I have breastfed almost everywhere, doing almost everything. All together I have breastfed 65 months of my life. That is a lot of opportunity for nursing in public.
As a young mother, nursing my first baby, I was embarrassed and fumbling under large blankets most of the time. It was summer and my poor baby would be drenched with sweat under the modesty shield. My mother breastfed and was supportive, but beyond that I endured all the typical stares, questions and comments that breastfeeding mothers receive. I remember a shopping trip taking longer than I expected. I had to sit in an oven of a car, trying to latch my screaming, hot infant. I should have been sitting in the comfortably cool mall food court.
Something happened that changed how I breastfed my babies. I had more of them. When baby girl arrived, just after baby boy turned one, I had an epiphany about breastfeeding. I HAD to be more flexible! It was mandatory and everyone else would have to live with it. I would breastfeed when and where my baby was hungry, while keeping up with an active toddler.
This strategy worked well for me and in I fit right in with crunchy Oregon mamas. Then I moved to Texas. Women warned me that it is different in Texas, it’s an old boy system, no one breastfeeds there, and I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed in public. I avoided going out for as long as possible. I am a band mom and I couldn’t miss my oldest son march with the band. I steeled myself for the first high school football game. I sat in the bleachers, looking at the people around me. I knew my baby was getting hungrier. I watched buxom blondes and brunettes walk by. Their breasts were barely contained in their school spirit tanks. I had a comeback all ready to go, for when the security guard came to tell me to leave. My comeback speech would be epic and would involve the aforementioned tank tops. Finally I gritted my teeth and slipped my little girl under my band mom T-shirt and she had her dinner.
That’s when it happened……absolutely nothing. Not one person commented or even managed a sideways glance. I was not able to spout off my clever retort. I wasn’t made a fearless champion for breastfeeding, singled out for ridicule or praise. I was just a mom watching my kid march with the band while feeding my hungry baby.
I have since breastfed everywhere in Texas, museums, parks, NASA, the DMV line, restaurants, hospitals, schools, and churches. I breastfed for the last time in our town’s Christmas Parade, sitting on a float in the freezing cold.
I didn’t know it would be the last time or my last baby. That’s just how it happened. It happened in Texas.
My advice to all you new and experienced mamas: Feed your babies where and when they are hungry! I wish I had been more comfortable the first go round. I wish I had not tortured myself and my baby because of society’s ideas about public breastfeeding. We have all heard the stories of boobie backlash. I challenge you to go ahead and brave it. You might get some negative comments, but in most states you have the legal right to breastfeed in public. Maybe someone will be watching you, a future mom or dad. Seeing you confidently breastfeed could make their choice to breastfeed easier.
You will be surprised that, in most cases, no one will give you a second glance.
© 2014, Carrie Halsey. All rights reserved.