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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pumping in Public: Riding the Rails

When it comes to exposing my body, I fall squarely on the side of modesty. Showing a stranger my private parts is not my idea of a good time. Soon after I became a mother, however, I learned something new about myself. When my baby is hungry or needs comfort, I will do whatever it takes to get him what he needs.
IMG_3510 Steam Train at Weybourne in motion

My NIP (nursing in public) initiation happened when my baby was three days old. I was still trying to figure out breastfeeding, let alone doing it in public. There we were in the middle of the DMV, and my son started wailing as only a hungry newborn can. It was as if a switch was flipped, and an as-yet untapped instinct kicked in. That instinct clearly told me to feed my baby first and deal with how I felt about it later. So, I lifted my shirt (exposing my recently pregnant and misshapen belly), undid my bra (with my large, pendulous boobs flapping in the breeze), and breastfed my baby. Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles think what you will!

I was stunned by my willingness to expose myself. But Josias stopped crying instantly and our NIP fate was sealed. I would breastfeed him anywhere, anytime. To heck with modesty and naysayers!

Since then I have breastfed in public a lot, including: a used car lot while haggling with a salesman; on planes and trains; on work trips in front of colleagues; at the mall; at the park; and on the street. I also breastfeed in front of family, friends, acquaintances and in-laws. I am both happy and surprised to report that nary a negative word has been said to me. So, you get it, right? While I don't relish everyone and their mother seeing my boobs, I really don't care as long as Josias gets what he needs.

Once I had mastered NIP, I thought I was fearless. That is, until one crazy-busy day with two long train rides. As a breastfeeding mother who works full-time outside the home, I rely heavily on my pump. When I have to be away from baby, it goes with me everywhere. A work trip which required a three hour train ride put me in new territory. I would not have any other time that day to pump except on the train rides back and forth. So, I had to ask myself, how do I feel about PIP (pumping in public, is that an acronym)?

The Amtrak train to Trenton would test my commitment to exclusively breastfeeding my baby. My reluctance was compounded by the fact that the only way I can get milk out while pumping is to engage in breast compressions. Could I do it? How would it work? Is it legal? Would I be embarrassed? Would people think I was crazy? Would someone report me? I went over it in my head for days. I asked people what they thought. I consulted all-knowing blogs and websites.

Finally, I decided pumping on the train was my only option and I would do it without embarrassment. I had to feed my baby and I had to ride the train. I made sure all my equipment was in order, I wore a big shawl to provide as much coverage as possible, and I went for it.The first session on the ride up to Trenton was uneventful. The train was sparsely occupied and I don't think a single person noticed. The ride back however, was jam-packed. The woman sitting next to me definitely knew something was up. I think she was afraid to investigate and didn't really want to know what that sound was or why I was seemingly fondling myself. After all was said and done, though, it really wasn't that big of a deal.

I learned two things that day. It IS possible (though, in my opinion certainly not preferable) to PIP. And I will truly do WHATEVER it takes to get my baby what he needs. To all the mamas out there that do whatever it takes to give babies what they need: YOU ARE AWESOME!

Have you pumped in pulic? How did it go?

Photo Credit: Roger Blackwell