The Motherhood Manual: How to nurse in public without baring it all …kind of

One of my friends totally called me out on last week’s post.  In my post, I made it sound like I simply nursed my baby and put him to bed (Hallmark image). She reminded me, however, that as a new mom I felt pretty shy about nursing in public, even in front of friends. The reality on Jacob’s first camping trip, was that nursing wasn’t easy yet.

Before I had a baby I strongly believed that a woman should be free to nurse in public.  I’ve always felt that it’s unfair the nursing mom has to leave the restaurant and go sit in the car while the rest of the party goes on without her; I hate to miss out on the party. Therefore, it stood to reason that once I was a nursing mother, I would be discreetly doing so in public. I was surprised to find that was a lot harder for me than I expected.

As I mentioned, one of my first experiences with “in public” nursing was on the camping trip I talked about last week. Because Jacob and I weren’t very coordinated in our nursing process yet (despite the whole Beer and Tea episode), my camping trip nursing was frequently in the front seat of our car… coward, you may think.  However, you need to understand that for Jacob and I to get him “latched on” (that’s a nursing term for you parenting newbies), I pretty much needed to take my whole shirt off.  And, it wasn’t just briefly either; it usually took five to ten minutes before he was securely attached and doing his thing. Then, I could cover up and begin the discreet portion of the nursing… that is, unless he came off.  In that case, the whole scenario had to be repeated, but now everything was wet besides. Perfect. Now it was Girls Gone Wild, the wet t-shirt version… but not really. At all.

I did eventually venture out of the car a number of times while nursing during that trip.  However, I never started the nursing process out where people could see (because of the aforementioned topless scenario).  It was only once I felt fairly sure that Jacob would stay put, that I would maneuver myself out of the car (always a trick while keeping a baby attached to your chest by only his mouth).  Assuming the extraction from the car went well, I would rejoin my husband and go sit with our friends around the campfire again.

Over time Jacob and I slowly got better at nursing in general and, therefore, also better in public. I was determined that I could do this and that I would only get better by doing it, so I just sucked it up (no pun intended, but kinda funny anyway) and went for it. I pretty much took the approach of being honest (some may call it blunt), and would simply tell the people in my group, “I’m going to nurse Jacob now. I’m not super great at it and may accidentally bare it all to you. I hope not and I’m pretty sure you hope not, so do what you need to with your eyes.”  It all worked out.  They are all still my friends.  And, over that period of five or so years when we were all having babies, it seemed that anytime we were all together playing cards or games, you could just expect to see a nursing pad on the edge of the table.

So, here’s what you can take away from this:

1. It’s okay to nurse in public (but only if you want to- before having Jacob, it had never occurred to me that maybe the mom was excusing herself from the party for her sake)

2. It’s entirely possible that someone’s gonna see a little skin. They will probably look away or do what they can to discreetly not see. If this is not the case, then the person is probably someone you should keep an eye out for outside your window (yikes!)

3. Your baby is running the show. Really. You will do what you need to in order to feed your baby… whether that is in the front seat of a car while camping, at a card table with friends playing games, or sitting in a restaurant booth with your husband and his boss (that was awful, but I’ve blocked it from my memory enough that I can’t write about it)

4. Finally, practice makes perfect. And, your baby will guarantee that you get LOTS of practice.

Good luck. You’ll be awesome… eventually.

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9 thoughts on “The Motherhood Manual: How to nurse in public without baring it all …kind of

  1. Are you sure you don’t want to tell the boss story? 😉 Thanks for the insight! As a “maybe one day I’ll have kids” type of a person, definitely a lot to think about it!

    • I’m not sure if my motherhood posts serve the purpose of educating mothers and fathers to be or just making people afraid to have children! I love having my children and being a mom; it has provided me many opportunities to laugh (and cry) at myself.

  2. Great post! I’ve always been a big fan of nursing in public, but it is really helpful to have tips for helping moms do so in a way that makes them feel comfortable. I don’t think anyone else has the right to feel uncomfortable with it (look away, for crying out loud!), but all moms have different comfort levels of their own. And when you master it, it’s so great – most of the time people wouldn’t even know I was nursing (helps that I have teeny breasts to begin with, LOL).

    • Thanks for stopping by my site!
      I think, as with most things, nursing in public really comes down to confidence a lot of the time… with the exception of some just plain old experience needed with the whole latching on thing. I pretty much fake the confidence and hope that it will be there for me!

  3. OMG, that is too funny. I never thought to take my babies camping. I loved breastfeeding but it really made me angry when people seemed appalled that I breast fed in public covered with a blanket. I think that was the first time the mama monster in me reared it’s ugly head. I was at this odd church for a funeral. I didn’t think it was Catholic but there was a dude with white with a pope hat so maybe it was. Anyway, I went to the back to breastfeed the baby and was doing fine in this empty room until an old coot told me I needed to go to the bathroom. I held my tongue because it was a funeral after all. Once in the bathroom I was breastfeeding and another blue hair bitty came in and gawked… she told me I needed to go into a stall. That was enough. I just asked her, “Do you eat on the toilet???” I mean really, that is the most natural thing on the planet and it isn’t sexual. No one could see my boob cause it was under a blanket. I saw a crochet pattern the other day for an infant hat that looks like a boob for when you are breastfeeding. I WISH I had that then!

  4. Pingback: Pack it up! But don’t. « Twyste

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