Wednesday, August 27, 2014

5 Tips for Moms Breastfeeding in Public

I’m about eight years removed from breastfeeding, so although some things may have changed (those much cuter cover-ups that are now out), the basics have stayed the same.
  • Some folks get breastfeeding, some don’t.  There are people who are pro-breastfeeding/it’s the only way, there’s formula is best folks, and there’s others who haven’t given it any thought until they saw your boobs at the store.
  • Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to see you do it. Insert any other natural function in place of “breastfeeding” for emphasis.
  • You do have the right to choose how you want to feed your kid.
  • You do not need to be fully exposed for your child to get the full nutritional value of your breastmilk.

So, while you can do whatever you want at home – nurse naked doing a headstand in your living room if you want to - here’s a few tips that hopefully will make your public breastfeeding days a bit easier.

  • Dress for the occasion and the task.  When my first daughter was born, nursing-wear was limited to what amounted to super-large t-shirts with a slit cut across the middle. I had two and hated them both.  But nursing-wear has progressively gotten less ugly and more like “normal” clothes.  But if you don’t want to go through the expense of buying clothing specifically for nursing, then wear clothes that make the task easier. Button down shirts, shirts that can comfortably lifted up from the waist, even a spaghetti-strap sundress or a stretchy v-neck t-shirt. It depends on your comfort and to an extent, your body and breast size. Do not, as I made the hurried mistake with my first-born, wear a full dress in which the only way you can nurse your child is to either unzip the dress and disrobe from the shoulders down or pull up the entire length of the skirt to your breasts.
  • Be discreet.  See tip #1 and/or get yourself one of those pretty little coverups or baby blankets.  As much as we want to scream that people shouldn’t look at breasts as sexual appendages, exposed nude body parts do make some people nervous, anxious, annoyed, and even feel as if they are invading your privacy.  That quickly turned head isn’t always a “yuck, how dare she nurse in public” sometimes it’s a “oh my goodness, I probably embarrassed that mom by looking at her breast.”  Now, if you want to have both boobs hanging out, then face it – you might get ogled or folks might roll their eyes and make rude comments.  But if you want to avoid all that, be discreet. 

  • Find a private place.  My babies weren’t always so great at being discreet or even focusing on nursing when there was a lot going on. They may have been hungry, but they wanted to observe the world while enjoying their meal, like many of us do.  Or they were so terribly cranky hungry that it took a while to settle and soothe them to nurse. I found a (relatively) quiet and private place worked better in both of these situations rather than a chair in the middle of a department store or a busy restaurant.  Dressing rooms, the lounge area of a ladies room (I’m not mentioning any names, but some of those upscale department stores are kinda nice), even a tucked away alcove in your favorite restaurant.  It’s not to hide your nursing, but to make your child more comfortable.
  • Say “No, thank you.” When the store clerk comes to offer you a more private place in the bathroom, give her the benefit of the doubt – if she hasn’t breastfed, she may not be thinking “eww, she should go sit on the toilet and feed her baby,” she might be thinking “maybe she wants some privacy and the bathroom is the best option I can offer her.”  Just say “I appreciate your concern, I’m fine right here” and stay seated on your chair in the back of the store.  If the waitress says you and your baby got to go, kindly say, “Thank you, as soon as we are done our meal, we’ll be on our way.” And if they really really insist that you move? Really, I’m always of the mindset that if you don’t want me here, I don’t want to be here either. So your other option is to pack up your stuff, leave behind any items you would’ve purchased and be satisfied with the extra money in your pocket and find a new spot.
  • Educate people. This is a big picture task.  Everybody is not pro-breastfeeding. That’s that. Some don’t get it, don’t understand why you would do it, tout the health benefits of formula or soymilk or goat’s milk or whatever. Whether it’s your own mother, your girlfriend, your baby’s daddy, the nosy neighbor, or the lady staring at you at the store - take a minute and let them know why you’ve chosen breastfeeding. 
And one more thing – Make eye contact only with your baby. Don’t look at those people rolling their eyes at you, tsk-tsk-ing your breastfeeding.  Look away from the store manager who is about to break her neck shaking her head at you to make your go away. Lean back in your seat and close your eyes to your mother holding out a bottle.  Just look into the getting-sleepy eyes of your happy baby and ignore everyone else.

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