Breastfeeding my second child has been significantly easier than the first. She latched immediately and has been adept from the beginning. The lactation consultant who saw us in the postpartum unit said, “well she read the book on breastfeeding… no wait, she WROTE the book.” After struggling with my first premature child and needing to pump after each feeding and use a nipple shield, the ease of breastfeeding my daughter has been a welcome relief to the chaos of being a mother of two. When it is going well, breastfeeding is amazing. I appreciate that this isn’t everyone’s story though.
The second time around, I also feel much less inhibited and as a result, breastfeeding in public has not been an issue. Here are some of the places that I have breastfed G so far:
- a tea party
- the zoo
- a swanky restaurant, and a few not-so-swanky restaurants
- a public park, or a few public parks
- my office
- a hotel lobby
- a friend’s house
- a holiday party
When G was only 5 weeks old, I took her to the annual conference of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. Wearing her in my Ergo and breastfeeding on demand, we attended full days of breastfeeding lectures, practicing what we were learning. It felt empowering to be living what I preach to patients, while learning more skills to apply and pass along.
When I see new moms breastfeeding in the office, I give them support but not necessarily privacy. I often start with the apology/disclaimer that “I’m going to get very close to you to examine the baby and make sure that breastfeeding is going well.” I can then learn a wealth of information about the breastfeeding dynamic. Whenever residents tell me that they aren’t seeing a patient because the mom was breastfeeding and they told her they would return when she is finished, I inform them that this is a missed opportunity for both the mom and resident to learn. It also sends the message to the mom that breastfeeding is something that is only done in private. If your doctor isn’t comfortable watching you breastfeed, then what does the general public think? Now certainly if a mother ASKED me for privacy, I would give it to her! But she should know that what she is doing is normal and that her doctor can often help (because it isn’t always easy!).
Although things were more challenging with N, we still persevered and I remember pulling out my nursing cover in a number of public venues, wrestling with it and him uncomfortably but ultimately accomplishing our goals. N breastfed at my pediatric board exam and my residency graduation banquet. I had advocated for myself and other moms that breastfed babies deserve to be with their mothers at all times, even at formal occasions. So if I was to attend, so was he. It works the same with G currently, hence why she has such an eclectic variety of breastfeeding environments.
There have been times when I have been told to breastfed in a public restroom, or that no place was available to sit to feed my children, but I have disregarded these ignorant comments and advocated for my breastfeeding rights. If you don’t know what your rights are, make sure you find out:
One of the top reasons that women stop breastfeeding their baby is being uncomfortable doing so in public. This is one of the main reasons that I am so passionate about doing so publicly, because we need to shift our cultural perception that breastfeeding is sexual or taboo and needs to be covered, hidden, or avoided. Breastfeeding is normal. So if you are a breastfeeding mom, join me when you see me… at the park, at a party, or at the zoo. And if I see you in my office, get ready to get intimate as I watch your baby latch, auscultate his/her swallow, and adjust your positioning. While it may seem uncomfortable at first, you will soon realize, it’s just feeding a baby.