Looking back, there were a lot of things about breastfeeding in public that I wish I’d known. When my son was a newborn, I went through great lengths to avoid feeding him in public. At one point, I even turned down an empty (yes, empty) room at the doctor’s office because driving him home and nursing him on my couch seemed like a better, more comfortable option.
While much of my apprehension was tied to the fact that we had some pretty significant breastfeeding challenges in the early weeks, a lot of it had to do with my confidence and comfort level, too. I’m lucky that I never had any confrontations with strangers over my breastfeeding choices (like how long I breastfed and where I chose to breastfeed), but the looming possibility was always in the back of my mind. Sadly, I know far too many women who have been shamed for breastfeeding in public, too (despite the fact that breastfeeding in public is legal in 49 states).
Still, like many aspects of parenthood, breastfeeding took some getting used to, and some experience on my end, before it was even remotely comfortable for me to do in public. Most of the time, it was simply the lesser of two evils (the other being make my hungry, tiny son wait while I took us home, which was rarely ever realistic. The example from my doctor’s office being an exception). Now that I’m on the other side of the journey that is exclusively breastfeeding your kid, here’s what I wish I’d known:
A Lot Of People Don’t Even Notice
Or, in my case, they didn’t let on that they noticed. Still, I never got the intense stares I expected. It would appear that where I live, people were prone to thinking to themselves, “Hm, there’s a woman exercising her legal right to breastfeed in public. I shall continue on with my day.” I mean, they never gave me any indication otherwise.
Sometimes, The Baby’s Actually Cool With It
I’m sure my son noticed that we were sitting under trees and not the living room ceiling when I chose to breastfeed him at the park. He didn’t seem to care, so I pretended like I didn’t either.
It’s Not Always A Political Statement...
Sometimes, it’s simply a hungry baby and a lactating mom. That’s all there is to it.
...But, Sometimes It Is
Every time I hear about a nurse-in, I get a little twinge of FOMO. As natural and legal as breastfeeding and breastfeeding in public is, sometimes people need to be reminded.
It Can Be A Great Reason To Leave
As many breastfeeding moms know, there are a number of benefits for both mothers and babies. Including but not limited to: a bunch of medical stuff and an excuse to step away from anywhere you don’t want to be.
Covers Exist For A Reason
Moms who don’t like covers and/or are feeding babies who don’t tolerate them: I see you. However, please let the record show that they can work for some. If the baby’s OK with it, I'm OK with it.
Having Extra Burp Cloths Within Reach Is Never A Bad Idea
What’s the Boy Scout motto, again? Something like, “Be Prepared, because your kid will spit up three extra times when you’re trying to have a conversation with someone in a coffee shop”?
Extra Shirts Can Help, Too
I promise, most days you probably won’t actually need it. However, on the day when it looks like someone poured an entire bottle of vintage liquid paper on your shirt (because I’m pretty sure all liquid paper is vintage now), you will be glad you have an extra.
Other Moms Are Often In Your Corner
Looking at you, mom-at-my-husband’s-work-party-who-brought-me-a-glass-of-water after she heard I’d been breastfeeding in the car. I mean, cars are kind of semi-private, semi-public so it was kind of "cheating" for me to reap benefits, but there she was like a water-bearing angel. I couldn’t say no.
Some Places Are Better Equipped For Breastfeeding Moms Than Others
I was pleasantly surprised at the mere existence of nursing mom rooms at a few key spots in my city. Granted, I tried not to think about how many moms had potentially leaked or spilled on the couch I was on. Also, sorry for that image, everyone.
The Law Is On Your Side
Confession: I technically did know that breastfeeding is legal in my state when I was doing it in public. However, it can always bear repeating. So, move along, everyone. Nothing to see here.