This weekend, we all traveled to Saratoga Springs, NY – about three hours north of New York City – for my aunt’s wedding. Aiden has a pretty good bedtime routine so it was business as usual on Friday evening. He had his bath, nursed and went to sleep before we left so it was just a matter of getting him in his car seat without waking him. The drive up was going well until he began to stir in his sleep and suck his fingers as he usually does. Aiden is used to being pulled into bed and nursing until he drifts off into sleep once again but that’s not quite how it went. Once at the rest stop, I pulled him out of his car seat and he was NOT happy. There were tables and chairs in the rest area but I decided to just nurse in the car. Part of the reason was that the baby was so upset and I didn’t want to bring a screaming baby around so many people… but I guess part of the reason is – I am still kind of weird about nursing in public.
It worries me that people will "shy away" or not feel like they can talk to me or include me in conversation because I am nursing. Or maybe they will avert their eyes awkwardly, or maybe I will mess up and expose myself because it Is really difficult to get Aiden under the nursing cover when he is hungry and fussy.
For the wedding, I had brought a couple bottles of expressed breast milk since I was wearing a dress that would not be easy to nurse in and wasn’t sure what to expect. At the start of the reception, he got hungry and Daddy tried giving him a bottle… let’s just say that Aiden has made it clear what he thinks of bottles.
Ultimately, a very nice waitress at the restaurant offered me an office right near the party room with a comfy chair to breastfeed. Two other waitresses walked into the office at different times and both got so embarrassed. They apologized and bolted out of the room so fast I thought that was funny. I was actually wearing my nursing cover so it’s not like they saw my boobs.
When it comes to pregnancy and motherhood, I think women should be able to empathize a lot more and support each other a lot more. I've noticed moms getting competitive, often boasting (or so it seems) to each other about how their drug-free births or how they breastfed exclusively while rubbing their tummy, patting their head and jumping up and down. I thought it was weird that another woman would come in to see me nursing my baby and look like she had seen a ghost.
It made me feel like I was doing something wrong and therefore made me feel uncomfortable. It even made me feel that I was potentially doing something inappropriate even though another employee had let me into the office. Even though they were so kind to offer the private space, it still felt strange and I wonder if I would have just been better off nursing right at my table in the main dining room.
The awkwardness surrounding breastfeeding in public has been hard for me to deal with. You don’t really see many women breastfeeding their babies around New York City. While I would never nurse my son in a bathroom – would you like to eat in the bathroom? – I will do everything I can to find a private place.
I guess the images and ideas we have come to accept about our bodies, especially our breasts, influences my attitude about nursing in public. In our culture, pictures of women in magazines aren’t beautiful unless they are somewhat sexual and a woman’s breasts are a huge part of that. Women spend so much time and money trying to getting them to look PERFECT. It’s these attitudes and ideas that have made me feel awkward about nursing in public. My breasts have been a huge part of my body image, my sex life, my appeal as a woman... but nourishing my baby – this is their most important purpose! I don’t know when I will nurse in public and just get over it… even with my nursing cover on; it’s still very difficult for me. I guess we’ll see!