I just fed him 45 minutes ago. He's not hungry, but he grabs at my shirt, his chubby hand trying to find his food source beneath the summer tank top. I try to ignore it and keep talking to my friend, bouncing my son on my hip as a distraction. No, he won't be deterred. He dives his head down and and face plants atop my covered breast. Ok, clearly he is going to nurse whether I like it or not. I am faced with a choice: to hide or not to hide.
Prior to having a baby, I was a very private, modest woman. I mean, I would never dare be naked in public. I only had female gynecologists. I was uncomfortable with nudity. And then I had a baby. I felt as if one million people saw all there was to see with the number of doctors and nurses that came in and out of the room, doing invasive tests and checks. I'm being overly dramatic, but the mystery was certainly over.
I went through a struggle with breastfeeding in the beginning, so I went to doctors and lactation consultants who asked me to take out my breast so they could "see how he latched." At first, I would go into another room if we had people over and I was attempting to breastfeed. But soon I felt that I would miss entire dinners or conversations because baby was nursing on and off so frequently. I tried covers, but his little arm skillfully swung any covering away from his face so that he and my engorged chest were right there on display.
Little by little, as the months crept on, I forgot my breasts were bare. I mean, I could be walking around the house for hours with my bra flipped up and not even notice. First I felt comfortable nursing in front of a few people, and then the group grew until I really didn't care at all. I was feeding my child. Women all over the world feed their children and it's not a public offense.
All these examples happened in my home or someone's home. I had yet to nurse in public. Until I was trying to eat dinner with my husband one day. We had not gone out to a restaurant in months and here we were and the baby needed eat. At first I looked for somewhere to sit, nowhere available. I took him to the bathroom, but there were no seats other than the dirty toilets. It was winter, so I did not want to take him outside to the cold car. I was nervous. I heard stories about women being shamed in public or asked to leave restaurants. I was starving and wanted to spend time with my husband. So, I sat back down, laid the baby on my lap, lifted my shirt high enough so he could latch, and began eating my salad as my son sucked away joyfully. Two birds, one breast, I thought.I scanned the room and no one even noticed. Since then, I have done this countless times and have only had support from servers and women. Knowing glances from moms, keep me encouraged. My baby finds nourishment, comfort and bonding from these outrageous, water balloon-like blobs that are making my back ache. Why should I be ashamed? Why should I be embarrassed? It's hard being a mom. It's hard breastfeeding. It's hard feeling good about your body. It's hard going out in public for all the aforementioned.
I hope that all you Moms know that you are amazing. Happy Breastfeeding Week!
Below is a link from the World Health Org. on the benefits of breastfeeding: