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Fri June 3, 2011
Nurse-In in DeKalb
By Susan Stephens
DeKalb, IL – Dozens of mothers and babies parked themselves in front of a downtown DeKalb business Thursday. They were there to protest an incident this week where a mother says she was kicked out of a store for breastfeeding.
Nicole Eidsmoe was thrilled with the turnout for her "Nurse-In." She figured five or six people would show up, and she would be branded some sort of "crazy radical hippie." Instead, about 50 women and their babies nursed, played, and chatted on the sidewalk in front of No Strings Attached. It's the resale shop where Eidsmoe was shopping Tuesday and had a confrontation with the store's owner, John Rapp. She says she sat down in the store, covered her baby, and started nursing. Eidsmoe says that prompted Rapp to tell her to "stop that or go to another store." She says she was told she could have used the bathroom to nurse, but he just wanted her to leave.
Eidsmoe shows the cover she uses when publicly nursing 11 month old Izrael: it's a little hood attached to her cloth carrier. She pulls it over the baby's head. Store owner John Rapp disputes Eidsmoe's version of the story. He says he didn't kick her out or demand she stop breastfeeding: he only suggested she stop or cover up. Rapp says he did it because of who might come into the store: "children, families, and who knows who else is coming in, like perverts and whatever. But there's also Christians who are trying to maintain a pure mentality." He says he thinks she blew the whole incident out of proportion.
But it's the kind of story that gets many mothers angry and organized. Within a day and a half, thanks to a local group called Crunchy Moms of DeKalb and the internet, supporters showed up from all over northern Illinois for the lunch-time Nurse-In. Erin Gilman drove an hour with her 2 year old son Liam. She says she has never had a problem nursing in public, anywhere, but she felt it was important to remind people that Illinois law protects a mother's right to breast-feed. Plus, she knows the feeling of being looked at with disgust while she is breastfeeding, which she defends as "just meeting her baby's needs."
That's one reason Callie Sweers showed up for the rally. She says as a young mother, she found the looks and glares very intimidating when she tried to nurse in public. She wants to help new mothers gain confidence so they can deal with the emotions involved. Otherwise, she says, they'll miss out on something convenient, natural, normal, and cheap.
Sarena Yeager traveled from Moline to support her friend's rally. She says a crying baby is no fun, so wouldn't people prefer to see a breastfeeding mother than hear a hungry baby? She says without Illinois' law protecting a mother's right to breastfeed, business owners everywhere could make life very difficult.
Not all moms are behind Nicole Eidsmoe, though. Kim Payton of Sycamore stood inside the store, holding her son. She says she supports breastfeeding, but "doesn't support them whipping out their boob in a business." She would like to see the law tweaked to make covering up mandatory.
Store owner John Rapp insists Eidsmoe hadn't covered her nursing baby: Eidsmoe insists she did, but that's beside the point. The law does not require covering up.
Rapp says he wants an apology from Eidsmoe and her fianc e for disrupting his business, which he feels he has the right to run anyway he wants. Eidsmoe has no plans for that, nor will she take any further action against Rapp. She's just happy she was able raise awareness of the seven year old Illinois law that protects a mother's right to breast-feed anywhere her child wants.