Thursday, January 26, 2012

I'm a breastfeeding in public hypocrite

I am a strong advocate of women being able to breastfeed their babies whenever and wherever they are hungry. Babies need to eat, often, and unless we Moms stay confined to our homes, we are going to have to breastfeed in public at some point or another.

You might remember I railed against a town's attempt to outlaw breastfeeding in public last year. Also, you just might find me on Twitter, nightly, responding to a Tweet here or there calling breastfeeding nasty or #klassy while I nurse Carina to sleep.

And now here comes my confession: I have never breastfed Carina in public. There have been many times that I have wanted to. I have even tried on a number of occasions. Here's how it usually goes:
  • Baby is hungry. Spend 10 minutes looking around {the mall, airport, insert any other public place here}, searching for a family restroom. Basically, any bathroom that has somewhere to place buttocks other than a toilet seat will suffice. No luck. 
  • Spend another 10 minutes (while baby fusses) locating the most remote and secluded corner of venue. Sit. 
  • Take out nursing cover. Lift up. Put squirmy baby underneath. Baby thrashes about and rips cover off. Sigh. Contemplate nursing without cover.
  • Trudge to nearest bathroom feeling bad about self for not having the balls to nurse in public. Baby screams. Sit on toilet. Nurse baby.
  • Adjacent stall becomes occupied with person who has raging diarrhea.
  • Cry.
I like to think that I'm a strong woman, so why am I feeding my baby on a toilet next to someone who presently could rival Old Faithful in power and a ruptured septic tank in stench?

WTF is that smell, Mom?

The answer? I care too much about what others think. I don't want to be called nasty or #klassy. I don't want people to roll their eyes at me and think I am indecent. I don't want to be that "gross lady whipping it out" {although I should add that I don't really have enough boob to actually "whip" }.

This means I am currently letting other people's weird conditional boob-phobia (let's all admit that it's weird, because pretty much no one minds seeing breasts in movies or at a strip club; it's only an issue when a baby is attached) force me into breastfeeding my child next to what I'm quite certain was one of the circles of Hell. Never again. This baby? I'm growing a pair. My baby (and myself) shouldn't have to be subjected to that.

I stand up, argue, and Tweet because I don't want another new Mother struggling with breastfeeding to ever feel the way I have, nursing her baby on a gross airport bathroom toilet while someone takes a rancid dump in the adjoining stall. <~~~~ Now THAT is nasty.

All I ask of you is to think before you stare, roll your eyes, make fun of, {or even Tweet about} a Mother breastfeeding in public. Think of me - or better yet, someone you love - crying on the toilet while feeding baby instead of doing it out in the open because of the fear of scorn. Is your fleeting moment of discomfort at seeing a breast (ZOMG, a breast!) really so important? Is it worth making a new Mom feel as awful as the stench emanating from the stall next to her?

It's okay if seeing a Mom nursing her baby makes you uncomfortable. But please don't be selfish; it's not about you. Just look away. A baby is hungry and needs to be fed - simple as that.

P.S. Now someone please hold me to this? Make sure said fictional balls materialize and I actually end up nursing in public with baby #2. I'm counting on you guys to make sure I follow through ;)


37 words of geekdom:

Heather said...

I was like that at first. I would be walking around the mall with friends (even a friend who was a new mother with me) and had to look for a place where people were not around. I ended up standing, holding my baby in the bathroom stall, feeding her. That only lasted a few months. I will now plop down anywhere, throw my cover on & feed my hungry child. I do not let ANYONE discourage me from feeding my hungry baby! If anyone were to ever SAY anything, or look at me FUNNY, I would rip my cover off & be like "there can you see better now", or some kind of smart ass remark of the sort. When they are hungry, don't you see them walk up to McDonalds, grab a Burger, sit in the food court & shove their face? Well my Baby has the right to sit in that SAME food court & shover her face as WELL!!! :) Hopefully #2 gives you a whole new view, and you just go for it, ANYWHERE!! :)

diana said...

