Breastfeeding is such a huge topic in the United States and I have a huge problem with that. I was recently scrolling through Facebook when I came across a video of a woman breastfeeding her child quietly in Target, when a man came in and began to harass her. He called her names, shamed her for her indecency, and created a huge scene. The employees had to step in and protect the mother and ask the angry man to leave. In my opinion, she in no way warranted the treatment she received. I started thinking about my first and last experience in public while I breastfed my son…it was not pleasant, and I couldn’t help feeling so bad for the woman in the video (click here to watch)!
The person I am now compared to who I was as a new mother, are vastly different.
My Painful 1st & Last Experience Breastfeeding in Public
Years ago, when I became a mother and chose to breastfeed my child, I did so because I felt it was best for the both of us. I never felt those who chose to supplement were wrong or lesser than I – they made their decision whether or not to breastfeed based on what would be best for them. To me, that is all that matters.
My first and only experience happened when my son was only a few weeks old and we were sitting in a waiting room. It was a packed room, ungodly hot, and naturally my son decided he needed to eat right then and there – what a greedy infant! A friend of my mother had made for me a breastfeeding shawl to tie around my neck, drape over my child, and shield everyone from seeing my baby suckling from my hugely engorged boob. So I pulled it out and fastened it in place. After wrestling with that thing, one-handed, I then fumbled to unbutton my shirt. Next would be the one-handed battle with the nursing bra. Did I mention the room was packed and horribly stuffy? It was strange that my one intention was to not draw attention to myself, and yet, this is exactly what I did!
I, after an epic battle, won against all odds and my son finally latched on. I felt incredibly successful. I had accomplished something equal to climbing Mount Everest… well, not so much, but the fact still remained, I did a darn good job.
Things were going smoothly for the first few minutes, but my blissful success was to be short-lived. My son began to sweat under that blanket-necktie, and I began to pour buckets of sweat as well. Oh! Come on, seriously??? I started trying to fan my baby by shaking the blanket to create some airflow. It didn’t work. I stretched the neck part out and blew downward onto his forehead to cool him. And…it didn’t work. Right about that time, I looked up to notice the disapproving stares from multiple people around me. A couple of them even scoffed at me. Still, I continued fanning and blowing down on his head as he suckled. A man next to me leaned over and told me I was disgusting, “doing that in public”, and that I should “be ashamed of myself, go to the bathroom or something.” I was so horrified that I grabbed all my stuff and went into the only bathroom there was in the entire waiting room. I closed the door, locked it, yanked the blanket from my neck, wet a paper towel with cool water, and wiped it across my son’s head and neck. He was drenched in sweat and his clothes were soaked.
I cried. I felt so bad for what I’d just put my infant through, and for how badly those people in the waiting room treated me. I was just trying to feed my child.
Fortunately for me, that was not going to be the worst of it. A few moments after settling for feeding my child in the bathroom, someone began banging on the door and yelling for me to hurry up. I told them I will be out in just a moment, but they persisted, shouting at me from the other side of the locked door. I decided to pull my son from his feeding early, pack up everything, and return to the waiting room. I opened the door and found the angry person on the other side of the door was none other than the hateful man who told me to go in there in the first place. Nice, right?
I found a seat and sat down quietly waiting for my ticket number to be called. After about 30 minutes, I approached the window and asked the check-in lady what was taking so long, to which she replied that my number had already been called over a half hour ago. It turned out that while I was breastfeeding in the bathroom, my number had been called and I was not there to answer for it, so I was subsequently disqualified and would have to start over. I took a new number and did just that- started over.
I never attempted breastfeeding in public again. I pumped at home for when we would leave the house, or would plan my day outside of my house based on his feeding patterns.
What’s Your Perspective on Breastfeeding in Public
Now, 6 years later, I look back at that situation and think about how I should have pulled my breast out, gave it to my infant, and told that entire waiting room of people to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. Just the simple fact that I forced my son to stop eating when he was hungry because of what other people thought, is abhorrent. I still feel guilty about that.
Women are amazing creatures. We grow life within us and produce exactly what those little lives need to survive. We are amazing, yet we are told by other’s that we have to hide in order to feed our children, but only if we breastfeed. We don’t need to hide anything. Our breasts are made for feeding our children, and if we choose to breastfeed, there is not a single person in the world that possess the right to tell us it is wrong or indecent. That rule applies to any mother who chooses to use formula. No one is more right than the next.
All things considered, I find it interesting that using breasts to sell cars, motorcycles, burgers, viagra and lingerie is widely accepted, but breastfeeding should be hidden from public scrutiny. To be completely honest, it angers me. We have a long way to go in terms of what is accepted and unacceptable in our society.
So, next time someone tells you how to feed your child, remember these words… I am wonderful and strong, and I know what is best for us. And if they tell you to put away your breast due to being in a public place, just smile the sweetest smile you can muster and say, “No. Bye!”