You may have seen my post about my breastfeeding experiences, but I didn’t say much about nursing in public, A.K.A. “N.I.P.” (aside from the delivery room.) I said I was going to stay away from controversy, and breastfeeding in public seems to be full of it, even amongst breastfeeding supporters! This post is just my usual rambling about what I think. One of my many mottos is “live and let live,” so I really don’t give a Guinea pig’s patootie what you do and I am certainly not intending to shove my opinions down anyone’s throat!
I have heard so many people say they are all for a woman’s right to nurse her baby anywhere…as long as she “covers up.” But what does that even mean? There are lots of covers out there…most remind me of a beautician’s cape/raincoat or something. Some have a rigid collar so Mom can peek and see the baby without being exposed. Some throw a blanket over their shoulder/baby, or others like me wear layers. So what does “covered” mean? I’ve always worn either a nursing top, or a shirt over a tank, so I can pull one up, the other down, and keep my breast and stomach covered (believe me, I’d rather show my milk jug than my postpartum tummy, LOL.) The baby’s face covers the Janet Jackson/Superbowl portion of the whole deal.
It’s possible that someone could catch a glimpse if they were inches from me and staring directly at my chest as the baby unlatched, but I could typically tell when my little ones were getting to that point, and I’d have my other hand ready to yank my shirt down immediately.
I am pretty comfortable nursing anywhere with this method. My kids would not nurse if they were covered. They’d squirm, thrash, squeal, and generally refuse to nurse. With my layer method, I’ve nursed babes to sleep in restaurants (and enjoyed my meal-one handed-in peace and quiet!) and even nursed at the National Zoo. I fact, I’ve had people come close enough to touch the baby’s head, and they still thought s/he was sleeping!
Certainly if you are comfortable with a nursing cover, more power to you. For me, the cape dealie combined with the screeching, uncooperative baby under it feels like a flashing, neon sign advertising what I’m doing. When I’m “N.I.P.” I generally avoid eye contact with anyone, and if I feel (or see out of the corner of my eye) any nasty looks, I’ll talk to the baby, engage my daughter in conversation and/or stare off into the distance and smile sweetly. I’ve never had anyone say anything to me, and I don’t know what I’d do if someone did. The idea makes my heart pound and my cheeks flush, but I’d probably just end up crying from embarrassment!
I’ve nursed a baby while grocery shopping as well. Again, it ends up looking like I’m holding a sleeping baby, and no one’s shopping is disrupted. The other option? Carrying a screeching baby, purse and coupon book through the store, herding my daughter along (pretty soon I will be holding 1 and herding 2!), abandoning my cart while trying to find a place to nurse the baby. Many times I’d end up in the uncomfortably hot or cold car, with whiny, bored other children. Only to go back in and start all over. Both of my kids tended to want to nurse a bit more for comfort when we were away from home, and they often ended up dozing afterwards, which is a total win-win.
For whatever reason, I don’t care much about what strangers think. I’m not doing anything wrong, I’m not showing anything, and I’m doing the most convenient, least disruptive thing for everyone involved. If some stranger ends up telling their neighbor about the crazy breastfeeding lady at the store later, who cares? I’ll never know, I’ll never see them again, and they’ll forget about it by tomorrow.
I feel different about people I know. Whether I have a guest at my home, or I’m a guest in someone else’s home, I will say “do you mind if I nurse here?” Generally the answer is “oh no, go right ahead!” If someone preferred I didn’t, I would definitely ask if there was another place I could go to sit (that’s never happened.) I can’t get comfortable nursing around my in-laws (they did not nurse and were not nursed either), so I end up hiding out when they are visiting while I’m nursing. My kids aren’t typically nurse and done babies, they graze a bit, doze off a little etc. If I try to rush them to get back to the visit, it just leads to a ticked off baby and trips up and downstairs.
