Breastfeeding or Not – Babies Come First

Mother Breastfeeding Baby In Nursery

Staten Island moms feel more comfortable and supported

When it comes to nourishing their infants, more Staten Island mothers are comfortable breastfeeding in public. They are shrugging off the pressures from their own families, society, health care professionals, or other mothers, and easing their own anxieties about being politically incorrect.

While they admitted there are still some Staten Islanders who frown upon breastfeeding in public, the moms we interviewed said they feel more comfortable nursing heir infants while on the go — especially with their second and third children.

“It’s not about a political statement; your kid needs to eat and that’s how you choose to feed them,” said Imani Page, who breastfed her first two children, ages 6 and 4, and is currently nursing her 16-month-old daughter. She is more focused on her child’s nutrition and less concerned about offending anyone.

New York is one of 49 states that allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location, and established a Breastfeeding Mothers’ Bill of Rights. The City Council is currently reviewing a law that would establish lactation rooms in certain city health facilities and clinics.

Six years ago, the hospital offered Ms. Page assistance through La Leche League of Staten Island, a nonprofit organization that provides outreach and monthly meetings, and can be found at www.lllofstatenisland.com.

But, she admits her own self-doubt got in the way when she ventured out. “I was nervous,” Ms. Page explained. “It wasn’t society. I was freaking out thinking ‘I hope he’s not going to be hungry when I’m out.’ ”

With her second and third child it came more naturally, and she was less worried. “You can’t let other people’s opinions dictate how you go about doing things with your family,” Ms. Page said. Wearing a nursing tank top allows her to be discreet while at restaurants, department stores, or even at the playground where we recently found her. “When I go out, I am surrounded by other moms, so they more or less get it,” she said.

With the explosion of social media, moms like Ms. Page use online platforms, such as www.thebump.com or www.scarymommy.com, for advice and tips on breastfeeding.

In Staten Island, Motherhood Maternity in the Staten Island Mall may not have a dedicated nursing mothers’ room, but has spacious dressing rooms with benches for lactating mothers and their infants, according to the Nursing Room Locator app available on the App Store, Google Play, and Amazon.

The app is sponsored by www.momspumphere.com, a mobile community and support system for nursing moms, and was created to give mothers clean and sanitary options for feeding their children while traveling, according to co-founder Priya Nembhard, a former breastfeeding and pumping mother of three.

“If your baby is hungry, you have to feed your child,” Ms. Nembhard said. “If you are not going to eat or prepare a meal on a toilet, why should a nursing mom?”

Mothers can navigate their strollers to thousands of accommodations like retail stores, stadiums, and airports in seven countries; and can even LIKE the Momspumphere community on Facebook, subscribe to the YouTube channel, or follow on Instagram and Twitter @ #momspumphere.

Audrey Giuca, a mother of two from Westerleigh, said she was pressured by society to breastfeed her daughters, and the lactation nurse made her feel guilty about wanting to supplement with formula.

“Unfortunately, non-breastfeeding moms can be subjected to ‘lactivists’ – people who are very passionate about breastfeeding – but often times do not realize they are alienating moms who are having a hard time breastfeeding or moms who choose not to,” Ms. Nembhard said. “I encourage moms to breastfeed, but life happens, and not every mom can.”

Ms. Guica agreed. “As a new parent, you read a ton of articles that breastfeeding is the best thing, and it is, but if you can’t, it should be OK to give formula to your kids,” without being shamed, Ms. Guica said on a morning jog with her six month-old. “You are feeding your kids and that is the most important thing.” Despite some stigma, “it’s much more open and embraced more by women — and men too,” she said. “With the second birth, I didn’t give myself pressure and worry about being a failure,” she said.

Sylviane Sherwin, whose 8 1/2 month-old daughter breast feeds, feels there are many options for new mothers who are “super sensitive” to society’s pressures. Breast- or bottle- feeding mothers need to listen their bodies and their babies, she noted. “Whatever gets your baby fed,” she said. “New mothers should know they are not a failure if they can’t produce.”

By Christine Albano