Nursing… In Public?

 Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige at NursingFreedom.org. All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public (“NIP”). See the bottom of this post for more information.

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I’ve been nursing Joshua exclusively, on-demand, since he was born.  We have a great breastfeeding relationship, but I’m still most comfortable nursing him at home, on our favorite spot on the couch, with the boppy and a glass of ice water.  It’s one of my favorite things to do, which is good because it happens a lot.

I have nursed Joshua in public.  The first time, we were at the beach, which was easy because I was still more covered than most people there.  When a mom and her son approached me, I made sure the thin blanket I draped over my shoulder was covering everything.  I was worried, but she just said “Congratulations,” smiled and kept on walking.  It was a great confidence booster.

I nurse Joshua in front of family and friends all the time, without feeling the need to cover with a blanket.  He needs to eat, I need to feed him, and I’m not willing to be isolated in a bedroom alone.  I’m also setting a good example and normalizing nursing.  I like when a friend who is thinking of having a baby sees me nurse Joshua, since she’ll know I can be an ally and a supporter if she needs breastfeeding help.

However, there are times that I don’t want to nurse in public.  For example, at a tractor pull about a month ago.  When Joshua needed to eat, I was happy to take him to the car, turn on the AC, drink some iced tea and relax while I fed him.  It was much nicer than sitting in the sun and feeling uncomfortable.  Another time, when Joshua and I went to school to visit, I nursed him in a back room.  I simply wasn’t comfortable nursing him in front of all of my colleagues, with the threat of a student walking in at any moment.  While I realize that seeing a woman breastfeed normalizes nursing for everyone, including my teenage students, I don’t feel that they need to see ME nurse Joshua.  I know I’m a good role model in a lot of other ways, too.

I’ve never had a negative experience nursing in public, and I honestly don’t care about what other people think.  I know breastfeeding is best for my son, no matter what they think.  It’s about my comfort level.  Positive experiences like nursing Joshua at the beach or the support of our family give me more confidence to nurse in public, but I’m not putting pressure on myself.  As a mom of a three-month-old, I have enough to worry about.  I don’t need to be the poster child for nursing in public, and that’s okay.  I nurse him in public when I’m comfortable, and I don’t when I’m not comfortable.  And I’m fine with that.

Art by Erika Hastings at http://mudspice.wordpress.com/

Welcome to the Carnival of Nursing in Public

Please join us all week, July 5-9, as we celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. And visit NursingFreedom.org any time to connect with other breastfeeding supporters, learn more about your legal right to nurse in public, and read (and contribute!) articles about breastfeeding and N.I.P.

Do you support breastfeeding in public? Grab this badge for your blog or website to show your support and encourage others to educate themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers and children.

This post is just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts – new articles will be posted on the following days:

July 5 – Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World

July 6 – Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child

July 7 – Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.

July 8 – Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives

July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It

24 Comments

Filed under Sustainable Living

24 responses to “Nursing… In Public?

  1. Two things:
    One, our local summer fair, the Girdwood Forest Fair, had a spacious and airy booth with discreet fabric drapes, called the “Breastaurant.”
    Two, I wanted to share this link: http://revcyn.blogspot.com/search?q=breastfeeding

  2. That is all that matters. That you are comfortable nursing in public and that no one tries to prevent you from doing so or suggest that you should nurse in the restroom. I think as long as a woman herself is comfortable nursing in public (and there are many who simply are not) and she is descreet (in other words she is covered) that there should be no issues. If another parent doesn’t want their child to be aware of what is going on (and most times they are not) they can steer clear of the nursing mom. Most times it just looks like a mom with a baby sleeping under a blanket. However I always smile at those women when I see them.
    I did have a couple of bad experiences nursing in public (where I was told I should do that in the restroom, or that I should stay at home if that is what I was going to do), but I let those go. I didn’t argue with the person, except maybe to point out they wouldn’t want to eat their lunch in the rest room so why should my daughter. But since my girls nursed I have noticed many more public places in my area with family rooms. I nice quite room with a couple of rocking chairs, a changing table and soft music. Nice to have that option.

