Thursday, March 13, 2008

Breastfeeding in Public

I have nursed Charlotte in public more times than I could possibly count. It was never a big deal to me. I have read in various places though that some women have a hard time doing this, due to personal comfort, the baby's needs, or the prevailing attitude towards breastfeeding in their culture. To protect myself, I carry a copy of Florida's laws regarding breastfeeding in my diaper bag. I want to be prepared to back up my right to feed my daughter when she is hungry, regardless of where we happen to be.

I have nursed in the mall, at numerous restaurants, while shopping, in my car on the side of the road, in the homes of friends, and now at Disney. Not once did anyone ever say anything to me, though I have noticed that most men try to avoid looking at me at all. I try to nurse modestly, but sometimes Charlotte pulls off and there are moments that reveal more than most people are expecting to see in public. When this happens I try to cover up quickly, but I am not terribly bothered; I know Charlotte can be distractable in public so I try to coax her back to the breast or we end the nursing session.

My most recent nursing in pubic (NIP) experience that I want to share with you happened last weekend at EPCOT. I was having a drink at the Electric Umbrella while nursing Charlotte. I specifically chose a table in a corner so I could be discreet. About 10 minutes into Charlotte's meal, I began to focus in on the conversation at the table next to me. Suddenly, I heard the women clearly say that it is "totally inappropriate" to breastfeed in public.

While I was being discreet, I also wasn't hiding what Charlotte and I were doing and I just KNEW she meant for me to hear that comment. And if you know me, you know it got my blood boiling! This unenlightened woman went on to recount times she had been in the grocery store and saw not one, but gasp! two women breastfeeding their babies in slings as they did their shopping. I was so enraged at her attitude towards something that is completely natural. I started rehearsing all of the things I was going to say to her once I was done nursing Charlotte. It irked me that she kept uttering the phrase totally inappropriate.

"Excuse me? Why should my daughter have to hide while she eats? Do you wear a blanket over your head while you slurp your meal?"

"It is not my fault that people in this country can't handle seeing a little breast doing what it was designed to do."

And maybe a couple more that aren't safe for little ears... all of these retorts though, were in my head.

After switching sides (and being slightly less modest than I might normally be about it), I continued to script the reaming I was going to give this uninformed, prude of a woman. While doing that, a restaurant employee came over and asked to wipe up some water on my table. As she came closer and realized what Charlotte was doing, she expressed excitement about how wonderful it was that I was breastfeeding Charlotte. She had nursed her own children and thought it was one of the most wonderful things that a mother could do.

Now let me reiterate that I have never had anyone say anything negative to me about NIP. On the other hand, I have never had a complete stranger say anything positive to me about NIP either. This employee completely made my day when she engaged me in a conversation about the benefits of breastfeeding and how perfectly natural it is.

I could not have been more thrilled because I KNOW the woman at the next table was listening to us. It was such a perfect moment.

When Charlotte and I did finally finish nursing and she was snugly back into her stroller, I walked up to the group at the table next to me. In my sweetest voice, I said, "Excuse me. I couldn't help but overhear your conversation about breastfeeding. One of you mentioned not knowing where to look when you saw a woman breastfeeding. Well, as a breastfeeding mother, I want you to know it is just fine to look us in the eye, and even say hello. It is totally appropriate." (Notice I tried to use the word breastfeeding as much as possible and to turn her own phrase back onto her?)

It wasn't until a little while later when I was recounting the story to Bruce and Carolyn, trying to slow down my adrenaline, that he pointed out something very important to me.

God had sent the restaurant worker to me to save me from my own self. He knew that I needed the encouragement to temper my enthusiasm for lambasting the strange woman at the table next to me. It is amazing to me how to brings just what we need, just when we need it.

"My God will supply all my needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4.19

5 comments:

  1. I too am so thankful for our God who knows what you need and when you need it! This is His way of sanding the rough edges you and I talk about at times...you just take it better from Him than you do me at times :)

    BTW...I'm proud of you for not stopping to feed my granddaughter...and some of the comments you were thinking were right on target! I am so glad I have a very bright son-in-law to help point out the not so obvious at times. Thanks Bruce!

    Hugs & Kisses
    Mom

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  2. Well I never really had to deal with this issue b/c w/my oldest I pumped and gave her a bottle (she would not nurse but a few times - I do put some of that to inexperience and lack of having anyone around to help me.

    Anyway - I tried bf w/my next child and he did great at the hospital but once my milk came in it was almost impossible to nurse him without doing some gymnastic like positions. It was hard enough to nurse him in private - no way I could do it in public as I'd definitely be showing more than anyone would care to see!

    But I also see the situation from the other side - when I was unable to bf my dd I had comments like "Oh you don't know what you are missing out on..." etc. For an insecure already first time mom - that was hard to hear.

    No more kids in the future - but I think I'd be more confident regardless of which method I'd go with...and not worry about what everyone else is saying. I'd also probably be more bold to pipe up and be tempted to say more than I should. :)

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  3. Well Jen, You are a true boobinista!
    Love Ya, ;-)

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  4. Edi,
    I understand your point about being on the "other side." I know every mom does what they think is best for their situation and try not to judge moms who don't BF. Who knows why it didn't work out? I have a dear friend who desperately wanted to but even after months on herbal supplements and a crazy pumping and feeding schedule, it just wasn't happening.

    I probably wouldn't have made it this far (7+months) without Kellymom.com. This is the most comprehensive source of breastfeeding info I can find!

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  5. I don't know why some people have a hard time with women nursing their babies! I am modest about it, but I am also shy with my body.

    I wish I have the kind of confidence you had in walking over to the other table to say something to them!

    I would have been mad too sitting there listening!..... but it's America and everyone has the right to be wrong and even stupid!

    Sounds like these women were not nursing mothers, if they are even mothers at all.

    Forgive my crankiness.....it's what happens when you are up most the night with you baby can can't sleep in with him because your other kiddos are up! Lord knows you don't leave kids alone lol

    Anyway, God has perfect timing! I love what the waitress said to you, it was reassuring! After all, God created us mothers to nourish is gift of life he gave us on loan!

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