Today’s prompt: Breastfeeding in public. We all know that life goes on while breastfeeding and leaving the house means breastfeeding in public. Tell us your stories, thoughts, and so on.
The last nine years have seen a huge evolution in the way I nurse in public. I have gone from nursing our children under a blanket or nursing cover to nursing without a cover. My comfort zone for nursing in public has been stretched from nursing an infant, to nursing a one-year old, to suggesting that nursing could wait until we got home after our children hit the second birthday mark. Our fourth child would not accept that answer. My comfort zone for breastfeeding when we are out of our home has been stretched again.
I know that my comfort in doing so exists only because I have seen other women around me nurse older children. If it had not been for their casual attitude, and the knowledge that breastfeeding is much more than breastmilk, I do not think I would have made the choice to keep nursing an older child outside of our home.
As she approaches her third birthday, I am starting to draw the line. I will ask her to wait until we get home to nurse, and if she doesn’t accept that answer, I ask her to wait until we are in the car. At night, I can tell when she asks to nurse because she is bored, versus actually wanting to nurse because she is sleepy and ready for bed. So we are still negotiating, and I am now a mother a Sweet Pea who turns three on October 1 and still nurses in public.
For any mother that is feeling uneasy with nursing in public, I would encourage you to remember that your baby relies on you to be their center, their comfort, their safe place. If anyone outside of that has an opinion that is just too bad. If it is family, set clear expectations: in our home, I will do what I need to do to meet our child’s needs. If you are in their home, ask them where they would like you to nurse the baby. Respect that, and as time passes, you may find that their attitude relaxes. It is especially helpful if your partner can build up the nursing relationship while you are nursing, telling the family how proud they are of you and how your baby is not just surviving, but thriving and growing well thanks to your commitment to breastfeed.
If you find yourself with a hungry, inconsolable Sweet Pea and you are out among strangers, set yourself up for success the first few times. Find a women’s lounge in an upscale department store, or ask to use a dressing room, or maybe a quiet corner somewhere, so that you and your Sweet Pea can both settle down and nurse. As your confidence grows, you may not be as anxious to find more secluded places. You will soon find that any seating area is a place where you and Sweet Pea can take a break and breastfeed. All those other people – release the worry of offending others. They are fleeting observers who will never again be in your life. And who knows – your example may help normalize breastfeeding for another person, or lend confidence to a future parent who is inspired by your example.
Another idea I suggest to gain confidence is to travel in numbers. Go to a breastfeeding support group where you can see how other people nurse in public, and where you will not be in the minority if you want to breastfeed. Go out and have playdates or share meals with other breastfeeding MotherBabys. It is very unlikely that a whole group of you will be intimidated or approached. Lastly, know the breastfeeding laws in your area. Most states protect breastfeeding in public and if you are lawfully present in a public space, then you are “allowed” to breastfeed. See breastfeeding laws state by state HERE.
You will learn and grow through the whole process of motherhood. Nursing in public is just one small subset of skills you will learn as life goes on after your Sweet Pea’s Birth-Day.
What are your tips to help a mama be more confident with nursing in public?
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