I was right there with you in the early days with my son too. I love to see women breastfeeding in public. It's natural and what breasts were intended for, yet I was in the backseat of my car or in a restroom nursing. Finally I got over myself and started nursing wherever there was a place to sit. The food court, a bench in the middle of the mall, and even in a restaurant at the booth. There are definitely people out there who think it is gross or inappropriate, but also remember that you are going to be hypervigilent to people around you because you are expecting a reaction of some sort. When I stopped worrying about it and just nursed him where ever I was, it really wasn't a big deal (to me or those passing by). We also never used a nursing cover. I'd try to get him on quickly and then adjust my shirt or a blanket so people couldn't really see, but my son wouldn't really tolerate anything over his head.

MommaM said...

I remember the first time that happened to me and Charlie, but I couldn't find a single remotely private place to nurse him. Well, out the boob came. It was SO liberating! I just sat in a big comfy chair next to the fireplace in the big middle hub at the mall (don't be too impressed, it was the nicest aspect of this mall by far). We just sat and rocked and people watched. I think I got like 2 looks from old people and even a thumbs up from another young Mom.

At the risk of sounding like a commercial - the key to my success and confidence NIP, was Undercover Mama tank tops. They go under any shirt/sweater and make it a nursing top. GENIUS. I was always comfortably covered without a special (and expensive) (and ugly) nursing shirt or cover.

Good luck, Momma. If you want to do it with #2, you can. You can do it! You can do it! ;-)

Mrs. M317 said...

Before I knew that motherhood maternity stores would let you nurse in their changing rooms I decided to ask someone who worked at the mall information desk where I could breastfeed. I was directed to the bathroom as well. I wouldn't eat MY lunch in the bathroom why should my baby?

Now with my second child, I'm much more open to nursing in public because I have much less time to worry about it and it's nearly impossible to work perfectly with both kids schedules. I'd much rather nurse in a booth at a restaurant than have a screaming toddler all through dinner because he had to wait to eat or it's his nap time.

Allison said...

Good for you! Nobody should feel like they have to nurse on an airport toilet! I will admit that seeing women breastfeed makes me a little uncomfortable... but I get that it's *my* problem, not anyone else's, and I would never want people to stop feeding their babies in public. For me, it's not about potentially seeing a boob though, it's because I kind of dread breastfeeding my own babies someday. (To me it seems like a tremendous burden, but I nevertheless want my babies to have the benefits of breastfeeding, so I imagine I'll suck it up and do it if possible. I'm hoping that hormones make me feel better about it when the time comes.)

Rob and Laura (Lob) said...

You don't need balls, you got boobs! Powerful, wonderful baby feeding boobs. LOL. Yes, I know this sounds ridiculous. It's my own little personal protest about the fact that saying someone has "balls" is a compliment, but calling someone a "boob" is an insult.

BTW, I started following your blob on the bump. I've always enjoyed it. Congrats on your new pregnancy!

Melissa said...

I felt a lot like you too. I didn't mind NIP with a cover, but that got extremely hard when LO got wiggly. My turning point came when I was at our county fair, it was about 95 degrees, and LO needed to nurse. The cover wasn't happening, and I refused to nurse in a Porta Potty, so I pulled on a light zip-up hoodie, got LO latched on, and kind of pulled the hoodie around us no nobody could see anything. A woman who runs a local LLL came up to me and told me how wonderful it was to see a young mother NIP, especially when LO was over six months. It was so nice to hear that, and I'll never forget how that one comment made me feel so good.

By the way - When I was pregnant, I scouted out restrooms at an out-of-town mall we visit about once a month. Some stores, like Macy's, have lounges in their restrooms. That particular Macy's has a great lounge with very comfy couches. I used to go there to nurse LO when we were at the mall, simply because it was more comfortable to sit on their couches than any other place in the mall.

mommy in the midwest said...

