This entry is part of The Carnival of Breastfeeding. If you want to read more inspiring stories about breastfeeding in public, you can find links to other contributors at the end of this article. Enjoy reading my adventures in NIPing… and as I write this I am NAKing!
Imagine my shock when I look at my twitter feed and see a post about nursing in public that sounds exactly like the one I had been planning out in my head for weeks. Regret, ahhh, why didn’t I write it when I had the chance? Well, instead of the incredibly cool rip off of Green Eggs and Ham about the places I have nursed in public (here is the entry I am referring to- PHDinParenting) I will just say it flat out, with no whimsical rhymes.
I am incredibly proud of my skills at NIPing. I have been told by more than one person how good I am at it. One woman said I inspired her to NIP after she saw how I did it with such grace. Aww shucks. Another friend of mine gladly told me, “I have never once seen your nipple.” Gosh guys… you are going to make me blush. So there ya go, I have the skillz to pay the billz, and feed my son.
I still remember the first time I nursed in public. I was incredibly awkward at it. I was using a cover, trying to nurse at the mall on a bench. I had nursed in the mother’s room at Babies R Us before, but that was a horse of another color. My husband was even more nervous that I. He was constantly trying to make sure my breasts weren’t showing. He positioned the cover over me, looked around as if we were guilty of a crime, and kept asking me when I would be finished. I was very proud of myself for not going to a bathroom, where there were two hard chairs in a corner set aside for nursing mothers. This same bathroom has the Excelerator hand dryers that sounds like jet engines. Would you want to nurse next to a jet engine, or next to someone who is evacuating their bowels?
My NIPing took a while to get going. We didn’t exactly leave the house much when my son was very young. Sometimes, we went to a friend’s house. There, I would go to another room and use a cover, just in case. My husband;s boss walked in once while we were at his house. He didn’t even give me a second glance. I had taken my cover off, but I was wearing layers so nothing was visible. He talked to me like I was a human being, not a 3 headed monster. This was on Christmas Eve. I was feeling much better about NIPing.
Dec. 24 2008 Taken just after I had nursed my son. See unbuttoned sweater.
The breakthrough came when we all drove to North Carolina to visit family. We were still nervous about flying with the baby. Our game plan was to stop every 3-4 hours to change and feed the baby. Our first stop was at a very nice rest stop. I sat on a bench in the common area and, using my cover, nursed my son as truckers and families walked by. Not so bad. Next, we stopped for lunch at a McDonald’s. I was too uncomfortable to nurse in the car so I decided to do it inside. My husband wasn’t thrilled about that. I sat in a very crummy chair and nursed my son, with a cover, in front of children and families. It went downhill…. I ended up nursing in the car the rest of the way. Scrunched up and sore, but persevering. We made it to Charlotte, 15 hours later. I went upstairs in my in-law’s home and nursed him.
Things got better though. Throughout the trip, I gained more confidence. I start nursing without a cover at my in-law’s house. My Mother-in-law nursed her children, why should I be uncomfortable in the home I was staying at for over a week? Then, friends of ours came over. We grilled out, and I nursed my son coverless in front of them all. We carried on a conversation while I nursed! For the first time I felt like I was not left out in the cold. I didn’t have to be shut in a room to feed my son while the party went on without me. I was still too uncomfortable to nurse in front of immediate family, like my father and sister. But friends and strangers were no longer an issue. My triumphant moment came at Ikea. It was the grand opening. I went with my pal on the second day. I was carrying my son in his sling, having a grand time. Once it came time to nurse him we went to the cafeteria. I opened my nursing top and fed him proudly with no cover. He was fidgeting though, and popped off many times. A stranger came to try and help me! She also wanted to put the sling over him as a cover, which I refused. I knew he didn’t like covers, and I used to use them anyway. But no more! I kept feeding him. I remember a man walking by and smiling over at me. I hope it was a good smile; that he was happy to see a new mom nourishing her baby. I like to think so.
On our drive back I had a terrible time, however. We stopped at a rest area and my son needed to be fed. I took him in, not realizing it was just a bathroom. No common area. And not even a chair to sit in. I stood up and nursed my son while a revolving door of women came in and out. I wasn’t embarrassed, just sad to have to feed my son in the restroom while toilets were flushing and hand dryers blared. I vowed then to never, ever, nurse in a bathroom again.
Since that trip I have not used my cover. I have come up with ways to nurse discreetly. My dress for going out either incorporates a nursing top or, a nursing bra, an undershirt that can be pulled down, and a regular shirt to pull up. This hides my mommy tummy. Lately though, it has been hot. I have only worn one shirt, and decided to heck with not showing my tummy. My son covers most of it anyway.
Here are some of the more interesting places I have had to nurse my son.
In a park, while wearing rollerblades:
On a plane. On a later trip, I nursed next a a perfect stranger just so I could sit in first class (woo hoo upgrades!) Totally worth it.
In a cave in TX. I nursed close to the entire tour to keep him happy and quiet. I am out of focus… but you can tell, I am really IN a cave.
In an aviary at Bush Gardens (I even nursed him while we walked through the interactive area, with birds flying all around us)
Other cool places that aren’t pictured:
On the beach.
On the pier.
At an outdoor festival next to a homeless person.
On a train.
In the airport.
In the grocery store while in a sling.
In Marshall’s while in a sling.
In many, many restaurants.
Next to a waterfall.
At the Zoo.
At the aquarium.
In a speeding vehicle.
States I have nursed in so far: New York, North Carolina, Texas, Florida. (Illinois and D.C if you count layovers )
***Edited to add this hilarious story! ***
While we were in San Antonio we were using a different carseat than our usual. This one was a convertible. My son hated it and cried almost non stop while in it. On one drive (to the caves in which I am pictured above) he was screaming. I decided to try and breastfeed him while we were driving because my sanity could no longer take it and my heart was breaking. I pulled up my shirt, pulled out my boob, and inserted it him his mouth. Happy baby, uncomfortable mommy. We got off of the highway and stopped at a red light. I was still feeding my son, hunched over the car seat. I look to the right and see a man in a truck smiling directly at me. Then, it hit me that my boob is in my son’s mouth and he is smiling at me while this is happening. He can see me. If I pulled it out it would only be more visible so I turned away and hoped for a green light. Meanwhile I am telling my husband, who crawls up a little. His response, “What made you think people couldn’t see you?” Me: “Our windows are tinted” (we are in a rental.) Him: “Not they aren’t… you are wearing sunglasses.” Yeah, I am that dumb. But, at least I put a smile on that guy’s face!
I wouldn’t say I am a lactivist, but I am proud to feed my son, whenever and wherever it needs to be done. I am just sad I didn’t begin Nursing in Public sooner, I could have saved myself a lot of heartache. I have yet to hear a negative comment, although once in a restaurant the lady I was talking to promptly stopped conversing with me once I began to nurse my son. Other than that, the responses have been non existent or positive.