Except for the bathroom… or a closet. I would never nurse my child in those places. It’s unfortunate however that many people in the world are so against breastfeeding that they’d rather a mother take their child into a public bathroom and nurse. I guess it’s extremely difficult to turn your head and continue to mind your business on this strange planet called Earth.
I wrote a blog titled To Cover Up or Not to Cover up? back in January when my youngest daughter Jayla was three months old. I was still getting the hang of the new mom life for the second time, and was in the early stages of breastfeeding. I became engulfed with all things motherhood and breastfeeding. One thing I found myself uncomfortable with was nursing without a cover. I didn’t disagree with women who chose not to cover, I just preferred to keep myself and daughter covered. It gave us as much privacy as we could have in public.
I had no idea what would transpire only five months after I wrote that post. Jayla turned eight months and grew irritated with being covered. Partially because of the Summer heat, majority of it being because she needed to see my face and feel my skin. She and I would go back and forth playing “tug of war” with the cover the entire time we nursed in public. I would be embarrassed each time my breast was exposed. I didn’t want any negative attention or encounters. I had been reading about so many terrible experiences women were having while breastfeeding in public places, and was also witnessing pictures and videos going viral of women being shamed for breastfeeding in public. More specifically, the black woman who was breastfeeding her child uncovered on the airplane. I was appalled that someone would find her nursing her child uncovered disgusting, but had no issue with recording her baby and bare breast. To top it off, the video went viral.
I didn’t want that to happen to me. I wasn’t totally confident in myself or my breastfeeding journey. Although it had been eight months, it was still new to me. It’s new each month I go on because it’s a month longer than I expected I would nurse. I had to get my mind right QUICK because Jayla wasn’t in the mood to give me a grace period. So I upped the ante on the amount of breastfeeding pages that I followed on Instagram, and joined a breastfeeding support group on Facebook to surround myself around women who were on the same journey as me. These women were unashamed of their purpose no matter the size of their breast and the setting where a feeding would take place. I grew to feel empowered.
I had to “get rid of my stinkin’ thinkin'” and remember my purpose is to provide for my daughter in the most natural way that I can. My breastfeeding journey doesn’t need to be a stressful one because of my fear of stares or negative comments. My baby needs her mother’s milk. I refuse to walk down the formula aisle at the grocery store losing my hair over the prices when I already produce milk for free. I remember that feeling when Taniya was younger.
Once I refocused and got inline with my vision for my mothering and breastfeeding journey, I began to see more positive breastfeeding posts and experiences. Definitely had to change my perspective in order to see this. I began to see animals of all sorts, which is as natural as it gets, breastfeeding their young. Monkeys, dogs, pigs, bears and more. During one of Taniya’s science classes in homeschooling, we learned about the blue whale. I was amazed to learn that baby blue whales, mammals just like humans, survive only on their mother’s milk for their first year of life, gaining about 200 pounds each day. I was getting reminders during a homeschool lesson! Not only is breastfeeding beautiful in all forms, but a reminder that our babies can definitely survive off of our breastmilk and be ok without anything else for the first year of life. I am now 1 year and 2 weeks strong on my breastfeeding journey. I thought I would stop at 1 year, but it didn’t happen that way.
Now I don’t just whip my breast out while I’m walking down the grocery store aisle, but I would do it if I need to. Nurse and continue to shop like I intended on doing in the first place. I’m learning that I can’t let motherhood stop me from doing what I set out to do. I’ve breastfed in the gym in between workouts, before I went out on my high school’s track to do an alumni cheerleading performance and more. Amazingly, I’ve received such beautiful feedback. An older woman at my high school’s homecoming football game said, “I just want to tell you that you are doing an amazing job! You are out here doing your thing. One moment I saw you breastfeeding your baby, the next you’re out their cheering like you’re still in school.” That same day my mother said, “I’ve noticed that you’re much more comfortable with feeding Jayla in public now. I’m proud of you for being confident. I know that’s been a struggle for you.” My heart was so full.
I am still the mother who enjoys privacy when she breastfeeds though. One because I just love peace and quiet when I’m nursing because it’s calming for me, but two because toddlers are extremely distracted. I can’t count the amount of times Jayla has snatched off my breast to see what was going on wasting precious milk. So when an establishment has a room designated for breastfeeding mothers, I’m in there! If there’s no room, I’m nursing proudly and confidently. Restaurants, my car, the gym, the mall, football games, dentist offices, doesn’t matter. In Dr. Seuss’ voice, I’ll breastfeed here, I’ll breastfeed there, I’ll breastfeed anywhere.
I hope other mothers who are experiencing shame, embarrassment and fear of negative responses read this and leave with an understanding that your responsibility is to your child, not the comfort of others. If you are the friend or family member to a breastfeeding mother, please continue to support her and uplift her on this journey. She’s doing the best she can. She doesn’t need to hear your comments about how HER child is ready for cow’s milk or formula. Or how HER child is too old to still be breastfeeding. If you’re a stranger and you see a woman breastfeeding and it makes you uncomfortable…. turn your head, and mind your business like a normal functioning adult. Most likely, you’re making that woman uncomfortable and staring for long periods of time only makes you come off as a perv.