A few months ago I was sitting at a diner in Central Florida when I saw a woman trying to calm down her newborn baby. They were in a booth at the corner of a restaurant basically secluded from the general public. I could see it in the mother’s eyes. The frustration. The baby was definitely rooting around. He was hungry and she looked scared as crap to do anything about it.
After the cry hit, I saw her scrambling to grab a blanket as she booked it to the door. I wanted so badly to stop her. In fact, my husband saw me eyeing the mama and blurted “don’t,” as he laughed at me. He knew my opinion on the situation. He knew I wanted to run over there and cheer her on. It would have made my day to scream “Feed him mama, screw the judgment and dirty looks. You’re doing what’s best for your child”
Side note: No, I’m not one of those crazy people who pushes careless breastfeeding in public. And when I say careless, I mean the women who literally pull out their boobies, nipple and all, and just let em hang free for children and men to stare at. But hey- if that’s you, do you boo boo- it’s just not for me. However, I don’t think us nursing mama’s should have to go hide in our car or a nasty public restroom to feed.
It Felt Like Just Yesterday
When I myself was sitting at a restaurant with my new babe, just trying to enjoy my warm eggs and crispy bacon, because HELLO you don’t get that at home with a newborn, when bam.. it hit. The hunger cues, the fidgeting with my shirt, the rooting around. It was feeding time.
There was PLENTY of times in the beginning when I would stop what I was doing, mid-chew, cover my food with a napkin, grab the diaper bag and the baby and jolt to my car to feed. All while leaving my husband there to eat alone and watch my food die.
Why was I so concerned with other people’s opinion on me feeding my baby boy? Who gives a flying F what these strangers think of me. I wasn’t put on this world to please them and God sure didn’t give me these lovely milking breasts to be embarrassed about.
I spent plenty of feeding times in a dirty restroom, toilets flushing, the gross smells. I felt defeated and disgusted. It wasn’t fair. We as grown adults don’t eat in the restroom, so why should my helpless child have to? Is it really gonna hurt somebody for me to pull out my nursing cover and breastfeed my child in public?
It took me a few months to build up the courage but I finally said screw it and started nursing (covered up) in public. If no one can actually see the nip, then what’s the big deal with me breastfeeding my little one while I enjoy my food?
I mean, come on people. It’s time to get on board with the 21st century. Stop confusing mom’s on when and where she can nurse her baby. (The answer to that is ANYWHERE and ANYTIME she pleases.)
Look at Hollywood. There are women who walk around in public with see-through shirts, sexualizing their bodies. Kim Kardashian, a very rich and famous woman gets paid to share nude photos on Instagram. INSTAGRAM! An app that people of all ages use. Is she discriminated against? Is she publicly shamed? No. She’s famous for it.
But heaven forbid, a mother trying to nourish her child in public and all hell breaks loose.
One time, we were eating somewhere and I had Beckham completely covered up, you couldn’t see a thing. But yet this older woman sat there and glared at me. She wanted me to feel dehumanized. She wanted me to be ashamed. Instead of getting emotional and shouting a few choice words to her, I simply smiled and continued to feed my baby. It felt so liberating.
Women Have a Right to Breastfeed in Public
Fortunately, for nursing mothers, the law is on the side of a breastfeeding mother when nursing in public. At the federal government level, Public Law 106-58, Section 647 states: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a Federal building or on Federal property, if the woman and her child are otherwise authorized to be present at the location.”
Laws vary by state and most states have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. You can find up-to-date information about the breastfeeding laws in your state at the National Conference of State Legislatures: Breastfeeding Laws
Women need to know that they have a right to breastfeed in public. You don’t have to make it a show, but do what’s comfortable for you. If you’re fine with nursing in public, go for it. If you’re uncomfortable, but still willing to give it a try, find ways that will make you more at ease. There are a number of blankets, front carriers, and other accessories available to shield you. Find what works best for you and stick with it.
You Can Help Normalize Breastfeeding Again
As a passerby…
- When you see a breastfeeding mother, offer a smile, a thumbs up, or some words of encouragement; remember that staring might make her uncomfortable.
- If seeing breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable, look the other way.
- Some people are concerned about children seeing babies breastfeed. If your child sees a baby at the breast and asks you about it, simply say, “That mommy is feeding her baby.” Children generally don’t need or want a long explanation when a short one will suffice.
As a mother…
- Practice at home in front of a mirror or a supportive person before you go out! This will help you gain the confidence you need to feed your baby when you are away from home.
- Find support. If you’re nervous the first few times you go out, take an encouraging friend. Talk to your partner about your commitment to breastfeeding and how to help you in public.
- Know your rights. It may be helpful to carry a copy of your state’s breastfeeding laws to help educate anyone who questions you about nursing in public.
- Support other mothers. One way to normalize breastfeeding in public is to stop buying into the idea that mothers are in competition with each other. Instead of criticizing a woman for “having her breasts out,” realize that she is just trying to feed her baby, who otherwise could be screaming. Public breastfeeding isn’t meant to “show off” breastfeeding skills; it’s simply the reality of daily life and nourishment for your baby.
Have Confidence and Enjoy It
From a mother to a mother, have confidence and enjoy yourself. Nursing your baby is one of the best things you can do. Be proud of what you’re doing and enjoy the nursing experience. You’ll be on to the next phase before you know it.
Share your breastfeeding journey with me, I’d love to feature you on the Smother Mother. Just fill out the form below: