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Nursing in Public: Maybe it’s not so Awkward Afterall


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 can still remember the first time I nursed in public. My sister and I were at a restaurant for lunch and I was kind of freaking out about how to feed my young baby. He couldn’t have been more than a month or two old. We requested a booth that was semi-secluded, but I still felt like everyone was watching me. It was like one of those dreams where you are the center of attention and you are doing something really embarrassing – like being naked in public. I fought the self-consciousness, and I slipped my nursing cover over my head, and I fed him. I looked around at the other diners, imagining that they were staring at me in horror. They weren’t. They were all engaged in their own conversations and worried about their own meals. My baby ate peacefully, and then, so did I. I held my nursing baby with one hand and ate with the other, and even held my own conversation with my sister. I was an instant nursing-in-public professional.

Up until that first time I nursed in public, I was afraid to go into public for too long. “What if he needs to eat?!” I would ask my friends, frantic at the thought of exposing myself to the world.

“Who cares? Feed him.”

That’s what they all said to me. Now, after talking to other moms, I realize how lucky I was to have friends and family that were more concerned about me feeding my baby than what others would think of me. Simply by saying, “Who cares?” – they encouraged me to go on with my life and allow my son to be a part of our society.

I think many nursing moms face this type of dilemma – should I bring my pumped bottles? Should I try to hold him off until we get home? Should I nurse in the bathroom or the car? Should I just stay home?

Here is my advice: just nurse your babies, no matter where you are or who you are with. Sure, it might be awkward at first, but you learn how to do it discreetly. As a matter of fact, you are probably nursing discreetly at home already. Some segments of our society still find nursing in public to be offensive. However, this is never going to change unless we initiate the change. Of course, if you’ve never seen a mom breastfeed or breastfeed in public, the view might be slightly shocking. But what if this were an everyday occurrence? What if we always saw moms nursing their babies? It wouldn’t be shocking anymore. It would just be normal. And that is what I am really hoping: for breastfeeding to be normal.

After those few initial times I nursed in public, I decided to lose the cover. It was bulky and I really didn’t need it. I wasn’t showing anything, and Gavin just thought the cover was fun game anyways. He certainly didn’t want it over his head – unless we were playing peek-a-boo, of course (which is what he thought we were doing).

I will admit that I just started nursing anywhere in public. I can’t even remember all of the places we nursed because it soon just didn’t seem to matter. My son was hungry and he had a right to eat. I’ve nursed on park benches, car dealerships, airplanes, ambulances, and beaches. It turns out that Gavin could really care less where we are when he wants to nurse – he just wants to nurse.

Once Gavin was walking around easily and signing the “milk” sign to me, I started to feel a little awkward about nursing in public. What would people think? I started trying to hold him off until we got home. Nursing a baby is one thing, but nursing a toddler is another. Again, I felt the self-consciousness of the disapproving looks. Yet, no one was actually giving me the disapproving looks. No one even really seemed to care.

Gavin is 18 months old today, and we are still nursing in public. He doesn’t ask for it nearly as much, but there are still times when he needs to nurse. Looking back over the last 18 months, I wonder, if I hadn’t nursed in public, would I still be breastfeeding today? Some people talk about how breastfeeding is like a ball and chain and they are stuck to their kids and they feel like they don’t have any freedom. Well, what if breastfeeding in public was an accepted thing? Would breastfeeding still have that stigma? Breastfeeding in public gives us freedom. We can go where we want, when we want, and we don’t have to worry about how our child will eat.

To be honest, I have never experienced anything negative while breastfeeding in public. Well, not that I can remember anyways. However, if you are apprehensive, there are a few things you can do. You can use a cover. Some women love them and some hate them. Only use one if it makes you and your baby more comfortable. You can find a quiet place to nurse instead of nursing in the busiest area. Know the breastfeeding laws of your state in case someone does confront you. Honestly, I doubt this will happen, but these laws are still good to know.

It is a personal decision whether you decide to breastfeed in public or not. It is not for everyone. However, I would like to encourage you to try it if you haven’t yet. Like me, you might find that it is not as bad as you imagined.

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

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Published in Breastfeeding

9 Comments

  1. You are so right, our lack of confidence stems from the fact that we think we are on some global stage – but really, no one is looking at us like we think they are.

  2. Very nice. I agree, NIP gives you freedom.

  3. You reminded me of my first time nursing in public. I had forgotten. My husband and I went to Chik-fil-A for dinner. I found a quiet booth in the back and then three families with about twenty kids a piece sat across from us. 🙂 My little man got hungry and I just nursed him. I thought “Oh NO!” Then when I took the time to look around I found that nobody really cared. They were too busy chasing after their own kids to care about me. 🙂

  4. I agree that the ball and chain feeling/comments are because NIP is not excepted. Because of this, I believe it to be the reason mothers do not breastfeed for very long (in clarification, for their goal).

  5. Amy

    Amy

    Thanks for your encouragement and perspective!

  6. Your first time NIP is very similar to mine! And I agree – NIP is a freeing experience 🙂 I am impressed, however, that you nursed in an ambulance – hope everyone was OK!!!

  7. I remember feeling like that too in the beginning like everyone was looking at me. But I soon realized no one was looking at me just like I don’t look around at everyone else. And then the freedom I felt and the confidence was amazing! And I never looked back. I’m happy to report I’ve never had a negative comment either.

  8. I remember that feeling, too. Everyone has GOT to be staring at me! Oh, wait, no one noticed. 🙂 As most others have said, I haven’t received any negative comments although family members have left the room while I was nursing. I figure the more kids I nurse the more chances they have to see that it’s really not a big deal.

  9. ColbysMomma

    ColbysMomma

    If I am at a friends house, or a visiting a relative, I always ask if it would bother them if I nursed without the cover. I don’t mind using the cover, but it’s bulky and gets in the way. I have not nursed out in public per say, but there have been a few times that I was at the grocery store with someone and had to return to the car to nurse…Also at the doctors office I had to nurse in the waiting room, but there was no one else there. I have never been told that someone is uncomfortable with it, in fact, the only time someone has left the room was the day my son was born, my father gave me the privacy to figure things out my first time nursing. I am returning to work next week, and doing home health care the only spot available to pump while at work is in the bathroom. But I plan on continuing to breastfeed, and after reading this and seeing that no one has gotten negative comments, I feel better about having to nurse in public.

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