Monday, November 1, 2010

The Joys of Nursing in Public #5

Today we are happy to host a guest post by Christiana. Christiana Dominguez's first daughter, Thomasina, was born March 1, 2010. She spent the first 10 weeks hating breastfeeding and every week since trying to prolong it through the trials of full-time work and boobs that hate the pump. She's an attorney by day and a former political blogger who now prefers to write about public policy, parenting, and whatever strikes her fancy at FidgetFace (her NIP posts are tagged LactationLocations). She lives in California with her daughter, husband, and two cats who are jerks. Here is her nursing in public guest post.

Sometime during my daughter's second or third week of life, I was convinced I had developed a nasty yeast infection or a screaming case of mastitis or both - yes - preferably both. I sat in the examination room as the doctor examined me, nixed the notion of infection, and gave me some breastfeeding pointers. She told me it took her about six weeks to get in a groove with her daughter.

Six weeks. Six weeks?

I couldn't see past tomorrow and did my best to blink back hot, frustrated tears. It was the worst clean bill of health I'd ever received.

In the end, it took me a full ten weeks to hit my own breastfeeding groove with my daughter - to reach a place I never thought I'd find.

The Diction of Public Breastfeeding

Having decided to take advantage of the many baby-related coupons that magically appear in your mailbox after you give birth, my husband and I took our daughter to the mall for some department store portraits. On the way to the store, a rival company offered us a coupon and the promise of no-waiting, so we let them waste time trying to coax a smile out of her as well. The extra stop added unexpected time-away-from-home to our day. By the time we were reviewing proofs, my daughter began to demand some food - rendering me incapable of concentrating on the merits of 10x13s versus 8x10s.

We had the boppy with us as a prop for the photos because it matched her outfit, so I grabbed it and the baby and went to work.

The storefront happened to be a corner unit in the mall, and we happened to be viewing photos in the corner of that glass-enclosed fishbowl. I suppose I paused for a moment to consider that I couldn't have found a more public, "look at me!" place to feed my child as mall shoppers strolled past looking at the cute kids and photos on display, but her squawks and coos demanded attention.

I mentioned to the gal showing us our proofs that I hope she didn't mind. She said, no no, of course, she's not bothered, she'd just be concerned that I was embarrassed. And right then I realized "embarrassed" is probably the least applicable word for breastfeeding in public.

Self-conscious, sure, sometimes. Frustrated and fumbling trying to balance the kid and a privacy cover or a blanket, yeah. But I think I'd only feel embarrassed if someone else said something to make me so. Her comment also did - just by implying that I should be or might be embarrassed. To be fair, she didn't imply that I should be. But there must be that presumption in the premise of the comment, you know? Like, who wouldn't be embarrassed?

It was actually the most comfortable public feed I've done yet because I had that stupid boppy with me. Usually I'm wadding up blankets and shoving them under her head and then doubling-over and trying to grow a third hand to hold everything. I never would've thought I would be so, uh, free and easy with my boob. I think a large part of my comfort comes from the sheer joy of escaping the house and being out in the world after those intense, cloistered first weeks of motherhood. I'm also just too tired to move somewhere else to feed in most cases.

I don't necessarily advocate that every mom whip it out all over town if that's beyond her comfort level. Nor am I looking for some kind of breastfeeding extra credit. That morning at the mall, however, was just another quiet reminder of how different my world is now. To me, it's the power of biology requiring that I attend to my child's needs trumping the societal construct that breasts are inherently sexual and meant to be covered in all contexts, always. It's a special kind of liberty that we should - if we could - all enjoy, especially considering that some women in other countries can't even show their faces, let alone a quick flash of breast, in public.

Perhaps most notably, during any of my daughter's public meals, I have yet to receive a single negative comment from a stranger, nor really so much as a sideways glance that I've noticed.

I'm sure that has to do with me simply not looking.


Despite the fact that negative nursing in public experiences get the publicity, more women receive the kindness and thanks from strangers for making breastfeeding a normal sight.
We want to share your positive stories so that other breastfeeding mothers and mothers-to-be will be inspired and encouraged to N.I.P. If you have a positive N.I.P. story, please contact us. We will include them in the series and credit you, your site, or post it anonymously if you so desire.


Thank you so much for posting this! I just wrote a post about this same issue, but sort of conversely. If I may, I'd love to share it here:

Thank you again!

-Teva Dellabalma
My Gentle Birthing

You know I feel the same way, I'm self-conscious a bit yeah, but I for the most part I am happy that I'm able to make my baby girl so happy and content and satisfied just with nursing. It's amazing. The only time I'm embarassed is when I'm embarassed for someone else who seems to blush or taken aback at what I'm doing (rare but has happened, luckily no comments yet!)

Way to go! Glad you haven't been made to feel uncomfortable NIP by strangers. Wish I could say the same...

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