Some moms go to great lengths to avoid breastfeeding in public. I used the backseat of my car more times than I can count, simply because it was a space I knew well and it limited how exposed I would feel, both physically and emotionally. Not that I didn’t ever open up my shirt at a restaurant or a park, because I definitely did, but it most certainly wasn’t my preference. Breastfeeding itself is a major commitment and breastfeeding in public can be even more of a sacrifice, depending on the circumstances involved.
If your breastfeeding experience was anything like mine (extremely rocky at the offset, but smoother as time went on), then one complication during a nursing session could be the difference between a few minutes of peace and calm, and a disrupted, tearful afternoon (or morning, or night). Sadly, needing to nurse in public almost always upped the chances for a distraction, or interruption, because for social reasons that are both perplexing and infuriating, breastfeeding in public is a highly-debated "issue" that some people feel entitled to comment on. Ugh.
However, what’s parenting if not a bunch of sacrifices all broken up by blissful moments of joy and snuggles, right? Let’s explore just how breastfeeding in public is really no exception, and requires more effort than cozying up in your own living room.
You Need To Pause Whatever You’re Doing
I'm assuming you're not in public to simply breastfeed, and that there's another purpose for why you've dressed yourself, changed your baby, packed the bag, and ventured from the coziness of your own home.
You Open Yourself Up To Comments
For the record, I've not received any inappropriate comments when I've breastfed in public. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that it's happened to many, many other moms. Not that this makes it at all acceptable, of course, but it's an unfortunate reality.
You Open Yourself Up To Judgment
Receiving judgment, on the other hand, isn't always as obvious as comments. Strangers who encounter a breastfeeding woman just may form an opinion about it, they just don't always share it.
You Make A Political Statement (Whether You Want To Or Not)
I wish this were not the case, but exercising your right to breastfeed in public can be political, depending on the where, and the when, and the how. While the priority is making sure your baby is fed, the reality is that the ability to do so in public is governed by rules and laws that are still, unfortunately, questioned.
You May Need To Work Harder To Get Your Baby To Cooperate
Lights. Sounds. People. There are countless things that can distract a baby from the task at hand, which is latching onto your nipples and not people-watching.
You Risk Potentially Revealing Your Body
Even though it's natural and (mostly) legal, it can be uncomfortable to have parts of you, that are normally covered, exposed. I see you, moms who want to remain modest while nursing. I see you.
You Don't Have Your Regular Sources Of Comfort
As much as I would have liked to have had my nursing pillow with me at the park, or the Italian restaurant, or the back of my car, it simply wasn't realistic to haul it around. Same goes for wi-fi, unfortunately.
Covers. Ugh, The Covers.
While not as polarizing as a breast pump, I've managed to feel both feelings of love and hate for my handy breastfeeding cover. I was thankful for it's existence, but frustrated whenever I had to use it.
You May Want, Or Need, To Brush Up On Your Rights
In the USA, unless you live in Idaho, you are allowed to breastfeed in public. Having this information in your back pocket might be helpful in case you find your actions ever questioned.
You May Feel More Self-Conscious If You're On Your Phone
Oh man, the stigma. I've pulled my phone out at the park, or on walks, or pretty much everywhere I've taken my child (for the record, sometimes it's to coordinate whatever activity we're doing, so I'm not sorry) only to notice people raising their eyebrows and whispering to themselves and clearly judging the love I have for my kid and the love I have for my phone. I can't lie, I definitely felt a twinge of discomfort when I think about what other people may or may not have been thinking. Same goes for using my phone while nursing. I've still done it, but I'm sensitive about the impression it gives off.
Any Potential Issues May Be Tougher To Deal With When You Have An Audience
When a baby fusses, or doesn't eat, or squirms, or does pretty much anything other than be completely agreeable and pleasant, it can be uncomfortable to deal with it in front of strangers. Couple these insecurities with the extra pressures of latching and getting into position, and you've got a recipe for frustration. That said, it's a small price to pay if it means you get to keep up your breastfeeding routine.