There are few things that stress a new breastfeeding mom out more than nursing in public. it's not uncommon to hear horror stories from women who have been confronted and shamed (or even had the police called on them) for breastfeeding their babies in public places. There were times when breastfeeding in public made me feel anxious and, honestly it still does, even though I've been at it for a long time. Sadly, I'm willing to bet that the simple act of feeding your kid in public makes a lot of other moms anxious, too.
When I was a brand new mom, I dreaded the public moments when my baby would start fussing and rooting around, signaling that he wanted to nurse. He wouldn't take a bottle so if he was hungry it was boob or nothing, regardless of where we happened to be. He didn't care if we were at the grocery store or a restaurant because, well, when you're hungry you're hungry. For the first several months, I would stop whatever I was doing and head for the car, leaving a cart full of groceries in a busy aisle or my husband alone at the table in a restaurant.
After a while though, I decided I'd had enough. I wasn't going to inconvenience myself or my partner or my baby, on the off chance that someone would be offended by me feeding my kid. I was so nervous the first several times and, if I'm honest, I still get nervous about it in some situations. Still, the over-used sentiment of "practice makes perfect" does hold true, and over time it becomes to easier to simply ignore anyone who has a problem with you sustaining your kid with your own body. So, in the interest of solidarity and because it's extremely beneficial to know you're not alone, here are 10 times breastfeeding in public made me anxious. Perhaps, some day, our culture will come around, the stigma of public breastfeeding will no longer be a thing, and something as extraordinary as nursing won't be unnecessarily burdened by other people's opinions.
When I Nursed In Public For The First Time
There's nothing quite like the first time, right? I. Was. Terrified. After hearing so many horror stories about other woman being confronted and shamed for nursing in public, I just knew someone would say something.
Ultimately, and thankfully, nothing happened. In fact, I don't think anyone even noticed.
When I Nursed In Front Of My Extended Family
Talk about nerve-wracking, you guys. The first time I nursed in front of family, who weren't my husband or sister, I was totally tense. My family is super conservative and had never even been around a nursing mother before. I think they were just as uncomfortable as I was. Over the years, they've gotten used to it, even though they still don't entirely understand why I don't just go into the bathroom. Baby steps.
When I Nursed In A Restaurant
I've seen women nurse right at the table in a restaurant and I applaud them. Even after almost five years of nursing, I'm not quite ready for that. I usually go find a quiet corner somewhere, but the first time I decided not to go out to the car, I was super apprehensive. I was just waiting for a manager to come ask me to leave.
When My Baby Was Actually A Toddler
I nursed my first baby until he was a 2-year-old toddler, and the transition from an easy-to-manage-8-month-old baby to a wiggly, rambunctious 18-month-old toddler was stressful. Not only was I worried that he'd pop off and leave me completely exposed, I was even more concerned that I'd have a negative encounter with someone who didn't approve of nursing past infancy.
When I Nursed My Toddler At A Theme Park
Obviously there are few places that are more family friendly than Disney World, but with so many people around,it's hard to know what to expect.
When I Nursed While Shopping
Once, when my first son was around 13 or 14 months old, he started fussing and saying "boobie" while we were shopping. I was feeling particularly empowered (and reluctant to leave my cart full of groceries just sitting somewhere while I went to the car), so I maneuvered my way to the patio furniture section. I sat down on a glider they had on display and fed my son. If there was ever a time I expected at least some side-eye, if not outright hostility, it was then.
When I Nursed At Story Time
You'd think, in a room full of moms and kids, I wouldn't be the only one nursing. However, you'd be wrong. I never see another woman nurse during the many, many hours I spent with my kids at the library during story time. Sitting there, on the floor, surrounded by moms and toddlers, I was incredibly anxious, but determined to #normalizebreastfeeding.
When My Baby Refused To Be Covered
It seems so simple, doesn't it? "Just wear a cover," or, "Just use a blanket," and "Just be modest." Yeah, tell that to the baby who doesn't want to smothered or cut off from the oh-so-interesting world around him.
Wearing a cover can often be more stressful than nursing without one, especially if the baby in question is trying to forcibly remove it the entire time. I finally just gave up on the cover and worked the two shirt/over under method.
When I Nursed At The Beach
With all the boobs on display at the beach, you'd figure this one would be easy peasy, but people get riled up when you mix sexy boobs and functional boobs in the same place.
Retreating to our beach tent, I nursed with impunity, but was sure to cast around a few glances to make sure I wasn't about to get yelled at.
When I Went To My First La Leche League Meeting
Weird, right? If I'm being honest, I think this was more a social anxiety thing than a nursing anxiety thing, but I had this weird idea that the other moms were going to judge me. I was worried I was nursing wrong or that my baby would fuss at the breast and, as a result, they would know me for the faker I was. This anxiety passed and my time at La Leche League (LLL) meetings became super empowering and led me, ultimately, to have the confidence to nurse in every other potential breastfeeding situation.
After almost five years of nursing, I am thankful that all my anxiety has (so far) been for naught. I've never had an overtly negative experience. While I'm sure I made a few people uncomfortable, I made my babies comfortable, which is way more important.