The other day I went grocery shopping with my youngest, my 9 month old. After filling my cart with groceries, we were waiting to check out when I heard the two women behind me in line start talking about how adorable my son was. Soon after, he started getting fussy and without a second thought I picked him up, latched him on, and held him in my arms while he nursed.
Almost immediately, I heard the two women behind me start debating with each other over whether I was really nursing him (!) or if he was just falling asleep in my arms. It wasn’t a “OMGoodness how dare she do that in public!” type of debate, just a friendly back and forth of wondering if I could possibly be nursing him. I smiled, listening to them go back and forth. I swear I saw some skin when she first picked him up. No, you’re wrong, he is clearly just sleeping.
The debate abruptly ended when I starting loading my groceries onto the belt while still nursing him; both ladies decided that he must have been just sleeping, because there is no way someone could nurse a baby and load her groceries onto the belt at the same time.
It was an interesting experience for sure, but it of course got me thinking about how our culture perceives breastfeeding, specifically breastfeeding in public. And although these two women were not hostile about the possibility of me nursing in public, many nursing women have experienced humiliation, hostility, and plain old disapproval while nursing in public.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a culture where it didn’t matter if my son was nursing or sleeping, because neither was a big deal? Because both of those acts were perceived as perfectly normal behavior for a baby and his mother?
I was grocery shopping. My baby wanted to nurse, so I nursed him. I’m his mother, it’s what I do. Just because I was surrounded by people who might not understand, approve of, or agree with my actions did not stop me from meeting my child’s needs.
I nurse everywhere. In fact, I even have a small collection of photographs of me nursing my babies in “unusual” places: the top of a Ferris Wheel; at the Basketball Hall of Fame. And by nursing in public, not only am I meeting my child’s needs, but I’m normalizing breasfeeding simply by doing it then and there.
Because wouldn’t it be nice if my daughters nursed their babies in public and no one batted an eye?
I’m interested in hearing your experiences with breastfeeding in public. What kind of feedback did you get, if any? What is the most unusual place you have nursed your baby in?