Welcome to this month’s Breastfeeding Carnival, “Share a Story.” Since this Carnival falls on the day of my regular Monday Musings, I thought I would combine the two. My contribution is called “Can Early Public Breastfeeding Sightings Shape One’s Future Breastfeeding Practices?” and within this post are two stories, as told from my then outsiders point of view. After you have read my post, take some time to comment and then make sure you read the other bloggers’ stories that I have linked to below.
I didn’t see a lot of women breastfeed before I became a breastfeeding mother. Breastfeeding women of my childhood breastfed in back rooms away from the disapproving eyes of my Grandma and those of us she might be traumatizing with her lactating breast. If my memory serves me correctly, my earliest decision to breastfeed was spawned more because it was the “natural way” to feed an infant than because a bunch of books I had read said it was superior to formula. The books were just the icing on the cake I had already decided to make. It is interesting to me after I have completed writing this that my earliest public breastfeeding sightings didn’t scare me away from public nursing all together.
The Dairy Queen Nipple
The first breastfeeding woman I can recall seeing was at Dairy Queen. I was in my early 20′s, standing in line to order an ice cream cone when a woman in her 30′s came in with a toddler attached to her breast. Me, being the renegade woman I am, mentally high-fived her for rocking the establishment a little. Then her nursling unlatched himself. But rather than cover her breast up, she left it there with the nipple fully showing in all of it’s milk-giving glory for all the ice-cream goer’s to see. Even I was a little shocked. Men looked away, women physically turned their staring children in the other direction. I waited for someone to ask her to cover up or leave, but no one did. It wasn’t until she got to the front of the line that she nonchalantly covered herself like it was no big deal and made her order. The poor embarrassed kid at the counter! This was the only breastfeeding story I really had to tell for the following few years before I became a mom.
Even though I was raised to be modest and was pretty shy about my body throughout many of my adult years, I was determined early on to feed my baby whenever she was hungry despite what anyone might think. I guess everything I had read about breastfeeding and had been told to me by my midwives sold me on the benefits to the point that I just knew in my soul it was the best thing and the righ thing to do, no matter where I was. But for the six months or so I didn’t have a lot of mother-to-mother support so my self-assuredness really did come from within. When I breastfed my daughter in public I tried my best to take on an air of confidence so no one would dare to toss a mean remark my way. I have often wondered if I hadn’t seen that women in DQ if I would have even considered breastfeeding in public. Maybe she deserves some credit for my vigilante ways. However, I was always very careful to shield my nipple from view and cover up when I was done!
The Too-Cool Hippy Tandem Nursing Mama
One day, I was at a toddler gym drop-in center. I was pregnant and still breastfeeding my two year old daughter. I had noticed a pretty hip looking woman with two kids when I came in and immediately felt an energetic pull towards her. Maybe it was the scarf wrapped around her dread locked hair or her European accent, but whatever it was I wanted to befriend her. I was sure we would have lots of things in common. While I was trying to figure out how to approach her, I happened to look over and see her sitting on the floor nursing her newborn and her toddler, at the same time, without a cover, just as comfortable as you please. I assumed I would tandem nurse my children too so I thought this was my “in.” I caught her eye and smiled approvingly. She looked back and gave me a surprisingly wan smile. She appeared completely non-phased. “She must think I’m an amateur,” I thought, and suddenly I was too shy to want to try any further. In retrospect, maybe she felt uncomfortable that I had smiled at her. Maybe she took my smile the wrong way. In any case, I never met her, although I think she still lives in my community, and I wish I had said something instead.
While I did go on to tandem nurse, I don’t think I ever did it out in public, even though I nursed my oldest daughter in public until she was 2 and I started to show, and nursed her little sister. Was it my inbred modesty? Was it my concern over being “too shocking” like the DQ mom? Was it because I was worried that someone might see me as a seemingly snobby self-assured mom of tandem nurslings? I’m not sure. Partly, I think it was realizing that while I might be a renegade woman with alternative ideals and a desire to change the world and help create a breastfeeding culture, I am human. I am sensitive to criticism and the threat of criticism, and rejection too. I have my own personal limits and also never wanted my daughter to hear her mother being criticized for doing something she loved so much. She had already heard it coming from a family member and I was very sensitve to needing to shelter her from more of the same from strangers. In all likelihood it was a combination of things. But I do believe other people’s breastfeeding stories and our experiences of seeing other women breastfeed publicly, can and do shape our own breastfeeding practices, for better or worse. I hope some of my stories and the stories of other breastfeeding bloggers can help shape yours. Hopefully, for the better.
What do you think?
Check out these other great Breastfeeding Carnival posts:
Amber at Strocel. com on The Story of Hannah’s Weaning
Laura of Laura’s Blog on Weaning A Toddler
Reiza of Stepping off the Spaceship on Life, Death and Nourishment
Desiree Fawn at So Fawned on Sticking With it
Judy from Mommy News and Views on How Breastfeeding Changed My Life
Sarah from All That Sazz on Flying Breastmilk
Nicole of Grudge Mom on Breastfeeding Failures and Success
Steph of Baby Carriers Downunder on Kandy
Cristina of Massachusetts Friends of Midwives on The Best Breastfeeding Advice From the Least Likely Source
Crystal of Crystal Gold, No not the porn star on Found Memory
Angela from Breastfeeding 1-2-3 on The I Told You So
Tanya from Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog on They Said the Latch Was Fine
Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: on Breastfeeding is Not Easy But it is Definitely Best For Baby
Sinead at Breastfeeding Mums on Breastfeeding Made Me The Mother I Am
Layla at Zen Mommy on Celebrating my chest in honour of breastfeeding
Lori at The Towells on For women in my situation (about breastfeeding after breast reduction surgery)
Elita at Blacktating on Nursing in Public