When Nursing in Public Isn’t the Problem.

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 husband and I found out we were expecting our first child, he asked me “are you going to breastfeed?” I’m sure I looked at him like he had three heads as I told him “Of course! That’s what boobs are for!” I knew nothing about breastfeeding, had never seen it done, and knew no one who had ever nursed a child, but I was steadfast that it was the natural and right thing to do.

Someone gave me a copy of Dr. Sears The Breastfeeding Book at my baby shower, and I read it cover to cover. I practically memorized it. Before my son arrived I knew all there was to know about positioning, latch, supply issues, engorgement, and how to tell if my baby was getting enough milk. I loved that book. Gryphon latched on and was nursing within fifteen minutes of his birth. I never had issues with soreness or nipple cracking, and only experienced engorgement and plugged ducts after going back to work and trying to use a sub par pump. We rocked our nursing relationship!

I was never shy about nursing in public, either. I’d nurse in the mall, at the park, or at a drive in movie. When he was hungry, he ate! I could go out to dinner and nurse at the table and people wouldn’t even realize what he was doing. I nursed in a sling, and with him under my shirt. I nursed in cars with blankets in the window (to keep the sun out of his face, not to keep people from looking in.) “Sometimes” I would use a cover, but only if the top I was wearing exposed my belly. My husband was incredibly supportive of our breastfeeding relationship, and though he enjoyed giving a bottle of expressed milk he never pressured me to wean. The only public place I couldn’t nurse comfortably was in front of my in-laws.

Believe me, I know how odd it sounds. I could (and did) nurse my child in front of total strangers without a second thought. At the in-laws, I wasn’t comfortable feeding my own child in the same room as everyone else. Looking back on it now, I think it’s because it was obvious from the very beginning that they were uncomfortable with my nursing in front of them. As soon as baby Gryph started his hungry fussing I was ushered upstairs, to be alone. I’d perch on the edge of a hard twin sized bed in a hot cramped room so that I could have “privacy.” Even at my own home when they visited I felt the need to cover up or excuse myself to a different room to keep them from feeling uncomfortable. It made ME uncomfortable because THEY were so uncomfortable with it! Gryph weaned earlier than I’d like, and part of the reason was the lack of breastfeeding support. I was being pressured by my mother in law to use formula, to get him on solids, so that she could bond with him. Though my intention was to nurse for a full year, after six months I gave in.

When my daughter arrived 20 months or so after my son, I was determined to do things differently. She nursed exclusively for six months before we even begun solids, and was my first co-sleeping baby. The fact that I nursed my daughter AT NIGHT in MY BED was another reason that my nursing relationship wasn’t supported. Zoe needed me to sleep, and therefore could not spend the night at Grammy’s … therefore breastfeeding is bad. I got better about not leaving the room in my own house when they were visiting, and managed to spend some time with the rest of the family at their house by nursing downstairs wrapped in a huge quilt, but oftentimes felt like an outcast. Once Zoe was a year old, there were numerous comments to the effect of “is she STILL nursing?” and “When are you going to wean that baby?” Zoe nursed for the last time at almost 15 months old, and I was satisfied.

When our last child, Drake, made his appearance I didn’t care what anyone thought any more. I found it silly that something so natural as breastfeeding seemed to creep them out. I fed my child wherever I was, with no cover, without care for who was there or what they thought. I have photos in which I am nursing Drake and my mother in law has airbrushed a shirt on me. I thought it ridiculous and told her so. This is MY child, and this is how he eats. As a funny side note, my husband just reminded me that when I’d start to nurse Drake in my in-laws living room the area would magically vacate. Suddenly everyone had somewhere else to be, or made a very pointed demonstration of “not looking.” I chuckled inside…you’d think after three children they’d have learned to deal with it. Drake is now three, and STILL nursing (gasp!) I’ve been told how concerned she is that he still has breast milk, and how I’m somehow damaging my child. Pfft. He’s the healthiest of all my kids, and I’ll nurse him until he’s ready to wean himself.

The husband and I are trying for baby four at the moment. Will I breastfeed? Darn tootin’. Will I leave my living room to do so? Not a chance. If I can’t convince my own family that breastfeeding is natural, normal and healthy then how am I going to convince a total stranger?

