City mothers are becoming more comfortable breast-feeding in public

Enma Ordoñez breast-feeds her son in a Bronx park.  Credit: Bess Adler/Metro
Enma Ordoñez breast-feeds her son in a Bronx park.
Credit: Bess Adler/Metro

On cold days last winter, Brelyn Vandenberg would bring her newborn to the Central Park Zoo—but they didn’t go for a typical visit.

“The tropical birdhouse is always 85 degrees, so if I was out, I would just go there to breast-feed in the winter,” said Vandenberg, 32, whose 8-month-old boy is still breast-fed.

At the Met, in parks and on the subway, Vandenberg and other city mothers are becoming more comfortable nursing in public. With awareness campaigns and events throughout August—National Breastfeeding Month—advocates are hoping to make the practice even more natural citywide.

“If we normalize breast-feeding, it’s more comfortable for everyone,” said Theresa Landau, who chairs the NYC Breastfeeding Leadership Council, Inc., and runs the Morrisania Women, Infants and Children program in the Bronx.

At the Morrisania center, Landau and lactation consultants advise local nursing mothers. The facility also runs a peer-counseling program, with mothers helping each other get used to breast-feeding.

Lactation consultant Karla Lewis talks Enma Ordoñez through the breast-feeding process at the Morrisania Women, Infants and Children program in the Bronx. Credit: Bess Adler/Metro
Lactation consultant Karla Lewis talks Enma Ordoñez through the breast-feeding process at the Morrisania Women, Infants and Children program in the Bronx.
Credit: Bess Adler/Metro

“Having a new baby makes a woman a little nervous, we do a lot of reassuring,” said Karla Lewis, breast-feeding coordinator for the program.

Breast-feeding reduces babies’ risk of a host of diseases and ailments throughout their lives and benefits mothers’ health, according to recent studies. But while the American Academy of Pediatrics, federal and city agencies have all pushed for mothers to breast-feed, advocates believe there’s still room for improvement.

A video of a nursing Texas mother went viral this week after a stranger told the woman to cover up for “decency.” In Tennessee last week, an employee of a fast food restaurant asked a mother breast-feeding her 5-month-old to stop.

Mothers in the city still have difficulties pumping milk or breast-feeding at work, advocates said.

“Some of our moms have to go back to work when the baby is 2 to 6-weeks-old,” Landau said. “It’s more challenging for them.”

Under federal laws, companies with at least 50 employees must provide mothers with time and space outside of bathrooms to breast-feed. In 45 states, including New York, mothers can breast-feed in any public or private location where they’re allowed to be.

But some mothers aren’t aware of their rights.

“They are afraid to ask for a place to pump because they’re afraid they’ll get fired for making demands,” said Kathleen Carpenter, treasurer of the breast-feeding leadership council and a breast-feeding coordinator at New York Presbyterian.

Theresa Laundau, left, and Diane Barrett, right, with life-sized cutouts of women breastfeeding, part of a project to promote nursing. Credit: Bess Adler/Metro
Theresa Laundau, left, and Diane Barrett, right, with life-sized cutouts of women breastfeeding, part of a project to promote nursing.
Credit: Bess Adler/Metro

Outside of the workplace, Lewis believes the public is becoming more accepting of nursing mothers.

“There’s always gonna be the person that will say something negative,” she said.

Landau said its usually mothers who are most uncomfortable nursing in public.

“It’s moms who really think they’re the center of attention,” she said.

Isamar Lugo, who goes to the Morrisania center, said she was shy about nursing her 6-month-old in public at first, but now she can’t imagine stopping.

“I love the bond that we share when I’m breast-feeding,” said Lugo, 23.

While mothers are legally allowed to nurse any way they want in public, discretion should still be used, said Keri White, author of an upcoming book on etiquette for mothers, The Mommy Code.

“If you’re making someone else uncomfortable, there’s no harm in doing it discreetly,” said White, who sometimes breast-fed her own children in public.

While Landau gives women tips on how to modestly breast-feed at the center, she’s hoping to get rid of nursing stigma completely. Some of the center’s mothers participated in a project where pictures of them breast-feeding were made into life-sized cardboard cutouts.

Simeon and Enma Ordoñez at a bus stop in the Bronx.  Credit: Bess Adler
Simeon and Enma Ordoñez at a bus stop in the Bronx.
Credit: Bess Adler/Metro

“I try to push it as much as I can,” said Carmen Gonzalez, 38, who was photographed nursing her 7-month-old for the project.

Despite this and other pro-breast-feeding campaigns, Carpenter still thinks the city has a ways to go.

“Breast-feeding is becoming more common, I’m not sure it’s becoming more normalized,” she said.

Most mothers don’t care either way.

On a packed 1 Train earlier this summer, Lugo’s baby boy began crying hysterically.

“At first, I was like, oh my god, I don’t want to do this here,” Lugo said. “But then, I just decided I didn’t care who was there, and starting nursing him. He stopped crying immediately.”

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Hillary Clinton headed to Boston for women's leadership…

Former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is set to visit Massachusetts Wednesday amid continuing speculation about making another bid for the presidency in 2016.

Local

The Boston Marathon: Step by step, the race…

For over a century, the Boston Marathon has been an event centered around sportsmanship, endurance and athleticism, but there’s no denying the face of the renowned race has been changed…

Local

Boston Marathon: Marathoners ready to run, honor victims

Scores of runners will cross the Boston Marathon starting line in Hopkinton Monday and embark on a 26.2-mile journey to Boston in honor of the victims.

Local

MIT student, Rhodes scholar, dies

Eliana Hechter, a student at MIT and Harvard, died, her family said. The announcement was posted on MIT's website.

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

The Word

Miley Cyrus cancels more dates, tweeting from hospital

Miley Cyrus is reportedly so sick that she's had to postpone more tour dates. We know this because she has been sitting in a hospital…

Music

Loop are, er, um, back in the loop

Experimental noise rock band Loop's three mid-1980s to early-1990s albums, “Heavens End,” “Fade Out” and “A Gilded Eternity,” were mercifully reissued.

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox defeat Orioles, 4-2

Brock Holt the difference in the Red Sox' win

NHL

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump…

NHL video highlights & analysis: Red Wings dump Bruins in Game 1

MLB

MLB video highlights: Orioles top Red Sox, 8-4…

John Lackey roughed up for second straight outing

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox score two in…

Lester shines in Red Sox win over White Sox

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.