I will take this moment to apologize if I offend anyone. But I won't apologize for what I have to say.
Nursing in public. It's a funny thing. I realized recently that nursing babies would be fed more in public if boobs weren't involved. Seems simple. But we humans make things SO complicated sometimes.
A few weeks ago I was at the mall with my newborn in a ring sling. And wouldn't you know it, the little bugger got hungry before I was done. So, I nursed him. In the carrier. Right there at the mall while browsing the 75% off rack hoping to score a shirt for the husband. I do wish that it was as simple as that, but it wasn't in this particular story.
Sadly, I didn't find a shirt. And even more sad, I ended up leaving the store with a crying, frustrated baby and we got stared at the whole way out--no, my boob wasn't hanging out. I had checked. But the whole nursing in the carrier thing just wasn't working for him at that moment and I was too distracted with the 75% off shirts and my hands were too occupied holding the shopping bags for me to get it all worked out with him. So, we went and nursed in the car.
Yes, there were chairs just outside the store and I had been tempted by them when I'd passed them 15 minutes earlier. But I was done with the mall by that point. I was tired and I always experience culture shock when I go to the mall.
I nurse in public regularly and it is usually much more successful than the above example. Just this last week while on our road trip we nursed at Nordstrom, the pumpkin patch, the Woodburn Factory Stores, Pendelton Woollen Mills, the rest area picnic table, Cabela's, the restaurant we ate at on the way home, and probably several more I'm forgetting.
What irritates me about this subject is how militant some people are about it. As much as I've nursed in public, I've never had anyone make a negative comment (that I've heard). No, I'm not always the most graceful about it and sometimes I'm probably the frumpiest, most unprepared person around. But with a few failed attempts such as my mall excursion, we are generally pretty successful. And I would like to think that I don't get a bunch of negative comments because people generally don't realize I'm nursing a baby until they are down the road.
Recently I read a post by some guy who worked in a restaurant. He was ranting about how this woman, who he did say had every right to nurse her baby, just flopped her boob right there on the table. My blood boiled for several reasons. First, I'm pretty sure he was exaggerating. Second, I know there are moms out there who are militant nursers and take things a little too far. I'm not saying this woman did, but I know that some do.
I refuse to nurse in the bathroom. Absolutely refuse. I don't like to go in those in the first place, so why would I want to go there to nurse my baby? I nearly ran over a woman nursing in a restroom once, on a chair in the corner where the door kept hitting her. I told her that upstairs there were some nice, quiet chairs if she wanted to be more comfortable. But as far as I know, she would have rather sat there getting hit by a bathroom door than find a nice, quiet chair.
My goal when I nurse in public is to be discreet. I don't use a nursing cover or a blanket. Both of those things are irritating and frankly, one more thing I need to remember. I am horrible at remembering extra things. Plus, they draw more attention to the fact that there's a baby nursing than I think I want. But I DO practice nursing at home like I'd like to nurse in public.
If we want moms to nurse their babies exclusively, we also need to teach them to nurse in public. No, there aren't "proper" ways to nurse in public, but there are tricks to make a mama more comfortable doing it. We can teach them about nursing in carriers and about stretchy camis and nursing tanks to cover what they don't want to expose. And it needs to be okay with the public to nurse in public. The public isn't ready for boobs flopped on the table. But I do believe they are ready for, "Hey, is that lady nursing her baby?? Wow! She's good!"
It goes along with the whole picture. When I had my first baby I attended le Leche League meetings regularly. In our local area there was a mom who was asked to leave a public swimming pool because she was nursing her baby. The local le Leche League leaders went in and talked to the pool managers and the lifeguard involved. Turns out, the lifeguard was a teenage girl who thought she was just following procedure. To her, this mom was exposing herself. But when the local leaders left, the pool had amended their policy to make it more nursing friendly. The lifeguard expressed that she hadn't known all the stuff these leaders had lovingly expressed and that she was going to nurse any children she might have. To me, that was an encounter that could have been really ugly. But in the end, everyone was better off.
I realized that this example might be a little contrary to what I'm trying to prove. If the lady at the pool had been nursing more discreetly, maybe the lifeguard wouldn't have noticed her and the whole thing would not have happened. But, I'm also not sure how on earth anyone would nurse discreetly while wearing a swim suit. Nobody involved was militant or pushy or offensive and it ended well for everyone. That's my point.
Even with my extended family I have always sat and nursed in their presence. In the beginning there was an occasional person who left the room, but I didn't find it offensive and nobody has left the room in years. They just got used to it and now it's normal.
That's what we need to do on a bigger level. Get people used to it by just sitting down and doing it. But we don't need to make a big scene about it and call attention to ourselves. I am an activist of sorts I guess. But, I'm not going to chain myself to a booth at a restaurant or a bench at the mall and nurse my baby with my boobs hanging out. But I'm also not going to go nurse in the bathroom or in my car. I will sit and quietly nurse when my baby needs to. Or I will nurse in the carrier. Nobody needs to see my boobs for me to nurse my baby. And like I said, I want people to do a double take of sorts.
"Is she nursing that baby? Wow! She's good!"
After four kids, ten moves and nearly two decades, we are still blissfully in love (most of the time) and I found myself back in the state I was born and raised in. It has definitely been a journey. In fact, on our 18th anniversary we pulled the last of our stuff up over the pass and into Montana, leaving our surprise love, Idaho, behind. But Montana is a great place. The last best place according to some. And we fully intend to explore as much of it as we can! Join us on our continued adventure through life, love and other stuff that comes with it.