This week Erin gave us a free pass to talk about any breastfeeding topic, and link up any post, new or old. Given all the recent controversy again about public breastfeeding, I thought this post from the archives was appropriate. It’s still very close to my heart, especially as my son is now 17 months old, and people seem even more uncomfortable at the sight of him nursing.
I’m sitting at the park, writing this post in a spiral bound notebook. I sit at this same park three days a week, letting my seven and three year old play while my five year old has speech therapy in the school right next to the park.
Each time we come, the baby and I get comfortable on part of the playground equipment, letting him try to crawl around, chase his toys, and pull up on the stairs. And sometimes he nurses.
He nurses. It’s such a simple thing and seems so natural. Breastfeeding my baby while his siblings run and play and we all soak up the sunshine.
But every time we sit here and nurse, I feel the familiar tightening of my stomach. The fear that someone will see us as they go into the city pool next to us, or as they enter or leave the school, or that some other family will come and play on the playground.
Why should that be a fearful thing? Why indeed. It shouldn’t be. And yet here in the town I live in, in a state that is one of the worst in the country for breastfeeding statistics, it can be a fearful thing. Fear of the dirty looks. Fear of the stares. Fear of the comments. Because the sight of a woman breastfeeding her child is such a rare thing, people don’t know how to react. It makes them uncomfortable. Many of the women who do breastfeed in this area do not breastfeed in public. If they are out, they give a bottle of pumped milk or formula.
So this is my reality. I am committed to giving my son the best food possible – my milk, specially formatted for him, just as I gave all of his siblings. I am also committed to feeding him wherever and whenever he needs it, be that at this park, at a restaurant, at the zoo, at church, the soccer fields, or wherever else life happens to take us. I’m also committed to normalizing breastfeeding. I won’t hide myself away, because my children need to see that this is just part of life. It is like eating and drinking and breathing. And yes, I do want other people to see me breastfeeding. I want other children, young girls and young men, and old women and old men to see me breastfeeding, in the hopes that it will help them to see that it is a normal, natural thing.
But there is an aspect of fear. Despite my strong convictions and opinionated posts on this blog and Twitter, I really don’t like confrontation. I don’t want to stage a nurse-in, or start a letter writing campaign. I’m not looking for a fight. I want to feed my baby, and be as accepted as the mother feeding her baby a bottle. But the reality for myself and other breastfeeding moms in this area that do nurse in public, is that we are often faced with subtle disapproval, talked about negatively to others, or even directly asked not to breastfeed in certain situations and settings.
So where do I wish breastfeeding was more accepted? For me, I don’t have to look far. Here in this park. At the mall. In restaurants, in homes, and in churches.
What about you? Are there certain places you think mothers shouldn’t breastfeed? If you are a breastfeeding mom, do you feel apprehensive when you nurse in certain places? How do you handle it?
We love reading your thoughts, so please comment, and don’t forget to check out the other great posts linked below!