Going Public: Breastfeeding Narrative #6

There comes a time after your wee one arrives where you may, possibly, potentially, start to consider actually leaving the house.  It may take a few days, or months, before the idea of heading out doesn’t seem to be so complex an operation that it makes your brain stall.

“They” like to say that if you nurse your baby right before you leave, and don’t plan to be out for more than a couple of hours, then you’ll avoid having to nurse in public.

“They” never met my daughter.

Lane was a nurse-a-holic.  I could nurse her before we left the house, and she’d be content to snooze away in her comfy infant car seat in the shopping cart while I tooled around Target, but the second it was my turn to check out my purchases in line, she wanted a boob in her mouth pronto.  As a baby she always had impeccable timing.  It wasn’t long before I’d mastered the art of nursing and paying.  Paying with a debit card, I’ve found works best when you’re paying one-handed.

The fact of the matter is, if you’re a breastfeeding mom, chances are you’re going to end up breastfeeding in public.  There are moms that choose to avoid this at all costs.  They nurse in the car, they nurse in the restroom, and in case they absolutely must nurse where someone might see them, they own a nursing cover.  I’m not that mom.

Oh, for certain, I was nervous to breastfeed in public.  What if someone started or gawked?  What if someone gave me a dirty look or chided me for corrupting their precious snowflakes with my boobs?  What if I was asked to stop?  What if my overactive letdown flooded the shoe section at Macy’s?  But I found the best course of action was just to climb up on that horse and ride it.  I dare say, I have had great success with nursing in public.  I feel I can do it discreetly, without any extraneous props or apparatus.

In learning the ropes myself, I’ve come across a few morsels of wisdom:

1)  Pick a good spot to make your first foray into public breastfeeding.  For some moms, this is someplace quiet and out of the way… the lounge in a department store, the bench by the pharmacy in the supermarket, a corner booth in a restaurant.  These are all excellent choices, and I’ve nursed on all of them.  However, I went in a slightly different direction.  My first public breastfeeding experience was when Lane was about 3 weeks old.  I took her to the mall to walk around, and despite all my efforts to tank her up before we left, she was looking for a boob after about 30 minutes at the mall.  I considered my options, and went with the bench right in front of Victoria’s Secret, where there were giant posters of larger-than-life woman with larger-than-life, mostly naked breasts hanging in the windows for all to see.  I figured, there’s no way ANYONE would have the gall to reprimand me for nursing here!  And honestly, I’m not sure a single person noticed we were nursing.

2)  Dress appropriately.  Nursing bras are your friend!  I personally prefer the type I can just pull to the side vs. the drop-down flap/cup thing.  Mostly because I fumble too much with the little claspy things on the cups.  Lots of women love nursing wear, but I’ve found more often than not it’s more awkward than just hiking up my shirt, and sometimes doesn’t even provide the supposed benefit of more modesty.  I’m a big fan of wearing nursing tank tops — like a nursing bra, but a tank top — under regular shirts.  Also, I’ve gerryrigged my own maternity wear, by buying a pack of wife-beater tank tops and just cutting a horizontal slit across the chest.  They are super long, and thin, so I can wear them under anything and get great midsection coverage when I hoist my shirt.  Some women will swear by button-down shirts, but they’ve never worked well for me.

Of course in this same vein, you’ll find some of your wardrobe gets shoved to the back of your closet for awhile.  Tight shirts without any stretch to them will not see much daylight… especially stuff that is empire-wasted.  One piece dresses are a thing of the past.

3) Prepare for the unexpected.  As I’ve mentioned, I have an overactive, forceful letdown, which means when I start nursing, my non-utilized boob is capable of randomly offloading an ounce or two of milk in about 30 seconds.  Nursing pads helped but if they were out of position, or if I’d done a boneheaded thing like put them in backwards (yes, I have, even when there was a sticky part to duly demonstrate which side was ‘out’) I’d leak all over the place.  I therefore kept a clean shirt in the car as much as I could remember to do so.  I kept a stockpile of burp cloths and breast pads in the diaper bag.  (By the way, nursing pads are great in a pinch if you forget diapers.  What you can do is put a nursing pad right into the pee-pee area of the diaper, and change it out, thus extending the life of the only diaper you have with you.)

I’m happy to report that through frequent public breastfeeding of two babies, I’ve never received a dirty look or a disapproving stare when I’ve breastfed in public.  Most people have no idea what you’re doing.  I have received plenty of smiles, a few “good for you’s” and shared a few nice conversations with other women who have breastfed or are currently doing so.

The best thing about my willingness to nurse in public, I have to say, is the benefits in a time of crisis.

When Lane was just shy of her second birthday, we took a trip to Arizona.  On the flight back, our plane was delayed on the tarmac before takeoff, for two hours.  Lane is a boisterous, energetic, intense girl… when she’s happy she’s loud and feisty… when she’s upset she’s loud and sometimes inconsolable.  It’s a tough package to deal with… but nursing was always a welcome distraction for her.  We sat on this hot, crowded plane, with a businessman next to us and a family in front of us for that two hour delay (during which I nursed Lane at least four times to settle her down and just as something for her to do, and she didn’t nap at all) plus our three hour flight.  When the ordeal was finally over, some five-plus hours later and we were de-planing, the man next to us said how pleasant our daughter was — even though I was sitting right next to him, I’m pretty certain he had no clue that Lane ever breastfed.  The family in front of us was shocked to see there’d been a toddler behind them the whole time.  I’m certain without nursing in my bag of tricks, we would have been the most reviled people on the plane.

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5 responses to “Going Public: Breastfeeding Narrative #6

  1. In front of Victoria’s Secret – you are BRILLIANT. Not to mention funny. Kudos to you!!

  2. I’ve found that trying to cover up actually draws people to noticing you too. Have you tried the nursing in the moving car trick? not so easy, but doable.

    I was at my grampa’s funeral with my daughter who was just barely one and I was still nursing her. She was a champ on the plane. she nursed/slept most of the time. At the visitaion, my father asked me to not nurse her with everyone in the room. I did go to one of the side rooms where I could still see what was going on. I was saddened. I don’t know if he knew how much that hurt me.

  3. Nursing in the moving car? Oh yeah, been there, done that! My friends even got to witness it once. I think I completely freaked them out.

  4. Not freak out so much, but scared the dickens out of. One stop short and Lisa goes tumbling into the front seat, perhaps maimed or dead.

  5. Oh Manda, you never even saw me do it going 70 mph on the highway…

    🙂 Your turn’s a-comin’, babe. 🙂

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