Thursday, March 3, 2011

Try not to Hide

Nursing in public can be socially awkward.  People don’t know how to react when they see a nursing mom.  I have always been a huge supporter of nursing even long before having kids myself, but I also vividly remember glancing over and seeing a mother nursing her infant and quickly looking away so she wouldn’t see that I had seen her.  At the time, I was confused that she had chosen to nurse there and not somewhere more out of sight.

Then I had my first baby.  I loved nursing and nursed on demand.  If my baby was tired or hungry, I would nurse him, no matter where we were.  It was easy enough to stay covered and as long as no one could see anything, I didn’t worry about it.

I never used a blanket while nursing at home, so both my baby and I found using them in public frustrating and I eventually stopped trying.  It didn’t really matter though because it was easy enough to be discreet.  Then, around 5 months old, my baby started suddenly pulling off to investigate every person or sound nearby.  I tried pumping and bringing bottles with me, but my baby wouldn’t drink from them.  So since I didn’t use a blanket, I started nursing in the car.  It was quiet and if he pulled off, I didn’t have to worry about flashing anyone.

Then everyone kept asking me if my baby was weaned yet, starting at a pretty young age.  This is a totally different topic for a different day, but by the time my baby was 9 months old, I hardly ever nursed when we were out and always did it in secrecy when I did.  I continued to nurse him through the toddler years, but always at home where no one would know.

It makes me sad that I let my perception of what was socially acceptable affect me so greatly.  Luckily, shortly after my second was born, I met a wonderful group of moms that shared a lot of the same parenting philosophies (see Finding Your Flock).  I was amazed at how many of them openly nursed in public.  Even toddlers.  And without using a blanket!

I quickly learned that there were laws in our state that actually protected a woman’s right to nurse her child anywhere she was allowed to be, private or public property.  (find out about the laws in your state)  But more importantly than knowing the law, just seeing that I was not alone, that other mothers also nursed their babies in public, when they were hungry, and that they did so with confidence and without hiding is what made the biggest difference for me.  This group of women gave me the courage to do what I already knew in my heart was the right thing for my baby. 

I now confidently nurse my babies and toddlers in public whenever they need it.  I don’t hide, I don’t ask, I just sit down where ever I feel comfortable and feed them.  I am sure there have been times when my 5 month old has flashed entire restaurants when someone drops a plate.  People at the zoo have probably seen my breast when my toddler suddenly decides they are ready to see the elephants.  I can’t say that I am immune to being embarrassed, but I think it is important to nurse in public anyway.

I nurse my child in public because they need to.  But I nurse in public confidently because that is what society needs, even if that confidence isn’t quite as solid as I make it look!  I honestly feel it is important for me to look people in the eye, smile, and send a message that we don’t have to hide.  I am nursing my baby, but I am also helping a new mother find her confidence and showing young girls that nursing is a natural, beautiful thing to do.  I want to help other mothers the way other women were able to help me.

So whether you use a blanket or not, know that you are doing more than just nursing your baby, you are influencing the mothers and fathers of the future one feeding at a time!  Try not to hide, nurse with pride!

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