Confession time: I’m scared to breastfeed in public.
Don’t mistake me. I love breastfeeding. I made the choice to breastfeed the second I found out I was pregnant. I feel in my heart breastfeeding is the best way to feed a baby. If you aren’t able to or choose not to breastfeed, I also believe you have the right as a parent to make that choice on what is best for your child. We do what we must as parents, and this is what I feel I must do.
What I am scared of is confrontation. I am fully aware of my right to breastfeed in public locations. I have even exercised that right. One time we were at the church my in-laws attend regularly, and my son was hungry. I borrowed my husband’s 2X-sized hoodie, wrapped it around the both of us (he was still only a few weeks old and nowhere near as mobile as he is now at six months) and proceeded to whip it out under the covers to take care of business. I have also breastfed in the grocery store, the mall, the local dry cleaners, and the health clinic. When my son is hungry, he gets fed.
My issue stems from the fact that my child no longer wants a cover on him while he feeds. I don’t mind that he doesn’t from a modesty point of view, because I want him to be comfortable and if that means no cover, then he can by uncovered. I don’t care that I have to expose a small part of myself to feed him. I don’t mind. It’s not like I hang my entire breast out to feed him. In fact, most of the time my shirt is able to cover the exposed bits right above his latch. But as a person who doesn’t like to feel judged and who definitely doesn’t like any form of confrontation, I don’t like the way that people stare when I choose to breastfeed in public.
I don’t like the way mothers lead their children in the opposite direction from where I am seated with my baby. Sometimes they cover their children’s eyes and shoot me dirty looks. It makes me feel uncomfortable, just like I know the first time someone asks me to take it to the restroom or put it away I will be uncomfortable. I’m not the only one who feels this way. I have a friend who breastfeeds who was asked to leave a store and take it out to her car by one of the employees, and she did so simply because she wanted to avoid confrontation and judgment.
Legally, she had every right to be there, and we have every right to breastfeed anywhere we are legally allowed to be. But society has decided breastfeeding is something women need to be ashamed of, and I have to admit, such a thought has rubbed off on me. My heart starts pounding every time I feed him in public, and I have started to feed him right before we leave to go somewhere and trying to not stay away from the house long enough for him to need to be fed again because I am scared of what people will think or say.
I’m hoping one day people can see breastfeeding for what it truly is: a mother feeding her child. I’m hoping one day I won’t be nervous when I feed my son in public. I’m hoping it becomes normal. Breastfeeding is not a sexual act, it is not disgusting or gross. It is a personal choice that every mother must make for herself, and that people must allow her to make. They don’t have to like it, and they don’t have to look at it. But they have to realize people have the choice to do it.