Breastfeeding in Public

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This is me breastfeeding, but on my couch. Which is not in public.

Last weekend we took Alex on his maiden voyage to church.  We hadn’t meant to wait 9 weeks, but it somehow turned out  that way.  Everyone was kinda like “Where have you been all this time??” (along with, “He’s so big!- Are you ok??”), but I really felt like we chose the perfect time to re-enter that realm of our social lives.  Before last weekend, I always felt a huge amount of anxiety whenever I thought of taking him to church.  But this post isn’t about that.  It’s about breasfeeding- yay!  I’m a huge advocate of breastfeeding.  I always knew that I was for it, but during the last few years, and especially the time leading up to Alex’s birth, my research on the topic of breastfeeding just reinforced and strengthened my zeal for it.  It’s amazing, and it just makes me so happy that God provided such a perfect and beautiful way for women to feed our babies.  Anytime we try to intervene and come up with a plan that’s better than God’s, we just make things more messy and complicated (see: formula feeding).

Now, before I go any further, I would like to stop and say that we don’t live in a perfect world here and I understand that not every woman who wants to breastfeed is able to.  Most can, but some can’t.  I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  If you wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t for some reason, I feel that the desire and the effort is all that matters in those cases.  I wouldn’t have anyone starve  their child.  Hey, even I had to use formula for a couple of days right after Alex was born (and it pretty much broke my heart, but I’ll talk about that in another post).  It was something I never ever ever thought I’d do, but it taught me that sometimes circumstances force us to do the less-than-ideal thing and I can’t pass judgement on anyone else’s situation.  We all have to make what we feel are the best choices for ourselves and our children, and I completely respect that.  Whew.  That disclaimer ended up being a little more lengthy than I had planned.  It’s just that I have been seeing recently a lot of women posting comments on pro-breastfeeding articles that they don’t want to be made to feel guilty or judged if they couldn’t breastfeed.  I don’t think in most cases that those articles were meant to evoke those feelings, but apparently the guilty factor is high against those who don’t/can’t breastfeed these days.

Moving on.

Church Saturday was my first time breastfeeding in “public” (or nursing in public, which has that fun acronym, NIPing!).  I was nervous about it, a little bit.  For most of our breastfeeding relationship, Alex and I have been so disorganized and messy that there was NO WAY I could attempt to get the job done discreetly.  When my family was here after his birth, they didn’t understand why I spent hours a day holed up in my room feeding the baby.  Why couldn’t I come downstairs and do it?  Well, because it was like this: I pretty much had to strip down to nakedness and use both hands (and I could have used more), and even then I would end up sweating and crying half the time.  Breastfeeding can be HARD!  Alex and I had a pretty rough start.  He had trouble latching, didn’t eat much the first few days, got dehydrated and jaundiced (that’s another post), we got thrush and mastitis…  Anyway, I quickly understood why women give up on breastfeeding.  I was frustrated and hurting, but determined.

Since those days, things have gotten soooo much easier.  I would say we still aren’t pros by any means.  In fact, every few days I have some new nursing worry or confusion.  We are definitely far from the place we started at, though.  Just the past few days, Alex has been able to latch on himself without assistance!  He still doesn’t open his mouth very wide, and his latch is probably not textbook, but it feels ok to me and he’s getting the milk out so HURRAH!

Ok, back to my story.  Alex slept in my arms all during the church service, and afterward I went to the cry room to nurse him.  There was one other nursing mother in there and a couple other ladies who quickly congregated to view the babies.  I was wearing a spaghetti strap tank over my nursing bra and a cardigan-type sweater over that.  I’ve been putting some thought into my nursing “system” for a few weeks now, and I have to say it worked really well!  I can just pull the strap of the tank down off my shoulder, unhook my nursing bra, and latch him on just like that.  And the sweater can cover me a bit if I feel I need it. The other mom was using a cover, but I didn’t think trying to latch Alex while fiddling with my blanket would work very well, so I just whipped it out and put him.  Ok, so there was really no whipping out of anything; I just wanted to use that phrase, haha!  .  As soon as any part of me was exposed, his head was totally in front of me covering everything, so it was pretty discreet.  My poor boobies, even with the awesome pregnancy and nursing expansion (woo hoo!) are still pretty small by most standards, so I may have an easier time than some.   While I was nursing without any kind of cover, a man we know walked into the cry room.  I didn’t feel uncomfortable because I knew that nothing was showing really, but I was afraid he would.  Thankfully, he didn’t seem to be fazed at all.

I know that some people though, especially men, DO feel uncomfortable when women nurse in front of them.  There are plenty of breastfeeding advocates out there who are quick to say that this is ridiculous, sexist, ignorant, biased, you name it.  I don’t feel quite that way.  I DO feel that women should have the right to nurse in public, and I’m really glad that we have laws that allow us to do so.  However, I think we need to be considerate of one another.  I think this is my policy: If I’m in a situation where the people around me aren’t really free to leave if they feel uncomfortable (in my home or another person’s home, for example, where it would be kinda awkward for them to just walk out), I’d like to be sensitive to the way people may feel and maybe throw a blanket over or go to a private location to nurse.  I believe that breasts were made primarily for nursing babies and that our culture has sexualized them to such an extent that now we have this problem.  I can’t tell someone their feelings are wrong, though.  I don’t know why people are bothered by seeing a woman breastfeed her baby.  Maybe for men it’s that they don’t know where to look and are afraid of seeing something they shouldn’t, or maybe they are now suddenly thinking about this woman’s breasts.  Of course, if women breastfeeding in public everywhere was very commonplace, I imagine that eventually those reasons would no longer exist.  You can’t say though that just because someone feels uncomfortable they are wrong for feeling that way.

My friend and her husband are coming to visit for the weekend, and I already know that the husband felt (to his surprise) uncomfortable when our other friend breastfed in his presence (and I believe she used a cover even).  So I may go nurse in the nursery while they are here.  We shall see.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Raquel Molczan
    Feb 21, 2013 @ 18:27:43

    If you can breastfeed (especially) with this “system” of yours, which makes you comfortable…go for it mama!!! Breastfeeding in general, but also in public needs to be normalized. Good for you! I struggled to BF for 6 months. You had a tough start too, but you’re both getting the hang of it. Congrats on your success! Enjoy it 🙂

    Reply

    • travelnole
      Feb 21, 2013 @ 18:35:14

      Thanks! Yeah, it’s definitely getting a little easier slowly but surely. I had not idea it would be so challenging for so long! We need a lot more practice/experience to be comfortable nursing in all situations, but I think we’ll get there. 🙂

      Reply

  2. Kendra
    Feb 22, 2013 @ 00:54:51

    I pull it out, no cover, feed anywhere now, lol. I was so nervous about it at first but nobody even flinches or looks away from me when I do it now, so I just continue! I completely agree with what you said about it being mostly about sticking with it that makes it a success. I was too overwhelmed with Isla to stick with it and I still feel guilty to this day for feeding her formula. I think breastfeeding would have alleviated a lot of my anxiety and ppd. With Gracie, the oxytocin is still flowing strong after each feeding, and I absolutely love nursing now. Great post and thank you for sharing your experience! You are doing such an outstanding job! 🙂

    Reply

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