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breastfeeding

The Crazy Thing That Happened When I Breastfed in Public Without a Cover

breastfeeding in public

I am a big woman, and I nursed my second child in public without a cover for four and a half months. Amid all sorts of articles about hateful things being said to women feeding their children, I was prepared for the worst.

Being constantly topless in public was not my first choice, but the kid didn’t like the nursing cover. After making our whole family nuts spending weeks pumping eight times a day, and then six times a day, I wasn’t going to let some mere modesty stand between me and my meager milk supply. Part of the reason I became religious in the first place was to justify my extreme aversion to tank tops and bathing suits (I don’t have body issues! I am modest! It’s part of my religion!) so this was a bit of a change in my usual style.

I nursed him in playgrounds (I have a preschooler, so we spent a lot of time in playgrounds) and in restaurants and grocery stores and in pharmacies. I nursed him in the hallway at synagogue, where everyone else’s baby managed to eat under a nursing cover. I even breastfed at a picnic table outside a restaurant with a mostly-naked soaking wet preschooler eating a popsicle. No one said anything negative to me about it whatsoever. We instead got several strangers commenting on how lovely the mostly naked preschooler was.

When I breastfed him while pushing a stroller, and the baby periodically spat milk up all over my nipples, a kind woman stopped to reassure me it would get better, and a 20-something soccer playing dude laughed at the monologue I was delivering to the baby.

A construction worker climbed under a fence to retrieve my preschooler’s soccer ball while I nursed, and he was lovely and respectful to both my child and to me. It was like the magic nursing fairy was following me around, proving that many people are actually just really nice, even to embarrassed semi-nude women.

I also bottle-fed my baby, because I don’t make enough milk, even with pumping six or eight times a day. And no one said anything to me about that either, except for one entirely value-neutral comment—”Weren’t you just breastfeeding that baby?”—at a friend’s pre-wedding happy hour. I got a comment or two about bottle-feeding my first child, but for child two, nada. The bottle-feeding fairy was also in my corner.

At four and a half months, the kid decided he’d had enough of nursing in public. It was roughly 7,000 degrees out in the DC sun, and being held up to a warm body part filled with warm liquid—no thank you. He wanted to nurse inside, on a sofa, in the air conditioning. Actually, he wanted to drink cold pumped breastmilk out of a bottle, on a sofa, in the air conditioning. After three more months of nursing just in the mornings, he managed to wean me completely.

I somewhat regret all the time I spent attached to a breast pump instead of interacting with my family and friends during my second kid’s first months, but I am grateful to have been able to try and feed him from my body, grateful to the enormous amount of extra time and effort my husband expended so I could pump constantly, and grateful to my whole neighborhood for giving my public nudity a free pass. I feel truly blessed to have been able to choose how to feed my child with no public censure whatsoever. Well, that’s not true—the one exception was my preschooler, who near the end informed me, “The library doesn’t want to see your breasts, Mommy.”

I hope whatever crazy thing is going on in Northwest DC quickly spreads to the rest of the known universe. It’s possible, other neighborhoods. Step it up.


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