I am now breastfeeding my fifth child and have been breastfeeding for 10 years straight. There are not many places that I have not breastfed- if I am there- chances are I have breastfed there. I used to be very concerned about breastfeeding in public lest someone see something. Now, I unabashedly “whip it out” when someone needs some milky.
What changed? With more children comes the need to do more things. It wouldn’t have been fair to make my older kids stay home or leave somewhere early so the little ones could have their milky. This means I either had to pump or get comfortable with breastfeeding out and about. As the number of children increases the amount of stuff needed also increases, exponentially. Adding another thing—like a bottle would not help my odds for a successful outing.
Breastfeeding seemed to be the easiest thing to do in these circumstances. But why not use a cover? Do you like eating with a blanket on your head? It is often hot here, and a cover seems to be stifling. A lot of babies do not like to be covered and getting a baby to latch under a cover and stay under the cover can be like herding cats. Additionally, a cover would be one more thing to remember to bring. It is hard enough to remember all of the kids! One of the things I enjoy most about breastfeeding is looking into my baby’s eyes- that locked eye contact is just amazing.
I am not opposed to covers if a mother and baby desire them but I absolutely reject the idea that it is necessary. Breastfeeding is not sexual. Breastfeeding is eating. Breastfeeding is also not like urinating or defecating in public. Breast milk is not excrement. Breast milk is amazing food for human babies.
When I was getting comfortable breastfeeding in public it was helpful to be with a group of moms (all the better if they were breastfeeding too) like a safety in numbers thing. I also usually am wearing my nurslings, and often a carrier hides what I am doing. Really, more skin is showing on expressway billboards.
Breastfeeding, without shame, in public is important. The more often it happens the more people will realize that it is normal and more parents will feel empowered. It makes me sad that some moms are receiving negative comments and/or being harassed. In Illinois, breastfeeding is protected, but standing up for yourself when caught off guard can be hard. I am always so impressed when mothers, stand up for their and their baby’s rights.
Where have I breastfed in churches, in synagogues, in restaurants, at weddings, at funerals, at the pool, at the park, at a barn, in the woods, at the zoo. Seriously, with 5 kids, breastfeeding in public is almost a necessary skill. In the style of Green Eggs and Ham I have nursed in the park, in the dark, in a chair, sitting on a stair. I have nursed everywhere.
Elizabeth Handler is a mom of 5 fantastic children, she successfully breastfed them all (sometimes two at a time) even though they were all preemies. Elizabeth’s main job is to minimize the chaos that comes with a big family. Elizabeth and her family live in Chicago’s western suburbs with a small zoo of animals. She also teaches pole dancing for fitness and blogs at http://happytogetherish.blogspot.com/