Monday, October 25, 2010

I Will Breastfeed in Public. Darnit.

The funniest (or most tragic) breastfeeding in public moment I had was with my screaming infant in the middle of Krogers. She just would not wait to eat and the grocery list was calling out to me. It stressed me out thinking about sitting in the middle of a busy store filled with strangers to breastfeed. Right before I decided to give up and go home, sneaky mom ingenuity prevailed and I slid myself down a semi-dark hall that was hiding by the bathrooms. Making sure I was down far enough past the bathrooms, I whipped out the lactators and let baby have at it. Her screaming stopped, she relaxed in my arms and became completely content (and I gotta say, so did I).

A sense of pride and accomplishment swept over me as thoughts of 2 more hours of shopping danced in my head! The joy that I could actually finish my shopping list with a content baby, and the pleasure of being able to find a secluded, quiet and totally PRIVATE place to nurse made me feel warm and fuzzy. Either that or the let-down hormones were just kicking in. Leaning back against the wall, totally exposed but cool with it, the "Hallelujah" chorus I heard playing in my mind came to a screeching halt when I lifted my eyes and noticed my worst nightmare. The security camera was on and pointing right at me!! NOOOOOOO!

It was moments like these that led me to invent Skinies. Knowing that breastfeeding my baby was the absolute best I could give drove me to set aside all my personal feelings of being exposed and put baby first. The sacrifices we, moms, make! But I'll tell ya, I absolutely hate the concept of someone other than my husband getting a glimpse. No, I am not ashamed of my body, I just hate being exposed. It's just me. I will breastfeed in public. Darnit. But I'm gonna do it my way! Because of this mentality, I found myself becoming a super sleuth trying to find a way to accomplish this and satisfy my need to be discreet. After six babies, I have discovered a few things that really helped me.

For what it's worth, here's my (mom of 6) breastfeeding in public advice:
  • The most important of all is what is going on in your head. Our minds can play tricks on us especially if we are doing a good thing and others may not think so. Hold your head high! Know that you are giving your baby the best and poo-poo if anyone disagrees!

  • Prepare beforehand. Before you ever go anywhere, think about the possibility that you could have to nurse in public and devise a plan. Where will you go? Are you OK with a bench in the middle of the store, or would you prefer privacy? Remember ~ you have the right to be comfortable. Determine where your comfort level is. You have nothing to prove. Respect yourself and your feelings. It will make your experience much more enjoyable. Consider also that comfort levels may change as your nursing experience grows. For example, a brand new mom who is just getting the hang of breastfeeding may prefer a bit of privacy, and a mom who has been at it awhile may be comfortable anywhere.

If you are fine with a bench in the middle of the store, scout out just where that bench is. That way, as soon as baby calls, you can find your spot. If you do prefer privacy and the store you are shopping at does not have a "breastfeeding room", they may find you a place. You could even call ahead to find out. What will you need? Pack books, toys or snacks in the diaper bag to keep older children entertained. Planning ahead will put you at ease when the moment arises that your little one demands yummies.

  • I preferred to find a private place. Then I could let it all hang out and not worry about being exposed. Plus, the thought of applying nipple cream in front of strangers kind of freaked me out. However, I refused to nurse my baby in a bathroom stall! I tried it once and realized it's just plain gross. My solution: dressing rooms! I actually began arranging my shopping according to which stores had dressing rooms. This was soon after the Kroger incident. :)

In my opinion, dressing rooms are the perfect place to nurse a baby. They are private, quiet and you don't have to worry about being covered. If you have toddlers with you, they can play on the floor while you nurse. In addition, a break from the busyness of a crowded store was like a pick-me-up for baby, toddler and me. It was always an intimate and sweet moment of re-connecting. I found that most store clerks were very accommodating. However, if they give you a hard time, pull a garment off of a store rack and politely say "may I have a dressing room please?" What can they say? ;)

  • If there isn't a private place, nurse anyway! The way I see it, the biggest problem people have with nursing mothers isn't so much nursing, but they just don't want to see a breast. I don't blame them. Even though I could care less about seeing a nursing mom's breast, I really don't want my husband to!

This one is simple to handle. Just keep your breast covered and no one will give a hoot. As a nursing mom 6 times, I felt that other people's feelings deserved respect as much as I deserved the respect of being able to nurse in public.

  • Don't flash skin. This serves a two-fold purpose. 1) It keeps you comfortable knowing nobody can see your belly or breast. 2) People who may not be familiar with breatfeeding will be more comfortable when they can't see flesh. It's really not as hard as it seems. After a couple weeks of getting good at breastfeeding, baby becomes a little pro and can practically latch on by himself. At that point in my experience, my only concern was not being exposed. This is where Skinies came in. It was a cover-up for under my clothes. When I lifted my shirt to nurse ~ everything was covered. The openings are just the right size so that I could unlatch my nursing bra and Skinies would give maximum cleavage and breast coverage.

Even with all the perfect gear, if you do accidentally flash some skin ~ don't stress. Keep your cool. Return back to what you are doing and pretend it never happened. Selective recall is a beautiful thing.

  • If you choose to use a blanket or a nursing cover, practice at home several times a day to get baby use to it. This way, it won't be foreign to your little one and he will relax. Even though they did not like it at first, my babies got so use to having a blanket over them it just wasn't a big deal. Remember ~ moms are teachers. Learning to nurse under a blanket or nursing cover has to be taught. Don't force it. Begin with placing it on only as long as they will allow and work up to using it the whole session. I do recommend getting one with as light a fabric as possible, though. It can get stuffy under there! In my situation, I began by first having baby latch on and then adding a blanket. After we mastered this, I transitioned to placing the blanket over both baby and myself first, then latching on underneath. By practicing all of this at home, stress simply didn't enter in.

We became such pros at it that I remember sitting in church one day nursing the baby when a man in the congregation walked up and started talking to me. He had absolutely no idea baby was even nursing. Yes, my mind went into freak out mode for a second. I figured as long as my body language wasn't screaming "Get back! There's a naked breast under here!" he would probably have no clue. I mentioned nothing about nursing and kept my cool. Sure enough, I was right, he had no idea! Maybe it was because he was a man, or maybe it just looked like baby was napping ~ either way, he was oblivious. Goal accomplished! The practice payed off! I felt powerful at that moment! Hee, hee.

  • Don't make a big deal of it. Your confidence and attitude will go a long way. Humans are funny creatures. Most of the time, they will follow your lead. Being laid back and comfortable will put others at ease. If you are uncomfortable and feel like you are being gawked at, create a diversion. Keep your water bottle close and demurely grab a drink. Pull out a magazine and gently flip through it. The focus of what you are doing will be completely diverted and their minds will transfer from "a woman nursing a baby" to "a woman taking a drink". If you find someone who seems preoccupied with staring, grab your cell phone. Begin flipping through yours, and they may feel a need to check theirs. Or you can fake like you are taking a picture of them. That'll be sure to make them turn away.

If someone still has a problem with your nursing, well, they can get a ladder and get over it! Remember ~ you are doing an incredibly good thing! God created your body to nurse your baby, and if He approves, who cares what anyone else thinks.

  • Lastly: Always, ALWAYS look for security cameras!!