Mr Blake. Are you just titillated by the word "breast"? Is it hilarious to you that people would protest a ban on breast feeding? What the hell are you talking about?

Or is this yet another attempt by al Qaeda operatives to undermine the integrity of Metafilter by anonymously posting bland, pointless, local news stories?
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:59 AM on December 20, 2001


Nursing a two-year-old looks pretty weird to many people, I think (6-9 months is probably the most common age limit for that, although I don't have any stats about it). But every once in a while you read a story (in the New York Times Magazine, several months ago if memory serves) where the mom is happily nursing a 8-year-old or something.
If not weaning your kid can somewhat create him or her psychological problems, I don't have the slightest clue. Any doctors in the house can explain?
posted by matteo at 12:20 PM on December 20, 2001


evac, thanks for an interesting link. I knew breast feeding did a lot of good for the child, but I had no idea it was good for the mother too.
posted by alumshubby at 12:25 PM on December 20, 2001


Is breastfeeding a 2-year-old normal?
Better question: Is NOT breastfeeding a 2-year-old normal?

Hmmm...I think determining the best age to wean a breastfeeding child is best left to the mother of the child.

Nobody else gets a vote on this, folks.
posted by mooncrow at 12:26 PM on December 20, 2001


The World Health Organization Recommendation for feeding infants
The WHO and UNICEF recommend exclusive breastfeeding from birth for the first 6 months of life and sustained breastfeeding together with adequate complementary foods thereafter for up to 2 years of age or beyond.
posted by rebeccablood at 12:35 PM on December 20, 2001


I was hoping there were some pictures with the article.
posted by republican at 12:42 PM on December 20, 2001


If anybody suggested to my wife that she breastfeed our son in a bathroom, she'd (verbally) kick their ass on the spot and tell them to take their own meals in the bathroom. I'm a little disappointed it hasn't happened yet.
posted by sudama at 12:52 PM on December 20, 2001


I'd personally like to check out a confrontational nurse-in.
posted by nagchampa at 12:53 PM on December 20, 2001


Incidentally, we've had a couple of great breastfeeding threads here on MetaFilter in the past, if anybody wants to look for them, full of good information, good smackdowns (such a rarity!) and good exposure of the (mostly) evil formula industry.
posted by sudama at 12:55 PM on December 20, 2001


My wife (who I intend to mention in as many posts as possible from now on, because it annoys her and I find that entertaining) used to work at Parent Soup -- a parenting website staffed by 40 or 50 dotcom twenty-somethings, exactly one of whom was actually a parent. One of the big ongoing debates was over how long people should continue breastfeeding. La Leche League, known to some of the Parent Soup staff as the Milk Nazis, advocate breastfeeding well into adolescence or even middle age.

Well, ok, not really. But they do seem awfully insistent on it. Anyone who offers a 24 hour helpline for "breastfeeding help and support" clearly enjoys what they do for a living.
posted by ook at 12:56 PM on December 20, 2001


Small complaint: Normal is in Illinois, not Indiana.
posted by internal at 1:13 PM on December 20, 2001


Reasons why I think this is funny (as quoted from the story):

"the Normal library board voted 5-1 to form a committee to develop suggestions"

"an animated 1 1/2-hour meeting Wednesday was held"

"About two dozen people were in the audience, some passionately explaining the importance of breast-feeding, including in public."

"got a call from a librarian two days later asking her not to nurse her son at the library"

"They will examine circumstances surrounding the incident, including whether others at the library found it distracting."

"The panel is also seeking input from the public in writing. "

"It is flatly unconstitutional for anyone to forbid nursing (in public),"

"gave a quick lesson in early childhood education. "

"The community is already divided,"

"the board will discuss personnel issues during an executive session Jan. 23 to see if the staff needs additional training in certain areas,"

I found none of the humor in the actual nursing, though it is pretty funny in itself. Note the title I gave the story "Worst Committee Charge Ever". Everyone else seems to be focusing on the feeding issues.

