I have breastfed all of my children, typically in length from four months to two years. The last four were all around two years. Over the years I have encountered numerous reactions and opinions about my choice to breastfeed. I have always tried to be respectful of people around me while nursing, especially strangers, but definitely became more comfortable nursing everywhere during my 23-year nursing career. Hey, it’s a job- a full-time job. I mean, you are using your body to literally grow another person.
Over the years I became adept at nursing just about anywhere. Sitting on the toilet in a restaurant’s bathroom. I did that once, never again. Walking on a trail following my daughter’s preschool class on a hike. Playing the card game Hand and Foot while a colicky baby could only be soothed laying flat across the dining room table while nursing. In the middle of the wedding reception for the vow renewal on my 19th anniversary – yes, I was the bride. In the middle of the night on a marathon roadtrip home from Florida leaning over the car seat to nurse because I was determined not to stop and wake anyone else – no, I was not driving.
My daughter Phoebe was born in early November 1998. She was not quite a month old when my dear friend Donette and I went on our annual Christmas shopping day. It was one of those unseasonably warm, December Virginia days when the outside temperature reached a balmy 75. Seriously, I looked it up in the Old Farmer’s Almanac to make sure I wasn’t exaggerating. Someone forgot to give the memo to the mall management and the heat was on and it was uncomfortable and draining.
We were just about finished with our shopping when we entered Sears for one last thing. Donette was in line and I was looking for a comfortable chair to nurse baby Phoebe. I spotted it right behind the cashier. I raced to the chair with visions of needing to get there first before an elderly person beat me to it. I know, desperate and deranged. I settled myself down into my prize of a cushioned chair with metal arms to snuggle and nurse. Just as I was placing my light baby blanket over her head and she had attached and let-down had begun, the cashier turned to look at me.
Her mouth dropped open, she stuttered, she stammered and finally said, “You can’t do that here. I mean, are you feeding a baby under there?”
Resisting the urge to say, “No, we are playing hide and seek and the baby is it, ” I held my tongue and said, “Yes, I am nursing my baby. I am hot and tired, she’s hungry and this chair is great.”
“Oh, you can’t do that here. Um, um, you can go sit in the dressing room and nurse her,” she suggested hesitantly.
“Oh, no, I don’t want to go in the dressing room. I really like this chair. Plus she is already latched on.”
“Well, you can’t feed her here. We can carry the chair into the dressing room for you. But you can’t feed the baby out here in public, for everyone to see.”
Frustrated, I replied, “That is really kind of you to offer to take the chair for me, but I don’t want to go sit in the dressing room with the hot lights shining down on me. I am comfortable right here.” She stared. She looked panicked. She was frustrated.
“Well ma’am, you are not able to sit…” were the words she began to say as I interrupted her and said, “You know what, forget it. Just forget it. I will go out to the mall and find a hard, backless bench and finish nursing the baby. You know, out in the middle where everyone can see me.” I stood, baby still attached and covered, told Donette where to look for me and began to make my way out of the store.
The cashier must have noticed I spoke to Donette because when Donette reached her turn at the front, the cashier leaned in and whispered, “Was she going to cover?”
Puzzled, Donette answered, “She was already covered.”
“Yes, yes, I guess you are right. But can a woman do that? I mean is it legal?”
Without hesitation, Donette replied, “A baby has gotta eat, if a baby has gotta eat.”
I know nursing in public and the various ways women choose to express breastfeeding has been a hot-button topic for all of my 45 years and longer. But seriously, Donette’s response is priceless and simple. For me, the bottom line is if a baby needs to eat, feed it.
I love this Luv’s ad that supports breastfeeding. Click the link if you would like a giggle- I think it is hysterical!
I have done several of these nursing on the go as well! Gives me a chuckle. Thank you!!
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Woman can walk around haft dressed and that seems to be ok,, but people get insulted to see a mother feed her baby in public even if she is covered.
I agree with you 100%!!!
My favorite nursing experiences were with Ben at 30,000ft. He ate at altitude in my seat at least three times on different flights we took visiting folks and moving from CA to VA.
Love it Mary!
I have also nursed 9 children, currently nursing #9 21 month old son. I also will do it anytime, anywhere and have had just a few odd experiences but mostly positive. I really am still in awe that people make such a big deal out of it. Just shows how upside down and confused our society is!
Robin, I agree!
nursed 8 children myself so yes I have had several of the same experiences. I thought I’d get out of wic class by saying I nursed 8……they had me teach it and answer any Q. lol
Too funny! Yes with experience seems to bring responsibilities. I am sure the women were blessed by your teaching!
Same age here…tandem nursing my 7th and 8th. I have always nursed wherever, whenever…no one has EVER had the nerve to tell me not to do it. But if they did I would not let them sway me from feeding my hungry child. One time a friends hubby suggested I feed my oldest in the restaurant bathroom. I told him if he would take his food in and eat with us I would! That let him know how gross that is and unsanitary. In fact, food and bathroom is a health code violation.
