Most new mothers fear nursing in public more than anything else. I did also. I feared showing too much skin, I feared having people confront me, and I feared making others uncomfortable. I covered myself with a nursing cover and was constantly checking on the baby to see that he was breathing and eating. It was the least natural experience. I tried to schedule all of my outings to be right after he nursed, or I would top him off before we left. No outing was more than 2 hours since I had to be home to feed him again. It was miserable. My husband was also paranoid about nursing in public. He was watch as I did it and if the cover slipped, he would position it back, even if it was my should that was visible.
Eventually I learned that using a cover wasn’t for us. My baby hated it, and it was a pain. I started dressing in layers or wearing nursing tops. I would sometimes use a blanket to cover while I latched my baby because that was the one chance someone had to get a nipple shot.
At the time by son was 5 or 6 months we were nursing in public pros. By the time he was a year I had nursed all over. Caves, planes, restaurants, parks, amusement parks, public functions, a duck boat, a paddle boat, etc…
Not once did a person tell me to cover up. Never did someone roll their eyes at me and “tisk tisk” at the obscene act I was committing. I was always, always prepared with my witty comebacks if someone asked me to put a blanket over my head or feed my baby in the bathroom. At times I would have an entire dialogue running, playing out the way I was going to make those people wish they had never confronted me. I almost wished someone would say something, just once, so I got a chance to use all of my comebacks I had been storing up for months! Fortunately, no one did.
I nursed in public for about 15 months until we weaned down enough to only nurse at home at night or for naps. But why didn’t anyone ever say anything to me? You read all of the time about women asked to leave restaurants and public buildings because they were nursing. And it isn’t geography. I have nursed in my own town plenty, but in other places. Rural and urban. Salisbury NC and Las Vegas NV. I have nursed in front of all classes, the uppers and the lowers and in between. Certainly someone should have said something. Maybe they wanted to…
I am a firm believer that confidence was the key to my success at nursing in public. I was stealthy, I learned how to get my baby latched and in position to keep the key parts away from public view. I never looked around nervously to see if anyone was watching, or skulked to a corner to feed my baby. In the company of friends I may have turned around to latch my son and returned, but not always. I looked like I was doing what I was supposed to be. There was never a doubt. I was feeding my son the way it was intended. He needed to eat. I had the food. How else was I supposed to feed him?
When I hear of nursing mothers who are so afraid to nurse in public they pack formula for trips or pump milk in advance, I get sad. I want to tell them all that they can do it! They too can nurse in the public eye without fear. And you know, if someone comes and says something to them, they can rip that person a new one. Not only is it the LAW that women can nurse their children in public, but it is the baby’s right to eat. In some states, there are even laws protecting mothers against persecution from obscenity laws or public nudity laws (NY State does) so if something is seen, it is still under the umbrella of breastfeeding, therefore it is not “nudity” or “obscene.”
I always urge women to educate themselves on their rights to be prepared. But if you look like you are feeding your baby in the most natural way possible, I have a feeling those naysayers might not want to pick a fight.