I remember it so clearly. We were out for lunch with our new little family of four. My youngest was maybe 4 weeks old, and we were sitting in a booth at a Mexican restaurant. He got hungry. He started to fuss.
Now, if this had happened 3 years earlier with his brother, I would have whipped out a bottle of my pumped milk and stuck it in his mouth. Eight weeks of pain, 4 lactation consultants, millions of tears and probably a touch of the baby blues had me quitting early and pumping for a year. There was never a question of nursing in public… I could barely nurse at home!
But this day was different. This time, nursing was working. I had paid for an amazing IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) to help me, I had attended La Leche League meetings, and I had worked REALLY hard to make this nursing thing work. So, I carefully opened my shirt, pulled down my bra, looked around to see that nobody was watching (which, of course, they weren’t!) and got him latched. Miracle of miracles, he ate, I ate, he fell asleep, I cried from joy (literally, there were tears!), I finished my lunch, and we left. My first time nursing in public. In the two years since that time, I have nursed in coffeeshops, department stores, parks, pools, mountains, beaches, museums, libraries, and truck stops.
Here’s the thing. Many women don’t breastfeed because they don’t see other women doing it. They have no idea how EASY it is, once you get the hang of it. They’re afraid of making others uncomfortable because of the press we see everyday about women getting harassed for nursing in public.
I’ve never been harassed, but I’ve also never been in the news to tell anyone about it.
Nobody has nurse-ins because a woman got help from store clerk when they were breastfeeding, but women get help every day from friendly people. Nobody protests when a breastfeeding mom gets nods of encouragement from other moms, but it happens all the time. And nobody posts on their Facebook page that they just saw a mom nursing her baby and she looked so beautiful and peaceful. Until this happens, new moms are going to keep thinking that nursing in public is a fringe activity, it leads to trouble, and it is definitely not the absolutely most natural and nurturing thing a mom can do for her baby.
Breastfeed, Chicago! is a chance for us to change the conversation about breastfeeding in our city. In just 24 hours, we had over 400 nursing or formerly nursing moms join the group and express their excitement that something was happening. What is so cool is that we are so different. Some of us are hippies, and some of us are corporate consultants, some of us are white, and some of us are brown, some of us have breastfed for 3 weeks, and some of us have breastfed 8 kids for 14 years. Our commonality is that we think that breastfeeding is awesome and we want to help more people do it.
Thank you for joining us. We’re going to make Chicago the most breastfeeding-friendly city in the country. We are going to create the breastfeeding culture of this city, a couple boobs at a time.
Organize a group of moms to nurse in public, write an entry for our blog, share with your friends, talk to local businesses about becoming breastfeeding-friendly… or just read a couple of posts once in a while and take care of your precious kiddos.
Katrina Pavlik is a breastfeeding mom, a postpartum doula, a lactation specialist, a teacher, the founder of Cloth Diaper Chicago, and the founder of Breastfeed, Chicago!