I want to respond to Allison above me, if she's checking back for replies and say that I was intimidated of and scared of breastfeeding before I had kids. I knew I would breastfeed because it was "the right thing to do" but now that I'm a mom that has nursed 2 babies, I wouldn't have it any other way, as long as I had a choice!
Now, about the nursing in public. I did it a lot more when Dexter (and Theo) were tiny, but once they get older and squirmier, I would just try to plan around it as much as possible. When they are little and eating every couple of hours, it's almost impossible not to feed them in public. Now that Dex is 8 months old, he can go several hours w/o nursing so I can kinda think ahead about where we'll be and I DO do it in the car when possible. But never the bathroom. I think it's gross and I would probably cry, too. You can use a fitting room anywhere to nurse, not just Motherhood as another person here mentioned.
About the nursing covers, I hated them and only even bothered with them once or twice. I think it draws a lot more attention to have what basically looks like a sheet draped over you from your shoulders to your knees than to just discreetly hold the baby close with your shirt bunched up around his or her face or having a blanket lightly wrapped around them/draped around your side if necessary to keep covered.
I have nursed in lots of places where I don't think anyone even noticed. And I probably would have noticed if they noticed because I was totally paranoid and constantly looking to see if anyone was looking at me!
This post just made my heart ache for you, mama, because I can sooo empathize with you. I WILL HOLD YOU TO IT. You aren't doing it to make a are doing it because you are meeting a BASIC need.
Please don't feed those precious babies in the toilet ever again! You (and they) deserve much better!!
MUCH love,

mama foosa said...

You can do it, mama! I threw away the cover when Liam was about 4 months old and never looked back. I'm a huge supporter that the more society sees breastfeeding, the more accepted it will become and the greater every mama's chances will be at successfully doing it.

NO person should be eating in a bathroom. Period.

I was definitely one of those people who were uncomfortable around breastfeeding mamas before I had a baby. So I understand that side of the argument. Not to pimp out my own blog but here's my recent lactivist post (even though I hate that word...) that just explains my feelings a little bit more if anyone cares.

Anyhow, best of luck to you. you (and every other mama!) can absolutely do this. It's a favor to our daughters :)

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I would have fed my first baby in public as much. Probably more my second (if she had been able to breastfeed). My third...sat in the middle of a mall walkway on a bench bfing. I never once got a comment. Most people, if/when they realized what I was doing, would get embarrassed and look away. I tried those nursing covers too. But my kids always pulled it off. I stick to a regular blanket. It takes some practice not flashing yourself. Practice at home so they get used to being covered up. You can do it Momma!

Unknown said...

I truly hope you manage to grow a pair and nurse in public. It makes me sad that you had to sit on a toilet to feed Carina b/c assholes think it is nasty. It isn't your fault. And breast feeding is OH so NATURAL. I understand that some people are uncomfortable seeing it, but what makes them think that they should judge and tweet about it? Their idiotic Tweets make me uncomfortable, not to mention that I am quite certain these people also do something in public that makes me uncomfortable or is even offensive on a real level. (Language, racial slurs, vulgar clothes, talking on their blue tooth) Sigh. I do hope you grow a pair though and never have to submit to the dumpster dude again.

The Halbert Homestead said...

You can do it!!! Corners and booths are your BFFs when you are out in public. I've nursed on a ledge of a potted plant before lol! My son also didn't like the cover, I ended up holding the cover by his ear to kind of cover myself, but not him so he wouldn't get annoyed ;)

Madame Awesomepants said...

I hope you never feel like you have to nurse in the bathroom again. No momma should have to do that. For what it's worth, if it takes time to work up the courage, I've never been in a store that wouldn't let me use a dressing room to nurse in. If i think someone is going to look at me weird I just take piece of clothing in with me. I'll nurse my baby anywhere, but when they get to the distractible nurser stage I love using dressing rooms to help baby focus.

Sarah @ Vol Family Life said...

If I had been able to breastfeed I think I would have struggled with this too -- just because I am a people pleaser and I wouldn't want to make anyone uncomfortable. But I think of it this way -- I don't let anything get in the way of doing what I think is best for my baby in any other facet of her life. So why wouldn't I do the same here. The comfort of other people is not nearly as important as the comfort of my kid -- to me. I guess what I am saying is: you can do it, and if someone is an asshole to you I'll personally drive to CT and have a come to Jesus talk with him/her. Also FWIW, about a month ago I was chatting with another mother at the pediatrician. We both had little girls and she was nursing and I would never have known if I hadn't seen her little girl tugging at her shirt. I think people think nursing is a lot more "scandalous" than it is. Unless you are sitting topless you can't see anything. That was long and ramble-y but I mean to say, I support you, and you can do it.