You are absolutely right about the bathroom. I was in there maybe 3 minutes and thought, this is crazy!!
You and I have had similar “motherhoods” it seems. I also have a 23-year span from my eldest to my youngest, but I squeezed in a tenth child. It has been so entertaining/frustrating to see the evolution of the breastfeeding issue. Sometimes one wonders where common sense has gone.
It does make you wonder where common sense has gone. I think people forget that breasts actually produce milk and serve a function besides just intimacy. I actually have a 21 year age span, 4-25, but nursed for 23 years. Congratulations on your number ten!
OH I’m so glad to have found your blog! I love it! Your family is beautiful and I really needed to be reminded of the fulltime job thing.Most the time I LOVE breastfeeding but the last couple of days have been a bit draining because of other things going on…thank you for the uplift!
I am so glad it was uplifting to you! So often we forget the hard work we are doing! Hang in there and remember what a wonderful job you are doing! It matters!
I’m glad you are sharing the normalcy of mothering. I love living in northern va because the women here don’t let other women get bullied by people being anti breastfeeding. If they do, within a week there will be a nursing in with 100’s of breastfeeding moms at the complaining establishment and not all of them will be covered. It’s happened at the Smithsonian, police dept, and a couple other places. :o) A baby has got to eat!
Fern, thanks for the encouraging words. A nurse in is a wonderful and powerful thing!
And remember a few years ago when Victoria’s Secret refused to let that lady nurse her baby? I think she was even in a dressing room! Can’t remember. Anyway, the headlines read: “Victoria Secret likes the breast, just not breastFEEDING!” Seriously, boobs are are babies! Lol…
I agree Katie, while breast can bring pleasure for everyone involved in intimacy, they are for breastfeeding. If a person can’t or chooses not too then that is their choice but it doesn’t change the milk we produce to feed out babies
I had my share of comments and usually from family ( in my own home no less). My comment is always ” get your mind out of the gutter. God made them for feeding the baby not for men to look at. There is nothing dirty or wrong with feeding the baby and if you did not try so hard to see something you would have nothing to complain about.” ( I was covered but that was not good enough )
Good for you Heather! I think society is definitely making breastfeeding a thing about sex and women’s breast exposed, it is a baby eating! Boggles my mind.
I’m 43 and expecting baby #10 at the end of May. I’ve nursed all of my babies but with my first…I was once “shamed” into nursing in a bathroom of a restaurant where there were only two stalls and a sink. No chair. So I slumped down against the wall, sat on the floor, and nursed my 7 day old baby. I was 23 and because of my own insecurity I let my mothers best friend shame me into feeding my baby on the floor in a dirty bathroom by saying, “Don’t you want to go into the bathroom to do that, dear?” when I began to cover up with a receiving blanket intending to breast feed at the table. I looked at my mom for some guidance but she just nodded her head in agreement. I will never forget that day and how it made me feel as a new mother. I still hate that memory, but never again did I ever feed a baby of mine in a dirty bathroom. It felt wrong because it IS wrong!
I am sorry you had that bathroom experience but completely understand how it happened. Good for you that you found your voice in breastfeeding. It took me awhile to find mine and I hope other new moms will now not have to experience shaming techniques by others when they nurse.
I loved reading the places you have nursed over the years! AND I thoroughly appreciate that you called it a career, because it definitely is! 🙂
My son’s pediatrician’s office has a sign next the sign in desk that says “If you have a newborn and need to breatfeed him/her, please let one of the staff know and we will find a room for you right away.” How is that supportive to breastfeeding mothers?! First of all, are ONLY newborns the ones getting breastfed these days? Makes me feel weird that I’m still going strong with my 19 month old. :/ And I though Breast was Best…if so, why do women get sent for a “time-out” to nurse their babies while formula-fed babies sit right there in the waiting room, being fed as natural as can be? 🙄 Sorry, touchy subject… 😉
Valerie, I have nursed in some crazy places! I just don’t understand a pediatricians office sequestering a mother nursing to her own room. Especially just for infants. Maybe next time your 19 month old needs nursed, breastfeeding in the lobby and if the staff says something, say, “well the sign said only infants and he needed to nurse. ” 🙂
Haha! That’s a good idea. 😉
Pediatrician are the worst advocates of breastfeeding. The sabotage with constant weight checks and well baby checks. Moms need to stay home, nurse 24/7 for those first six weeks. I homebirth and don’t even leave my room for 2 weeks. My job is to nourish, love and nurture our baby into his/her new life.
Laura, it is funny as I wrote this post I laughed at myself taking my one month old to the mall. I too typically stay home the first few weeks and really go hardly anywhere the first six weeks.
Just found this and enjoyed all the places and circumstances you described! I nursed my first less than 2 weeks (bad experience and worse advice) and my last almost 6 months. I thought I was the only one to try leaning over the car seat during a long drive–not something I’d recommend! Never really got comfortable nursing in public, but I respect those who do. It’s crazy how this issue can stir people up :\