Just working to keep everyone abreast of the situation, not trying to be a boob about it.
posted by Blake at 1:20 PM on December 20, 2001


Ah, so you thought it was funny because you thought it was funny. Thanks for clearing that up.
posted by jpoulos at 1:26 PM on December 20, 2001


I am dumbfounded. Have any of you " please have some common decency" people ever seen what is exposed when a mother breastfeeds?
I can tell you. about 1/4 of what you can see on any "fashion or culture" magazine, television show, advertisement of any sort. And not even in some sort of " aren't I sexy?" vehicle. Breastfeeding is about as sexy as scrubbing floors (no offence to those who get turned on by scrubbing floors. Or breastfeeding either, I guess: )
What can possibly be wrong with public breastfeeding?


And as to the "normal" age to stop breastfeeding, it isn't even "normal" to breastfeed in the US, although the number is rising. If by normal you mean healthy, by all means look at the WHO link above.
posted by das_2099 at 1:27 PM on December 20, 2001


I certainly don't think a woman should go out to the car or to the bathroom to nurse...I'm saying that it's a possibility that should not be overlooked, given everyone's sensibilities.

However, in response to

about 1/4 of what you can see on any "fashion or culture" magazine

You apparently (though I can't be certain) haven't been around many breast feeding mothers. You certainly see more. Sometimes the baby looks around, etc., exposing the entire breast and nipple. Often a woman's areola expands during pregnancy, and that's visible.

These sorts of views of a woman's breast make some people uncomfortable, for a variety of reasons.

And come to think of it, I don't see why forming a committee about it is funny. It obviously is a debate with a lot of mileage to go, and should be looked out from the point of a view of a community...I'm sure some places in Texas might find it more out of place than some place in Oregon.
posted by taumeson at 2:02 PM on December 20, 2001


I don't see much funny about it, but I'm certainly not going to rail against anyone else who does. That's what's so lovely about humor; it's subjective.

On the issue of breastfeeding in public; if the mother was discreet about it, I don't see how it's anyone's business. My wife is nursing our four-month-old and I'm supprting her decision to nurse him as long as possible. It's what's best for him.

If it bothers you, don't look.
posted by DWRoelands at 2:22 PM on December 20, 2001


I'm saying that it's a possibility that should not be overlooked, given everyone's sensibilities.

fuck everyone's sensibilities. Besides, we're certainly not talking about everyone's sensibilities. If a majority of citizens don't like it, they should pass a law to ban it. (Then try to get that one through the courts.)

Sometimes the baby looks around, etc., exposing the entire breast and nipple. Often a woman's areola expands during pregnancy, and that's visible.

Is it just me, or does this discussion border on the absurd? We Americans are so puritanical some times.
posted by jpoulos at 2:36 PM on December 20, 2001


I dunno, I thought someone suggesting a "nonconfrontational nurse-in" was pretty funny. Maybe everyone could go listen to the new Hendrix album and pick up some Hash afterward. I don't get why everyone is jumping on the guy who posted this link.

As for what jpoulus said, passing a law against something because you don't like it is the opposite of what America stands for. Individual choices shouldn't be restricted if they don't harm other people (and I'm not making a drug reference here...anyone who's been close to a drug addict know that they most definitely *do* harm other ppl because of the dependency from the drug they use).

I don't see what's wrong with breastfeeding in public, but I also don't understand why she can't wait until she's out of the library. Not really that big an issue, I don't think, though.
posted by Kevs at 2:50 PM on December 20, 2001


As for what jpoulus said, passing a law against something because you don't like it is the opposite of what America stands for.

While I don't agree entirely with that statement, I'm with you in spirit. I think breastfeeding bans, for example, are not what America is about.

I also don't understand why she can't wait until she's out of the library.

Out of the library and into...where? Should she have to go home? do you have any kids? Babies need to eat every few hours.
posted by jpoulos at 3:04 PM on December 20, 2001


Extended breast feeding in the developing world is very important because the hormones produced by breast feeding women are natural birth control agents.

A mom who consistently nurses is quite unlikely to conceive -- which means that children get spaced out 2 or 3 years apart if one nurses for 2 or 3 years. "Irish twins" (two children born within 12 months of one another) and the like are almost exclusively phenomena of bottle feeding families.
posted by MattD at 3:04 PM on December 20, 2001


Sometimes the baby looks around, etc., exposing the entire breast and nipple. Often a woman's areola expands during pregnancy, and that's visible

taumeson --

It's pretty easy to avoid catastrophic nipple exposure as a nursing mother. You put a baby blanket (or whatever) over your shoulder (and exposed breast).

