It was 5 days after my son was born and I was at Target looking for nursing bras; at the same time, near the dressing rooms- a nurse-in. It didn’t take long for me to know Nursing in Public would be an important part of my life.
Growing-up I would nurse my dolls. I heard stories how all I would take was the breast, more impressive since it was the early 1980’s. My mother was going to school to be a medical assistant, and even nursed me a few times in class. My father would say, and still does, “have boob will travel.” I was fortunate to have been brought up with nursing normalized.
By the time my son was a couple weeks old, I could get a latch by pulling up my shirt and slipping a nipple in his mouth. I was very proud of nursing everywhere, and then one time, at a local chain store, my son woke up hungry, and at 6 weeks old, likely felt the word was going to end if he did not get food immediately... Since it can be difficult for a new mom to get an upset baby to latch, I walked to the benches near the dressing room. The looks I got, while walking over, could not have been dirtier. As I sat down an employee says to me “If you’re going to breastfeed you have to go in the dressing room.” Already distraught over the dirty looks, I said “I am just getting him started then I am going to continue shopping, I have a legal right to nurse here.” She then mumbled and said “well I have no problem with it, but someone might complain.” “I told her I was about to complain about her.” At this point my son is gulping happily. I stood up and have never looked back on nursing in public.
I have nursed at every store, and restaurant, we go to. I have nursed at Church, uncovered, in the main meeting hall. I have had people come up to me and thank me for nursing. I have seen other women and thanked them. There was a time at IKEA that my husband saw a mom hiding in a corner trying to fight an uddercover, and told me to go help her. I bought a bottle of water, brought it over to her. Told her how I have nursed my son while shopping, and that she and baby don’t need to hide unless they wanted to. I told her how awesome she is and thanked her for nursing her child. We talked for a minute and I continued on my way. I feel that the more women that nurse in public, more likely it is that other women will see them and succeed on their own breastfeeding journey. The stigma and disgust that has surrounded breastfeeding in public has always seemed foreign to me. I have worked hard to educate others, by offering information about laws and regulations, to attending, and organizing nurse-ins. My town is lucky enough to have a breastfeeding club that nurses in the park once a month. Formula is a blessing for those that need it, though I feel for those moms who have to worry about packing along, making, and dealing with the cleanup, while out and about. Me I whip out a boob, carry my DS in my arms, carrier, or even sitting in the shopping cart as I lean over, and continue to feed my toddler.
Tips for nursing-in-public brought to you by Tooele Birth and Breastfeeding
1. Know your laws: if you ever get harassed the law protects you, your baby, and educates the person harrasing you
2. Practice getting a latch while looking in a mirror. You will feel more confident knowing exactly how little is seen, and can figure out ways to make it easier for you.
3. Wear clothes that offer easy access. For me a low cut shirt is best. Others it’s wearing a shirt that can be pulled up. Buttons are great if you are trying to look nice, but can prove frusting when facing a super hungry baby.
4. Don’t hide. A mom cowering in a corner will be notice faster than one going about business as usual. It’s human nature to question why someone is hidding, this leads to more misconseptions on the normalcy of breastfeeding.
5. Hold your baby as you usually would. 99% of people will not be able to tell that you are breastfeeding at all- it looks like a mom and baby cuddling.
6. Find a friend who is comfortable Nursing-In-Public, and go out a few times out together. You will quickly catch on to her comfort level and will feel better about Nursing-In-Public yourself.
7. Other people’s thoughts don’t hurt you. In the overly modest community I live in I often hear the argument that “my husband/son, will have bad thought.” First off give them more credit. Second if they are truly having bad thoughts, whatever they are thinking doesn’t come out and bite you, it stays safely tucked away in their mind.
8. The only person’s opinion who matters on when/where/how you feed your baby is- YOUR BABY.
9. When you see an uninformed security guard coming to talk to you, look them right in the eye. I have seen securtiy personal turn around, and choose not to talk to me, simply by looking them in the eye.
10. If you are harassed and need support 888-nip-free is a great help. (Thank you Best for Babes Foundation)