Saturday, August 7, 2010

wrapping up World Breastfeeding Week by nursing with confidence

Painting by Katie M. Berggren.

Today brings an end to World Breastfeeding Week 2010. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk with one new nursing mother, congratulate her on the arrival of a beautiful baby girl and give her some information and suggestions for breastfeeding in public, something she was very nervous about.

Many new mothers fear nursing in public more than anything else about motherhood. I know I did. I was afraid of flashing someone, of showing too much skin or breast or tummy, of making others uncomfortable, of someone confronting me. I could never get the hang of using a nursing cover. I could not see what I was doing, could not check position and latch. Plus, the cover constantly slipped down or bunched up. It was more distracting to those around me when I used the cover than when I nursed without one. Instead, I opted to dress in layers or wear nursing tops that strategically covered my breasts and stomach. By a few months, I was a pro at nursing in public.

I have been breastfeeding for seven years now. I have nursed everywhere, from airplanes to buses, from the beach to amusement parks, from restaurants to museums. Not once has anyone told me to cover up while I was nursing in public. In my seven years of breastfeeding, I have never been hassled for nursing in public. I got an eye roll then narrow from an older woman once in a mall food court, but that has been the extent of negative experience, though I was always prepared with some witty comeback if someone asked me to put a blanket over my baby's head or feed my baby in the bathroom.

There are articles everywhere of women being harassed for nursing in public, of those mothers who are told they cannot nurse here or there, who are forced out of restaurants and out of parks. You read all of the time about women asked to leave restaurants and public buildings because they were nursing. But why didn't anyone say anything about nursing in public to me?

What is my key to success? Confidence. I learned how to latch and position my baby quickly and smoothly without revealing much skin to nearby onlookers. I did not appear nervous or intentionally attempt to hide what I was doing. I instead, I looked like I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. I was feeding my child the way Mother Nature intended. I made eye contact with those around me. I smiled and looked at my nursing child. I continued in conversation with my family and friends.

One thing that helped my confidence, almost above all else, was that the law in the United States is on the side of breastfeeding mothers. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, 44 states have laws with language specifically allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location. On their Breastfeeding Laws page, they have a running list of state and federal laws in regards to breastfeeding. Another wonderful resource, from Mothering Magazine, is the map, Breastfeeding In Public: Are You Protected? I urge all breastfeeding mothers to know the law and educate themselves on their right to breastfeed. In a confrontation, many problems may be avoided if the mother is knowledgeable on legislation for the protection of breastfeeding in her state. With the government behind her, those who criticize will be more likely to lay off.

And I leave you with this wonderful story of a nursing in public escapade as told by The Poor Husband, I Used to Hate Camping on his blog Life with Rachael.

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