New Nursing Nook offers haven in busy mall

Emily Kuhn

A MOTHER AND HER INFANT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE NEW NURSING NOOK AT THE FAMILY RESOURCE CENTER INSIDE EAU CLAIRE’S OAKWOOD MALL.
A MOTHER AND HER INFANT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE NEW NURSING NOOK AT THE FAMILY RESOURCE CENTER INSIDE EAU CLAIRE’S OAKWOOD MALL.

I remember one of my first trips to Oakwood Mall with my newborn son, Graham. He was just a few weeks old, and it was one of our first shopping trips together. I was nervous, wondering if I had planned nap time correctly, if he would protest the car ride or if he would suddenly decide that my Moby Wrap, which he seemed to love so far, just wasn’t the right fit the moment we started walking around. I was also still very new to the world of nursing, and at the time, not very confident in my newfound ability. When Graham indicated he was hungry shortly after we arrived, I made a beeline for the family restrooms near the food court and movie complex, which a girlfriend had informed me were “nursing-friendly.” Unfortunately, they were occupied, so I went to the only other place I could think of at the time: the women’s dressing rooms in JCPenney.

“The bonding and attachment that occurs when nursing is so special. It’s such a wonderful moment – but in this case, that moment was happening at a desk, in an office chair. I immediately thought, ‘We can do better than that!’” – Kari Stroede, Family Resource Center executive director, on the inspiration for the Nursing Nook

Of course, I was completely within my rights to feed Graham in public – Wisconsin law states that mothers may breastfeed in any public or private location where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be. I just wasn’t comfortable nursing in public at the time. Whatever your reason for seeking privacy to nurse – comfort, an easily distracted baby, an older sibling to watch over, etc. – nursing mothers will now find another private option at Oakwood Mall: the Family Resource Center’s Nursing Nook.

The Nursing Nook was created through a collaborative effort between the Family Resource Center and La Leche League of Eau Claire. As Family Resource Center Executive Director Kari Stroede recalls, inspiration for the space came last fall, when a parent stopped by the center searching for a private place to nurse. Center staff immediately offered her the quiet cubicle of an absent coworker, but Stroede knew they could offer more.

“The bonding and attachment that occurs when nursing is so special. It’s such a wonderful moment – but in this case, that moment was happening at a desk, in an office chair,” said Stroede. “I immediately thought, ‘We can do better than that!’ ”

So Stroede sought out the local chapter of La Leche League, an international, nonprofit breastfeeding advocacy group. La Leche League of Eau Claire holds its monthly meetings at the center, and Stroede thought their breastfeeding knowledge and expertise would make them the perfect partners in a project like this.

“I approached the league and explained the situation, and wondered if they’d consider partnering with us to create a place more intended to nurse,” Stroede said. “I wanted to make sure we had what a nursing mother would need – a good chair, a footrest perhaps, etc.”

As Stroede recalls, the La Leche League ran with the idea, securing donations from local businesses: Ashley Furniture provided a big, comfy swivel chair, while EC Online Auctions, That’s Adorable, and other businesses offered up an adjustable footrest, a nursing pillow, a privacy screen, a rug, and other comfortable furnishings. The nook also offers toys for older siblings should they need an activity while their younger sibling is fed.

The Nursing Nook opened to the public during World Breastfeeding Week in early August. According to Stroede, it has already been used not only by nursing mothers but also by those seeking a quiet place to pump breast milk. Parents who would prefer a quiet place to bottle-feed babies are also welcome to the space. 

“I think it’s important to offer parents choices. We want to encourage nursing; we want to be a family-friendly agency; we want to be able to support Oakwood Mall to be even more family-friendly – and this is just one more piece of that puzzle,” Stroede said. “There are parents on all different levels of comfort with newborns and what happens in the public arena, and the Nursing Nook is now one more choice for them. Nursing mothers are still welcome to nurse wherever they’re comfortable, but this is another option.”

The Nursing Nook is housed in the Family Resource Center, which is located in the Sears wing of Oakwood Mall. It is available during the center’s regular business hours: Monday-Thursday, 9am-3pm and Friday, 9am-1pm. For more information about the Nursing Nook or the Family Resource Center, visit www.frcec.org or find them on Facebook.

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