    • I really can’t wrap my head around why another parent wouldn’t want their child to see a baby nursing. But perhaps that’s because I was raised in a culture of breastfeeding, and I always knew that’s how babies eat! After all, animals on the farm nurse in public all the time.

    • Meghan

      “and she is descreet (in other words she is covered)” How covered? Whom decides what is discreet? Why should I allow someone else to decide how I should cover my body? What if my baby doesn’t like to be covered, it’s too hot, she has respiratory issues, etc?

      Finally, why should women be covered? I am dreading the day of telling my daughter that she has to keep her shirt on or cannot wear shorts to the beach like the little boys because other people already view her as sexual. Why else would a little girl need to always keep her chest covered, while a little boy in the same situation would not.

      NIP (and my body in general) is not to make other people comfortable. It’s a public place (hence the NIP), and therefore you can expect see the full range of legal human behavior. This includes breastfeeding without a cover.

      • I think it’s up to the individual. Just because I choose to be modest doesn’t make me any less supportive of breastfeeding (and doesn’t make any difference to the benefits to my son). For what it’s worth, I rarely use a cover (maybe twice or three times?), but you still can’t see anything. That’s modest enough for me.

        • Meghan

          My comment was in reference to TreeHugginMama whom stated that NIP is okay AS LONG AS the mother is “discreet” (or as she put it descreet). Therefore, she doesn’t support all NIP, just the kind that she personally has judged “descreet.” It’s a discriminatory and prejudicial way of thinking.

  3. I completely agree that NIP should rest with the comfort level of the mama! Thank you for sharing your story!

  4. Tia

    My only negative experience nursing in public happened at a family restaurant when my son was only a couple weeks old. I still hadn’t gotten the hang of nursing him so my husband had to hold a blanket up while I got my breast out, tried getting my son to latch on etc…This of course brought attention to us. A couple of really rude and really drunk guys started making lewd comments. I actually thought my husband was going to fight them both. Thankfully, the manager made them leave and actually told me that I was doing the best thing for my child.

    I remember thinking I knew I didn’t want to go out to eat, but my husband was trying so hard to be helpful (he couldn’t cook at all!) and I was so tired I just didn’t feel like making dinner. After that experience I just nursed my kids whenever and wherever. I knew I had the support.

  5. I nurse in public, and never use a cover. However, I’ll admit that there are a few people I don’t want to nurse in front of. Work colleagues and professional contacts, primarily. It just feels kind of awkward to me, kind of like it would feel awkward to me to change a diaper in front of those people. I suppose I don’t like to be too personal in certain settings, and breastfeeding is personal. There’s nothing wrong with choosing where and when you feel comfortable breastfeeding. It’s only an issue, I think, when somebody else tries to choose FOR you, imposing their standards or hang-ups.

    • Yeah, the colleague thing just threw me. I’d rather have strangers see me nurse than some of my colleagues. It just seems unprofessional for them to see my boobs, somehow. I know a lot of people don’t feel that way, but I do. Though I have no problem changing a diaper in front of them!

  6. Ah, your story of being at work reminded me of when my daughter was a few months old and my boss came over for a meeting (I worked from home at the time). Sure enough, my daughter started crying and needed to be nursed. I was so frazzled, it didn’t even occur to me to say, “Hey, can you excuse me for about 20 minutes?” Instead, I put her in the sling, used the tail of the sling as a cover the best I could, and just pretended I was NOT nursing! LOL. I’m pretty sure I was blushing the whole time from embarrassment.

    But that was the turning point for me. I figured if I could nurse in a one-on-one situation like that, I could nurse in just about any situation. Also, I realized with the sling (and GlamourMom nursing tank tops), that nobody could even tell I was nursing. I even had a neighbor peek into the sling before I could give her a heads up that my baby was nursing. My feeling was: why should *I* be embarrassed?

    Now I try to encourage all my new-mom friends to NIP. It’s just so much more freeing. It made my life so much less stressful. But of course, to each her own, with regard to personal comfort.

