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
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.