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by Tori Sproat
I remember the first time I did it. I was sitting at lunch with my brother, his family, my parents, and my husband when it happened. I thought I had timed the lunch appropriately so this discomfort could be avoided, but that’s the funny thing about being a new parent – just when you think you’ve got a good hold on things you get thrown a curveball.
My new baby was hungry. I took a deep breath and reached into the diaper bag, pulling out my nursing cover and feeling around for the nipple shield that had come to be the only way my baby would nurse. I frantically moved the contents of my diaper bag around while trying to bounce the crying baby in my arms while thinking “oh shit…where is the nipple shield…WHERE IS THE SHIELD?!”
Turns out, that day I had forgotten the piece of silicone that I had come to rely upon with my then two-week-old to maintain our breastfeeding relationship. With no bottles and no backup I had to figure it out, I used a nursing cover that made it even more difficult to see my baby’s face and I tried desperately to see if he was lined up to latch right. And did I mention I was still sitting at the lunch table?
We figured it out that day and for whatever reason my son cooperated and was able to eat that feeding. We went on to have a pretty difficult time the first six weeks, then with the help of nursing friends and a lactation consultant we went on to nurse for almost 16 months, without a nipple shield, and from that fateful lunch day on, no nursing cover in public.
Many people have different feelings on nursing in public. I’ve heard the arguments against it ranging from it being “gross” (likening it to defecating in public), to it being “rude” to bottle feeding moms, to it being “immodest” and “too sexy.” It’s incredible that a little piece of flesh and the act of feeding our babies the way our bodies have been built to do, can stir so much controversy!
But why is it such an issue in our society? It’s interesting to note that this Nursing In Public (NIP) issue is a very Western issue. In many Arab countries it’s not uncommon to see a mother nurse their child in public, even in full Burka. In Africa you nurse your baby or they die (since many places do not have the luxury of clean water sources, formula is not an option), so where they nurse isn’t even an issue.
In this video Holly McNish talks about how she’s been made to feel ashamed of how she feeds her daughter. Her words are powerful and much more spot on than any I could provide. “In a country covered in tits” why are we, as women, being made to feel we must hide in disgusting bathrooms to feed our children in order to keep that act from view?
…Especially when that piece of flesh you see is less cleavage than the majority of women’s sports these days (Old Lady Sproat kicking in – get off my lawn!).
Honestly, would you eat your lunch in a public restroom? Then why are you asking my baby to?
“Honestly, would you eat your lunch in a public restroom? Then why are you asking my baby to?”
I think a testament to how uncontroversial breastfeeding should be comes from my nephews. I was nursing in the same room as them, and they asked me questions. “What are you doing Aunt Tori? Your baby eats from you instead of a bottle?” After a glossing over by saying “you know how when a dog has puppies they feed their baby dogs milk? Well, humans are mammals too and we can do the same thing! Some mommies put their milk in bottles and some mommies are lazy like me and don’t.”
Their response? “Oh. Neat.” And that was the end of it. I have never seen either of them uncomfortable or act as if I were pooping on the sofa (honestly, when a man approaches you and tells you to “take that to the bathroom” you’d think you were shitting on a table!).
If children can see breastfeeding in public for what it is – a way to feed your baby – then why can’t the rest of us?
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