    • I think what makes it easy for me now is that I’m kind of a home-body, I’m not working til September, and so it’s easy to stay home. Though I certainly don’t pack bottles when we head out, I pack the boppy in the car instead🙂

  7. Thanks for this post. I’ll tell what I liked most about it. You seem very comfortable with the concept of NIP-ing but you don’t make into this big hairy deal. Feed your baby and go on with your life. When you don’t want the hassle, just do it where you’re comfortable. To me, that’s a more natural approach than trying to raise consciousness by NIP-ing for its own sake.

  8. I was always comfortable nursing in public, but unfortuantely my son could only eat if it were silent and there were no distractions. It led to a lot of nursing in cars, dark corners, and in bathrooms (ew). I’m not embarrassed of my boobs (they’ve been great to me for 15 months and counting), but at the same time I don’t feel the need to shove them in someone’s face to prove a point that I have the right to NIP.

    Afterall, you change more hearts with gentle persuation than in agressive tactics.

  9. Aunt Sara

    Hi Abbie,,

    I have no idea what a “boppy” is, but will tell you that 33 years ago I dealt with the same nursing scenarios as you do. Just nurse your baby, be respectful of those around you ( we both kn0w that you can be discrete and not an exobitionist (sp?) about it, and do what is best for your child.

    I really don’t think that nursing in public is a much a big deal as it was 30 years ago…but maybe I am wrong. Let me know if you need an advocate or two, my training in the late 60’s, early 70’s have prepared me for such.

    Love,
    Aunt Sara

  10. Terry aka Goatldi

    As the former nursing mother of two(now with children of their own) and La Leche League leader of the 1970’s. Do what is comfortable, right for you. This is not a contest nor is it demonstration of any sorts. Women should be able to nurse in public in comfort. But since we live in a society where breast have been elevated to a sexual only object in so many instances it is taking some doing.

    We were going through the same thing 35 years ago and altho it has become easier in many venues it is still very difficult in others. Breastfeeding is not only a way to give your baby superior nutrition it is a loving relationship.

    So do what and when your heart and mind says it is right for you. You have nothing to prove, but our culture still has so much to learn, sigh.

  11. Ab,

    I just LOVE your commonsense approach to NIP (can’t even believe there’s an acronym for it now!), because I felt EXACTLY THE SAME WAY when you were an infant (I won’t say how long ago!) and I was nursing you!

    I AM so proud of the wonderful mother you’ve become and Joshua is one lucky baby!

    Love you,
    Mom

  12. Thanks for the post! I agree – some people are just hard to nurse in front of. For me, I don’t feel comfortable nursing in front of my friends kids unless I know that the mom had somewhat recently nursed a sibling. The few times I have needed to nurse with other kids around, they had SOOO many questions (not a problem) and wanted to see how everything worked. I didn’t want to give more information than the parents wanted. I know that with my own kids, there are many things where I want to be the one giving the information in the first place rather than having someone else explain things in a way that I’m not comfortable with.

  13. This is great! You absolutely should do what works for you. I don’t nurse with a cover, but I do tend to hide extra skin from showing by wearing two shirts (pulling one up and one down) or by using a hand to shield myself. Sometimes I’ll get a comment or read something that makes me feel like that’s not fighting enough for NIP — but that’s silly. I want to enjoy the times I’m out, even when I’m feeding my baby, not feel overexposed. So you have to do what feels comfortable. I know some people say they would love to be confronted by a heckler or have someone ask them to leave so they could fight back, but I personally hate confrontation, and that sort of thing would ruin my year!

    And I’ve felt that same thing with feeling less comfortable around certain people and groups and more with others. For instance, I don’t care too much about strangers, but when I have to nurse in front of my mom or dad, suddenly I feel all shy.🙂

    Thanks for your post!

  14. Pingback: Highlights of the Carnival on Nursing In Public - Fertility Flower Community

  15. Jessica

    Abbie you are such a great mom and Joshua is the cutest little guy! I hope I will be as confident as you someday when I have children! Love your blog!
    Jessica

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