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May 23 2011

I Don’t Just Whip it Out

By at 2:26 pm

Nursing at Target.

Cara’s post got me thinking: I hope that one day nursing will be so universally accepted that no baby will ever need to eat in a bathroom.

For me, it took a while to get the hang of nursing in public, let’s be honest; it took me a while to get the hang of nursing, PERIOD. Fumbling with a screaming baby didn’t exactly make me feel at ease at home–let alone in front of others. I was mortified to be using a nipple shield (what is that gadget? she can’t just feed her baby like a normal person?) and everything about nursing felt forced and awkward. I brought bottles of pumped milk wherever we went and let myself get engorged, while missing out on yet another bonding moment with my newborn. In retrospect–what was I thinking?

And then we settled into a rhythm and ditched the shield and I remember crystal clear one afternoon when he was 4 months old, he fell asleep nursing in bed and just before I dozed off I thought to myself, “THIS! This makes it all worth it. My perfect nursing moment.” And then his first tooth came in, and more teeth and biting, and acrobatics, and now popping off to talk to me (most often saying, “Da-dee?” or some random animal noise) and now nursing is intertwined with how we exist together.

We moved when my son was still a newborn so I nursed him as our little family explored our new city. The beautiful part is that my first memories of so many of the places we frequent, involve nursing. I remember nursing in the Target parking lot. I fed him in a booth at Panera, at my doctor’s office and at brunch with friends. Almost every place we go has a spot where I nursed my tiny son. I nursed him on a park bench while on a walk with friends. This is my favorite memory because a college co-ed type guy walked over and showed us his dog. He said hello and looked me right in the eyes. He didn’t shy away; he didn’t pull his dog by the leash to avoid the crazy woman nursing her child in the middle of a public park. He smiled and waited until my friend’s toddler was done petting his dog, said goodbye and walked on as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. I wanted to hug him.

I’ve always been discreet about nursing. We use a cover; I turn away or try to find a private booth in the corner of the restaurant. Not because I am embarrassed, I just don’t want to be made uncomfortable by stares or dirty looks just as much as I don’t want to make others uncomfortable. As my son gets older, I do find myself being more self conscious about nursing in public. He will not tolerate a cover so when he asks to nurse I try to distract him until we can get somewhere more private. It’s fairly easy for me to be discreet as I can mostly cover my breast with my shirt so I’m not sure what my hang-up is. I nursed him on a plane a few months ago and I contemplated lying about his age to the person next to me–because for some reason it’s acceptable for an 11-month-old to still be nursing but not a 15-month-old.

The other day I had to run into Target for a few things. My son was a cranky mess and by the time we walked in, he was having none of it. I carried him in a front pack while he fussed and waved his little hand around in front of my face pumping his fist to show me the sign for “baby milk” (as if I didn’t already know what he wanted). I really needed to grab a few things, so I unbuttoned the top of my shirt and nursed him while I shopped. He nursed happily with his head resting on my chest and while I was a little paranoid that people could see this insane woman walking around Target nursing her kid, also felt empowered. I was meeting his needs and still getting done what I needed to do.  I even snapped a picture of us so that I can have two memories of Target. Nursing my infant in the parking lot and now calming that same baby-turned-toddler while I grabbed a new toothbrush and a pack of Clorox bathroom wipes.


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