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Little Old Men… & Nursing in Public (Back by “PUBLIC” Demand)

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!
This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe’s Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to www.breastfeedingcafe.wordpress.com. For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about nursing in public. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!


My first baby was born in sunny Florida during a particularly hot stretch in May 1979.  Although I was an OB nurse, I knew very little about breastfeeding other than what my older co-workers had taught me—which was not all that correct or very helpful information. Luckily, I had a great friend who was nursing her 3 month old at the time my son was born. She really showed me the ropes. It just so happened that she was the one who took me home from the hospital. We had to stop at the store for a few items so we went in to a “Publix” supermarket with both babies in our arms.  My newborn son began fussing to nurse soon after we hit the air conditioning.

I said.. “I’m going to have to go back out to the car and nurse him.”

My friend says “Oh..You’ll do no such thing.. You’ll die in that heat.. Just hook him up and keep shopping so we can get finished and out of here!”

Me- “Nurse him in here?”

Friend- “Well if he’s hungry.. yeah!.. (after looking at my face) Oh stop worrying about it..go over to a deserted aisle, get him hooked on and put your receiving blanket up near his face… nobody will know!”

Me- timidly…above the louder howls.. “Alright, be right back..”

I found the most private place I could. I started cursing that complicated “wonderful nursing bra” I just had to have. (Remember..this is 30 years ago… this bra is now an antique!) My skills handling newborns allowed me some grace as I attempted to multitask by stooping down, prop my loudly crying baby on my partial lap, use 2 hands to fiddle with the damn nursing bra, then get him back up near my finally free boob and latched on.

Ahhhh~ quiet, happy, drinking baby!

Still stooped down, I peered slowly behind me — expecting that a large crowd must have assembled. Somewhat surprisingly, everybody was just going about their business and I happily realized that noone was looking at me! I stood up, made sure I wasn’t showing anything, and walked off with my happily nursing baby to find my friend.

It’s amazing how many people want to see a quiet baby as opposed to a screaming infant!

A sweet little old man stopped me first and asked me how old my baby was….”3 days”, I replied. He peeked in for a closer look and he actually didn’t get it right away.. “I can’t really see his face.”.. I said “Well- he’s feeding right now.”.. He just said..”OOPS….sorry about that! Well he’s a cute one!” then walked off.

The next person who stopped me was again.. a sweet little old man. He was very smiley and jolly. He asked all about the baby but didn’t lean over to look like the other man. I quickly said he’s nursing now and then answered all the small talk.  He never seemed uncomfortable about it at all! That probably gave me a lot more confidence. We parted ways and I finally found my friend. She gave me an approving thumbs up, asked me to hold a basket with my other hand and said we were almost done.

Another little old man stopped us by the register to ask about both babies. We gave him all the small talk answers and let him know my son was nursing. This guy was a real sweetie, commenting on how lucky kids were that moms were starting to “nurse their young” again and ‘good for you.”  He never tried to look in at my son. He didn’t seem embarrassed by the process at all. He was the coolest guy!

I left the Publix Supermarket on my way home to begin my life as a mommy…. with a little public education bonus.  Encountering those sweet little old men while feeding my baby and receiving their positive type feedback was the gentle support I needed. I went on to feel empowered to nurse in public for all three of my babies…  Those little old men were just so supportive! ~ When my baby was hungry, he needed to feed and it really didn’t matter where I was at the time.  Thank goodness for my friend’s wisdom and support to go for it!

I became a lactation professional while nursing my last baby. It was then, only after I really became more aware of issues surrounding nursing in public that I actually took any kind of public action to empower other moms.  I’ve done lots of different little things as the years have gone by. I want to mention one fun way that I thought I could help gently re-educate some of the “new” sweet little old men of this day and age.  Our local paper has a lot of little retired guys commenting back and forth on various local articles. I’m guessing their age and status by all the things they say. I took this opportunity to possibly educate some of these forum readers about breastfeeding rights in public.  Every once in a while, on the forum, I put out a little snippet on nursing in public… and sit back and watch what they have to say in reply! It’s quite fun!

Here’s an example I wrote on a long forum discussion a couple years ago on a breastfeeding article:

On another note, regarding a reader reaction in the forum, a skimpy bikini or the bathing-suit issue of a favorite sports magazine show more skin in a provocative, sexy way than any mom breast-feeding. Even the movie stars in their gowns with plunging necklines are showing almost the entire breast! Somehow, that is OK. It is sad that the public opinion of a baby breast-feeding (the most natural way for him to eat) is something that should be done in private … yet young girls are encouraged by media to bare more and more skin. Of course being discreet while feeding is important, but I can assure you, most girls in a tiny bikini are thinking more about “tacky exhibitionist behavior” than a mother breast-feeding her baby. August 1-7 is always World Breast Feeding Week. The theme this year is “Welcome Baby Softly,” focusing on the importance of the first hour or two after birth. Learn more about it. I would love to see the paper do an article on that.

This one provoked a few responses in both directions and sometimes there were a few people who actually thought out loud that …gosh maybe I was right… never thought about it that way…etc..

Here’s an example I wrote on a recent article about the appropriate % amount for tipping :

I have never left an establishment without tipping– however, I also tip according to service up to 20%. If there are unkind reactions to small children in a FAMILY establishment, they will be getting a bare minimal tip for sure!! I do my best to keep my children behaved with table manners AND respect other patrons… but fact remains, they are children! I cannot possibly be prepared for every behavior or an accidental spill. In addition, my breastfeeding baby may be hungry.. By PA law, I have the right to nurse my baby in a public place wherever he and I are allowed to be. I am discreet.. I am protected by law… I don’t need an unkind comment from servers. They do not get a 15-20% tip if nasty, unkind or disrespectful comments have been made about my children or my breastfeeding baby!

This provoked a foray of comments ranging from ‘good for you’ to ‘you should be in the back booth…controlling kids etc..’  Sometimes the opportunities to educate others come at unexpected times but produce amazing results!

On a few occasions, other readers were supporting my comments and

helping to educate those sweet little old guys with me!

😉


Here are more posts by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Check out my Peter Pan post http://minimalistmum.blogspot.com/2010/07/in-defense-of-peter-pan.html on the topic of the acceptability (or not) of children in public.

    July 19, 2010
  2. theadventuresoflactatinggirl #

    I think you win the record for nursing in public with the youngest baby! 😛

    July 20, 2010

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. My Biggest Advocate « The Adventures of Lactating Girl
  2. Tips for Nursing in Public « the BREASTFEEDING CAFE
  3. Breastfeeding Uncovered - A Peaceful Protest | Bring Birth Home
  4. Nursing in Public-Not a Big Deal. | Natural Urban Mama

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