Nursing in Public -- Why do Women Do it?
For five beautiful, wonderful months, I was a nursing mother. For circumstances beyond my control, I had to give up nursing when my daughter reached her five month birthday, but I wish I could have gone on forever. I am a very active person, and my family almost never sits at home for more than a few hours on the weekends. We're always out and about, and we have fun doing it. I didn't touch a breast pump until I had to stop nursing.
This clearly means that I was "one of those women" who nursed in public. My mother hated it. My sister hated it. My father was mutually morbidly fascinated and repulsed. Strangers stared. Some glowered. Every now and again there was that sweet moment when I would share a smile with another mother who knew exactly what it meant to have the courage and strength to lift my shirt, undo my bra, and pop my baby on. In K-Mart.
I have three daughters, only one of whom I nursed for more than a couple of weeks. I didn't honestly want to nurse my older girls. From the perspective of a mother who had success only once, I want to tell you this is something every woman should experience.
Breastfeeding, in particular nursing, is liberating. Other than pregnancy and birth, I can think of no one thing that is more essentially female than clutching a baby to the breast while he or she suckles. It's glorifying and it is gratifying, and I love it .
Do Nursing Mom's Really Need an Audience?
Listen, this isn't about showing off. It isn't about exercising our rights (though for some women that is a nice side-effect). No, this is about feeding our babies . Nursing moms aren't seeking out the best possible audience for our feeding sessions. We don't wait until five minutes before baby gets hungry to go to the store to do our shopping.
Women who nurse in public are almost invariably dedicated mothers who simply don't care what you think about them. Some of us have lifted our shirt in the back seat of a car and leaned over our baby's car seat in order to offer the breast when our child has needed to eat. A few women have slipped off to the car to nurse when their baby is hungry because they don't want to offend somebody.
Nursing moms aren't trying to offend you. They are trying to do what is natural, and feed their babies.
Can't You Go Into the Bathroom to do That?
I never thought I would ever hear someone say this to me. Then my sister did. Of all people, my sister. I have never been the most discreet of nursers. I don't see the reason to be. My habit has been to wear loose pullover shirts and to pull the shirt down over my daughter's head (she can breathe, don't worry!) and to allow her to nurse. I was able to feel by her suckling what was going on when I couldn't see her, and the time it took to latch her on was seconds. Unless someone happened to be staring in my direction, they weren't likely to see a lot of skin anyway.
So what is this about the bathroom?
Well, the bathroom is a place where people go to relieve their bowels and their bladders. Bathrooms are often not clean and sanitary and there are peculiar odors which are associated with a bathroom. I don't know about you, but I would never dream of "nipping off to the bathroom for a snack."
The very thought of eating in the bathroom makes me gag. If I'm not going to do it myself, I'm not going to make my baby do it. Don't even suggest it!
Breastfeeding is a Human Right
Women have a right to breastfeed their children. The child has a right to the best nutrition provided for the child: breastmilk. No woman should be forced to express breastmilk or to stay in the house at all times if she has chosen to breastfeed. Just as you expect her to respect your rights, please respect yours.
Do you have a "right" to not have to see "that?" To have your children not see "that?" I believe that you do (though laws might indicate otherwise!). If you feel offended, you honestly don't have to look. Most women choose to cover the baby when they are nusing (and therefore their breast as well) and you aren't likely to see anything that you don't want to see.
Additionally, this is a natural human process and children don't look upon it as being sexual or "disgusting." It is simply the way that some mommies feed their babies. Many children ask "does it come in chocolate?"
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A Personal Story about Nursing in Public
My husband and I are huge fans of dining out. We both enjoy the dining experience and I'm not the best cook in the world. For a long time it worked out for us (because we were able to afford it). Our daughter went with us, because she was still on the breast and I couldn't imagine leaving her behind in order to go out for a meal with my husband.
One Wednesday night when she was about three months old, we went to Olive Garden. I noticed, as she began to fuss, that there were several men watching what I did as I popped her on the breast and threw a blanket over my shoulder (nobody complained). She and my breast were hidden as I nursed, and it was a happy time. I was able to relax, she was happy, and we could eat without her fussing about being hungry. Nursing and eating at the same time is an art form, let me tell you!
Our waitress, who we had known for quite some time, came over to the table and saw what I was doing. In spite of my knowledge of the laws of our state, I tend to be nervous of being asked to leave (because we would, regardless of laws). I wasn't sure what she would do, as we had never encountered this situation at Olive Garden before.
The waitress said "Can I peek?" and pulled the blanket back to see the baby nursing! I was comfortable with this, and clearly, she was also comfortable with the fact that I was nursing my child in the middle of the restaurant.
It isn't disgusting. Nursing is a beautiful thing, and, like the waitress, I'm a looker. I love watching women nurse their children as nature intended, and it gives me a warm feeling inside. If you ever see someone staring, it could be that they are just soaking in the beauty of a mother nursing her little one.
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