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!