First Experience Nursing in Public

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe’s Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to www.breastfeedingcafe.wordpress.com. For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about your first experience nursing in public. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!
 


 
I’m not sure I can recall my very first time nursing in public. I remember that I took it pretty gradually. My baby was born in late October, and with the winter weather, many days we stayed home all day, so I didn’t have to worry about nursing in public. I am grateful for my childbirth educator, though, who reiterated in our class that nursing in public was normal, acceptable, and legally protected. She helped my husband and me to have a great attitude about nursing in public, so I knew at some point I would do that.

If you can even call it nursing in public, I started by breastfeeding while at my parents’ or in-laws’ houses. I wouldn’t leave the room to nurse, but I would attempt to be discreet, by using a nursing cover or blanket. I soon discovered that the nursing cover was more for the comfort of my brothers-in-law than for me (at a certain point, when my baby was hungry, I cared a lot more about getting her fed than I did about covering my exposed skin). Still, it was a step.

The first, and most frequent place, I nursed outside of homes has to be the mothers room at church. Pretty much each Sunday, I find myself in this tiny little lounge, really a corner, of the women’s restroom with two rocking recliners and a little curtain (we’re Mormons, so we spend 3+ hours at church each week, so I usually nurse at least once while there). I enjoy when another mom is in the lounge as well, and often we end up talking about our babies. Especially in the beginning, as I was learning to nurse, I was so curious about other babies nursing. Without staring, I would sometimes try to take secretive glances at the other mom, to see how her baby was positioned and I would listen carefully to see if her baby sounded like mine while eating. Now I realize that every baby is different, and there is no one exact “right” way to nurse, but I recognize how hungry I was for validation that what I was doing was correct. The mothers’ lounge was still not exactly totally “public,” but it was another step.

As the weeks went by, if we were out shopping and my baby was hungry, often I would sit in the car and nurse for few minutes in between stores. Another step…

However, one particularly blustery day, right before Thanksgiving, I was shopping at Target. Of course, I had to park far away from the store in this inclement weather. About halfway through my shopping trip, my baby was out of patience. She was hungry. I debated going out to the car to feed her—could I leave my half-full shopping cart somewhere, run back out into the freezing slushy weather and nurse her in the car? At that moment, that little voice (of my childbirth educator) popped into my head, “Why would you do that? You should be able to nurse your baby wherever you would like!” So I headed over to the food court area in the front of Target (which was pretty deserted), ordered a snack (so I had a “reason” to be sitting there), parked my cart and sat down to nurse my baby. It was slightly awkward (too many layers of clothing in the winter), but she latched on gratefully as soon as she was given the opportunity and immediately calmed down. The girl who was working at the counter brought my food over to me and even got the utensils and condiments I needed, since she could tell my hands were full. No one accosted me or even really seemed to notice. Victory! I felt so great that I was able to take care of my baby’s needs without having to abandon my errand. A first “real” stamp for my breastfeeding passport.

When my baby was about 10 weeks old, I flew to Denver for my training as a childbirth educator. The flight over was very easy, as I had two seats to myself and the lights were dim, so no one seemed to notice when I nursed the baby. At the training, everyone was extremely supportive, so I felt no need to try to “cover up” while nursing. It was liberating.

The return flight, though, was not as convenient. I was squished in a row with two young single guys (probably about my age). My baby was hungry, though, so I let her latch on and avoided eye contact with my seatmates. (I was prepared with a comeback if they protested, “Would you rather she screams the whole flight?”). No one said anything about it. A girl across the aisle struck up a conversation with me about babies, pregnancy, and birth and we had a great flight. Another success to add to my breastfeeding passport!

A few months later, I had lunch with some friends at a local restaurant. There, I nursed my baby in her sling while I ate my food and chatted with my friends. Finally- this was my ideal! Talk about multi-tasking! It was so nice to be able to take care of both of our needs. Stamp in the breastfeeding passport!

Since then, my passport has gotten many new stamps as I have nursed at the zoo, parks, stadiums, restaurants, an amusement park, etc. I’ve definitely gotten less awkward as I (and my baby) have gotten more experienced at nursing. I’m grateful for those who have been so kind (or pretended to be oblivious) as I’ve nursed. If people were uncomfortable, they’ve never confronted me about it.

I am very grateful for the breastfeeding relationship I have with my daughter. I love knowing that what I do for her is something she can’t get from any other source. Breastfeeding, while it can be frustrating at times, is an amazing gift.

In my area, I rarely (if ever) see mothers nursing in public. Maybe I’m just not that observant, or maybe people feel uncomfortable and choose to nurse in private more often. My hope, now as a childbirth educator myself, is that my classes will help other women feel empowered to nurse wherever is best for them and their baby. That’s what it comes down to—a mom meeting the needs of her innocent baby. Wherever, whenever, and however.

Is nursing in public inherently better than nursing in private? In some ways, no. For me, at least, it feels like more of a struggle to keep my baby focused (she’s at such a distractible age), my clothes covering some of my body, and my boob in her mouth while balancing on whatever ledge I found myself on while attempting to maintain a conversation- let’s just say I’m a slow learner and still need more practice. In private, I can usually keep her focused and I’m more comfortable. However, if she’s hungry and I’m out and about, I will absolutely feed her wherever and whenever she needs to eat.

On the other hand, there are some benefits to nursing in public. The obvious benefit is not having to interrupt your activities and not making your baby wait when she’s hungry. Beyond that, though, I feel like you do a service to other women and babies when you nurse in public. You are showing them that nursing is normal and definitely feasible. Your example might help another woman decide that she’ll breastfeed her next baby (or she won’t quit nursing so soon).

Let’s all be a bit more gracious with each other. Let’s remember that we’re all at different stages. Some are just learning of the benefits of breastfeeding, and have never really been exposed to women nursing before. They might not appreciate seeing us nurse in public, but they’ll remember that impression, and the more they see it, the more “normal” it will become. Others are just trying baby steps, and may choose to feed their baby a bottle when in public. Then there are the women who are earning their first stamps in their breastfeeding passports. And, of course, there are those veteran women who are able to nurse their babies while climbing mountains and solving the world’s problems all at once.

Where ever you fall on that spectrum, I hope we can recognize the women around us for trying their best with their situation. Judging others isn’t helpful to anyone.

Offering an encouraging word or smile to a mom will go a lot further to make a difference. Do your best to show what you’ve learned, and you never know who might follow in your footsteps. Our babies will thank all of us.

Today’s guest post is from Hailey Maloney. Hailey is a former an elementary school teacher and is now a childbirth educator and mother. Her website is http://www.birthutah.com. She loves spending time with her amazing husband and their hilarious, active, and chubby 9 month old baby girl.
 


 
Here are more post by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

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2 Comments

Filed under Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival

2 responses to “First Experience Nursing in Public

  1. Pingback: My Nursing in Public Journey « The Adventures of Lactating Girl

  2. What a wonderful journey you have had! Thanks for sharing… you are a wonderful writer! It was nice meeting you at Latch On America last week!!

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