Friday, August 19, 2011

Breastfeeding in Public: The Bright Side of the Boob

NIP at White Sands National Monument
It seems a single week cannot go by without another breastfeeding in public nightmare.  There was the woman who was kicked out of Pure Fitness for Women, the momma at Denny’s who was asked to go to the bathroom to nurse, the school in Georgia that banned breastfeeding inside the school, and the list just goes on and on.  If I were a brand new mother still considering whether or not I would breastfeed in public, and read these articles, I would probably be scared milkless. 

It’s crucial that these issues come to light.  How can we change the world if we don’t know the world needs changing? How can we support these women if we haven’t heard their horror stories?

But when I do read about all these horror stories, I also feel compelled to tell my own breastfeeding in public story.  Because it is a great story, filled with nothing but kind and encouraging remarks from total strangers. 

As much as we need to hear the bad, I feel like we might need to hear the good even more.  When a woman is trying to decide whether or not she will attempt breastfeeding in public, she needs to know that many, many women do it everyday with very positive results.

So lets see here, I have breastfed:

in an airport,
on the airplane,
in a number of restaurants - right there at the table,
during my cousins ballet recital,
in a hospital waiting area,
at many parks,
at the mall,
at an amusement park,
at an interstate rest stop,
in my car in crowded parking lots,
at my daughter’s gymnastics studio,
and in more than one museum.

I almost never use a cover.  The few times I did try to use a cover, my baby would just pull it down anyway.  She doesn’t like being covered while she eats.  I do wear specific nursing bras and nursing shirts.  It makes it easier for me and my 36 DD’s to get the job done without exposing my entire ginormous breast to the world (not that I really see anything wrong with that). 

Honestly, I’m more self conscious exposing my pudgy tummy (by having to pull up a regular shirt) than I am exposing my breast in a nursing shirt.  Isn’t that silly? The women on the cover of magazines at new stands across the country show more breast than I do when I breastfeed.  Heck, I show more breast in some of my sexier shirts and dresses than I do when I breastfeed.

I have never, in all the times I have breastfed in public, had one nasty comment directed my way.  I’ve never even noticed any dirty looks.  I have, though, had a number of wonderfully kind and supportive comments. 

A man who passed me while nursing at a rest stop said I was feeding my baby the best way I could.  When he passed me again, he said all of his kids were breastfed and they were strong as bulls. 

When I breastfed at my cousin’s ballet recital, her mom - who was sitting right next to me - said she saw my baby cross her little ankles when she took the nipple and it made her ovaries hurt.  That’s a good thing, if you were wondering. 

The latest time I breastfed in public was inside my daughter’s kindergarten class during “transition day.”  That is just a fancy term for the day before the first day of school when parents can come in and see what their kids will be doing.  When I discovered I would have to take my baby with me, I will admit, my first thoughts were anxiety riddled.

Sadly, even after all the positive experience I’ve had while nursing in public, all I could think of were the horror stories.  What if they asked me to go into the bathroom? Would I go? What would I say? Maybe I shouldn’t even attempt it. 

But when baby wants her babas, she wants them RIGHT NOW! So I turned my chair slightly and whipped it out.  Not only did no one say a word to me, I don’t think anyone even noticed.  Ironically, another woman had left the room to nurse her six week old baby.  When we talked outside later, she was pleasantly surprised to learn I had nursed right there in the classroom.  Hopefully it gives her the courage to try it too.

And hopefully this blog can be a source of courage to other women still considering this whole breastfeeding in public thing.  We must hear the horror stories in order to show support and spread awareness and education.  But we must also hear the positive stories to spread courage, positivity, and show that awareness and education don’t have to be cursed with negativity.

Can you share a positive breastfeeding in public story?

***This post was originally written under my previous blog name, Zen and the Art of Cloth Diaper Maintenance.***

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