MamaBear13 said...

I breastfed in public a lot and it never occurred to me to care until after I'd stopped breast feeding completely and read your blog haha. And now I don't know if I could do it again because I'll be totally self conscious of people staring. I think the best bet is just to let it go, focus on something else, like baby. Or stare right back and roll eyes at whoever is weirdly staring. Creeps.

Mishu said...

I always wear a nursing tank under my shirt and use a blanket to cover anything else. I do not let the blanket touch her head though because then she will yank it away lol. I thought you had that bonnet that you reviewed and said worked well? I was going to get something like that for baby #2 but if it didn't work out for you then, we will skip it. Have you ever considered going to the car? We use a lot of public transportation here in NYC so I usually just walk outside to a bench but never the restroom. No one eats in a restroom so I wouldn't like for DD to eat there either. Good luck for baby number 2, I hope by then you will be able to whip it out. Who cares what others think, you are giving baby the best nutrition possible!!

Stacy said...

When my son was brand new I felt a little nervous about nursing in public, but as others have said, it was either suck it up or deal with a hungry, crabby baby. I had to just put out of my mind what other people may have thought and once I did that, I totally stopped caring :) You can think whatever you want to think about me feeding my baby the best possible food for him! And you know what? I never got one side-eye, not one raised eyebrow, not one comment. So go for it! You'll feel so empowered! One tip that really helped me was to ditch the nursing cover (I always found it a little cumbersome anyway) and just toss an Aaden and Anais muslin blanket over you and baby. Those things are the best for NIP - so lightweight, so breathable, so generously sized. I really think the reason no one ever reacted to me nursing was that half the time they had no idea what was going on under there! Seriously, they're perfect!

anonomity said...

LOVE this! I too haven't officially fed E in public yet either... the closest I came was the movie theater bathroom (but standing by the sinks and not in a stall -- too gross, I just couldn't do it! lol). One older lady who came in smiled sweetly at me, then a younger girl came in and shot me a look of disgust. Sigh. I need to learn to care less about what others think as well.

Good luck growing some lady balls for BFing #2 in public! I'm sure you can do it! :-)

Unknown said...

I am all about nursing in public, but you do need to be comfortable with it. I have found in situations where I am not comfortable and trying to breastfeed it doesn't end up working out well. It takes me longer to let down which equals an unhappy baby.

But at the same time you should feel comfortable! And I hope you grow those balls! It just takes a few times and you will get use to it, I promise.

Nursing tanks help a lot too, they help in not showing much while nursing in public. Also, the more you nurse in public the more you get use to it and you get better and better at showing less. Promise.

I find that people generally try and avoid looking at you once they know what is going on, but if they do stare, look them in the eye and smile and they will stop staring. I think they are necessarily judging when they look (but sometimes there is judgement) they just really aren't use to seeing someone do that in public.

So you should breastfeed in public so that more people get use to the idea. And Carina will see your confidence and that will be amazing as well.

Sorry, I just wrote a lot. In short Good Luck! I know you can do it!

mrs.monica @ RTP_inHeels said...

I NIP now all the time. The nursing cover isn't cutting it now that B can rip it off. I just settle her via the cover, then take it off and let her be comfortable. We only had one "nipple situation" in public when B bit me for the first time in Panera. I screamed out in shocked pain and baby proceeded to lift off showing all of my girls. Oh well. Panera patrons got a show. Go for it lady! Screw em all!

basebell6 said...

i'm right there with you!! i've been breastfeeding 18.5 months now and never once nursed in public. in the car, yes, in the bathroom on the toilet, yes.

Bethany @happyhomemakerme said...

