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posted March 13, 2005

The Breastfeeding Crisis of 2005
Breastfeeding at the park

Emails - Page 4: Breastfeeding at the park

Cover of 1998 Dufferin Rink staff guide.
Drawing by Jane LowBeer

Breastfeeding in Public (at the park or elsewhere): Opinions of Park Friends.

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I am a mother of three young children. I live near Dufferin Grove Park and value my right to breastfeed in public. I also love the park. I love the playground, the Friday night suppers, the cozy atmosphere at the rink house, the skating, the snacks, the Pizza oven and especially the fact that I can meet so many of my friends and neighbours when I visit. It is truly the glue that holds this community together and something that I hold very dear to my heart. One of the things that amazes me most is the welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. On a given day you will see old Portuguese men playing cards, people of ethnic minority playing soccer, basket ball or shinny hockey, young mothers chasing after their children and people from far and wide shopping at the market.

I nursed my two youngest children all over the park: in the rink house, in the playground, on the hill by the Farmers' Market, during Friday night suppers, sitting, standing and sometimes even while walking. I always felt comfortable nursing my children at the park and consider it to be a place where breastfeeding is very much accepted. (Consider how common it is to see women nursing at the Farmers' Market and contrast this to the number of times you have seen anyone breastfeed at a store like Loblaws or No Frills......)

The Park is, and always has been, a very friendly place which welcomes everyone from nursing infants to card playing senior citizens. At any one time, the rink house can be filled with organic bakers, teenage shinny players, toddlers and many other sorts of folks-often in quite close quarters.

I moved to this area 4.5 years ago and was amazed and relieved to find the park and all it had to offer. It goes far beyond what I've ever seen in any park anywhere. There tonnes of bfing and sling carrying mommas here. (The idea of a "nurse-in" made me laugh. All you'd have to do is come by yourself and there would already be a handful of nursing moms there already. Just call it a nurse-in and VOILA! it is.)...There is a lot of trust and goodwill going around here. ...Erika could have chosen to just ignore Jutta and carry on breastfeeding. That's what I would have done (if I didn't know the person speaking to me). I would have been upset and outraged too, but these things pass. It is really part of life - to learn to deal with comments on parenting styles. I've had it happen many times.

I think it is very reasonable to recommend covering up a bit- especially considering all those hormone racing hocky players. Sometimes there is wisdom in a bit of modesty, for ones own sake. I know I might sound like a real prude here, but hey, do you want someone looking at you with rude thoughts in their minds? I'd rather just cover a little more in those situations.

When my baby was really young, I felt completely freaked out breastfeeding at the park and would go to great lengths to avoid it, even though I had sat with and supported my partner and many friends as they had immodestly fed babies there throughout the last number of years. I was too overwhelmed by the combination of the intimacy/vulnerability of breastfeeding with the frequent open stares of men and teenage boys.

I'm all for public breastfeeding (in fact I would like to see more of it) and yet I agree it's important for everyone to be comfortable in that space at the rink house and it doesn't take much to nurse your baby without offending people. I nursed two of mine in that same rinkhouse and I don't think anyone left because of it.

I am a nursing mother who lives two blocks from Dufferin Grove Park and who uses the park on a daily basis. I met this summer two mothers new to Toronto who said that of all the parks they had visited, Dufferin Grove felt the most welcoming and the most inclusive. All kinds of people feel comfortable here - children, teenagers, families: straight, gay and lesbian, recent immigrants, single people, elderly people, dog owners. But I think that we need extraordinary efforts to accommodate everyone and make diversity - cultural and racial - really work in our park.

I have nursed for three years in Dufferin Grove Park - in the playground, in the rinkhouse, on the benches, during the organic market, on the grass - I and my friends and neighbours with babies sit and nurse in complete comfort.

Having been at the rink house many times and seeing the jumble of people and skates, I'm glad to feed my baby away from the melee. What I have seen at this park is a small U.N. at work. Every nationality, every age group and so much participation in all the creative activities proves to me what a special place this is.

In the last six years since I have become a regular user of Dufferin Grove Park, I have watched a growing group of new breastfeeding mothers come to the park from neighbourhoods across the city seeking community. Often, in our conversations, moms from Parkdale, the Annex, Riverdale and other places would comment on how lucky I was to live by a park that was a truly animated public space.

I am a midwife - supportive of breastfeeding - and I often tell new parents in search of a family friendly community that Dufferin Grove is the place to go!

When my children were breast feeding, I always felt entirely welcome to do so in every space at the park.

One more comment re. the spilt milk at Dufferin Grove... (by the way, what happened to humour in the midst of all this ?) As a nursing mother myself who also felt (and still feels) strongly that feeding a baby is a fact of life, I came across a few others:

  • Due to hormonal facts of life, children at a certain age find it difficult to see breasts as solely baby feeding equipment. They feel conflicted about what they know intellectually and what their hormonal instincts are yelling at them. Is a trip to the ice-rink the time to deal with this complicated issue? Is their fact of life to be treated with less respect/sensitivity than a nursing mother's? Of course, they don't immediately write letters of complaint.
  • Perspective is an important fact of life. Without it we run the risk of alienating all sorts of people. We cannot afford to discourage individuals from participating in our community; from those who infuse life into a corner of Toronto by their sheer enjoyment of the ice to those who put endless hours into creating and maintaining that possibility.

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