It’s Totally Okay To Feel Uncomfortable Breastfeeding In Public
I think by now it’s pretty clear that Mommyish as a whole is pretty “pro-boobies anywhere” when it comes to keeping your kid fed, and I’ll gladly add my voice to that position. You should be able to feed in public comfortably and without stares and without people harassing you. I’d also like to add something else to that conversation, and that’s that if you don’t like breastfeeding in public or feel uncomfortable doing it at the DMV or doctor’s office or in an Olive Garden, that’s okay too. I know I certainly hated it.
I can’t really put my finger on why. It’s not that it felt dirty or immodest or shameful or rude. I certainly didn’t feel weird when other people were doing it. To me it just felt, well, private. Even at home with my husband I tended to excuse myself to the bedroom, not because he or I would have ever minded, but because I needed the quiet space to get it done.
On the rare occasions that I breastfed in public, I was never harassed, and for that I feel extremely grateful. In fact, I was complimented for my efforts on two occasions, and while I know it sounds whiny, I’ll say it anyway; those two positive comments made me want to crawl into a hole. They made an already uncomfortable situation unbearable.
The first was at college. I was waiting for my husband to get out of class, didn’t have a bottle on me, and the hallway was empty, so we got down to business. Right as I was smooshing my mams into prime latching shape, a fellow student passed, did a double take, and smiled widely. “Hells, yeah. Good for you, Mama!”
Okay. One, I hate being called something that isn’t my name, unless it’s food related. My husband calls me mustard. It’s awesome. Two, I was glad for the support but felt like she was misreading me. I wasn’t fighting the power. I just wanted to feed my baby alone. Still I smiled back at her and fist bumped her when she came close.
The second time we were out with my inlaws at a country restaurant with bathrooms so dirty I swear I saw a single herpe climbing the walls, so out came my boobs, as inconspicuously as possible under a pink flannel blanket.
An elderly couple across from us came over to thank me for being brave enough to breastfeed in public, telling me no one had the right to bother me and letting me know that I was doing the best possible thing for my baby.
I turned extremely red because for one thing, I definitely wasn’t brave enough to feed in public. It was the less terrifying of two options at that particular time. For another, we basically supplemented with breastmilk. My child ate formula most often, so I felt like a hypocrite and a coward.
I immediately tensed up, my daughter could sense it, and she started screaming and thrashing, so of course the cover came ripping off. I remember feeling kind of embarrassed, and then a little angry, and then like a douche for feeling angry because they were just trying to be nice. Again I smiled and thanked them and they went on their way.
Now that I’m done breastfeeding, I think I finally get it. When I see a mom out in public trying to juggle a baby and a cover and a diaper bag I immediately want to support them. To give them a knowing smile or a thumbs up or really anything to let them know it’s okay.
The only thing that keeps me from doing that is remembering how awkward it felt when it was me.
One day, breastfeeding women will be invisible in the best possible way, I hope. It’ll be like tying your shoes or reading a book or any of those other innocuous things that you see people do in public. It’s only because so many women are shamed out of doing it that both of those women felt I needed their support. Once that stops, it won’t be any more remarkable than feeding your baby crackers or a bottle.
Until then, though, it’s completely okay if you feel a little weird doing it. I will try my best to not make you feel weirder.