From Nervous to Normal

Wel­come to the July 2010 Car­ni­val of Nurs­ing in Pub­lic

This post was writ­ten for inclu­sion in the Car­ni­val of Nurs­ing in Pub­lic host­ed by Dion­na and Paige at NursingFreedom.org. All week, July 5–9, we will be fea­tur­ing arti­cles and posts about nurs­ing in pub­lic (“NIP”). See the bot­tom of this post for more infor­ma­tion.

When my old­er son, Kael, was born four and a half years ago, I knew I want­ed to breast­feed him. I knew that it was best for him and for me, and I had some innate desire to do it. Hon­est­ly, I didn’t think once about nurs­ing in pub­lic. I didn’t have a plan for how to han­dle it. I wasn’t con­cerned about it. I wasn’t con­fi­dent either. It just nev­er, not even once, crossed my mind.

When Kael was born four weeks ear­ly, I found that oth­er issues were weigh­ing more heav­i­ly on my mind. Most of my wak­ing thoughts revolved around the fact that he was a sleepy baby with jaun­dice who couldn’t latch. Dur­ing my days in the hos­pi­tal, I had help (?) attempt­ing to get him latched every 3 hours around the clock from the nurs­es on duty. Even­tu­al­ly, he latched but only with the help of a nip­ple shield. But, by that point, I felt like every­one in the hos­pi­tal and maybe in the city had tried to help me breast­feed my son. It seemed as though near­ly all of them had seen me attempt­ing to breast­feed, so I fig­ured at that point I was ready to feed him any­where.

The sec­ond week I was home with Kael, my mom came to stay with us. She was SO sup­port­ive of breast­feed­ing. I’m not sure I can empha­size that enough. She kept telling me, “You’re the mom. You know best. Trust your­self.” So, think­ing back, that is what I remem­ber from her vis­it, but some­how by the end of the week when my dad arrived, I had the impres­sion that I should be using a blan­ket to cov­er Kael while he was eat­ing. I’m not sure what was said or if it was my mom that said it, but some­where in that week, I end­ed up feel­ing like I should do what I could to cov­er myself while breast­feed­ing. Even in my own house!

Between feel­ing like there was some­thing that should be hid­den while breast­feed­ing, hav­ing a baby who strug­gled with latch, and using the nip­ple shield, I end­ed up avoid­ing breast­feed­ing in front of oth­er peo­ple as much as I could for the first few months. How­ev­er, it turned out that Kael was pret­ty coop­er­a­tive with that. He was a very con­sis­tent eater. He ate about every 3 hours for 30–40 min­utes. This made it easy for me to plan my out­ings, because as a mom of a new pre-term baby, I rarely went any­where for longer than three hours. Also, I knew that if he was going to eat, it was going to take a while. Know­ing this, I some­times arrived late or left ear­ly to avoid hav­ing to breast­feed for that long time peri­od in a poten­tial­ly incon­ve­nient place. As he grew, he nursed less and less. I don’t ever remem­ber him ask­ing to breast­feed in a store or restau­rant as he grew.

Then came Asa.

Asa was a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent nursling and com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent baby. He was born at 40 weeks and 3 days. He latched on pret­ty well, and he ate every hour or so for much of the first six months after he was born.

This was quite a shock to me. I assumed that Kael had been “nor­mal” and that “nor­mal” babies ate on a con­sis­tent and pre­dictable sched­ule. I also had a 20 month old (Kael) who wasn’t crazy about being at home all day each day. That meant that I need­ed to breast­feed where oth­ers might see me. Gulp.

I bought myself some nurs­ing tank tops, and I wore them under anoth­er shirt every day. I made plans, and I took both boys out. And, I breast­fed in pub­lic. Any­where and every­where. It seemed like no mat­ter how well I thought I planned things out, the first thing Asa need­ed when we got any­where was milk. I breast­fed in Sub­way, Applebee’s, the mall, the mall play area, the park, Sam’s Club, the splash park, the gas sta­tion, and every­where else we went.

At first, I felt very awk­ward doing it. I was pret­ty sure most peo­ple around me were look­ing at me, talk­ing about me, or at the very least think­ing about me. Look­ing back, I’m pret­ty sure most of the times I was nurs­ing no one else gave me a sec­ond thought, or maybe not even a first thought!

