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

Mayor announces public housing improvements

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Wednesday, calling for the scaffolding to come down at NYCHA complexes across…

National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

Local

Bratton defends 'broken windows' work as NYPD support…

Sixty percent of those polled said they support the "broken windows" theory approach popularized by Commissioner Bratton since his first term in the 1990s.

Local

Transit changes for Labor Day weekend

The MTA is adding additional service Friday for New Yorkers getting out of the city for the long weekend. On Friday, Aug. 29, 27 additional…

Television

'Full House' might be relaunched with some of…

A new "Full House" might be in the works.

Movies

Review: 'The Congress' is a crazy, unwieldy sci-fi…

Robin Wright is the center of gravity in "The Congress," which turns from a live-action Hollywood satire into an animated spectacular on a downer future.

Movies

Review: 'The Last of Robin Hood' is a…

Dakota Fanning plays Errol Flynn's (Kevin Kline) teenage gal pal in "The Last of Robin Hood," which takes a scandal and makes it dully empathetic.

Movies

Review: The uneven 'Life of Crime' mostly gets…

Elmore Leonard's "The Switch" becomes the new indie crime dramedy "Life of Crime," with Jennifer Aniston as a kidnapped woman whose husband won't pay up.

Sports

Serena Williams leaving legacy of talented American women…

It seems only a matter of when, not if, Serena Williams will win her 18th career grand slam championship.

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

NFL

Dimitri Patterson suspended only for rest of preseason…

Dimitri Patterson ended up getting just a slap on the wrist.

Sports

Eugenie Bouchard excited for 'rowdy' fans at US…

Eugenie Bouchard is sure to endear herself to New York's tennis faithful as she tries to win her first grand slam title across the next two weeks.

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…

Sex

The 10 types of people you meet online

Does it ever seem like online dating profiles tend to get a little repetitive? It turns out you are not the only one to have…

Home

Labor Day essentials

Whether you’re soaking up the sun on the beach or barbecuing in the park here are some must-haves for your end-of-summer bash.

Education

Does the school day start too early?

As thousands of high schoolers get ready to head back to class, health experts say it may be time to push back the start of…