Before I had my son, I knew I wanted to breastfeed him. It is healthier for him. It is cheaper. It’s a great weight loss tool for those post-pregnancy pounds. And I wanted to experience that bond with him.
I had this vision of nursing him whenever and wherever necessary – and I would do so with great ease and skill. I saw other moms on park benches and in grocery stores breastfeeding their babies, and they all looked so content.
Little did I know that nursing in public is SCARY! I am by-nature a shy person. And I am definitely not the type of person to expose any significant amount of flesh. I don’t even feel comfortable in tank tops or shorts. So whipping out a breast (even under a blanket) was very strange and, yes, a little scary for me. I realize that breastfeeding is a natural and beautiful thing but my anxiety was getting the best of me.
For the first few months, I admit that whenever my son was hungry and we were out in public, I would lock myself in our car and nurse him there. When I first started breastfeeding, I had obviously never done it before so there was a lot of maneuvering and figuring out the right position. And a coverup just made it more difficult. Often, my son would rear his head back and start wailing so that my breast was left exposed. I wasn’t about to take a chance that that would happen in public.
I was also scared to death that someone was going to confront me. I had heard the horror stories about mall managers and restaurant owners asking nursing mothers to move elsewhere. And I didn’t think I could handle the embarrassment or my inevitable rage. Even at home around friends and family, I made sure to always use a blanket or coverup just in case my son decided to take a break, which he often did every time he heard a sound.
But I slowly became more comfortable with the idea of nursing in public. I realized that my friends and family were more worried about accidentally catching a glimpse than I was about exposing myself to them. Most people were very considerate about my need for privacy and averted their gaze whenever I was feeding my baby. No one confronted me or asked me to leave. And no one (other than small children) stared at me.
Eventually I became a nursing pro. I nursed my son in parks, malls, restaurants and even in the stands during a professional hockey game. I still covered up when out in public but dropped the blanket when at home or at the homes of friends and family.
I definitely became more comfortable with breastfeeding in public. But even after almost two years of breastfeeding, I still got a little nervous every time I nursed outside the home. I always reminded myself that my son was more important than what people thought about me. And I was proud to be part of a movement to make nursing in public more accepted.
For more information about state-specific laws about breastfeeding in public, try Mothering Magazine’s breastfeeding in public map. For more information about breastfeeding in general, see our article on All About Breastfeeding.