Yes, I breastfeed publicly. Here's why you should mind your own business.

I was moving through the grocery store at what you would call ‘basic mom speed’.  We are all on borrowed time, always, when shopping.  We always need to finish before baby wakes up, toddler melts down, or <insert minor tragedy here>.  In my case, I was trying to pick up the essentials before my one month old baby woke up.  (Surprisingly, time doesn’t stop when you have a baby and you still need to make dinner.)

Then, it happened.

The fear rushed over me like a wave. Baby started stirring.  True story, within a matter of 42 seconds, baby was full on screaming and crying… and apparently starving.  Crap.  It was times like these that I wish I had a bottle of formula.  I grabbed my bag and abandoned the cart, in search of the bathroom, apologizing to people along the way for my disruption.  Once in the bathroom, in this disgusting, smelly, grocery store bathroom, I proceeded to a stall.  A stall.  With a toilet.  It doesn’t end there.  Once in the stall, I put my cover up on!  Finally, it was safe to release my breast and feed my precious newborn baby.  I peered down into the little opening of the blanket to see her, perfectly content, nursing away… and I started crying.  I started crying because I had to leave all my groceries down aisle 7.  I started crying because I was battling postpartum hormones. I started crying because I was angry that I was ashamed of nursing in public.  I started crying because someone had just pooped in the stall next to me.

I would love to tell you that it was the last time I nursed in a dark corner somewhere, covering the head of my baby.  It wasn’t.  I continued on throughout our entire nursing relationship.  I didn’t go anywhere without the cover up.  I attended La Leche Meetings, and even there amongst other moms nursing freely, I covered.

The sad truth is that there are many other mothers out there that are doing the same thing.  Right now, there is a mom seeking refuge from the judging gazes of strangers.  Right now, a mom is excusing herself from some event to retreat to her car, a bathroom, even a closet!  Why are we doing this?  Because there are STILL people out there that are shaming mothers who nurse in public.  Could you believe it?  Every time I see it happening, my jaw involuntarily drops.  In some cases, we have a new mom who is almost always extremely vulnerable.  She is just learning how to breastfeed as is her baby.  She is struggling to get a decent latch and now she has to also struggle with a cover.  All of this to protect strangers from possibly seeing a quick shot of her breast?

NEWS FLASH!  There is rarely a new mother out there that wishes to flaunt her new mother body.

How did we get here?  Why are people so uncomfortable with seeing a mother nurse their child?  It’s simply not seen enough.  America is not comfortable with things they seldom see.  Have you walked past a lingerie store in the mall lately?  Wow.  Out there in the open, for all to see.  No cover ups, no dark corners, but there in the spotlight… BREASTS.  ALL THAT SKIN.  Your children!  Your husbands!  What will we do?  Shield their eyes as you walk past the store? No.  Because it’s normal to see breasts as sexual objects.  It’s when we start using them naturally where we get into trouble.

Now I know what you naysayers are thinking… so let’s talk about it.

  • Why can’t she just go to the car or somewhere private?  Wouldn’t we all be more comfortable then?
    • I remember talking to a mom who had given up breastfeeding and she explained how she was always missing out on everything because she had to go to a different room to nurse her baby.  Forget about a newborn baby who nurses every 1-2 hours!  You might as well not leave your house.  This truly isn’t necessary and what we are doing here is teaching our children that breastfeeding is taboo.  We are teaching them that we shouldn’t say the word ‘breast’ and we should hide ourselves when it’s necessary to feed our babies.
  • Why can’t you just pump a bottle to feed baby in public?
    • Oh, so many feelings about this one.  First, pump is truly a four letter word for some mamas.  It’s not easy to learn and sometimes it is painful.  I used to say it felt like cruel and unusual punishment.  Second, breastfeeding ain’t easy.  There are some perks surrounding the choice to breastfeed that, quite honestly, we are entitled to.  Being able to leave the house with a lighter diaper bag is one.  Not having to warm a bottle to the right temperature while at the store, restaurant, or other public place is something we have a right to enjoy.  And third, but probably most important, is baby doesn’t always take a bottle easily or might not at all.  My first 4 weeks back to work, my son would only take my milk through a syringe.  Refused the bottle.  Not to mention a little something called nipple confusion.  And this is a thing, my friends.  Breastfed babies, if fed by bottle or given pacifiers in the early weeks, could get confused and start refusing the breast!  All this hard work to give baby what baby needs and one bottle can severely damage a nursing relationship.
  • Surely, you can just use a cover up.
    • Yes, one can.  But please, before you ever suggest this to a mother EVER again, do me a favor and eat your next meal under a blanket.  Yep, it really does suck.  Apologies accepted, we will forget you ever asked us to.
  • Don’t do it in a restaurant!  I’m trying to eat.
    • If this is something that bothers you so, please try looking at something else.  Maybe your date.  Or your lobster. Mothers are allowed to nurse at restaurants.  Actually, the LAW is that mothers are allowed to nurse any where that mothers are allowed to be.  This is not about you.  When a mother is nursing her child, she shouldn’t have to think about the person 3 tables over that is giving her the ‘stare’.

Please think about this next time you see a mother breastfeeding in public.  We are just trying to do what’s best for our family.  Our intention is to nourish our baby in the most natural way we know how.  We aren’t in it to ruin your day.  A new mother is just learning how to breastfeed, as is her baby.  She is struggling just to be able to get baby to latch.  So next time, when you see a mother nursing in public, instead of gasping in disbelief… go over to her and thank her.  Thank her for normalizing breastfeeding and while you are there… breathe in that oxytocin that’s being released.  She is paving the path for our daughters so that they might not face the same issues we face today.

I have 3 children now.  My 4 year old who was my grocery store bathroom baby, my 2 year old and 8 month old.  I am currently breastfeeding my two younger children and I am happy to say that I have since retired my ragged black cover up.  I don’t frequent bathrooms in grocery stores any more unless my 4 year old really needs to use the potty.  I happily nurse anywhere my babies are hungry and when I see another mother nursing, I make it a point to thank her.

Help change the way we view this as a country.  It’s not about us… it’s about nourishment for our babies.  #normalizebreastfeeding

Visit www.thevillagesprout.com for more of my squawkings.


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