Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Breastfeeding in Public

With child #1, I went to great and stressful lengths to cover up while breastfeeding. It was hot and sweaty and awkward and I spent a lot of time breastfeeding in the car. With #2 I never once tried to use the nursing cover, rarely used a blanket, and though I did occasionally breastfeed her in the car, I also breastfed her while walking around the store just as often.

This was largely for convenience's sake, but in the back of my mind I also hoped that I might make a new mom more comfortable with breastfeeding whenever her baby needed it (and not when it was convenient for others) as mothers who breastfed more openly eventually helped me gain the confidence I have in breastfeeding in public.

I am slowly weaning my toddler (currently 19 months old). At this point I feel like I could breastfeed her longer if she were the occasional breastfeeder. But without me slowly cutting her off, she was still breastfeeding many times a day and often for long amounts of time. Some women can do that, I'm simply too tired to keep that up any longer.

I breastfed her at Disney World, both in public and in the mother's nursing room and had interesting experiences both times.

In public I had at least one person give me a few strange looks (I usually don't pay attention to people's reactions, but my husband noticed). I also had a woman walk by and lightly tap my knee and say, "High fives to you!" I've heard of people being praised for breastfeeding in public, but never experienced it myself. It felt pretty good. I don't know if I'd be as forward with a stranger, but I'll remember that and might consider giving some encouraging words to breastfeeding moms I see.

In the mother's room, I met another mother who was breastfeeding her 19 month old son who had no interest in weaning (much like my little peanut). And I met a first time mother who told me that she was so worried about how she was going to breastfeed her 10 month old during their day at Disney World. I mentioned that I had breastfed outside as well, but it was certainly nice to have a cool indoor room to go to. But I was a bit shocked (as she may have been by me). How do you decide to spend a day at Disney World with no plan for how to feed your baby?

This woman was Hispanic and was from a different culture (though I'm fairly certain she was American) and I had another opportunity to shock her when I stated that I was not likely to have any more children even though I had so far failed to give my husband a male heir. "No son! Really, no son?!" The black lady who was breastfeeding the 19 month old laughed at my joke about if my husband wanted more kids, he could do it himself. But the Hispanic lady was just appalled that I would have no sons and amazed that my husband could eventually come to terms with this.


I read a great article today about taking modesty out of the breastfeeding argument:
Breastfeeding and Modesty


  1. I gotta say I disagree on this topic--can we still be friends? :) I'm totally for nursing in public (or private, whatever you prefer). I do it all the time--did it this morning at the kids' swimming lessons with a dad sitting close by. I didn't want to miss watching, so I just did it there. I guess I don't see why covering up in public is such a big deal, though. I just think it's awkward for people around. Anyway, that is just my opinion. I love that you're so passionate about breastfeeding! I kind of have a love/hate relationship with it. I love it when my babies cuddle and nurse calmly. I hate it when they squirm and lose their latch every few seconds because they're gassy (no exaggeration and every one of my kids has done it a LOT, as in I want to quit many, many times before I actually do because it is so awful to nurse like that). Sometimes I don't like feeling tied down, but I also want my baby to have the best nutrition possible. Anyway, I hope I didn't offend you! Love ya, Lemur. :)

    1. I'm not offended, but covering with a nursing cover or a blanket is a big deal for some people. But that doesn't mean my breasts weren't covered. I tried a nursing cover with my first baby and it always resulted in tears and frustration on both sides. So for me it did come down to either not using a cover/blanket or not being able to breastfeed when my baby needed to. I wear nursing tank tops when I'm going out so that my side is covered and my shirt and baby's head covers the rest for all but a few seconds. The majority of people who take any notice think the baby is sleeping. I always tried to be discrete and rarely got any attention at all, either positive or negative through all the many times I breastfed in public. I've met other people that a nursing cover didn't work for. And I just wish for a world where women feel like they can feed their babies however they need to without judgement--whether it's formula from a bottle or breastfeeding. Especially since breastfeeding almost always comes with struggles without being judged for it. I threatened to wean many times with both girls long before I actually did.

  2. That makes total sense. I have seen people do it without a cover and still be discrete. I could never figure out how on my end! Sometimes I feel like some women aren't the least bit discrete and wonder why people stare and get offended when people are uncomfortable. I feel like women should be able to nurse in public, but they should also realize it can be awkward for others if they don't at least try to cover up the best they can. I understand about threatening to wean long before actually doing it. I've said I wanted to quit many, many times before weaning. I absolutely hate feeling like I have to wrestle my babies to nurse. When I finally started feeding my 2nd with a bottle around 9 months, feeding time was pleasant and enjoyable again. To me that was worth it to quit (even though I didn't completely quit till he was 1).

  3. I have known one woman who was not very discrete in her breastfeeding. She also wasn't very discrete with hiding her breasts even when she wasn't breastfeeding. And there are a few people I tried not to breastfeed in front of--when having the missionaries over for dinner for example. :)