Tag Archives: breastfeeding narrative

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.

So your wife wants to breastfeed? Breastfeeding Narrative #2

This is one in a series of breastfeeding posts. Really, I’m no expert – I’m not a doctor, I’m not a doula, I’m not a lactation consultant. I am simply a breastfeeding mom who has nursed one child to three years old, and am currently nursing another who is nearly a year old.
If you’re looking for specific answers, I recommend giving a visit to http://www.kellymom.com, a breastfeeding site written by a lactation consultant. These will simply be me blabbering about my experiences and is not medical advice.
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Maybe she isn’t your wife… maybe she’s your fiance or girlfriend or partner, and she’s pregnant with your child. Or maybe it’s not even “your” child. But her belly’s getting bigger, she’s having difficulty tying her shoes, and the baby’s arrival is imminent. Or, maybe the little dude or dudette arrived not so long ago. But regardless, maybe you’re looking at your wife’s boobs and are feeling a little territorial. You’ve had unfettered access for awhile. What’s this going to be like?
Some men have a hard time getting over the sexualness of a woman’s breasts. Breasts are for fun! Breasts are for you to play with and touch and lube up and do unholy things with! Breasts are fun to look at! Well, all this is true. And it will continue to be true. But breasts, primarily, are for the nourishment of a baby. I took an evolutionary psychology class in college, and the basis of evolutionary psychology is that most normal behaviors, emotions, desires, etc. are tied to some sort of furtherance of the human species — what you think, how you feel, what you do, all serve in some way to ensure you’ll spread your proverbial seed. From this standpoint, it would be the argument that the sexualization of a woman’s breasts has occurred because round, voluptuous breasts indicate that this woman would be a good mating partner; were she to birth your offspring, she could adequately feed that baby and help ensure its survival, to further spread your seed.
(Let me just note here that it really isn’t necessary for a woman’s breasts to be round or voluptuous to successfully breastfeed. If your partner’s sporting a perky set of A’s they should not be a hindrance to her breastfeeding success.)
First understand, breastfeeding is the best way to feed a baby. (Even formula companies will tell you this.) It’s also way cheaper than formula. Breastmilk is nutritionally optimal, and contains chemicals and enzymes and immunity boosting stuff that formula cannot and will never be able to duplicate. Your child is very lucky to be breastfed. That isn’t to say that formula is “bad”. Formula is great. Formula has been lifesaving for so many babies who couldn’t be breastfed, for the zillion reasons there are for not breastfeeding. Formula is wonderful. Breastmilk is even better.
It’s sort of like the difference between a Mercedes and a Bentley. A Mercedes is a great car. It’s safe and beautiful and really has just about everything could ever need from a car. The Bentley, however, is a Bentley.
My big piece of advice is, get over it. Having a kid changes everything; this is no different. Some women are cool about their breasts’ continued involvement in your lovemaking or general day-to-day getting-felt-upedness, but some aren’t. For me personally, I’m OK with my breasts being touched, but not within like 15 minutes of a feeding. And DEFINITELY not WHILE I’m nursing. (My husband made that mistake once. Once.) So please respect your partner’s wishes here. She’s not asking you to leave the girls out to punish you. The boundaries of comfort just have shifted. There may need to be other adjustments, too. The hormone that surges through her body when she nurses her baby happens to be the same one that surges through her body when she has an orgasm. So for a while, you may need to deal with getting wet, or she may need to wear a bra with nursing pads during lovemaking. Or maybe you’re a big pervert and you’ll like it; I don’t know you. (Just kidding about that pervert thing. Well, sort of.)
For most women, the breastfeeding relationship they have with their kids is extremely cherished and valuable to them. As a breastfeeding mom, it’s not something I would trade for the world. Expect that this bond between your partner and the baby will be strong and special, and for a long time only Mommy will do. And yes, you will not be able to help much with the feeding itself, but there are many other things you can do to share in the parenting workload, and bond and hang out and get to know the baby. Change diapers. Give baths. Wear the baby to sleep in a sling. Cuddle with her on your bare chest (babies often love this). Watch hockey games with him.
Now, amuse me for a moment while I go through some other thoughts I wish someone would have told my husband!
– Remember to “mother the mother”. Especially during those first few weeks, when the breastfeeding relationship is being established and your partner is still recovering from childbirth, you have to take care of her. Make sure she always has a drink within reach. (Not a DRINK drink… if she always has a martini in reach, perhaps she shouldn’t be breastfeeding!) Offer to rub her feet while she’s breastfeeding. Take over some of the chores she usually does for a few weeks, and don’t slack on the stuff you’re supposed to do, either. E.g., don’t make her nag you to take out the trash like she has every week for the last three years. And if you want to be your partner’s hero, a couple times a week take the baby somewhere and leave mom at home. Take him for a drive, or a walk, or on an errand with you, and give your partner 30 minutes of alone time where she’s guaranteed to not have to respond to or hear a baby cry. If you make sure you go right after a feeding, you don’t have to worry about having milk with you. Moms have very little opportunity to be truly alone, especially in the early baby weeks, and especially in their own home. This is different than letting her get out of the house without the baby, which will also be appreciated.
– Consider co-sleeping. I’m not sure I could have had a successful breastfeeding relationship with my babies if I didn’t bring them to bed with me. Be open to this idea, and even suggest it if your wife’s up a dozen times a night feeding a baby. With a bit of practice, it’s so easy to nurse lying down, and it is really nice to cuddle with your baby at night. Some of my favorite pictures of my husband with our kids are ones where I’ve caught them cuddling in the morning when I woke up and they were still snoozing away, nuzzling. If you do co-sleep, be sure to do it safely.
– Nursing in public: Your wife wants to breastfeed in public and it makes you feel a little weird? See above: Get over it. Remember, they aren’t your breasts. If she feels comfortable, that’s what matters. No one’s paying attention anyway. And chances are, 75% of anyone who pays enough attention to your partner won’t even realize she’s breastfeeding. I’ve had minutes-long conversation with my brother’s early-20s friends (who I know are all sorts of perverted), baby on boob, and they never even realized we were breastfeeding; they thought the baby was sleeping. Most of the people who will realize there’s nursing going on are other women who have breastfed babies. In other words, you don’t really have to worry about the pervs flocking around your partner, because they simply won’t know better. And in any event, breastfeeding doesn’t generally show any more boobage than your everyday bikini, and most guys that I know really enjoy their partners to wear bikinis.
– Remember, it will get better. Eventually, your partner won’t be as tired. She’ll get more sleep. The baby will start to sleep better, too. (Maybe not “great”, but definitely better.)
– I won’t even talk about extended breastfeeding. I think that’s probably a post in itself. Just remember like all good things, breastfeeding will come to an end, sooner or later. Your child will not celebrate getting his driver’s license by taking a guzzle off mom’s boobs.