Seems to work just fine for my friends who are mothers, and everybody's sensibilities are protected.

Except, of course, for people who apparently just think that breastfeeding is obscene because it involves breasts. Nothing you can do about them.

(and yes, jpoulos, this discussion does border on the absurd; certainly the idea of a library board having this discussion is a little silly, which might have been Blake's point to begin with)
posted by evac at 3:15 PM on December 20, 2001


There is nothing wrong with breastfeeding, my son is still comfort nursing (14 months old). He is very healthy, well-tempered, and has had no real illnesses to date (outside of the sniffles).

What I really think is funny is MattD's comment:

A mom who consistently nurses is quite unlikely to conceive

I wish...my wife is already 3 months pregnant. If only it were that simple.
posted by patrickje at 4:43 PM on December 20, 2001


Puh-lease. If a non-nursing woman whipped her breast out in the middle of a shopping mall, would that be acceptable? Why does having a baby attached to it suddenly make it not a breast?

And two years old?? Would you look askance at a two-year-old walking around sucking off of a baby bottle? If they're mobile and talking, they're old enough to be weaned. There's just something weird about a kid saying "I'm going out to soccer practice, be home to nurse in an hour, Mom."
posted by Oriole Adams at 4:54 PM on December 20, 2001


Yes! Yes! Yes! yes, evac, that was exactly my point to begin with.
Odd, when I read this story I never even thought about nipples, breasts, the age of the kid, or how to keep my wife are her most fetile.

Imagine... You have to sit on a committee to discuss this, do you think that discussion is going to be any different than this one? If so, you have never sat on a committee with a bunch of librarians, and you are very lucky.
posted by Blake at 5:10 PM on December 20, 2001


A previous discussion about when to stop breastfeeding.
posted by whatnotever at 5:29 PM on December 20, 2001


Does anyone besides me find it interesting that this whole debate over what is "normal" originated in a town called Normal?
posted by jonmc at 5:42 PM on December 20, 2001


People getting all bent outta shape about breastfeeding in public places creates a nexus for breastfeeding advocates (and there are *lots* of them) to get organized around.

End result: more education about the benefits of breastfeeding, more women breastfeeding openly, and people who freak out at the sight of a nipple stay at home where they won't be imperiled.

I've breastfed in public, and it's not always as easy to keep covered as it seems. Some kids are cantankerous and hate to be covered up, and like to detach themselves and look around, etc.

By the way, when they get teeth, you can simply teach them not to bite and it doesn't have to hurt at all.

Being able to feed a small person from your own body is one of the coolest superpowers that it's been my pleasure to possess. :)
posted by beth at 5:48 PM on December 20, 2001


Re: La Leche League: Well, ok, not really. But they do seem awfully insistent on it. Anyone who offers a 24 hour helpline for "breastfeeding help and support" clearly enjoys what they do for a living.

They do, but the reason for the 24 hour helpline is because a lot of mothers need help in breastfeeding -- it seems simple, pop out the boob, stick it in the kid's mouth, no problems -- but it's rarely that easy. It can be frustrating, tiring, painful, confusing and depressing when there are problems, and without support, mothers often give up. The La Leche League is an excellent resource to help moms and their babies through the problems so that they can reap the benefits of doing what nature has intended.

Oriole Adams: Puh-lease. If a non-nursing woman whipped her breast out in the middle of a shopping mall, would that be acceptable? Why does having a baby attached to it suddenly make it not a breast?

Intent is everything. If a non-nursing woman whipped out her breast in public, the reason for doing so would likely be prurient or, at the very least, provocative. Feeding a child in the manner in which we were biologically designed is neither prurient nor (should it be) provocative, and women ought not have to hide in order to do so. Of course descretion is necessary (baby slings work beautifully in this capacity, as well as providing a wonderful alternative to toting babies in plastic buckets all day, but I digress) but if someone is so riveted/repulsed by seeing a part of a woman's breast as she is preparing to nurse or rearranging after, the problem is theirs. They need to get over their pathological fear of the human body doing what it is meant to do.

