Breastfeeding was never a question in my mind. Some of my earliest memories as a toddler are of my mother breastfeeding my younger sister, and as a teenager, I got to watch and learn as she breastfed my brothers. Although I didn’t know anyone else who was breastfeeding, I knew it as a fact: it happened and worked. I never had any other options in my mind.
Fast-forward several years and my husband and I are enrolled in a childbirth class. We talk about breastfeeding, and as part of the coursework we attend a La Leche League meeting. In addition, our instructor is still nursing, and she very matter-of-factly nurses her daughter when she needs to be nursed.
Once our daughter was born, I got advice in the hospital to help establish our breastfeeding relationship. I had to use the lovely nipple shells to encourage my nipples to pop out and to protect them from the scratchy texture of the hospital gowns. My husband had fun making fun of my “Madonna cones” as he called them. I was too tired and too ecstatic from our birth experience to care. Looking back, he is really lucky that I didn’t fall apart into a heaping, sobbing mess over that!
Other than the two La Leche League meetings I attended, I did not see too many other breastfeeding MotherBaby pairs when we were out and about, moving along with our lives as parents of a newborn. Thankfully, the first time we tired to nurse in public, my girlfriend noticed another woman nursing and she helped me emulate the way she covered herself and her baby with a receiving blanket, and the way she sat and situated herself with her baby. I still remember breaking out into a sweat, wondering if our daughter was going to scream or latch to my still very sore and engorged breast. With my friend’s assistance, it all went well and I continued to nurse in public without incident.
(Image courtesy of one of our students)
My husband was also a great support when it came to nursing in public. Our Bradley™ teacher shared a great tip that we used with great success. Her suggestion was for the coach to form a circle of protection around the MotherBaby. If a coach had his arm around his partner and child, it was less likely for people to complain about the mother nursing in public. In addition, it was a nice way to reinforce the family bond and to offer comfort and confidence to the mother who was getting acclimated to breastfeeding itself, let alone under the occasional disdainful look from a passerby.
I feel like I am now paying it forward by teaching other families about the advantages and benefits of breastfeeding. We also have the opportunity to introduce all the different forms of a breastfeeding relationships: breast to baby, pumping, supplementing with human milk, wet nursing…we get to show families that there are lots of options outside of formula supplementation. In addition, now that we are Bradley™ instructors, I get to provide a comprehensive resource list to our students who need help along the breastfeeding journey and the development of the relationship that best fits for their family.
When our fourth child was born, we went right on teaching classes. By this time, I had learned how to nurse without feeling like I needed to hide behind a nursing cover. Inevitably, once our babies got more active, the first thing that graduated out of the diaper bag was the nursing cover. Without intention, that was the one item that never made it back in the back after baby number three stopped using it. We live in Arizona, so it is hot, uncomfortable and after I gained more confidence nursing in public, superfluous. I found that I used it for other people’s comfort. As it turns out, I draw less attention breastfeeding discreetly with no cover than I do with a baby that trying to cool off by flapping a huge piece of cloth around.
I asked my husband if he had any reservations about me nursing in front of our male students without a cover. He had absolutely none, so we went resolutely forward with public nursing while in front of an audience. After the fact, we got some positive feedback from the mamas who were students in the three classes that got to see this relaxed, confident, unapologetic breastfeeding. To a person, all who commented felt that the casual approach demonstrated to their husbands that nursing in public did not have to be a big deal. They saw our happy, sweet baby who was fed and kept skin-to-skin. Those alumni are some of the most dedicated nursers, and babywearing-est friendly families we have taught.
The obstacle that persists in our goal to normalize breastfeeding continues to be two-fold in my view. You have the mainstream view of breasts as marketing tools and sex toys. You also have the “mommy-wars” that are quick to pit breastfeeding mothers versus formula feeders, as if there are no other options available.
We must rise in the face of being called “angry boob floppers” and being told we are forcing psychological harm to our children. One by one, we can show the benefits of breastmilk by continuing to go about our business of breastfeeding our children. When the opportunity presents itself, we can educate onlookers and commenters about our choice to breastfeed. There is no need to stoop to name-calling in reverse. We know that our children are amazing, and beneficiaries of an unmistakable advantage. Instead of being smug about it, let’s make it a point to normalize all the delivery systems of human milk.
As a community, let’s commit to demonstrate what we want to be “normal”, and then take the time to educate and support all mothers in their feeding choices. If they didn’t feed with human milk this time around, let’s open a window of insight to the possibilities available. With gentle words and loving support, maybe they will make an informed decision to walk through the door and down the path of a breastfeeding relationship next time.
What are your thoughts on nursing in public?
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It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.