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The Lactivist Earns Her Stripes (Nursing in Public)

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Monday, October 09, 2006

One of the things that I wondered about going into breastfeeding with child number two was how that whole nursing in front of other people thing would work. Since I exclusively pumped for 14 months after Elnora was born, I had zero experience nursing in front of anyone other than my husband, the hospital staff and a single lactation consultant. Since that attempt lasted all of four days, I really had no idea what to expect. Add to that the fact that there is NO way to be discreet while pumping and I pretty much never pumped in front of anyone other than DH, my mom, my grandmother and one or two close friends. That means that when the holidays came around or we had company over, I had to retreat to the bedroom every couple hours to pump.

It sucked.

So, I'd vowed that once I got nursing down pat with this kid, that I would absolutely NOT go and hide in a bedroom or a bathroom or wherever. I'll nurse where I am, when I need to because breastfeeding is part of life. With that in mind, here's a rundown of the first week or two...

I'm only going to highlight the actual nursing in public stints, but there's also been a steady stream of people (neighbors, family, friends, co-workers, etc...) marching through the house for the past two weeks and almost all of them have been here long enough that Emmitt has needed to eat so I've now nursed in front of a few dozen friends and family members.

Day Four

This was the first day where I really honestly nursed in public, though it was still pretty limited. First we had an appointment with the pediatritian, so I ended up nursing in the office. Next we headed to the lactation consultant (yeah, that doesn't count) and finally to the courthouse to apply for a birth certificate. At that point, I was having to use a new hold (re: the lactation consultant) so I climbed in the backseat to nurse Emmitt in the car while Greg ran inside. That said, we were parked along the curb at the center of town, so there were plenty of folks walking by. I figure that counts. ;) I rounded out the day stuck in the car again outside of the grocery store because there was NO place to sit inside the store.

Day Seven

Now we're moving into real nursing in public territory. I needed some new nursing bras and thought I might also like some nursing tops, so I left Elnora with my mother-in-law and headed out with Emmitt. We swung by the chiropractors' office first so that he could snap me into place. Ended up having to nurse there. Then we headed to the mall and of course right when we got there he decided he needed to eat, so I settled down on a park bench outside Planet Smoothie and latched him on. The mall wasn't very busy at that point (early morning on a weekday) but I'd guess that two dozen people walked past us and no one batted an eye. We then headed into Motherhood to do some shopping and about the time I was figuring out what to buy he needed to eat again. I was already in the dressing room and it seemed silly to get all put back together just to go nurse outside in the mall, so he got himself a snack there in the dressing room.

Day Eight

It was Saturday, which is our day to head to the bakery for breakfast and then to swing by the farmer's market. We packed up the family and headed down to the bakery, hoping to be quick since my mom, aunt, uncle, cousin, cousin's boyfriend, father-in-law and grandmother-in-law were all headed to our house that morning. (Yeah, I know, that's a lot of people.) We got our donuts and started eating and just as I finished mine, Emmitt woke up wanting to nurse.

Just as I'm undoing my nursing bra, the door to the bakery pops open and in pours EVERYONE from the family. (They'd figured out where we were and came down for donuts.) So, I ended up latching him on and nursing him while we swamped this tiny little bakery with my extended family.

Day Nine

Church day. One thing that I'll say about my church...they have a mother's room for nursing your babies. They also have a note in the bulletin that says, and I quote "Nursing mothers that prefer privacy are welcome to use our nursing room located..." In other words...nurse wherever you'd like...but this is here if you want it. I love that!

Since Emmitt is a VERY noisy eater (lots of smacking, swallowing and cooing) I figured it would probably be nice not to nurse him in the service. (I didn't want to distract anyone from the message.) So, I headed out to the cafe area in the lobby and found myself a nice cushy chair in front of the fireplace. (the service is piped out there anyway.) Emmitt and I settled in and he started to nurse. Thus began my first experience of being approached by someone while nursing in public.

First came the bass player from the band. Real nice guy in his late 40s or early 50s. He came over and started to talk to me asking about Emmitt, how old he was, etc... Then he stepped closer to look at Emmitt's face and he suddenly realized what I was doing. "Oh, I'm so sorry!" he said as he stepped backward. I laughed and said "hey, no worries!" I figured if I could be nursing and he couldn't tell until he really stepped in closely that I was doing something right. ;) I felt kinda bad for him though as he was clearly embarrassed though I think because he thought I would be upset, not because he was upset. So, he took about two steps back and we continued the conversation. ;)

About 10 minutes later a woman about my age came by and introduced herself. First time I've ever shaken hands with someone while nursing, lol... She clearly knew what I was doing but wasn't remotely bothered by it. She seemed to assume that I wouldn't mind chatting either (which I didn't.) She was expecting her second in a few more months and wanted to know how old Emmitt was. Then she invited me to a mother's group that meets at the church on Friday mornings. Sweet! We still don't know many people in town (moved here 8 months ago) so it would be nice to meet some other moms.

That's pretty much it so far, but let me say this...not near as intimidating as I thought it would be. Maybe that's the benefit of the second time around...I've learned enough by now to be really strong in my beliefs about the right of a child to eat when and where they get hungry...it doesn't bother me to think about what others might say. I'm not going to go looking for trouble and I'm not going to try to put on a display to challenge people, but I'm also not going to be a shrinking violet that hides out in corners.

It felt good. It felt empowering.

It felt freaking awesome to be "free" to go out during the day and to not be tied to that pumping schedule that always saw me rushing home to beat the clock.

I'm loving this!

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  1. Blogger My Baby and More | 8:30 PM |  

    Congrats! After the previously mentioned two weeks and your sucess in NIP you truly are golden! Good for you! Warmly, Colleen

  2. Blogger Amanda | 2:20 AM |  

    I find it easier to just sit down and NIP, than to try to find somewhere to "hide." I actually NIP easier than I do around family. My family is quirky about these things. Odd isn't it?

  3. Anonymous Damien McKenna | 6:30 AM |  

    You did great, Jennifer! My wife was a bit shy about it at first, but at this point most of Florida and half of Ireland have seen her bf :-) She did start to get a bit cautious about it when he got to 2 y/o but still does it anyway and he's nearly 3.

  4. Blogger caramaena | 6:58 AM |  

    Yay! Glad it's been so easy.

  5. Blogger Jennifer | 7:19 AM |  

    Oh totally easier to NIP than in front of family...because in reality, you're never going to see those people in public again and even if you do, who cares?

    But family, if a row gets sparked due to nursing in front of family, well there are a lot more long term repercussions.

    That said, my family has been awesome about it (on both sides!) Neither my mom nor my mother-in-law (nor some of DH's and my grandmothers) breastfed. This is all new to them, but they've been very supportive.

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