My daughter was glued to my boob from day one. She nursed every hour for the first several weeks of her life, and every two hours for the first year. Though we tried to get her to drink my milk from a bottle so other people could feed her, she would scream like we were forcing slugs into her mouth, except worse, because I imagine babies might actually like slugs. So after awhile we gave up and I decided to EBF (exclusively breastfeed), meaning I found myself in some pretty awkward public situations when baby had to nurse.
For those of you who don’t EBF or don’t have kids, finding a place to nurse in public is kind of like hunting for a bathroom when you’re two steps away from pooping your pants: each passing second holds the potential for disaster. In no particular order, here are the 10 weirdest places I’ve breastfed my daughter.
1. At A Benefit Dinner
Even though this gala was to benefit the Doula Foundation of Mid-America, my daughter was only one of two babies present at the event. Everyone else at the masquerade-themed dinner was dressed in formal garb and getting schwastey on overpriced wine. I had a glass of wine myself, and maybe that’s what gave me the courage to open the milk factory in an event hall packed with a number of people that was surely breaking fire code laws.
(photo: CIO Event)
2. Poolside at Windermere
Baptists fear boobs almost as much as they fear God. That’s why I kind of felt like a rebel when I whipped out the teat poolside at the Baptist-affiliated camp where my family holds its annual family reunion. I did use a towel to shade baby’s eyes from the sun, but there was something so refreshing about having skin-to-skin contact with my little one out in the summer daylight.
3. At A Bar, In A Bathroom Stall
Bathroom stalls are kind of a staple of public nursing, but what made this one different was the ambiance. We were hanging out at my husband’s restaurant, Old Chicago, late-ish with some friends. Old Chicago transforms from a family joint into a bar in the course of a few hours. We were there during that transition, so there was a pretty constant ebb and flow of clickety, stumbly heels in and out of the bathroom. There’s nothing weirder than nursing your sleepy baby in the crossfire of drunken lady talk. Except, maybe…
4. In a Suitcase
Okay, I was actually leaning over a suitcase, I wasn’t actually inside it. But baby was. Lest you think I’m some sick bastard, no, I didn’t zip it up. I was using the suitcase as a makeshift bassinet while I was staying at my sister’s house. Because nursing was the only way to get my 6-month-old baby to sleep, well, I hovered over the thing for quite some time.
What’s weirder than a vegetarian mom attending Wingapalooza? A vegetarian mom breastfeeding her baby at a Wingapalooza! I took baby to this huge, chaotic event last year to hang out with my husband, who was running the booth for his restaurant. About an hour in, my daughter got that look in her eye. I rigged a sort of fortress behind a table of steaming wings, guarding my boobs from onlookers with the stroller and my husband’s sweatshirt draped over my shoulder. I think people were too busy wolfing down chickens to notice.
6. Bumblefuck, Illinois
I was riding up to Chicago with my sister and her boyfriend, and when baby woke up after a couple hours, they hospitably told me to go ahead and nurse her. Well, stupid carseat laws, they hadn’t realized we’d have to pull over to fill up the babytank. So we took an off-ramp that had maybe seen two other cars in the last decade, and baby nursed away while we sat with windows down. There were no noises. It was like outer space. Aside — when traveling with a nursing baby, add about seven hours to your ETA.
7. Fairgrounds for a Springfield Garage Sale
I’m not sure what compelled me to strap my daughter into a carrier and brave a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of angry bargain hunters, but I did. It took me a half hour to get admitted at the door and squeeze through the people to start perusing the booths, and once I was fully submerged my daughter decided this whole thing was kind of lame and she’d rather just have some boob. Horrified, and knowing it would take me an hour to find a bathroom, I retraced my steps back outside (sloooooowly, because people don’t care if your baby is crying in a crowd) and walked all the way back to my car, which was parked somewhere across the Atlantic ocean. When we started nursing in the backseat, I realized maybe I needed to get some air, too, so it actually worked out well.
(photo: Jamie Pflug)
8. Floor of a church bathroom
My husband, daughter and I were attending a class on money management that took place at a huge church here in Springfield. Though baby slept through most of these classes (she’s clearly not a Dave Ramsey fan), there was one occasion when I had to whisk her off to nurse. The comfiest and cleanest place I have ever nursed in public was the bathroom floor of that church. They must shell out the big ones for some kind of five-star cleaning service. So THAT’S where the tithe money goes!
9. Table at Panera during lunch rush
This occasion holds a special place in my heart because it was the first time I nursed my daughter in public without some kind of blanket draped over me. My husband and I were both exhausted from new parenthood, and we were enjoying our little lunch break at Panera. Baby got fussy, I sighed and said we’d better go, but Shaun suggested just nursing her there. I fumbled around and put her on my boob, blushing to high heaven. I fixed my eyes on the cars outside the window instead of the people rushing around me. Because if I can’t see them, they can’t see me, right?
10. Parking Garage In Downtown Chicago
During the aforementioned trip to see my sister (this trip was just a mess of breastfeeding craziness, apparently), I rode with her into downtown Chicago to see her office. She had to work that day, so the plan was for me to drive her car back out of the city and she’d take the train home. When we parted ways at her office and I made it back to the parking garage, my heart stopped. My sister had the keys. I called her, she said she could meet me back there in under a half hour, but my little nursling wouldn’t wait that long. So I stood against the wall of the parking garage, hoisted baby up like a guitar, and breastfed her like some kind of urban warrior.
(photo: Mike Seliske)