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Monday, June 22, 2009

Why Worry About NIP?

Welcome to the Carnival of Breastfeeding for June.
Theme for this month is Nursing in Public. Please check out the other contributing bloggers linked at the bottom of this post. :)

My opinion is that anybody offended by breastfeeding is staring too hard. ~David Allen
One of the most talked about issues that breastfeeding moms have to contend with is NIP -- or nursing in public. I briefly mentioned my experience in a previous post about swimming pools. However, I've realized that nursing in public in the Philippines is not really as bad as in other Western countries.

During Naima’s 1st 2 weeks, I wasn’t shy about nursing in front of other people. I nursed in front of my aunt, cousin, uncle, my aunt’s best friend, her husband, etc. etc. At that time, I was more concerned with Naima gaining weight, my having to deal with sore nipples and making sure that I was producing enough milk. However, I do remember a conversation I had with my aunt and female cousin about how other people wouldn’t be as tolerant of me nursing in public as they were (since we were related). I asked why and my aunt just told me, it’s just how it is – people will think you are committing indecent exposure if you nurse in front of other people.

Fast forward to Naima at about 4 months (because in the 1st couple of months, I didn’t leave the house so I didn’t have to deal with nursing in public). When I started going out, I invested in a nursing bib and some good nursing tops. Initially, I always sought a private place to nurse Naima. I soon became *brave* enough and nursed her in public but used the nursing bib. However, as Naima became old enough to be curious about her surroundings, she began to hate the nursing bib and always struggled to get it off her. Eventually, I learned that for us to get a decent nursing session, I needed to nurse her without a cover.

I'm happy to report that despite my misgivings, nursing in public in the Philippines has fairly been uneventful. I haven't heard of any mom who nursed in public being sued for indecent exposure. Philippine law on indecent exposure refers to a general provision punishing a person who offends against decency or good customs by committing any highly scandalous conduct (Art. 200 of the Revised Penal Code). Given the definition and elements of the crime of "grave scandal," I don't think anybody would charge a mom who is nursing in public with this crime. Equating nursing in public with indecent exposure or grave scandal would demonize the complainant and make him/her news fodder.

Generally, the Filipino public doesn't really mind if you nurse in public. For one, we don't have a concept of personal space. So no one complains that you are violating their morals if you are "showing your breasts" by nursing in public. Second, Filipinos are generally good-natured and prefers to avoid confrontation. We call this "pakikisama" and thus, in my experience, people who are uncomfortable with me nursing in public tend to just look away instead of coming up to me and telling me to cover up. Also, moms and babies are considered special and need extra understanding, care and support - so the Filipino trait of "pagbigyan" (or let them be) also comes to play.

One good thing I noticed here is that there has been renewed interest and support for breastfeeding. Several malls have established breastfeeding rooms and we even have a breastfeeding bus in Mindanao! I think politicians have found that this is a very good platform which would make them look good. Recently, a German woman was even declared as the Philippine breastfeeding queen. To be honest, I find it strange why a German was chosen when there are in fact a lot of other Philippine advocates who are equally deserving of this title.

I've been reading articles about horrible experiences of other moms, especially Western moms, about nursing in public. Despite being irritated by the lack of personal space, pagbigyan and the pakikisama system, when it comes to nursing in public, I can happily say that these idiocracies/Filipino cultural traits have their good uses.

Check out the posts of the other carnival participants:
Lucy & Ethel Have a Baby: Nursing in Public (Boobs) Out and Proud
PhD in Parenting: Nursing in public (a breastfeeding parody of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss)
Dirty Diaper Laundry: Breastfeeding in Public – Talents – I haz it
kim through the looking glass: Here? At the restaurant?
Grudgemom: Nursing in a room full of people you know
MumUnplugged: Aww, is he sleeping?
Massachusetts Friends of Midwives: Chinatown, the Subway, the Vatican, and More
Mother Mary’s Soapbox: Breastfeeding Oriana
Tiny Grass: Nursing in Public as an Immigrant
Mommy News & Views: Breastfeeding in Public
Breastfeeding 1-2-3: To Cover or Not to Cover
Stork Stories: Little Old Men... & Nursing in Public
Warm Hearts Happy Family: Breastfeeding and the Summertime
Blacktating: Thank You for Nursing in Public
Mama Knows Breast: Products that can help you breastfeed in public
babyReady: A wee NIP in the park
Tales of life with a girl on the go: Planes, trains and automobiles - we've breastfed in them all
The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Get kicked off a bus for nursing in public? Here's how to respond
Breastfeeding Moms Unite: Nursing in Public: A Fresh Perspective on Nurse-ins
Pumpease: Breastfeeding Hats? YES! Nursing Covers? Uh... Not So Much
Breastfeeding Mums: What's a Breastfeeding Mother To Do!!
HoboMama: Easy, discreet way to breastfeed a toddler in public


Elita said...

Very interesting! I don't know much about Filipino culture, so this was very enlightening for me. I wouldn't do well in the Philippines. I need my personal space!! Thanks for sharing this informative post.

Jenny said...

thanks for dropping by elita! yes - which means you get bumped into when shopping, sneezed or coughed at, pregnant belly touched by strangers, etc. etc.. although the younger pinoys (especially those schooled abroad) have begun to become more conscious of this.

Kim said...

Love it! I wish we could get some of those same values into Western culture ... people are so uptight about breastfeeding sometimes!

rowie said...

Very nice post. :) Yes, Filipinos are great about breastfeeding. When my Rafa was newborn, of course I had to breastfeed him wherever I went - at the mall, at restaurants, at the city hall while getting his birth certificate, et cetera. Since I'm shy, I'd always ask for a relatively private space to breastfeed, and every single time, I'd receive so much understanding and support. Store assistants would happily let me use the dressing room, waiters would let me use the private function room in restaurants, at the city hall, the office staff very kindly directed me to a corner table inside their office where I could breastfeed facing the wall and have a little bit of privacy.

Amber, The Unlikely Mama said...

I'm so happy that you're faced with a more progressive view on breastfeeding (in public and in general). Here in the US it's still frowned upon...and thought to be a private thing that should ONLY take place at home. Sad sad sad :-(

At least some of us are comfortable enough with ourselves (and thoughtful enough of our babes) that we don't care what others think...for the most part :-)

BTW, I found your blog when I was searching for links to NIP info for my own blog post. You've been deep linked mama!

Unknown said...

Interesting indeed, i am quite impressed! Thank you for sharing this.

Just bought a pair of Padded nursing bras they are so cool!

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