Friday, September 17, 2010

Eating My Words: Confessions of a Mom Who Nurses in Public (and Swore She Never Would)

If I want to guarantee that I will do something, all I have to do announce that I will NEVER do it. Excuse me for just a moment while I practice.
I will NEVER effortlessly be a size 2.
OK. I’m back now. Let me transport you to a time and place before I assumed the title “Mommy Chick.” I lived in a land of sushi, cocktails and weekly pedicures. I happily floated through life delivering the midday weather forecast at a local television station.
While I was busy living my own personal “Will and Grace” saga with my gay best friend, my circle of female friends began having babies. I wasn’t surprised when most of them chose to formula feed. A few of them tried breastfeeding, but then decided it wasn’t for them.
After all, formula feeding is the norm, I thought.
I remember telling one friend I wasn’t going to ruin my shiny new implants feeding some baby.
And god forbid that I would ever feed said baby in public.
“A boob is still a boob, even with a baby attached,” I said. (I actually can’t take credit for that line. Suzanne Sugarbaker said it on “Designing Women.”)
Here’s the clincher:
I would never whip my boob out in public. Don’t babies eat on schedules? Can’t people just work around their baby’s schedule or pump milk?

Fast forward to December ’08 when I learn that Monkey Mae was busily baking in my tummy. My husband is a chiropractor. Translation:  my husband is really big on natural healthcare. And he will happily tell you that breastfeeding is the number one most important thing you can do for your baby’s long-term health.
“But it kind of grosses me out,” I told him.
So he preyed upon my former-reporter instincts.
“Research it and let me know if you’re willing to give it a try.”
I agreed it seemed magically delicious for the baby, but I still was afraid of the process. In fact, I was totally freaked out around week 30 of pregnancy when I noticed some dried colostrum on my nipples. It actually made me vomit. Full disclosure:  I hurled almost daily anyway, but this helped set off that day's puke fest.
Monkey Mae debuted in the early morning hours of September 20th, 2009. Thanks to my fluid getting infected during labor, she came out with some breathing problems and did a stint in the NICU.
That is when I was no longer on the fence about breastfeeding. A lactation consultant came by to teach me how pump.
“Your body knows what infection Monkey Mae has and is making antibodies to fight it.”
Our breastfeeding journey was not initially a smooth one. While she was in the hospital, I was too stressed to eat. Therefore, my body did have enough energy to make milk. Monkey Mae received donor milk. When she came home, I had to supplement with formula after every single feeding for seven weeks.
And she definitely made up for the missed snuggle time while she was in the NICU. My little MM nursed every hour for the first four months of her life.
That’s not a typo.  EVERY HOUR.
That schedule led me to eat my words and confront my fear of nursing in public.
I googled how to do it (yep, crazy researcher, that’s me). I asked my wonderful doula how she did it. I sought advice from ladies at a breastfeeding support group.
In other words, I obsessed.
What if someone stares at me? What if I get kicked out of a business?
“I just don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable,” I told my husband.
Looking at those words now, I realize how silly that is.  Because in reality, not nursing MM when she was hungry would only make her uncomfortable. Who cares about the fanny-pack wearing tourists we encounter daily?
When MM was eight weeks old, we went to see a choral performance at the museum. She was happily riding in her sling when I noticed that familiar rooting and some fussing.
“I’m doing it,” I said to my husband.
I went into the bathroom, positioned her in her sling to face my right breast, and latched her.  I was wearing my super stealth double layers (one layer goes up, one comes down, keeping tummy and side boobie covered).
I was sweating from anxiety as I walked back out into the crowd. Even with my discretion, it was still fairly apparent that MM was nursing.  A security guard walked up to me.
“If you’d be more comfortable in the bathroom, there’s one back to the left,” she said.
This moment is when I was most proud of my accomplishment that day:
No thank you. I am comfortable here.
As I stood by the huge Christmas tree, listening to the beautiful sounds of holiday songs, MM happily nursing in her sling, my husband looked at me and said, “I’m proud of you.”
Now, nursing in public seems like old hat. I almost don’t even know the girl who was grossed out by breastfeeding and who was, quite frankly, judgmental of those who chose to feed their children in public.
But I think I’m the perfect example of lack of exposure to breastfeeding in general. I was ignorant on the topic and made ignorant statements.
I continue to nurse MM in parks, restaurants, malls, planes, boats . . . you name it. My hope is that some woman, maybe someone like my former self, will see us and think, “If she can do that, maybe I can, too.”
But that would never happen, right?