You know what's funny? I'm more comfortable NIP around a bunch of strangers than I am when I'm with our group of friends. In public, I don't know the people who are passing by, and could care less. When my husband and I are at a friend's house for an evening, I feel awkward feeding my baby because I know it's awkward for the guys in the group. We're the first family in our group to have a baby, so BFing is very out of the norm for them. I still feed BF Kayleigh when we're there, but if I plan ahead, I'll often opt to pump and bring bottles instead. That's my form of wimpiness :)

♥ Bethany

Emma said...

I was like that to start with but I got over it with help - the first place I nursed in 'public' was at a breastfeeding group. It was in a public place (the library) but there were lots of other women doing the same thing. It really helped. The next time I was in a coffee shop and I'd seen another woman breastfeeding a little while before with no-one staring so thought I'd try... and no-one even looked. Since then I've done it all kinds of public places! Maybe people in the UK are less weird about it. Good luck with your next - maybe find some other Mums and breastfeed together in a fairly quiet place first until you're confident, that definitely helped me!

Shannon said...

You can do it!! I never nursed in public with C but with baby #2 I am also going to try and not be so scared. It really makes me sad that something so natural has been made to seem so unnatural.

Ronni @ Anywhere Is said...

Don't be so hard on yourself, Mama G. People will find any and every reason to judge a new mom, and you were just trying to avoid that.

Seeing moms nurse in public makes me want to high five them or something, although I never do that. I hate that there are people out there who don't think it's OK to feed a dang baby.

Joyce Follis of HelloHealing said...

GAH! OMG!!! I've been in the same situation with super swollen hard overly full tatas flying for 13 hours with a baby who had sucking issues. I did bottles on the plane but planned to nurse in the airports. well. No family bathrooms, awesome. I did find a bathroom with like a communal bench and halfway through attempting to feed my pissed off baby this old woman just started stripping down next to us and giving herself a sponge bath. oi vei. needless to say i ended up leaking the entire last flight we were on and just had to sit there...wet... My son hates the cover but is finally getting used to it now and if a little boob slips out i just laugh and fix it..oh well..better than, like you said, sitting in a bathroom stall with someone taking a nasty poo.

Anonymous said...

I have seen all forms of breastfeeding in public. I was at a baby fair in the fall with my SIL, and I am a big breastfeeding advocate - public, private, whichever way - anyway, this lady was rather obese, she had her older babe in her arms, literally whipped out one of the biggest boobs I've ever seen and started feeding her babe. I thought "WOW! Good for her...but not for me." I can breastfeed in public, but I always did it with a cover. I could feed him anywhere, anytime...but it does take practice, and getting into a routine. I will probably only ever breastfeed without a cover infront of my mom, husband, and sisters-in-law...or friends who are also nursing. But that's just me. Give it a go with #2! You'll be surprised!

Melissa @ Growing Up Geeky said...

I am really missing Intense Debate comments and the Reply function right now. Thank you all so much for your supportive comments! I wish I could reply to you all individually but looking at the page is currently making my head spin. Stupid all day sickness.

MommaM - thanks for the tank rec!

Lob - I LOVE that! I've got boobs! And thanks :)

MamaBear - oh no! I'm sorry for making you think about it. I guess ignorance is bliss!

Mishu - yes I do really like the bonnet/hat. I actually keep it in my diaper bag and have used it, but so far it has only been at home when friends and family are over - not out in "public", exactly. But thank you for reminding me, I should definitely give it another go.

anonomity - it seems that so many young people have an issue with it! Why aren't parents teaching their children that breastfeeding is normal? I will be sure to do that with our kids.

Thanks for holding me to it, ladies!

Lacey [The Southern Mommy Chronicles] said...

I could have wrote this post myself with just a few changes in minor details :(

I'm glad I'm not the only one that is this way and KNOWS she has to change :) You inspire me, Mama G!

Mishu said...