My Mom is funny because she will shoo my Dad away/out of the room if I’m nursing, but it doesn’t bother me (or him) one bit. *shrug* I know I made my sister’s boyfriend uncomfortable when I nursed my son across the dinner table in a little cafe, but again, he couldn’t see a thing, and we were all able to enjoy our meals (it was freezing outside and there was simply nowhere else for me to go.) He didn’t say anything, nor did my sister, so hopefully it didn’t bother them too much!
I found it interesting when I went to a “nurse-in” at the mall, and saw everyone’s various nursing styles. There were people with stomachs and breasts totally exposed, some with shirts pulled down and upper breasts exposed, and others who were more inconspicuous like me. None of it bothers me a bit personally. You could take your shirt completely off to nurse and use your nursing bra as a lasso to wrangle your other child…while I might think you were a little weird, I wouldn’t be “offended.” What makes me uncomfortable is making someone else uncomfortable. My instinct is to look at the baby, which makes it look like I’m trying to sneak a peek at the goods, LOL. So I end up having no idea where to look, and getting very squirmy while trying to have a conversation with a nursing mama.
At the “nurse in” I couldn’t help but think that the most “free” breastfeeding mamas were still showing far less skin than at least half of the teenage girls walking around the mall (that are supposedly “fully clothed”) and I won’t even talk about people’s bathing suit coverage! The way I see it, if you see something that offends you, look away. When I took my kids to the carnival, there was a “young man” wearing a shirt that read in big, bold letters “I may be shy, but I have a big …” only his shirt had the d word that rhymes with kick instead of “…” I find that (and those “dangly things” people put on the back of their pickup trucks) to be rather tactless, distasteful, and just plain yucky. So, I look away. Unfortunately having a child who can read makes it more difficult!! For the record, I’m not a total prude, if he wanted to wear that to a bar or something, fine, but why would you wear that at 6 P.M. somewhere that’s full of little kids? Bah.
The other “issue” is that people have different “cut offs” for when a baby is “too old” to nurse in public. Again, I don’t really care what other people do. Though both of my kids nursed until almost two (and my son nursed a lot) no one other than my husband and Mom really knew they were “still nursing” since I was able to distract/delay them a bit as they got older. Well, except the time my 16 month old daughter saw an infant nursing and suddenly decided she needed to “nuss…NUSS!!” right NOW! I thought it was cute, but I realize a lot of people think it’s “gross.”
I was reading a book by Dr. Leman, and I thought it was pretty decent until I read a seemingly random paragraph basically saying that any mother who nursed past 12 months was doing it for selfish reasons and essentially needed some therapy. OK yes, I know I’m taking liberties here but it was enough to make my blood boil and cause my hubby to have to listen to a 10 minute rant about what an idiot this guy is, followed by a vow to boycott him forever. We were outside working in the yard with the radio on last week and some commercial about his wife came on. My husband was confused since I started a mumbling rant about her idiot husband, tee-hee!
Anyhoo, the most recent breastfeeding statistics for Maryland I could find, actually show Maryland’s rates as slightly higher than the national. I find that truly shocking since it seems so rare (and really, the rates are still pretty abyssmal.)
Other than the nurse in, I recall
two three occasions where I saw another mom breastfeeding. I almost don’t count the first since it was in the “nursing lounge” a.k.a. bathroom at Nordstrom. Another time, we were eating at a festival at the farm near our house, and saw a mom nursing. I was so surprised and pleased to see another nursing mom, that I think I looked at her a few seconds too long, and she gave me a dirty look. Whoops.
The last time was actually not too long ago at Target. It was a rare trip without the kiddos, and as I was walking out the door, I saw a Mom with 2 other kids, what looked like her Mom, nursing a baby under one of the big cape cover dealies. Again, I was so surprised, that I gave her a double take. I’m not the type to say anything to anyone, but I made the split second decision to tell her she was full of the awesome and to rock on (not my exact words.) We ended up chatting for a few minutes and I left feeling all warm & fuzzy. Really, I thought about how a quick kind word would probably stick with me for the rest of my life, whereas I’d probably take the double take (like I gave her) as negative.
Are you comfortable nursing in public? Do you feel different nursing around strangers vs. people you know?