And two years old?? Would you look askance at a two-year-old walking around sucking off of a baby bottle? If they're mobile and talking, they're old enough to be weaned.

A two year is still rapidly developing, and can still certainly benefit from its mother's milk, which changes in makeup as the child ages, begins to eat other food, nurses with less frequency, and so on. In addition, given the emotional upheaval that is accompanied with the new mobility and independence of a two year old, there are enormous emotional benefits for the continuation of the nurturing and comforting that accompanies breastfeeding. There is absolutely no demonstrable medical or psychological reason to stop nursing at any arbitrarily chosen age -- that is merely a construction of a society which places some ridiculous onus on mothers mothering their children.

There's just something weird about a kid saying "I'm going out to soccer practice, be home to nurse in an hour, Mom."

And if you can demonstrate cases where this happens, I'd be inclined to agree. Two year olds, however, even three year olds, are not doing that. The hyperbole may be slightly funny, but it doesn't help your "case."

Beth: Being able to feed a small person from your own body is one of the coolest superpowers that it's been my pleasure to possess. :)

Damn straight. Every mother's power, every child's right.
posted by Dreama at 5:54 PM on December 20, 2001


My wife would have put a boot in somebody's ass if they tried to stop her from nursing in the library. Story hour, for Pete's sake, is about the kids. So this woman should go outside or hide in a bathroom to feed her child?

Much anti-nursing hysteria seems to stem from women who bottle-fed babies, deciding it was too much trouble to use their breasts for what they were designed for. They feel guilty abot it and lash out at others who make that choice.
posted by sacre_bleu at 7:03 PM on December 20, 2001


Breastfeeding can be difficult, especially for first time mothers...and La Leche League and other health care professionals provide an invaluable service in helping moms. Sometimes new moms don't even understand that their milk will not be in for a few days after giving birth, or that there are right and wrong ways for the baby to latch onto the breast. Even something as simple as taking the baby off the breast correctly can reduce problems.

In addition to the health and psychosocial benefits for the infant, there are demonstrable health benefits to mothers who breastfeed, including a reduced incidence of osteoporosis and certain cancers.

Go figure. We live in a country where for the most part it's still considered ok to smoke cigarettes in public around children (with all the associated health risks to the child...tantamount to child abuse), but in many areas it's not ok to breastfeed.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 8:02 PM on December 20, 2001


sorry for being the jonny-come-lately of the discussion, but i just want to point out, if no one has yet, that this took place in normal, illinois, rather than indiana.

the true armpit of america.
posted by dcgartn at 8:51 PM on December 20, 2001


As the johnny-come-latelier, I'd like to note a headline that my mom told me once appeared over a wedding story in that very newspaper. Seems a woman from that town had gotten herself hitched to a gentleman from the nearby burg of Oblong, thus: "Normal woman marries Oblong man." Mom swore this was true.
posted by diddlegnome at 11:37 PM on December 20, 2001


Begs the question how those Normal folks might feel about Lotus Birth
posted by nagchampa at 9:53 AM on December 21, 2001


My only issue with this is that she specifically said that it is not about FOOD, but about COMFORT: "She explained toddlers seek comfort, not food through nursing, and they go in and out of that comfort zone in public settings such as a story hour. Children denied that comfort get upset and don't as readily absorb what is being taught."

Most of the arguments I am seeing are saying that she should be able to FEED her child etc... but if her two year old kid isn't able to adapt socially and needs the COMFORT of a breast, then keep him at home. I feel that it's the mother who is needing the COMFORT more than the child.

What, are we going to start having surrogate breasts to suckle in school now? (God I would have loved that... I still remember Miss Laney ::ROWR::) Hey, it provides comfort and if they are denied that then "don't as readily absorb what is being taught."

If we go with that logic it's not just toddlers that feel that way! I'd sure feel a lot more comfortable with a breast in my face all time. If it's about comfort, then I should be able to have naked women around me all the time in any public setting. I'd sure be alot more comfortable with that...
posted by darian at 10:28 AM on December 21, 2001


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