I wrote this post as part of the June Carnival of Breastfeeding. You can read other great posts that discuss nursing in public by following the links at the end of the post.
Given the challenges we had establishing our breastfeeding relationship, no one was more surprised than me when I nursed Reid sitting in the front seat of the car in a parking lot when she was just days old. I hadn’t planned it but Reid was hungry and we were away from the house and so I nursed her. I can’t imagine having had to listen to her cry while we drove home before I could breastfeed her. I was so glad that I had what she needed, when she needed it. This is one of the best reasons to breastfeed, at home or in public – giving your children what they need, when they need it.
When Reid was 3 months old, we took flew to see my mom and siblings. I’d read that nursing on take-off and landing would help my baby. I hadn’t planned on the business men on either side of me but I decided they’d rather see a happy baby and (possibly) a bit of my skin than an unhappy baby and my total modesty. In the end, I doubt they saw any of my skin as I’d worn a great nursing t-shirt and Reid was a business-like nursling. When we were leaving the plane, people in adjacent rows were surprised to see my tiny girl. I smiled serenely, as all mamas do when people say their babies are great, and was glad that we were a breastfeeding pair. We took advantage many times of the “kids uner 2 fly free” offers of airlines and have flown a few more times since; each time Reid had the comfort of nursing when she needed it.
Once Reid could no longer fly at no additional cost, we took to the rails to visit my mom and siblings. Since extended nursing isn’t common, despite the World Health Organization and Canadian Association of Pediatricians’ recommendations of nursing to 2 years and beyond, I wasn’t sure what would be the reaction of our fellow travellers. But then I remembered that lesson I learned in that parking lot – give Reid what she needed, when she needed it. The only particular memory of nursing on a train that I have is holding a 3-year-old Reid while she nursed herself to sleep for a much-needed nap. The bunched-up coat that I’d been using to support the arm that was holding her head fell into the aisle. I’m quite sure that the twenty-something man who put the coat back had no idea that Reid was breastfeeding. Or maybe he did know and didn’t care and was just helping out a mom and her little one.
Reid started daycare when she was 11 ½ months old. She nursed just before Ken took her to daycare and then as soon as she came home. If I picked her up, we went straight to the car and she nursed. I was happy to reconnect with her as she was with me and relieved that my seat reclined. Occasionally, I’d have to explain the toe prints that I’d leave on the windshield but that was never a problem. Of course we nursed in parking lots on long trips – or short ones that coincided with hunger – and our car became our nursing room away from home.
Shortly after I returned to work, I had to work a lot of overtime and Ken would bring Reid to me so that I could nurse her before bed. I was pumping during the day but wasn’t willing to give up seeing my baby for so many hours at a stretch. At one point, a colleague knocked on my office door and I told her that she could come in but that I was breastfeeding. She stood in the doorway awkwardly, asked her question, and said something about me doing that “mothering thing.” I thought it was sad that she felt discomfort at being in the presence of something that should be considered normal but I liked that she equated breastfeeding and mothering.
Reid and I were never skilled at nursing with a covering blanket but as she got big enough, I told Reid that I wanted privacy for the parts of my body that were covered by my bathing suit and she needed to help me keep me covered. It was much easier to keep covered when Reid was an infant or a pre-schooler than when she was an acrobatic toddler but I never put the sensibilities of passers-by ahead of the needs of my child for nourishment or comfort. I used nursing rooms in malls, stores and museums – in Ottawa, we have many options and most are quite comfortable but some think a straight-backed chair in a glorified closet is acceptable – but also breastfed on benches in mall corridors, restaurants or wherever we were when the need arose.
One cold February day, Reid nursed while I sat on a bench along 5th Avenue in New York City and on a sunny March day at Coronado Island in San Diego. Whenever I nursed in public in the United States, I was a little worried since I’d heard of more women being confronted but I decided that I’d rely on my hyper-polite Canadianness if anything was ever said. Happily no one ever said anything.
For the most part, I tried to live up to Health Canada’s “Anywhere, Anytime” public service announcements. I’ve never checked against the Seuss-inspired poem but we have nursed in most places that we’ve ever been.
Wander over and hear what some other women have to say about nursing in public:
Lucy & Ethel Have a Baby: Nursing In Public (Boobs) Out and Proud
Chronicles of A Nursing Mom: Why Worry About NIP?
PhD in Parenting: Would You, Could You Nurse in Public?
Dirty Diaper Laundry: Breastfeeding in Public Talent – I Haz It
Kim through the Looking Glass: Here? At the Restaurant?
GrudgeMom: Nursing in a Room Full of People You Know
MumUnplugged: Aww, Is He Sleeping?
Massachusetts Friends of Midwives: Nursing in Public: Chinatown, the Subway, the Vatican, and More
Mother Mary’s Soapbox: Breastfeeding My Newborn in Public
Tiny Grass: Nursing in Public as an Immigrant
Breastfeeding 1-2-3: To Cover or Not to Cover
Mommy News and Views: Tips for Nursing in Public
Stork Stories: Little Old Men…& Nursing in PublicWarm Hearts Happy Family: Breastfeeding and the Summertime
BabyREADY: A wee NIP in the park!!
Mama Knows Breast: Products That Can Help You Breastfeed in Public
Breastfeeding Moms Unite: Nursing in Public: A Fresh Perspective on Nurse-Ins
Never A Dull Moment: Breastfeeding Hats? Yes! Covers? Not So Much….
Breastfeeding Mums Blog: Nursing in Public –What’s A Breastfeeding Mother to Do?
Hobo Mama: Easy, Discreet Way to Breastfeed A Toddler in Public