We are proud to host a guest post today from Julie Yeomans. Julie is a former television news personality turned full-time "Mommy Chick" and assistant to ten month old Isla "Monkey" Mae.  Julie is passionate about attachment parenting, peaceful birth, natural health care, caffeine and lip gloss, all of which she and Monkey Mae discuss at Monkey Mae Says
If you have a breastfeeding story to share, please consider sharing it on Read our contributor guidelines for details.


SO hear ya! I said lots of things before I was a mama. Stuff like, "if they have teeth, can't they just eat real food?" and "I'll definitely stop at a year, I mean they can have cow's milk then, so what's the point?" It was all related to my own ignorance. I know better now and have made it my mission to help other new mamas who might think along those lines. Gotta help each other out right? ;)

I love this post! Though I was never on the fence or thought it was gross, I love hearing stories about people who did!! I was trying to get my pregnant cousin involved in some breastfeeding advocacy once and I got the impression she thought I was a kook! Then, when she had the baby she said "I just didn't understand how important it would be. I thought you were nuts, talking about it so passionately, but now, I get it." I think some of us really have to be there to "get it." Thanks for helping the cause!!

Good for you for educating yourself and being flexible for your baby's sake. None of us understand what being a mother is really like until we get there!

Oh, the things I thought I would do (or NEVER) do before I had kids. I certainly didn't expect I would be nursing my 2-year-old, that's for sure. It's funny how parenting changes your opinions on, you know, PARENTING. ;)

This is such an AWESOME post!!! Good for you for keeping an open mind and going out of your comfort zone for the comfort of your baby!! So awesome.

Beautiful post. I always love hearing stories of how someone made a transition like this. Sharing on Facebook!

Good story! I can't actually remember specifically what I thought of breastfeeding in public before I had a baby. After my older daughter was born in May 2007 I did it all the time, and I do it even more now with #2. I do remember a high school Foods & Nutrition class in which the teacher, one of my classmate's parents, asked what we thought of nursing in public and most of the kids said they didn't think it should be done. Like, obviously. Then she told us she had breastfed in a park, at the mall, etc, and I am pretty sure I was surprised it was legal. LOL. I didn't give NIP much thought but I definitely thought and said plenty of other silly things before having kids.

What a wonderful article! I'll pass it far and wide - I love to help inform others. (Mom of 6 - I N'd IP a Lot over the years).

I'm in tears over your post! Loved it!! I love how you came into your own, and did what was best for you and your daughter!!

Love it. I was one of those "if they can ask for it..." people. Then I had a baby and I got some confidence. Then she became a toddler and my boundaries were tested and I gave up on the whole 2 layers thing. Now I have 2 nurslings and all my previous inhibitions have almos completely vanished. I don't even think about it anymore.

You rock!!! That is such a great story, I hope you inspire tons and tons of mamas (and daddies too!) It's totally about changing one's perspective, and stories like yours can really do the trick. Please keep speaking out and being brave! It's thanks to women like you that we can turn this thing around and make NIP "old hat" for everyone! (A nice comfy old hat that your mama made especially for you... :D )

Having been a LLL leader, this article lets me know that LLL started the best organization for the teaching of breastfeeding I have ever known, other than the Bible, which teaches 'older women to teach the younger women to be keepers at home, lovers of their husbands and their children' - and how could women love their children any more than by giving of themselves - their 'milk' and time - to that precious part of them - still needing their protection and care!? And a mother's milk is the most protected food her baby could ever receive from the first moment of birth till 'germs' can be better tolerated at the 'right' time - when baby's body senses its more mature stage with regard to food intake! So happy to see moms who are not afraid to go against prejudiced pubic opinion on nursing in public. And happy to know that laws have changed with regard to this natural feeding process - which we might just call: MDNIP - MOMS DISCREETLY NURSING IN PUBIC - because it CAN BE DONE so that NOBODY even knows what is going on! Along with the comfortable and beautiful nursing bras, there are beautiful dresses, blouses, tops made for this purpose, so that people, who are trying to 'see' so that they can cause problems, will be 'foiled' - and no blankets are necessary! They will never know unless they ask, and if that happens nursing moms have grounds to 'stand their grounds' --
'Nurse away' moms!

Post a Comment

Please read the comment policy before posting. In short, "We encourage thoughtful, mature debate on everything we post. It is our desire to host a thoughtful, encouraging community for breastfeeding parents and those who support us. If you find yourself disagreeing with most of the content here, there are many other websites/communities where you might feel more comfortable."
If your comment does not conform to the policy, it will be deleted without notice.
All comments will be held for moderation, we apologize for the delay.