It's amazing that, in 2016, we still have a stigma surrounding public breastfeeding. The fact that something that has been around since the beginning of time to sustain life requires a hashtag in order to be "normalized" is literally astounding. I live in Brooklyn, an open-minded little enclave of the world where one would imagine women nursing in parks and sidewalk cafes all day long. Sadly, this is not the case. So there were plenty of opportunities for me to feel like I had to challenge "the system," and times when breastfeeding in public made me feel powerful.
Of course, breastfeeding made me feel powerful regardless of where I was doing it. After all, it's an incredible feeling to be able to feed your child straight from your own body. The first time my baby latched onto my breast in the hospital felt like a miracle. Not because there was any reason for me to think he wouldn't have latched or that my breasts would have been problematic. It is just that, well, you can't believe that this tiny newborn that literally just came out of your womb knows how to get to your nipple and find food. It is amazing!
So, how crazy is it that we take this wonderful thing that babies and (many, although definitely not all and that's OK) mamas can do, and we shroud it in secrecy and shame and encourage women to do it discretely whenever they're in public or when they leave the house? I had many powerful breastfeeding moments when I decided to reject suggestions that I hide my breastfeeding from the public and, instead, asserted my right to breastfeed publicly without shame. And it didn't take long for me to really relish that power, and become kinda badass about it.
When I Breastfed In Judgmental Restaurants
When my son was small I made it a point to take him out to lunch, otherwise we would just be home listening to the sound of him screaming. Running around the city was one of the only ways to get him to be relatively chill. So when hunger struck, we would eat.
Sometimes the places we ate at wouldn't be the most "nursing friendly" and I would feel a little weird about whipping out the boob. Then I'd get over it, and nurse while eating a really yummy sandwich.
When I Refused To Breastfeed In A Bathroom
Whenever we were out in public with our newborn, I'd initially be beckoned by the siren song of the ladies room when I needed to nurse my son. As a new mom, it felt like I should scuttle off to a private space to do this intimate thing with my precious little baby.
Then I'd shake off that crazy idea and be like, "Uh, no. I am not going into the place where people are going number two to feed my precious little baby. Am I crazy?" If a store had a dedicated nursing station, great. I may have visited one of those places once or twice. However, once I got into the breastfeeding rhythm, I found myself a comfortable spot (on the floor, or on one of the rocking chairs that were for sale) wherever we happened to be shopping and nursed until my baby was finished.
When I Finally Stopped Trying To Fight My Baby On The Nursing Cover
In the beginning, I tried to "keep it classy" with the cute nursing covers that were gifted to me when my baby was born. Besides, I've always liked accessorizing, even if it was with something that resembled a smock more than a chic scarf. But my newborn was really not into anything covering his head when he was trying to nurse, and would grunt and kick and protest every time I had the thing on. It took silly me a couple of tries to figure out it was the nursing cover (and not the fact that it was too loud, or too cold) that was holding us back from some solid nursing sessions when we were out in public.
When I Openly Breastfed In Front Of People Who I Knew Thought Breastfeeding Was "Gross"
When I knew that someone legit thought that breastfeeding was yucky or gross, I deliberately nursed in front of them without trying to cover up at all. It was my own form of immersion therapy that, well, they didn't necessarily ask for. Immature? Maybe. But if a person was coming to my home and I needed to nurse my baby, I was not going to trip over myself (or really, make much of an effort at all) to worry about their comfort level with my boobies. They could deal, or they could look away. My priority was to feed my child (and OK fine, also to stick it to them a little, I admit).
When Breastfeeding On The Beach
I always found it moving to breastfeed on beach. One, I loved that I could basically be topless and it was pretty much acceptable because, hey, I was feeding my baby. But two, the feeling of nursing my child and hearing the rush of the waves, and the sound of the wind, and all these forces of Mother Nature around us made me feel like everything about what we were doing in that moment couldn't be more right on.
When I Breastfed On An Airplane
You can do it in the air, you can do it in a chair! It isn't super comfortable, but it sure is something amazing to know that you're feeding your baby from your body, while soaring through the clouds. Does it get more heavenly than that?
One of the downsides of breastfeeding on the airplane, for me, was when I felt someone creepily staring at me from between the cracks in the seat behind me, but I just did my best to ignore it. Pro tip: My best breastfeeding in the air experiences included a pillow from home on my lap for extra support.
When I Breastfed With Other Moms
There's nothing like breastfeeding with your fellow lactating mamas in total "kumbaya" fashion to really normalize things for people. I remember meeting up with my mom group when our babies were super young at a local beer hall (I know, I know, beer and babies, what a combo) in Brooklyn, and how we were all either breastfeeding, burping, or rocking our babies. Because we were all together, we didn't feel weird about breastfeeding in public. It was a really beautiful thing.