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


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. JoEllen
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 16:24:36

    i found myself feeling more comfortable nursing around strangers too! my MIL is very passive-aggressive and i think it mostly annoyed her that i didn’t listen to her suggestions on the appropriate age for weaning, etc. way to go mama!


  2. Kathleen
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 17:46:01

    Wow, every time I read about nasty in laws I feel so lucky. My MIL was the most supportive person in my life with the breastfeeding. I nursed my daughter for 26 months when I had to make the tough decision to ask her to wean so I could take a test that would be harmful to her. I know that friends thought it was odd to nurse so long but I explained to them all the benefits and how I would never be able to get that time back and believe I opened some others eyes to extended bfing. Good for you for fighting through without all the support!


  3. Our Sentiments
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 19:03:32

    I have the same IL’s are we married with brothers LOL. AND I still nurse my 3 year old too! What a wonderful similarity!


  4. Tina
    Jul 07, 2010 @ 20:59:24

    Thank you so much for this. My in-laws make a dramatic scene to avoid looking at me when I feed our son. My MIL is the worst…the kicker? She BFed 6 kids (to a decreasing extent each child). She’s SO uncomfortable with me BFing that she makes me uncomfortable. How is it that I can NIP with no cover, and yet in my own living room I cover up and feel ashamed?!?


  5. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama
    Jul 08, 2010 @ 00:00:24

    I think a few of our writers have felt the least supported by family members. It is wonderful, though, that there are so many networks in place to support breastfeeding mamas – from LLL to online forums – we need to work to give every breastfeeding mother the support system she deserves and needs!


  6. Pshouseblog
    Jul 08, 2010 @ 16:59:13

    Oh! SPOT ON Mama! You areso so right. I have the same.exact.problem a d have never fought it like I have “strangers” just b/c it hurts more really. Thanks for writing this- I’m reading it in my bedroom
    nursing ’cause I have a friend over and she’s made numerous comments about OHTEHBOOBIES.


  7. fertilityflower
    Jul 08, 2010 @ 17:09:20

    Yup, I agree with Dionna. Family members, particularly in-laws, are sometimes the most prickly.

    #4 will be a breeze (but you may never see your in-laws again until the baby’s completely weaned 🙂


  8. Trackback: Tweets that mention When Nursing in Public Isn’t the Problem. « I am the Crunchy Pagan Parent! -- Topsy.com
  9. Melodie
    Jul 08, 2010 @ 19:23:47

    My Grandma was a horrible non-supporter of my breastfeeding. When my girls were two she even said to them “Oh you’re too old for that. When are you going to stop?” and told me she thought it was disgusting. Needless to say I stopped taking them to visit when they were still nursing, which means she missed out on a lot of visits from us.


  10. Audra
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 18:24:16

    You go mama! My in-laws are too far away to be around more than once a year so we don’t have an issue there. My mom never breastfed but is incredibly supportive of me… most of the time. she doesn’t mind NIP either. She does, however, keep making comments about how my kids need to have sleepovers at her house. I’m not ready. My oldest (21 months) isn’t ready either. He weaned at 15 months due to no milk during pregnancy (and causing me contractions), but he’s still not ready to stay over at the grandparents house. Mom will bring it up several times a day when we’re visiting. It gets old. It took a complete freak-out by my son at night when we stayed last that grandma AND daddy couldn’t stop – he wanted his mama. She realized he’s not ready yet. Now that we have a 7 week old, it’s starting again….


  11. Sheila
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 10:05:26

    I don’t have any children, but I support your right to feed yours—naturally—anywhere you choose. If men were the mommies, you can bet your booties this wouldn’t be an issue. Good luck with the crusade!


  12. Rachael
    Jul 21, 2010 @ 13:47:13

    I’m with you – I can totally nurse in public, but find it very awkward and uncomfortable to nurse at my In-laws. They’ve never said anything, so I think it is more me, I don’t know. I just feel uncomfortable, especially around my FIL. (He also makes comments sometimes that are … er… sexual… so I think that is a big part of it).

    Anyhow, you go mama!


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