October 10, 2012 by Heather
(try saying that ten times fast)
Breastfeeding in public can be one of the most awkward things ever, for both the mother and the public. Key phrase: it can be. As in, it doesn’t have to be. I’ll admit, whenever I saw someone breastfeeding in a public place before I had a baby, my first thought was “Uhhhh…” Almost like a 13-year-old boy, actually. Except minus the, ahem, thrill.
But now, like so many other things, I get it. We all have to eat, babies included. We all have nipples. And as my husband so matter-of-factly pointed out a few days ago, it’s what they’re are made for. Sorry, 13-year-old boys.
I’m in no way a pro at nursing in public, but I’ve done it enough to have learned a thing or two about how to make it less weird for everyone involved.
1. Know your audience. It’s one thing to sit down in the rubber stamp aisle at Hobby Lobby and breastfeed (did that yesterday). If anyone happens to walk by it will most likely be a woman. She may think you are a bit odd, but she’s not gonna strain her neck to catch a glimpse of your Janet Jacksons. However, if you are at, say, the mall and need to feed your little one, you probably shouldn’t do it in Hollister or Game Stop. Instead, find a quiet bench. Or even better yet, the massage chair at Bed Bath & Beyond.
2. Timing is everything. If you are planning an outing at 11:00am, don’t have a bottle pumped, and you know your baby will be hungry around noon, feed him before he realizes he is hungry. I’ll say it again: Feed him before he realizes he is hungry. If you wait until he has a hunger pain and starts crying, all eyes in the Olive Garden will be on you. You want to feed him when he is happy, not when he is a screaming mess.
3. Forgo the nursing cover. If you want to draw attention to the fact that your boob is out and a baby is sucking on it, you should use a nursing cover. Those things couldn’t be more obvious and complicated if they tried. First of all, it looks like an apron. Second of all, it is kind of annoying to try to put it over your head while also holding a baby. And thirdly, it is highly likely that your baby will swat it all over the place while eating and the nursing cover will either get all tangled up or flipped around like a cape.
4. However, you should have the right gear. For me, this means a nursing bra, a shirt that is breastfeeding-friendly (stretchy v-neck, button up, etc), and a small blanket. If the blanket is too big, it is hard to handle and only draws attention. I like to use a cotton receiving blanket or even a cloth diaper (the old school white rag ones). You are only wanting to shield a small region – there is no need to drape your child and your entire torso in a giant blanket. You’ll get hot. And besides, who has room in their diaper bag for a giant blanket?
5. Do something else. Once your baby is latched on and you have your blanket positioned and a good grip on your child with one arm, do something else with your other hand. If you are at a restaurant, continue eating your meal even if you are only able to spear one green bean with your left hand. If you are at TJ Maxx, play on your phone or something. Don’t just sit there with your head down, embarrassed. If your waiter comes to your table, make eye contact and say you want more water. If someone walks by, look at them and smile. It’s only awkward if you act like it’s awkward.
6. Be confident. That kind of means you need to have a little bit of an attitude like, “Yes, I am breastfeeding my child at Target. You can deal with it.” Not in a mean, “screw you” kind of way, but you do have to be confident enough to not care if someone gives you a funny look (because they will). If you can nurse with confidence, it makes all the difference. And if you are nervous, just fake it ’til you make it. The confidence will come.
7. A nip slip is not the end of the world. It wasn’t for Janet, and it won’t be for you either. I am 98% certain that the older gentleman in the booth across from us at Olive Garden this past weekend caught a quick glimpse of ol’ lefty. But what can you do? I’ll tell you what you can do. You finish feeding your baby, proud of the perfect nourishment you are giving him, and as you leave you tell the old man “You’re welcome.” It probably made his day, anyway.
…..If all else fails and you are uncomfortable with nursing in public, you can always use the following: your car, a bathroom, a dressing room, an empty Sunday School room. Or you can be more on top of things than I am and have a bottle pumped and ready to go.
(Disclaimer: I was not comfortable enough to nurse in public until about a month ago, and more times than not I try my hardest to find a way around it. Just so you know. My lady-balls aren’t as big as I like to make them out to be.)