Over time, I felt less ner­vous and awk­ward while I was nurs­ing. I stopped blush­ing, and it real­ly became as much a part of our rou­tine as nurs­ing at home was. I’m sure I could claim that it was because I just did it more, and I got bet­ter at it. While I’m sure that was a part of it, I know there was at least one oth­er major fac­tor that real­ly helped me feel com­fort­able feed­ing Asa wher­ev­er we were. My friends.

Not only did my friends breast­feed their chil­dren, they did it in pub­lic. They breast­fed at the park, in the mall, at my house, at their hous­es, in stores, in restau­rants, on the bike trail, and every­where in between. They also had chil­dren who were old­er than Asa. I’m sure I had no idea at the time that see­ing oth­er moms nurse their babies while read­ing a book to their tod­dler at the library or see­ing moms nurse their babies while sit­ting at a table in a restau­rant had such a large part in my change in atti­tude about nurs­ing my own chil­dren, but as I look back, I am con­fi­dent that hav­ing such great role mod­els as friends was so impor­tant for me and for Asa.

I have always heard oth­er breast­feed­ing moms encour­age peo­ple to nurse when their babies need to. At one time, I even felt like it was some sort of agen­da. Now, I feel like I am more able to see it for what it is. It’s nor­mal. It’s part of moth­er­ing a breast­fed baby. It’s feed­ing and com­fort­ing. I’m due in Octo­ber with baby num­ber three, and I am not sure if this baby will be more like Kael or more like Asa, but I know that regard­less of his nurs­ing needs, I will be more pre­pared to meet them wher­ev­er we are.

Art by Erika Hastings at http://mudspice.wordpress.com/

Wel­come to the Car­ni­val of Nurs­ing in Pub­lic

Please join us all week, July 5–9, as we cel­e­brate and sup­port breast­feed­ing moth­ers. And vis­it NursingFreedom.org any time to con­nect with oth­er breast­feed­ing sup­port­ers, learn more about your legal right to nurse in pub­lic, and read (and con­tribute!) arti­cles about breast­feed­ing and N.I.P.

Do you sup­port breast­feed­ing in pub­lic? Grab this badge for your blog or web­site to show your sup­port and encour­age oth­ers to edu­cate them­selves about the ben­e­fits of breast­feed­ing and the rights of breast­feed­ing moth­ers and chil­dren.

This post is just one of many being fea­tured as part of the Car­ni­val of Nurs­ing in Pub­lic. Please vis­it our oth­er writ­ers each day of the Car­ni­val. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts — new arti­cles will be post­ed on the fol­low­ing days:
July 5 — Mak­ing Breast­feed­ing the Norm: Cre­at­ing a Cul­ture of Breast­feed­ing in a Hyper-Sex­u­al­ized World
July 6 – Sup­port­ing Breast­feed­ing Moth­ers: the New, the Expe­ri­enced, and the Moth­ers of More Than One Nurs­ing Child
July 7 – Cre­at­ing a Sup­port­ive Net­work: Your Sto­ries and Cel­e­bra­tions of N.I.P.
July 8 – Breast­feed­ing: Inter­na­tion­al and Reli­gious Per­spec­tives
July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Pub­lic, and How to Respond to Any­one Who Ques­tions It

Comments

  1. I would be lost with­out my breast­feed­ing friend! In fact, I often for­get that we are doing some­thing that isn’t the norm, because I am so accus­tomed to being around my bf’ing friends.

  2. What an awe­some post! I couldn’t think of some­thing to share for this car­ni­val. I’m a home body, and with Paul, nev­er had a car to go any­where, and now with Dolores, she’s like Kael, and I just nurse her before we go, or in the car while between stops (that is before it was crazy hot!).

  3. Hav­ing some good mom friends is so impor­tant. It gives me so much con­fi­dence to know that all these oth­er women are doing the same things I am. And that they have my back. I don’t feel so alone, and that’s HUGE.

  4. wow — i feel like parts of your sto­ry could have been writ­ten by me! i’m so glad there is a way to get pos­i­tive (and real) breast­feed­ing sto­ries out there. thanks so much for post­ing!

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