Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Nursing In Random Places

When many of us breastfeeding advocates talk about breastfeeding, one of the benefits we tout is that it can be done anywhere, any time. You don't have to take time to mix a bottle, or worry about running out of it, or warming it up to the right temperature, or properly sterilizing anything, or finding a way to wash a bottle, or anything like that. You can breastfeed wherever you are, in a car (stopped, of course), in a restaurant, at the mall, at the zoo, at an amusement park, at the doctor's office, at an older child's sports event or concert, with very little in the way of preparation. Indeed, a confident breastfeeding mother can even breastfeed on the move! When I was pregnant with GI, I saw a woman in Kohl's (department store) striding down an aisle with a blanket draped loosely over one shoulder, a baby held to the breast with one arm while she continued her shopping. I was mightily impressed, as I had never managed such a feat with SB. I vowed to learn to do it with GI. When he was very small, I did manage to do it once or twice while shopping, but I find it fairly uncomfortable and prefer to take a few extra minutes to find a place to sit!

The thing is, although I am willing to nurse wherever, whenever, it's not always so simple. GI doesn't seem to like to nurse when we're out and about! Honestly, it's not that I so enjoy nursing in public that I'd seek out opportunities to do so, but I don't mind doing it if necessary. I'll plop down wherever I am, though I certainly prefer a comfy chair, and hook him right up. I don't bother with a cover of any kind, as I find that makes me more conspicuous and makes it more difficult to get GI comfortably latched. Anyway, he's kind of wiggly, so a cover wouldn't stay on for long. As it happens, I rarely convince GI to nurse effectively when not in a comfy chair or lying down in bed, or at least in a quiet place, and he seems willing to wait until we get home to have a long, satisfying feed anyway, so I don't stress about it too much.

And that brings me to these past couple of weeks. We took a spontaneous family trip to Las Vegas. It was our first family vacation, and the older two boys had a blast. GI was fairly oblivious to the significance but was very good in the car, only fussing a bit, sleeping most of the time, and otherwise allowing NJ to entertain him with singing, amuse him with funny faces, or calm him with pacifier. (By the way, NJ earned full big brother points on that drive!) But, I got to nurse GI in all sorts of random places. I nursed him in a casino, in restaurants, at the Adventuredome (indoor amusement park at Circus Circus), and in the Excalibur's arcade. Most of the time, people didn't even notice what I was doing, or I got an encouraging wink, or, best of all, the waitress at a restaurant in the Red Rock casino noticed what I was doing, commented that now she understood why I had drunk all my water so fast, and said she'd be sure to keep my water glass filled! So sweet. The least comfortable nursing situation I found myself in was trying to nurse standing up at the Excalibur arcade because I couldn't find a convenient chair. GI didn't like it too much, either.

But, by far the most random place I have now nursed this baby is at Hellhole Canyon in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. We took another spontaneous drive this past Monday. We thought to end up in Julian, a lovely mountain town known for its apples and apple pie. But when we stopped for lunch, the waitress told us about some neat stuff to see in the town of Borrego Springs, down in the desert below the mountains. We stopped at Hellhole Canyon on the way down, where there was a map of some hiking trails. One of the trails was a very short (.3 miles), easy hike, so we decided to try it. I put GI in my carrier of choice, my trusty mei tai, and started off. He got hungry, and I happened to have dressed in a way that made feeding him on the go easy: A loose tanktop under a short-sleeved shirt. I pulled the t-shirt up, popped my breast out over the top of the tank top, and pointed GI's mouth in the right direction. He latched right on and nursed for most of the hike (all of 20 minutes). So, this kid, who won't nurse nicely sitting in a chair at a restaurant, on a bench at an amusement park, or in the fitting room of a department store, this kid who will wait until we get home so we can both stretch out on the bed and nurse in a relaxed position rather than just about anywhere else, this kid nursed for 20 minutes quite contentedly while I hiked in the desert! Go figure. (It's winter, so it wasn't absurdly hot - maybe 80 degrees. I don't think I'd have attempted that in the summer!)

Here's a picture!

Now, be honest, if I hadn't told you what I was doing in this picture, would you have known?

I also nursed him in the car at a random scenic overlook.

I made my husband take these pictures so that I could write this post and have photographic evidence.

I have to say, I've never encountered any negativity towards my nursing wherever I happen to be. I know other women have been harassed, asked to move, given the evil eye, or put down for their decision to nurse their baby when the baby was hungry. I have never had such an experience, and I'm glad of it. It shouldn't be that way. Feeding a baby is feeding a baby, and wouldn't we all rather see a happily nursing baby than one screaming in hunger?

I especially like nursing around younger girls and women. I feel like if those girls grow up thinking of breastfeeding as the normal way to feed a baby, they'll be more likely to choose to breastfeed. I only remember seeing someone breastfeed twice as a girl. I remember my aunt nursing her youngest daughter when the baby was about 10 months old and I was about eight years old. I also remember someone at my synagogue nursing her baby while I was in the room. I think I was about 10 years old then. I think if I had been more exposed to women breastfeeding, the idea would not have seemed so abstract to me when I had my first baby. Thus, I hope that by being available to answer questions and being visible when I'm nursing will help normalize the image for younger women who will then think of breastfeeding first when they're ready to have their own babies.

Really, most of the time when I nurse in public, it's not about a statement or education or information or to make a spectacle of myself. I just want to feed my baby when he's hungry. And so I do.

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