I’m a great advocate of the right to breastfeed in public places and get extremely annoyed with people who express their ‘distaste’ at the idea. How ludicrous to deny babies the right to eat outside the house, when it’s fine for everyone else? Nevertheless, with my first daughter it was something I found difficult, so I tended to avoid it if I could.
After my second daughter, A, was born, the issue of breastfeeding away from home didn’t arise for some time. Most of our trips were short, and when they did extend beyond a couple of hours, they were usually to the homes of friends or family where I was perfectly comfortable feeding. On a trip to John Lewis, however, where I ended up sitting in the foul-smelling ‘breastfeeding area’ (right next to the ‘changing area’), rather than the cafe — where I had previously got so stressed my let-down reflex refused to kick in — I decided I really had to sort this issue out.
Although I had taken the first step of realising I had a problem, I made no real effort to confront my fears, and continued to avoid breastfeeding away from home as much as I feasibly could. It’s impossible to predict the appetite of a small baby all the time, however, and when I was walking through a wet field several miles from home, the inevitable happened.
The day had started with pretty miserable weather, but by lunchtime the clouds had cleared and we set out on a 2 hour walk through the countryside confident that we wouldn’t get rained on. I had put A in a Baby Bjorn carrier, and as usual, she went to sleep the minute she was ouside. Just as we had reached the point where we were as far away from the house as we could possibly get, A woke up and started to grizzle. This was something that happened from time to time when we were out, and I carried on walking, thinking that she would just go back to sleep as she normally did.
Unfortunately, she didn’t nod off again. Instead she started to howl furiously, in the way she might if she was hungry. Despite the fact that she had been fed just before we left the house, the intervening hour had been enough to work up a hearty appetite again, and it was pretty clear that I was going to have to find a way of getting some milk down her.
This was easier said than done. I looked around for somewhere to perch, and could see nothing but mud and wet grass. How on earth was I going to get A out of the carrier and successfully latched on whilst standing up, and what was I going to do with the carrier? Then I looked down and noticed that A’s mouth was at roughly the same level as my nipple. I had previously complained about the lack of a vomit/drool barrier between A’s mouth and my chest when using this carrier (as opposed to my previous Chicco one), but now I realised this could be an advantage. After a bit of grappling with the numerous layers I was wearing, I managed to expose enough nipple for A to take into her mouth (which she did, quickly). The whole manouveure was significantly more discreet than it sounds, as most of it was shielded from view by the carrier’s head rest.
I didn’t fancy spending the next twenty minutes standing in the middle of a field (other walkers had nodded politely as they passed, but probably wondered what on earth I was doing), so I took a few tentative steps whilst trying to keep A attached. Providing I did it slowly, walking didn’t seem to disrupt her, and I managed to reach a more plausible resting spot.
I’m now quite happy to take A out in the carrier, knowing I can feed her pretty easily if I need to. Interestingly, the confidence I’ve developed through doing this has automatically extended to other situations, and I recently managed to nurse A through an entire wedding breakfast. Psychologically this was quite an achievement for me, as I knew some of the guests weren’t keen on breastfeeding (‘I was bottle fed and it didn’t do me any harm’ etc.), and I had been dreading the prospect of constantly heading to the loo with a hungry baby. In the end, I just stayed at the table and got on with it. I can’t say the experience was wonderful, but that was mainly because I was sitting on a less than comfortable chair and had to negotiate the meal one-handed. Perhaps not surprisingly, breastfeeding in the John Lewis cafe holds no fear for me now.
November 5, 2011 at 4:34 pm
I also had a hard time breastfeeding in public. Like you said, it mostly psychological for me as well. I couldn’t help but think everyone was looking at me with disapproval written all over their faces. In the end, I usually opted to go sit in my car with my daughter. I hated missing out, but it was the only way I could really relax.
January 8, 2012 at 8:16 pm
I agree that feeding outside the home is not disgusting, as it is perceived by many people, but I, like you in the beginning, prefer to do it in the house. The problem I’m having is that my son J likes to let go. I don’t think he has a problem latching on, but the milk comes out too quickly at the beginning of the feed, so he lets go, and milk sprays everywhere. It’s hard because I do not hide my breastfeeding when people come over, but its getting more an more difficult to be discreet as he’s getting bigger (5 months now) and doesn’t like being covered with a blanket anymore. I usually prepare with a breast pad to stop the spray of milk and cover the breast, but I’m wondering if there’s something I’m doing wrong. I never had this problem with first son.
January 9, 2012 at 7:32 pm
I doubt you are doing anything wrong! This situation sounds very familiar to me – both my daughters went through stages of doing this, although it was more common with C. You should probably hold on to the fact that he may grow out of it any day…
February 16, 2012 at 12:08 am
Because I am so tired lately (my son Henry is 4 months old) I feed him whenever he’s hungry, almost wherever I am. Relaxation is so far from my mind. I have fed him on the grass at the park, in restaurants, with my inlaws… I don’t even cover him up anymore. We are completely exposed and I am starting not to care. My friend from Africa was sitting with me while I was breastfeeding and remarked how Africans breastfeed on the bus, on the street corner, everywhere. So natural. And so what I’m doing.
Good luck to all with your breastfeeding endeavors. 🙂
February 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm
I nursed both of my babies “commando-style”: either in a carrier or in my arms, while walking to the bus stop, through a museum or mall, across an island, around the neighborhood. I’ve also nursed both of them in my arms while helping to lead worship at our church. I didn’t plan any of this, it just happened. My son nursed so frequently that if I’d stopped every time he needed to nurse, we’d never have done anything else, so I just got used to it. It helped that my mother was a La Leche League leader when I was young, so breastfeeding always seemed normal to me.
Congratulations on your new-found freedom in nursing!
September 4, 2012 at 9:56 pm
I really don’t like breastfeeding in public, partly from my own sense of modesty, which makes it hard for me to relax as much as I need to to nurse knowing I am not fully clothed. But the other reason is that breastfeeding is hard, and hard work, for me, and I try to use breastfeeding as me-time, as an excuse to get out of other demands (like the two older children, or cooking dinner).
March 10, 2016 at 9:28 am
It really does uncomfortable breastfeeding in public.But it is necessary for the sake baby when they cry for milk.So women have forcibly to do that process.Where as in India women are comfortable in doing so at rural places like villages.As people from the modern city that is the scenario.My advice would be that who are feeling uncomfortable for public breast feeding should carry a milk bottle whenever they take their baby out.That would solve both baby and mother’s problem.