I never intended to be a breastfeeding exhibitionist. Promise. And really, that’s not an accurate label for me at all. Breastfeeding advocate? Yes. Regular ol mama? Absolutely.
When my daughter was born I knew I wanted to breastfeed and as we traversed the logistics nursing in public just started happening. She would be hungry at Target, so we’d find a chair or park ourselves in a corner. Then I’d be a bit engorged as we settled into a table at a restaurant, so I’d coax her to fill up on mama milk. Over the months it became normal. Nursing in public was just something we did.
Early on I set aside my nursing cover because it was a hassle and honestly, Jemma preferred to breathe real, flowing air rather than a tent of stagnant air. And let’s face it, nursing covers draw a lot of attention to a breastfeeding duo — “Hey, look over here! Under the HUGE yard of floral fabric is my baby and MY BOOB!!!”
Now, now – if you like your nursing cover and it gives you peace of mind while nursing out and about – high five! – seriously, keep it up! I’m 100% pro-nursing cover if that is what you choose. I just discovered that it wasn’t for us. And to each her own.
Then Jemma weaned and Max was born and I moved into round two of breastfeeding with a new form of mental preparedness. I no longer worried about the nip slip, far worse things happen in life, and even started to feel empowered to breastfeed when and how I and my baby needed. After all, nursing is about us – not Joe Schmoe at table 14, he’s got his own meal to focus on. At the mall, at the zoo, in the car, at the park — above, at the glass walled Apple Store in downtown Portland. Max nurses in public often because we’re out and about often and for long stretches of time so it’s just what we do. It’s our normal.
When Max is hungry, or is hurt or needs to reconnect – we pause and nurse. Regardless of where we are; within reason, of course. Sometimes it’s for 30 seconds, sometimes for 5 minutes. Often he finishes one side, sits up and exclaims “one more!” and re-situates himself in my lap. It’s calm and peaceful and what he needs. Because as a new 2 years old, he’s up against a big world – one that triggers his emotions easily and for us nursing is one of those rooted traditions that grounds him. Not to mention the nourishment breastfeeding provides to toddlers. As his mother, it’s my job to guide his transition from womb to adulthood and nursing is a small step on that path.
Some might consider me a breastfeeding exhibitionist seeing that I don’t carry a nursing cover and will nurse my toddler in public, populated areas. But I’m not. By definition an exhibitionist is “a person who behaves in an extravagant way in order to attract attention.” That’s not me. My sole purpose when I nurse in public is to provide and care for my son – just like when I wipe his nose or hold his hand as we cross the street.
When you see me, smile and wave. Give me a nod of approval. Feel free to tell your inquiring children exactly what I’m doing – I’m giving my son milk from my breast to feed and comfort him. It should be a much less awkward conversation than explaining why lingerie models are scantily dressed like they are in the window display :)
Normal things are things we see and interact with every day. I want breastfeeding to be something very normal within US culture and it’s something I advocate for when I can. Not everyone is currently lactating, but many of us are and to encourage those around us to have a healthy perspective of breastfeeding I say, nurse in public. Do it often, do it with pride, but most of all, do it for you and your child when and where you need to. And when you settle into a quiet corner or lift your blouse at the dining table, watch for me walking by with a grin and thumbs up. You’re doing something very good. You’re doing something very normal. And normal, good things should be done in public.
I always feel so supported that when I'm nursing, that someone comes down and sits next to me. I was at a family reunion of sorts earlier this summer, with tons of cousins and aunts and uncles who we don't see very often. I settled myself into a quiet living room to nurse Ruby. A cousin calls out from the kitchen "can I come sit with you?" …Sure! By all means! Keep me company. She comes over, smiles sheepishly and says "some people are just weird about it." Well cuz, I may be weird, but I'm not weird about talking to you while I'm nursing my babe :) Thanks for making me feel welcome.
Gretchen Bossio says
I love company too :)