Photos: My journey toward mastering public breastfeeding

Photos: My journey toward mastering public breastfeeding

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I've always considered myself somewhat coordinated, but when it comes to public nursing, I may as well be blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back. I’m just that bad at it.

While I’ve become slightly adept at nursing at home that’s only because I’m utilizing nursing pillows, contorting my body in odd positions to get my son to latch and essentially undressing down to my waist. There have been days when I feel like I need to take my couch along with me when I run errands and need to breastfeed, otherwise I don’t know how I’ll be able to do it.

I don't feel shy or hesitant to nurse in public. On the contrary, I feel empowered when my son breastfeeds. It’s just that I’m so awkward when I’m trying to nurse without the aid of an arm rest, pillow and a clothes hanger to hold my top when I inevitably have to take it almost entirely off so that my son can reach my nipple. I’ve had my head under a swaddle blanket several times, and once I even held up my sweater with my teeth.

I’ve been given some great tips and suggestions from other moms, and I also learned that a breastfeeding selfie is called a “brelfie.” Just another nugget of information I’ve picked up since my son was born.

It’s a journey. I haven’t mastered it yet…but I’ll never stop trying!

Here we are at the pediatrician's office, my first time nursing my son anywhere other than the hospital or at home and I feel like I'm going to cry. Breastfeeding is still so painful for me and without the aid of my nursing pillow I'm completely paranoid that I'm going to drop my son. And as you can tell by the photo, I'm practically naked from the waist up. I'm going to have to get a little more skilled at this before we leave the house next!

And we're off and running. I have now officially nursed outside the house somewhere other than the pediatrician's office. We were on a semi-private patio with only two other seated tables and I was going to nurse right there, but I'm still getting the hang of the subtle nurse and don't quite get myself as covered as I'd like just yet. I decided to go to the car to nurse, and I managed to at least get a swaddle blanket to partially block my giant knocker that was out and about for the world to see. A few people walked by the car and what their eyeballs were treated to left nothing to question - I was the human milk show at noon.

This is Saturday night, folks! In an effort to get me out of the house we traveled as a family to get diapers at the grocery store, and I suppose seeing all that food made my son hungry. Grocery stores have no seats or benches and I'm not skilled enough to breastfeed standing up while pushing a stroller so we headed to the car, which was parked under a massive light. I set the car alarm off twice while we were in it, and people walked past the car and peeked in a few times. A friend had told me that if I nurse in the car to be sure it isn't turned on, because if another car (or an errant shopping cart) were to hit my car that would ensure the airbags won't deploy while we are in there nursing

No big deal, just getting in some light nursing before a vaginal exam at my gynecologist's office today. You know...the glam life of a new mom! Some moms gaze lovingly at their children while frolicking on a beach in their photos, I nurse my son while resting my feet on medical stirrups in mine.

Yes, I'm in the car. Again! If only I had known that Target allows mothers to breastfeed in its dressing rooms my afternoon would have been MUCH more successful. My mom served as wingwoman as we drove to Target. We had a preemptive nursing before we left and my son was doing great, until he decided he was hungry again and nothing would soothe him. I looked around the crowded store and panicked as I wondered how I would be able to nurse a baby while pushing a stroller with no place to sit down. My son's cries became more intense as I left my mom with our cart and went to the car in the parking lot. I was not skilled enough to dismantle the bassinet and stroller while he wailed, so I left it on the side of the car and sat in the front seat to nurse. I felt exposed and like jerk, but I'm still learning. And I now know that Target will let you nurse in a dressing room.

I'm back at Target, and this time I'm breastfeeding in the dressing room like I own the place. What a different experience this shopping trip has been. I have renewed hope!

I managed to nurse in the pediatrician's waiting room today. That's progress, because the last time I nursed here it was in a private exam room. His little head seemed so hot that I lifted the swaddle blanket to give him some air, thus exposing myself a bit (just on the side). But it felt like his whole body was flopping around. At least I'm feeling a bit better about public breastfeeding. I'll take that as a win for the day.

The planets aligned and I was able to successfully nurse outside with real people other than my husband, family and friends walking by. I've been having no luck with nursing covers and scarves, so I tried a cape I found in the back of my closet. It did the job and even though my head was under there with him most of the time I felt like I had won the lottery when I had finished and my son was full. Success!

It takes a village. Two days ago I was doing great, today my son decided he needed to make eye contact with me while he nursed in the middle of a crowded restaurant. Instead of fleeing to my car like I would have a month ago, I stayed put and tried to adjust my scarf so he could see me. When that resulted in me nearly flashing the entire restaurant my best friend just came around the table and stood behind me, holding open the scarf so he could see me. And it worked.

This is public nursing nirvana. I finally found a scarf I love, it's from Boppy and has mesh fabric at the top that serves as a window of sorts so I can look in on my son. No more sticking my head under a swaddle blanket to make sure he's not nursing my arm (yes, that has happened). We both relaxed and enjoyed being outdoors while he nursed.

The new way I shop. I was so calm and collected today as my son and I casually strolled to the dressing rooms and I requested to use one to nurse. If you want to get technical I suppose this isn't public breastfeeding, but I am becoming the queen of the dressing rooms!

Photo credits: Becky Vieira

This post was originally published in December, 2016.

Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.


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