During my pregnancy with my youngest son, one of the parts of motherhood that I looked most forward to was nursing. I did not nurse my older son as long as I wished, and I was determined to nurse my new baby for at least a year. I was positively giddy at the prospect of nursing, and I educated myself on all aspects of the endeavor. This research included the laws in my state regarding breastfeeding in public.
California Civil Code § 43-53, Section 43.3 states: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, except the private home or residence of another, where the mother and the child are otherwise authorized to be present.”(1) Armed with this knowledge, I understood that I could breastfeed my son anywhere so long as I didn’t barge into strangers’ homes.
Within the first few weeks of my son’s life, I breastfed in an elevator, a grocery store, a doctor’s office, the mall, and several restaurants. I could not tell you if I upset anyone because the time I spent nursing I was focused solely on my son. Watching my baby nurse was bonding, soothing, and empowering. I was feeding my baby with my own body! Before my son was a year old I had breastfed on a family road trip across several states, on a plane, at parties, and on countless benches in a variety of venues. If he was hungry, I fed him.
My sole requirement for nursing my son in public is comfort. When he was a tiny infant I could nurse him easily and comfortably in a sling while walking, shopping, or eating. As he grew I was unable to nurse him while standing, so as long as I could find a place to sit he was able to eat. Sometimes that place to sit was on the ground, but he didn’t mind as long as he had his Mama’s milk.
For the first year of my son’s life I did not worry about bringing food or drink when we left the house. If he was hungry I nursed him. Bottles filled formula or pumped milk were just not a part of my routine. It was liberating to never worry about running out of milk, or having it spoil in the heat. The only downside was having to repeatedly assure my mother that I did not need to bring a bottle or cup when I left the house. She was always concerned that my son was thirsty. For a baby that existed almost solely on breast milk for the first year of his life I am doubtful that thirst was ever an issue.
Now that I’m breastfeeding a seventeen month old toddler, nursing is not his main source of nourishment. He eats real meals, drinks a variety of beverages, and nursing is not as important as exploring his world. However, he still nurses for comfort and reassurance sporadically throughout the day and night. We still nurse in public, but not as frequently. The world is an exciting place when you are a toddler, and Mama’s milk is not the foremost thought in his head.
Whenever he asks to nurse in public, by signing “milk” and looking excited, I look for a place to sit and feed him. Sometimes that is the outdoor furniture section of a home improvement store- which I highly recommend for the plethora of seating options. Sometimes it is a bench at the local zoo. Wherever, it is not about being discreet. It is about finding a place to park my bottom, focus on my son, and relax while I offer him food and comfort.
1. Breastfeeding and Healthy Living: California Laws
Sam has been writing at Sam's Stories since 2005. She is the proud mother of two boys with another on the way.
Photo credit: Dionna at Code Name: Mama