Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How to Make Your Partner More Comfortable with NIP

Because we live in a culture that sexualizes the female breast (and sometimes even scandalizes the nursing breast), it is understandable that many new parents take some time getting used to nursing in public.
But what happens if a nursing mother's partner is reluctant to support her when she breastfeeds in public? Are the partner's feelings and discomfort more important than the child's right to milk and comfort whenever and wherever? Need a mother be shamed or pressured into covering up or leaving the room when she needs to nurse?
Of course not.
If your partner is still uncomfortable with a mother nursing her child in public (namely - you), here are a few things you might try.
1) Educate: Share facts about breastfeeding with your partner. Let them know why breastfeeding anywhere, anytime is so important to you and your child. Here are a few resources that might help:
2) Celebrate: Take joy in the milestones, the successes of breastfeeding. How much weight has your little one gained by exclusively breastfeeding? How long have you breastfed? 
3) Normalize: Make sure you are breastfeeding around your partner as often as possible. Make the sight of your child nursing so normal that your partner won't think to bat an eye when you nurse in public.
4) Find Strength in Numbers: If you have any breastfeeding friends, ask them to join your efforts - have them over to your house (and nurse!), go on a double date (and nurse!), take advantage of power in numbers.
5) Reassure: Ask your partner why s/he is uncomfortable with you nursing in public. Talk through it without judgment, reassure them that most people have no idea, and that (if applicable) your right to nurse is legally protected. Often, the chance to talk it out and have their fears heard will make your partner more comfortable with NIP.
What suggestions and tips do you have to make partners more comfortable with mothers nursing in public? Please share in the comments.

5 comments:

My partner is fully supportive of breastfeeding in general, has no problem with me nursing around the house or around my female friends, but feels extremely uncomfortable when I do it in public. His issue is that he feels like men are embarrassed to see it and he doesn't want to "inflict" that on other people. We have had many conversations to little avail. To keep the peace I use a nursing cover when I'm with him. That way I can still feed my child and not spark an argument with my husband! It is frustrating and I hope in time he'll relax about it, but honestly being okay with me nursing under a cover was a huge step for him so I'll take it.

My husband doesn't mind me nursing in public. He just doesn't like men staring so I usually try to cover up as much skin as I can. I don't use a cover. Shirt works fine.

Depending on your relationship with your hubs, try some humor and some flattery: if it's a sort of possessiveness over your boobs, appeal to his ego: "Wow honey, think of how jealous the dudes will be that this rack is your wife's."

If you feel like you need to take a harder line, remind him that the rack is not, in fact, his, and you get to do with it as you see fit.

There's always the stand-by, "hi, I carried your child. You're welcome for that."

I'm the biggest breastfeeding activist I know. I've fed a toddler and tandem fed and constantly talk to my husband about breastfeeding and he supports me and seems to understand my passion for the topic.
However when we went to the zoo when our youngest was 4 months old, he didn't want me to feed bub on a bench where it was busy, asking me if I could go to the bathroom instead!! I was floored!
His logic is still that other people's 'right' to feel comfortable supersedes my right to feed bub anywhere. Oh well.
(And I did end up feeding on the bench, but very discreetly.)

Maybe I should talk to my husband about this. We've never really discussed it, but he sort of assumes I want to cover up or go somewhere else. So when I'm getting ready to feed the baby, he'll sometimes just drape a blanket over me. When we were struggling with nursing, it was really unhelpful! I would just move the blanket out of my way a bit so I could see, and then just leave it.

I have commented from time to time things like, "I don't have a blanket with me, but it's just as well because it's so hard to nurse with one," or, "Oh, you don't need to give me that, I'm wearing a tanktop so nothing really shows." (This argument worked fine when I nursed in front of huge crowds of people at a Renaissance fair last weekend!) And I can see he is slowly growing more comfortable with it, because he came into the "nursing room" with me at an event recently and was just chatting away as I nursed uncovered. All the other moms were draped in giant covers and STILL looked a little taken aback that he was in there. ;)

I wonder if he even noticed that my MOM has nursed her 2-year-old without a cover in front of him. He probably didn't!

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