My First Time Being Approached While Breastfeeding in Public
April 14, 2014 8:30:00 AM EDT
We hear about more often than any of us would like to… a mom being confronted about breastfeeding her baby in public. It’s something I’ve been hoping to avoid since my son was born. It’s important that these incidences are made public, to spread the word, show support for the mom, and educate. But the more often I see it, the more I worry… will it happen to me and my son? Will someone have the gall to invade our personal space and I’ll have to defend my son’s right to be fed? As much as I try to only focus on my child and not worry about anyone else around me, it’s always in the back of my mind. Whenever I am getting ready to nurse him when we are out and about, I always look around and size people up…
Will that employee tell me I’d be more comfortable nursing in the bathroom? Will that older lady tell me to I need to cover up and be more discreet? Will that rough-looking older gentleman make a rude comment? Will that young college boy say, “Ew, gross! Can’t you do that somewhere else, lady?” Will that mom tell me she doesn’t want her kids to see that? I try so hard to put these thoughts out of my mind, but for me, it’s hard…
I consider myself a huge advocate for nursing in public, with or without being covered- whatever makes mom and baby more comfortable. I try to be confident and nurse my son wherever we are and no matter whose around… I follow The Badass Breastfeeder on Facebook and try to be a badass, myself… I try to hold my head up high and only focus only on my son and not worry about who is watching or if that person looks like they would confront me… but when it comes down to it, I can’t help but be super self-conscious.
One thing that has helped so much to make me more comfortable while breastfeeding in public is babywearing. As a tiny baby I carried my son around in a stretchy wrap. It was easy for me to nurse him to sleep and it was so discreet. No one could tell what I was doing.
As he got bigger, we switched to a soft-structured carrier. That carrier was also super easy to nurse him and go about my shopping unnoticed. Sometimes I used the hood for more coverage, sometimes I didn’t feel like I needed it. Now as a 20 month old toddler, I usually carry him in a ring sling. If I feel like I need it, I can easily use tail of the sling for more coverage.
Now that he is getting bigger and heavier, I sometimes start him out buckled into the seat of the cart and bring my sling along in case he starts getting uncooperative and wants held... which is nearly every time. He loves being carried, and when he wants to be in my arms, it's nice to be able to switch back and forth from seat to sling and still be hands free.
Last week, my mom came into town to do some shopping with me. We first went to Sam’s Club and I carried him in the ring sling. He was acting sleepy, so I had the tail of the sling draped over the back of his head while he nursed. An older lady noticed us and approached us. She sweetly said, “I just wanted to let you know you have two little feet hanging out there.” When my son heard her voice he quickly popped his head up and gave her a huge smile. The lady laughed, “Oh my! I thought you had a tiny baby in there. I just saw those little feet and thought that would’ve been picture perfect. He’s a big guy! Well, that’s still picture perfect too.” She had no clue that my son was nursing, only that I was carrying him in the sling.
Then we got some lunch, I carried him in the sling and let him walk a little around the mall, and we finished our day with a trip to Kroger before picking up my big kids from school. As we were getting out of the car to head into the store, for some reason, I decided to leave the sling and not bring it in like I normally do. I thought, let’s just see how he does in the cart…
Just a few minutes into our shopping, he started getting whiny. I could tell he was super tired from missing his nap. He started reaching for me and trying to stand up in the seat. Ugh. Why didn’t I bring in the sling?? I got him out of the seat and put him on my hip. It’s not the first time I’ve tried to leave the carrier in the car (which I always end up regretting), so I’ve become a pro at carrying him on my hip and pushing the cart with one hand. But the crying continued. It wasn’t a temper tantrum cry, it was a “I’m tired and I need comforted” cry. I talked to him and tried soothing him… it wasn’t working. He continued to cry and tugging on my shirt, and crying “mommy, mommy”… I knew he couldn’t wait any longer. If I had my carrier with me, I would’ve just thrown it on and nursed him no problem, but without it, I felt so exposed. My anxiety started to build. I knew he needed me and his needs came before anyone else.
The aisle we were in was packed with people. I told my mom, “he needs to nurse, we need to find a more private aisle.” We walked past a few crowded aisles and finally found the Tupperware aisle was vacant. With my back to one end of the aisle and my mom standing in front of me to shield me from the other end, I pulled up one side of my white shirt, and pulled down my black tank top underneath (thank goodness I was wearing layers!) and nursed my big boy cradled in my arms. After a few minutes you could tell he was feeling better because he was looking at Grandma with his big blue eyes and kept flashing her big smiles.
Then a couple of people entered the aisle. I knew there was an older woman behind me, but maybe she thought we were just really interested in the Tupperware we were standing next to. Then from my mom’s end, a Kroger employee was walking our way. I looked at my son to see if there was any sign that he was done, but he was so content I hated to make him stop. The employee stopped and busied himself looking at something on the shelves and the older lady passed us by. “Phew.” I thought. Then the lady came back toward us and it happened. The first time I was ever approached by someone about breastfeeding my son in public...
“Excuse me, I’m not trying to be nosey, not trying to be nosey. But I just wanted to let you know… I like that. I really like that. You don’t see many moms nowadays do that. Great job, keep it up.”
Immediately, all the anxiety and fear that I been feeling seemed to just melt away. I was nearly brought to tears.
“Thank you… Thank you. That means so much to me. Thank you so much.”
I was so concerned with someone being negative toward me and my son, especially now that he is a toddler. People have their issues with breastfeeding in public, but people also have issues with extended breastfeeding. For my first experience with someone approaching me to be such a positive one not only deeply touched me, but it really boosted my self-confidence as well. You hear it all the time, but it’s so, so true. The only way to normalize breastfeeding in public is for moms to breastfeed their babies in public.
Maybe a young mother walking passed will be inspired by you. Maybe that employee's wife nurses his newborn baby. Maybe that rough-looking older gentleman won't be phased by a mama taking care of her child. Maybe it will make that older lady reminisce on the days when she nursed her babies. Maybe that young college guy’s mom breastfed him and his siblings. And maybe those kids will ask their mom what that lady is doing and she can explain, "That mommy is simply feeding her baby."
Stephanie Beck is a busy mama of four. She enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her family. Stephanie started her blog, Apron Strings Attached, because she wanted to share her experiences with raising kids, breastfeeding struggles and success, and cloth diapering. She now enjoys blogging about life in cloth diapers for TGN.
Have you ever been approached by someone while breastfeeding in public?