The B Word (Not What You Think)

It seems these days as if everyone has a very vocal opinion on the B word– breastfeeding. Social media has exploded with images of women breastfeeding and multi-tasking (one image shows a mother breastfeeding twins simultaneously while also peeling potatoes). Since I tend to blush profusely when any anatomical terms are mentioned (I even avoid saying chicken breast at the grocery store), I’ll be referring to breastfeeding henceforth as nursing.

There are many advocating for it and some complaining about women nursing in public. Everyone is sharing their opinion on one of these flip-sides of the nursing coin, but a third side has gone unmentioned. What about nursing women who are modest, and have trouble nursing in public simply because they want that moment to be private? No surprise, the woman who avoids anatomical chicken terms in public is one of these.

Since my son had a traumatic arrival into the world that I’m not quite comfortable about writing about yet, I treasure the time I nurse him. Of course, every now and then he wants to nurse constantly, and I get worn down by the immobility of it. Because we had a bit of a bumpy road at the beginning, with nursing and healing, I truly grew into liking it. At first, I dreaded every feeding due to a painful improper latch. Once that got diagnoses, and subsequently fixed, we’ve been quite successful passengers on the nursing train. I had to grow to love it, though. Now I only get that heavy feeling of dread in my stomach when he needs to be nursed in public.

I’m an overtly modest person. I don’t cloak myself from head to toe, but I don’t want the average person on the street to see my  chest either. The first time I nursed in public was in a dark movie theatre, covered up, and we were sitting in the second to last row, on the far side up against the wall. Every time prior to this, I’d nurse him in the car; this was both uncomfortable and it was awkward to get situated. I also felt like a bit of a creeper, sitting in the far corner of the parking lot.

The second time I braved public nursing was in a restaurant. When you have a tiny baby with you (though he was 9 pounds, 5 ounces at birth and looks three weeks older than he is, he’s still in that little-baby phase where he can’t sit up), it seems to be socially acceptable to openly stare and say, “awe”. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that; my issue is getting people to look away so I can get both of us situated and covered the way I like.

The ‘covers’ currently manufactured for nursing moms aren’t all that great. If a light breeze picks up, I’m going to accidentally semi-flash anyone who happens to be looking. Due to little man’s funny sounds when eating, people tend to glance over at me. Also, when you have a moderately sized blanket covering you from the collarbone down, curiosity beats social protocol and people stare.

I’ve heard several horror stories of women being berated for nursing in public, which is part of the reason I get that awful feeling of dread. Of course, if it were a debilitating fear, I would just pack a bottle of my milk in the diaper bag if I suspected he’d need to eat while we’re out.

In any case, every woman has the right to nurse, or not, however she feels most comfortable. I hope I’ve helped give a voice to the modest among us, who fear their loss of modesty just as much as hecklers, but put their babies needs above that. It’s truly amazing what you’re willing to do for this helpless little person who depends solely on you. Fear becomes much less insurmountable.

Especially if this face is the one smiling up at you when he’s full and happy:

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