A Chicago mom's perspective on open air breastfeeding

Credit: Susan Urbanski
 
 

Susan Urbanski

 

I have thought long and hard about what angle to take with this response. The law? The research? There are so many possible rebuttals to Kevin Whitehead's post that it is hard to choose just one area on which to focus. Chances are I am not going to change anybody's mind anyway. I just want to make sure that I show another perspective. A mom's perspective. I have been pregnant and/or nursing for over five years now. I currently have three kids, and my youngest is still nursing.

Full disclosure: I work in a Lactation Center. I see moms and babies every single day. And when I am not at work, I make it a point to look for breastfeeding moms so that if I see one I can smile at them to let them know I "get it." I recognize most nursing bras, tops, tanks and dresses even when the mom is not actually breastfeeding. But even though I am actively searching, I still to this day have yet to see somebody nurse in an "inconsiderate" manner. I'm not even sure what that would look like.

The vast majority of moms do attempt to stay somewhat covered while nursing in public. Some moms do use nursing covers for their own modesty, while others use clever tricks with clothing or specific nursing tops. Do you know why? Because many women are not comfortable nursing in public. You have to remember that for a first time mom, breastfeeding is a very new skill. It takes weeks, months, even years of practice, possibly with more than one child, to get to the point where a mom can easily latch and unlatch without incident. Some moms even rehearse by nursing in front of a mirror because they are so worried about exposing themselves. The thought of doing something in public when you are not fully confident in your abilities can be very intimidating. And even when a mom does fall into a nice routine with breastfeeding, a baby can change in a way that makes the whole experience awkward again. That is why, despite our best efforts, sometimes things don't quite go as planned. Every baby and every mom is different, and no two nursing sessions are alike. There is always the element of the unknown: What if a bird flies by and my 11-month-old daughter decides to turn her head and point at the bird? Well then somebody might see my nipple. Not because I am trying to make a point, but because she is a curious individual getting to know the world. And in her innocent experience, it is just not a big deal to let my nipple "hang out." But lets get back to the original argument.

Kevin asked in his post, "What is the point?" Well from my perspective, the point is that moms already have enough to worry about.

Before I had kids, like most women, I had no idea that nursing in public was a protected legal right. Now that I work with new families, I can tell you that even in the most breastfeeding friendly environment, I still have women ask if it is okay to nurse there. And it happens all the time. I always say, "Yes, you can definitely nurse here. In fact, you can nurse anywhere you are legally allowed to be!"

So the point is to make sure that nursing in public becomes a normal, expected part of parenting. The point is to let every mom know that they can and should nurse any time their child is hungry. I hope that one day my daughter can feed her children without fear that somebody will be offended. And I hope I am there to smile at her when she does.

 
 
 







 
 
 
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