4.17.2010

public breastfeeding

the first time i had to nurse river in public was miserable. we were at barnes and noble and he was just a week old. he was still so little and we were both having a bit of trouble latching him on right away, not to mention he was (and still is) extremely wiggly, which meant modest breastfeeding was out the question. i felt very awkward, and though i tried for a few minutes to get a good latch in a quiet corner of the bookstore, it just wasn't happening. feeling defeated, i went to the bathroom and fed my nine and a half pound baby standing up in a stall. talk about bad back pain.

despite having a great latch, it took about 3 months for the awful, painful sensitivity to go away, and about the same amount of time for me to feel comfortable breastfeeding in public. now i do it without even thinking about it; sometimes with a cover, sometimes without - depending on how wiggly he is and whether or not he's going to randomly pop off and look around the room to see what's going on.

i call myself a silent lactivist. for the most part, i am comfortable with nursing in public and don't think twice about it, but it really took me stepping out of my comfort zone to actually start doing it. because of this, now every time i nurse in public, i feel like i'm taking a stand for breastfeeding mamas everywhere. i've always daydreamed that maybe i would find myself in a situation where i could really, truly take a stand, when it would be easier not to.

it was 10:00 last night when we met some family for a late dinner after my dad and his girlfriend flew in from maryland. river was exhausted. so much for trying to put him on a schedule, because i was pretty much ruining it. we had been there for about thirty minutes and he was past the point of dealing with anyone else holding him, including john. there were only two things he wanted: me, and the boob.

he was pulling my hair, climbing my stomach, chewing my collar bone, growling, and making a scene. i was trying to hold off, but my heart broke a little because he was so tired and just wanted to nurse, but i wasn't letting him. "he's quite the wiggle worm!" my aunt said. i smiled and told her he was trying to nurse.

comments such as,

"oh! well, look the other way."

and, "check please!"

and, "awkward..."

and, "you don't want to do that here!"

started flying left and right as family members realized the "situation". they laughed and joked around about it and i started feeling my face get warm. yes, for the first time in my short journey of nursing my son, i was officially heated over the response i was getting for my baby wanting to breastfeed in public. as if it was weird. as if there was anything wrong with it. john jokingly said, "you better watch it, she'll have the la leche league after you!"

inside my head i was thinking, i always breastfeed in public - why is it different this time? it's his right, right?! i mean, i can't refuse to give my child what he needs just because it's making a few people uncomfortable - right? i mean, THAT'S WHAT I STAND FOR, RIGHT?!

so i did it. i (sort of) confidently whipped out river's light-weight blanket, pulled it over his head, and let him eat right there in the restaurant (gasp!). my family looked surprised (except john of course), and my aunt shrugged and said, "well, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do!"

and everything went back to normal in a few seconds. the conversation was lead in a different direction, and river was quiet, happy and fed. so, true - it was a very small victory, and may not seem like that big of a deal, but i was secretly proud of myself. i had been given the chance to practice my and my child's right to breastfeed in public in the midst of a slightly awkward situation, in front of people who weren't used to it, and i took it, helping spread the news that breastfeeding isn't so weird after all. it makes me want to say to more difficult public breastfeeding situations - BRING IT ON! i'd like to see you stop this mama from nursing in public!

7 comments:

  1. Wow! I am so sorry that you even had a moment of discomfort with your family. I am glad that you went ahead and nursed your son! No, it is not weird. I nurse my children anywhere I find myself needing to nurse them. I do cover up, but I don't hide. And I don't worry about anyone's reaction. And a funny thing happens--if I am unconcerned about peoples' reactions, people rarely react. I assume what I do is normal, and it seems that people respond by relaxing and allowing it to be normal for them to be in the presence of a little person who is actually attached to a (*gasp*) breast!

    I have never been asked to stop while nursing in public; if that happened, my plan is to ask if they would be similarly offended if I had whipped out a plastic bottle full of formula. If the child needs to eat, the child needs to eat!

    I am glad RIver has such a beautiful and brilliant mama! ;)

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  2. That's awesome Whitney. "You better watch it or she'll have the la leche legue all over you" ...Haha-that was perfect!
    It's funny, because I went from feeling SUPER weird nurcing in front of people, to totally fine (even in a *mall*!), then back to preferring not to (if I have the option).
    I love nurcing Ezra, I just don't like the thought that passers by may be visualizing that my shirt is up and my boob is out. But once I actually start nurcing, I'm ok.
    I've always been super private and was weirdly modest as a kid (I'm talking, I felt weird and refused to wear shorts if they were above my knees, modest). So may be that has something to do with why I'm uncomfortable.
    But I think what you wrote about was great. You spoke what we all feel.
    I hate it when people make comments, for me anyways it's like, I have a hard enough time doing this in public as it is! Why don't I just take my shirt off, that'll give you something to be awkward and make comments about.

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  3. You forgot to mention that I would call the "la leche league" on them if I had too!!! I thought it was funny because I assumed they being high profile people would have handle it better... but I guess it was a family situation handled in family type of way :)

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  4. All I can say is: You go, girl!
    Problem = Baby needs to eat
    Solution = Breastfeed baby
    It's not like you walk around with your boobs hanging out for fun. You're nourishing your child!
    Family is a funny thing because while they have the greatest capacity to make you feel loved, they also have the greatest ability to make you feel ashamed, even if it's unintentional on their part. I'm glad that you were able to make your stand in your own, quiet way. Nobody should make you feel bad about what you're doing, especially if you use a blanket.
    I remember one time when my parents had a bunch of people over from their church group for dinner and as I was walking through our darkened living room to get to the kitchen, I was startled by one of my mom's friends breast-feeding. It wasn't upsetting because of what she was doing, I just didn't understand why she had to sit in a dark room by herself to do it.
    Being a mother is hard enough already (I'm not talking from experience, so I can only imagine) so it's stupid to try to shame them for doing what comes naturally when they're just trying to care for their children.

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  5. Ah honey - been there. After nursing anywhere and everywhere for well over a decade (yup, straight), I've heard it all. I developed tunnel vision as well as selective hearing ;-) I did tell one beefy grizzled dude that "yes, they're actually for something besides selling beer!" and one woman, who for some inexplicable reason wanted to discuss it with our Lord, that "Yup, Jesus did nurse - most likely for at least three years!"

    I'm proud of you :-)

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  6. thanks everyone for your support!! it's so encouraging to know there are so many proud breast-feeding mamas out there.

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  7. Wow! What a story. It sure can be hard to stand up against your own family! I breastfeed in public and in front of family all the time and I don't even cover up. Somehow I just don't care anymore, the way I did with my first baby. I can tell people feel awkward, but I just don't care that much. That's their problem, right? ;) Keep up your courage. Your baby's needs are most important :)

    I love your blog, by the way.

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