As I anticipate life as a new breastfeeding mom who is not willing to become a shut-in to give her baby the nutrition she needs, I have started arming myself with information so that I can be better equipped and more confident when nursing in public. As I know this is a common struggle for many breastfeeding moms, I thought I would share with you what has helped and is continuing to help me.
- KNOWLEDGE — The more you know about breastfeeding, the more you know you are making the right decision for you and your baby. For me, this meant utilizing the following resources, which I highly recommend:
- Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding
- The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
- Attend a breastfeeding class, and if you have one, attend with your partner. It’s one thing to read about breastfeeding, and quite another to cradle a baby doll up against your breast, tummy to tummy, and practice different holds, or to apply lipstick and see how much further a balloon (aka booby) gets into your mouth when you point the “nipple” toward your nose versus the middle of your mouth. Hands on practice and application! Our class was offered through a local doula group.
- Attend a local La Leche League meeting. I haven’t yet, but I am planning on it. In addition to providing support for you before or after your baby arrives, I have also heard this is a great, nonthreatening environment for you to practice early nursing in public.
- Get support from your partner, if you have one. This ties in to having them attend a breastfeeding class with you. The more he or she knows about breastfeeding, the more you can be supported through your journey. This can come in the form of helpful advice or in the form of standing up for your right to nurse your baby.
- Ask for help from a local LLL leader, lactation consultant (I’d recommend checking to see if they have actually breastfed themselves!), or a private consultant — for example, because we took a breastfeeding class through a local doula group, we are now able to consult with them on-site for free. In-home consultations are also now offered at a lowered rate.
- Consider hiring a labor and/or postpartum doula. Among MANY other benefits, they can help you get breastfeeding established after birth and answer any questions that may come up while they are with you during the weeks to follow. We have hired a labor doula (more about that later) and will likely hire a postpartum doula as well.
- NORMALIZE — Normalize breastfeeding in your own mind! I know for me, even though I support breastfeeding whenever, wherever, and however long you need to, I too am influenced by the sexualization of breasts in our society. But the more I read breastfeeding blogs and see photos of other moms breastfeeding, the more normal breastfeeding becomes to me and the less fear I have about it.
- TOOLS — In my opinion, your best tools to “arm” yourself against potential criticism while nursing in public is knowing more about the laws protecting breastfeeding in your state. A while back I wrote about this, and shared with you how to get your laminated, state-specific law cards from Nursing Freedom. (Side note: that site rocks! And check out their blog and Facebook page!) I ordered five, gave a few out to some of my breastfeeding friends, and popped one in our diaper bag to keep with me.
And here’s another idea: Check out the Ramblings of an Acrophile blog, where yesterday I read (thanks to the Nursing Freedom Facebook page, as a matter of fact) her post on a pamphlet she created to keep with her and to hand out to naysayers while nursing in public. Very kindly, she has not copyrighted this text, and has even asked that those interested take it, tweak it, and keep it for themselves. I imagine this could be a great tool if someone says something to you while you are nursing in public. Unless they get too feisty, simply smile, reach in your diaper bag, hand them your home-created pamphlet, and tell them to “have a nice day!” Here’s my version:
Georgia State Law Protects Breastfeeding!
Ga. Code Ann. § 31-1-9 (Lexis 2009) provides that the breastfeeding of a baby is an important and basic act of nurture which should be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health. A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location where the mother and baby are otherwise authorized to be.
What do you want your children to learn about the purpose of the human breast?
The breast is sexualized in the media and in society, and most of us accept that. If these displays of breasts are accepted by society, should the breast’s primary natural function — to feed our babies — deserve less respect? Think about what you want your children to learn about respect for the female body and the act of feeding a baby.
Please don’t be scared by mothers and babies nursing in public!
There are two basic rules: Don’t stare, and don’t distract the baby. You can make eye contact with most mamas, smile, and say “hello”. We will not slap you if your eye wanders down. That is natural. As long as you have the common decency not to let it linger there, most mamas will not mind. Just don’t stare, and there is usually no issue. We nursing mamas want you to relax around us. There’s nothing to be scared of. We’re just feeding our babies.
Thank you for your understanding.
Most of us are happy to educate. Don’t be afraid to ask a question.
What about you? Do you have any questions? Have I left any glaring holes — things that have helped YOU while nursing in public that I just haven’t thought about? Oh, here’s one — how about teaming up? I imagine it would be a lot easier to go out with a new mama friend and breastfeed wherever you need to together, or make friends with other breastfeeding mamas on the playground, than to go it alone if you are nervous at first.
I hope these tips help you! They sure are helping me.