Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nursing in Public

How do you feel about nursing in public? Before I had a baby, I felt a bit conflicted about it. Now, after having a baby, and nursing in public myself at least once a week... I still feel a bit conflicted.

My internal conflict isn't about whether or not it should be allowed or how women should go about it. I firmly believe that every mom should have the right to feed her baby in any location at any time, no questions asked. I also believe that women should simply do it in the way that works best for their babies, without regard for the "comfort" of those around them. It is natural and healthy and therefore should be a non-issue. However, even I (called a nudist by my husband for my tendency to wander around the house naked) have some hang-ups about exposing my breasts in public. Why? I don't know, probably because of this up-tight, patriarchal society I come from. Again, intellectually I think it's totally great and should be totally acceptable, but I find myself looking at other women nursing in public, curious about how they do it, how they hold the baby, what clothes work for them, are they comfortable, are other people staring, etc. Then, I think, "Oh no, am I making her uncomfortable because I just realized that I am the one staring?!"

So here, is my conflict: I WANT to be totally comfortable doing it, but I'm not always actually comfortable, even though I try to act like I am. Things that help me to feel the most relaxed about it are if I have on a nursing tank so my belly isn't exposed, and if I have a cloth tucked in to catch any stray sprays or drips. I also appreciate it if those around me just continue to interact with me normally, rather than totally looking away. I own a nursing cover/"hooter-hider" thing, but I've only used it a handful of times because I have never gotten the hang of it where it feels like it makes things any easier. The few times that I did use it I was in a position where I felt very exposed, for instance facing out into a crowded restaurant, and I wasn't wearing clothes that were very conducive to nursing. I know some people that love them, but it just has never worked very well for us to cover Sweet Pea up while she's trying to eat. Now that Sweet Pea is older she can figure out how to latch on in nearly any position, with only a small portion of my breast exposed, and she is very efficient at getting the milk, so it is much much easier to get the job done quickly than the early months. Although of course now that she is older she also squirms and gets distracted by people around us more, so I still sometimes try to find a quieter, private area to nurse. For this reason, I believe that nursing rooms should be available in more public places. NOT because women should have to hide themselves or worry about other people's comfort, but just because it can be easier to get the job done when you have a comfortable chair in a quiet location.

As she grows, I also wonder how I'll feel about nursing an older baby in public. Will I feel more uncomfortable because I'll be concerned about being judged for nursing a toddler, or less uncomfortable because I'll have so much experience by then?


  1. Rose, you have perfectly summed up my thoughts and where I'm at right now, a'bakin' this baby. I want to be comfortable and at ease w/ breastfeeding my baby in public, but I struggle with many of the same concerns. It's so hard to break that patriarchal programming; intellectually, I know better...that breastfeeding is natural, beautiful, and, well, screw anybody who says otherwise. But the idea of nonchalantly whipping my boob out to feed my child, despite this knowledge that it's right and natural and OKAY, makes me squirm a little bit.

    Thanks for so graciously capturing the thoughts and feelings that go into considering this decision!

  2. I agree with you about the covers. I've just always felt like they draw more attention and make things a bit harder.

    And I too have found that as my baby gets older, it's much harder to nurse in public. He's just too distracted.

    I feel lucky to live in a town where nursing in public just feels normal. And I try to go to baby and child-friendly establishments that provide changing tables and a nursing-friendly environment, because those are the businesses I want to support these days.

    I 've also heard from some moms who can't nurse that they feel uncomfortable feeding their babies bottles in public, because they feel like others are judging that they are not breastfeeding. I guess, as parents, we just have to develop thick skins about what others think and do what is right for us and our babies.

  3. I agree with you. I can't tell you one time (except a LLL meeting and yoga!) that I've seen another women breastfeeding in public. I wish I would see it more often. I even feel like it makes my family (mostly my parents)uncomfortable but they know enough not to say anything to me! I have some very strong views on the subject and don't mind sharing them!

  4. funny, i totally agree. used to think women who did it should have found a more private place, and just last week found myself nursing on a bench at a museum :)
    glad you found my blog, now i'm happy I found yours!