I’ve been informed by the flurry of “new mommy” newsletters in my inbox that it’s World Breastfeeding Week (and that August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month). I know that before I became a mom, I wouldn’t have paid any attention, but now that I am, it’s certainly something that I think about often. And just like so many things that have to do with raising children, there are plenty of strong opinions.
While I made the decision to breastfeed my son, I believe each and every woman has the right to choose what is best for her and her family without being judged. With that being said, I understand that the point of having a “World Breastfeeding Week” is to not only inform pregnant women and new moms of the benefits of breastfeeding, but to also bring awareness to the general public…to help normalize a completely natural act that is often so fraught with controversy.
I’ll admit that before becoming a mom, seeing others breastfeed in public weirded me out a little. Not because I thought it was wrong (because it’s anything but), but because I simply couldn’t relate and knew nothing about how much and how often babies needed to feed. But now that I’ve actually had to nurse my little one in public, my perspective is quite different. At first, breastfeeding in public made me extremely nervous, and I know other mamas feel the same way. In fact, I remember having brunch with one of my husband’s work friends and his wife. Both our sons ended up being fussy and wanting their milk at about the same time, and both of us moms were waiting to see what the other would do. Since I’d rather whip out a boob than have a cranky baby bothering other diners, I decided to go first, and you could just see the relief on our friend’s face when I did. She followed suit and the conversation went on as if nothing was going on.
Even though I’ve become more comfortable with nursing in public, I still look for the quietest, most secluded spot I can find when we’re out and about and little Burrito wants his milk – partly because he’s easily distracted, but mostly because I’m not one for potential confrontation. There are stories every day of moms dealing with hostile people when they’re just trying to feed their little one while running errands, visiting the mall, or enjoying time with friends and family. I don’t want to be one of those stories! But, having a baby does not mean locking yourself up inside your own home and staying out of public just because you have a baby that needs to eat every 2-3 hours (and sometimes more often than that!). So, while I’d still rather savor the personal moments between me and my son in my own home, nursing in public has become a necessary skill. If you’re a new mama trying to work up the courage to leave the confines of your own home in fear of having to feed your baby in public, here are a few tips:
- Start off in a baby-friendly environment. For me, it was a mommy-and-me yoga class. When other moms are nursing their babies, you’ll feel more comfortable doing the same.
- Try a nursing cover. You can simply use a blanket or scarf, or buy a specialty cover online. Not all babies like them though. I tried using one, but my little guy doesn’t like anything on his head (including hats) so it just gets pulled off anyway.
- Use the over-under layer method. Wear a camisole with a shirt over it. This way, when it’s time to feed, you pull the shirt up and the camisole down, keeping yourself mostly covered.
- Practice with a sling or wrap. I’m still working on this one, but there are ways to nurse while baby is in a carrier. Bonus: you can walk while feeding!
- Know your rights and have a planned response if someone comes up to you. Like I said before, I’m not one for confrontation, so I’d probably just leave and never come back to that establishment, but sometimes you just have to stand up for yourself.