Welcome to Virginia, Breastfeeding Moms!

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I will *always* stand for a mom who is interested in breastfeeding in public.  And as of July 1, 2015, so will the Commonwealth of Virginia.

On March 9, at a reception kicking off Women's History Month, Governor McAuliff signed a bill into law that will allow breastfeeding mothers to nurse anywhere in Virginia that they and their babies are already allowed to be.  Previously, the only protection Virginia afforded breastfeeding women was on property owned by the Commonwealth.

I know this law makes some people uncomfortable.  I'm not oblivious to how having a breast exposed might make people feel.  I also understand that we can get into a sketchy grey area when the government starts imposing requirements on businesses, taking away a business owner's right to make choices for their business.  I even understand that laws that are generally made to protect freedoms can be used to control others, and I think that is deplorable, and we should vote with our dollars first, before resorting to the court system.

Ultimately though, my partner and I formed Doulas of Fredericksburg to support families through what can be some of the most rewarding and challenging years in their lives.  We  know this parenting gig is hard enough without you having to worry about whether your choices are going to offend someone else.  We think you are smart enough to make your own choices for yourself and your family, and we strongly believe you should feel safe in executing your parenting choices.  This bill seems to ensure that you can do this without fear or repercussion, and we think that is a cause for celebration.

If your nursing is making someone else uncomfortable they still have rights.  No one is forcing anyone to look at you.  They can look away.  Move to a new table.  Leave.  Just pretend it was five minutes ago and they didn't know you existed.  Adults have always been allowed to choose not to participate in a situation that makes them uncomfortable. (I see the irony of pressuring business owners to accept it as ok while telling moms that pressure from outside sources is unacceptable.  I'm ok with it, in case you were wondering.) 

If you choose not to nurse in public, I stand up for that too, because we at Doulas of Fredericksburg, are here for you.  We are here to support you in making the best decisions for you and your family.  If you find power and strength and you feel safe and comfortable only when nursing in private, then we think that is clearly the best choice for you, and you are smart and capable and a good mom for knowing what is best for you, and we will help you whatever way we can.

And while I don't understand the concern and the disgust that is sometimes directed at nursing moms, that doesn't mean its not real.  Its just not my problem.  And if you don't want it to be your problem, I will tell you over and over again its not your problem either.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: feeding your baby is never the wrong answer, and now its true even in public.

Victoria McCollum

Victoria McCollum is a birth and postpartum doula and owner of Doulas of Fredericksburg, in Fredericksburg, Virgina. She resides there with her husband and three precocious sons.