I am sitting alone in a dark room with my two month old son happily sleep-nursing at my breast. I can hear the noisy, joyful din of family and friends just a thin wall away, happily chatting away and catching up. Sighing, I rest my head on my hand and prod at my snoring son, hoping to wake him long enough to wrap up this 45 minute nursing session so I can rejoin the world, at least for the hour I have left until the next nursing session must begin. His eyes open the slightest crack, then roll back as he once again surrenders to sleep. My ears perk up as I hear one of my relatives in the next room ask “Where’s Madison?” The response: “Oh she’s nursing in the other room.” Feeling hopeful, I pray that someone will come into the isolated prison to which I have condemned myself. That somehow they will sense my boredom and come rescue me, or at least sit and chat for a while. No such luck. The relative responds “Oh okay. Well I’ll just see her when she’s done.” It is Thanksgiving and while the rest of the family is enjoying slices pumpkin pie and warm mugs of coffee, I am sitting alone in the dark with my snoozing baby, who could care less about pumpkin pie or coffee. This is the moment that I decide it is time to learn how to nurse in public.
Being a very modest woman, nursing in public did not come naturally for me. More power to the women who are willing and happy to just pop a breast out in public and latch their baby on, but after 14 months (11 of which I nursed in public) of successfully and happily nursing my son I can confidently say it is not my style. The idea of nursing in public has always very much intimidated me, and I felt a lot of pressure in the beginning of my nursing journey to either conform to the stereotype of proud cover less nursing or banishing myself to a dark, quiet room every time I wanted to nurse my baby.
However, as with most of my breastfeeding struggles I eventually realized that they were largely a result of my own fears and apprehension rather than being an actual obstacle. Once I was able to put aside my worries about nursing in public (How will I see to latch him on? How will I cover myself? How will I keep him from pulling the nursing cover off and exposing me?) I found that it was much less intimidating an endeavor than I had previously anticipated.
I started off slowly by practicing “nursing in public” at home. When friends and family would come over I would (often clumsily) attempt to nurse in the same room as everyone else. My husband or mother was always by my side to help me fumble with the blanket as I latched my son on. By the time Christmas rolled around I felt comfortable with nursing in front of extended family and in-laws. It was then that O knew I was ready to make the leap into actually nursing in public. The first few times I will admit to needing some assistance from my husband, but I felt surprisingly comfortable. I even found myself wondering why I had waited so long to learn how to do this.
Consequently, as I became more experienced using a nursing blanket to cover myself, my son, too, improved in his ability to latch. After time I no longer needed to see him to latch him on, as he learned to properly latch on his own. Furthermore, the bigger he got, the easier it became to keep myself covered. By the time he was old enough to pull the nursing blanket down or the nursing cover up he was also large enough to cover me completely without the use of either. I found that by wearing a belly band or nursing tank top underneath a regular shirt I was able to keep myself completely covered while nursing. So naturally did I begin to nurse in public that I no longer had to even hesitate about my surroundings. I would nurse in restaurants while eating, in the mall on one of the benches, or on the floor of my in-laws apartment. It didn’t really matter where I was or how many people were around, I was confident in my proficiency to nurse discreetly. On several occasions the waitresses or passersby would comment on my “sleeping baby,” to which I would respond “Oh, he’s having lunch.” I have never been ashamed of nursing. I couldn’t be prouder.
My son is a toddler now, and no longer a nursling. On a bittersweet day in December he weaned himself after 14 wonderful months of nursing. I miss the days when feeding him was so simple. Whenever we were out and about his food supply was always near and ready. I never had to fuss with remembering to bring the bottles, formula and water along with all the other excess baggage that must be remembered. I knew that no matter what situation we found ourselves in I always had a way to soothe his growling tummy. I miss our cuddle-time, but I am proud of myself and of him for how far we have come. And I am so grateful that he weaned when he was ready.
I now look forward to nursing my second son due next month, only this time I won’t waste the first three months of his life sitting in a room by myself.
-Madison C. of www.LifeHappensDuringNaptime.com