I wouldn't care what young people think, have you ever had a look at them? Most of them aren't so perfect either lol. Anyway, I came back to comment about something I saw yesterday... Soo I was on the train and there is always this couple with a baby, baby looks like it's 10-12 mos? Anyways, they look decently dressed but they are always on the train begging, on the E train, I am sure other NYC'ers can relate. Well yesterday she had the baby in the carrier (normally this is what she does as she begs for money in a hat), and he was breastfeeding as she walked around begging!!! NO JOKE, she was begging while the kid was BF-ing and you could see her boobs... they weren't covered. I don't know how I feel about that, I mean in their extremely busy schedule of begging, they couldn't stop to feed the kid? And they look very well dressed, so I always wondered why they were begging. So basically, I came back to tell you about this experience just yesterday as I was heading home lol.
And you should def try the hat again and let us know. I think it should help because it's huge so it blocks viewers and it's on her head so it shouldn't bother her.

SSG said...

Dude, you should NEVER have to nurse in a restroom. That is just wrong. While I will openly admit that BFing is not my thing, I would NEVER scorn another woman for feeding her child by BFing in public. This goes along with all the "mommy wars" and judgey stuff that we do to each other, its just totally fucked up. And, FWIW, the many times that I've seen someone BFing in public, they are so discrete about it anyway (often without a nursing cover) that I have to look twice to actually see if they truly are BFing.

mari2003/ TwinskMama said...

I'm all for breast feeding. I would do it, if I could. What I don't understand is why we care so much what others think? Who cares that they judge? And those judging, Really? A mom is feeding her child, it is the most natural thing to do on earth and yet everyone in our society has to stop and stare. Why? What is so wrong or amusing with it? I was in Miami this time last year and MH and I went to an out door mall in South Beach. I remember a mom took out her breast and started feeding her baby. Out in the open with no cover. No one stared, pointed, or laughed. It's so natural for them and everyone just kept walking. Why is it that the Midwest and New England area find this so offensive? Were we all born tightly wound or with a stick up our asses? I think not... I say you sit in the food court, put on your cover, grab your beautiful daughter and feed her. Feed her where everyone else eats. I know I sure as hell would not want to eat where everyone else takes crap!

anonomity said...

I just came back to tell you I did it! I nursed DD in a booth in a food court! I used a blanket to cover and if anyone gave me any dirty looks, I sure didn't notice. :-)

And I will definitely be teaching our kids that breastfeeding is normal as well. Hopefully things will be different by the time they are needing to feed their children.

And I hope you feel better soon, but I know its for a good cause. ;-)

Unknown said...

Don't feel bad, I'm the same way. I started breastfeeding in public when my daughter was older. I'd always bring a bottle when we went out in public for the first 6 months or so. Whenever I would start to breastfeed in front of anyone, I would feel panicky and awful. I would force myself to do it anyway and I got used to it. I realized, no one was staring, and I'd relax. It takes practice. I hope I can be brave enough to do it with my second child without a cover too. I hope that when my daughter grows up, if she has kids, she can breastfeed without the shame and nervousness we feel. I do think the world is getting more and more tolerant and supportive of breastfeeding. =)

Summer said...

PSH! I wear a tank top under whatever I'm wearing, hoist my shirt up, pull the tank down and nurse away. I often nurse in my Boba while wearing my little one and you can't even tell.

That said, I have 3 kids, all breastfed. #1 didn't get nursed in public because I was unsure of myself. I was young and didn't want people looking at me thinking I was weird. It was totally a self-conscious thing. I was 28 when I had #2. I had a chip on my shoulder. I like to nurse in public now and DARE people to say something. When someone looks at me, my eyes are shouting, "Say something, scumbag! SAY IT!" They never do, and my baby is always fed without incident. Give it a shot. You might surprise yourself.

Go to the busiest section of the food court you can find. I guarantee people are too busy munching on their bourbon chicken to notice you feeding your babe.

Melissa @ Growing Up Geeky said...

@anonomity - yay! So proud of you!

Gina said...

I am in my third month of pregnancy (my first), and just found your blog, which I am enjoying very much. The NYC subway system has a new ad campaign promoting breast feeding, which shows moms feeding babies- without covers. The ads are sponsored by the NYC health dept. I think it's a brilliant campaign, because it shows that there is nothing perverse about BF an infant.

I like to think that I will BF in public, but it remains to be seen if I can follow through. I have no issue with others doing so, but I need to work up the guts.

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