Well, first of all — my application is in to the program I mentioned in my previous post, now I just get to wait to find out if I got in! Hopefully I’ll know soon!
Now to the meat of today’s post: nursing in public. This definitely seems to be one of the most controversial and polarizing aspects of breastfeeding. For me, nursing in public has been non-negotiable from day one. (ok, day five — the first four days I spent in a hospital room recovering from my c-section). I had been on “couch rest” (modified bed rest) for seven weeks towards the end of my pregnancy, and when my son was born, all I wanted was to Get. Out. Of. My. House. But, I also had a newborn, who wanted to eat frequently (you know, like newborns do).
It took a little bit of practice, but I soon got the hang of nursing him wherever we were — on the subway, on the bus, at a restaurant. I only ever got one negative comment from a stranger, and that was more odd than hostile: when Jesse was very young (for about the first month or so) we had to swaddle him to nurse, since he kept getting his hands in the way otherwise. A woman on the train noticed my husband swaddling him, and then noticed me starting to nurse him, and told me I was doing it all wrong, and didn’t I know it’s massively damaging to swaddle a baby for feeding. I just (relatively calmly!) told her that this was how he ate, and his pediatrician didn’t have a problem with it and proceeded to feed him.
My mother, who has generally been very supportive of me nursing Jesse, did make a few comments early on about how I should cover up when nursing in public. Covers never really worked for us though — by the time Jesse and I knew what we were doing enough that I didn’t need to look, he was old enough to be bothered by the cover and pull it off. At the time, her comments really hurt (she’s my mom, and she thought I was mothering “wrong” and I was on the postpartum hormonal rollercoaster) but in retrospect, I’m pretty sure she was reacting to how *she* would have been perceived for nursing in public when I was a baby, and she didn’t want to offend the people who were nearby — it was generally pretty clear that she herself wasn’t actually bothered, she just didn’t want me bothering other people, and probably wanted to protect me from their potentially hostile comments. For the two of us, this was definitely a good test for figuring out our transforming relationship now that I’m a mother myself (who values my mother’s opinions, but also will make my own decisions). Now, it doesn’t seem to bother my mom as much, and I think she’s gotten used to the idea that it doesn’t bother people as much as it might have in the past.
When Jesse was six weeks old, we took him on his first plane ride, to my husband’s family in Florida for Christmas. I am so, so grateful to have married into a family where breastfeeding is the norm, and nobody made a big deal out of me nursing Jesse wherever and whenever was needed. I did attempt to use a nursing cover when we went to church with them, but when that didn’t really work out, nobody cared. Added bonus: we were staying with my sister-in-law and her family, and she had nursed all four of her kids (and now the fifth, too!) and my mother-in-law had nursed all five of her kids, so I felt like I had a huge wealth of knowledge at my disposal, in case I had any questions.
Having a community of other nursing mothers definitely is a huge part of what makes me comfortable nursing in public — going to new moms’ groups, hanging out with other nursing mothers in parks and wherever else, has definitely helped make me less self-conscious — by making nursing in public the norm, it becomes much easier to just feed the baby when he’s hungry!
Next up: Tools of the trade — my favorite gear for nursing in public.
Do you nurse in public? How have your friends and family, and strangers reacted? What makes you feel supported in meeting your baby’s needs wherever you are, out and about?