I’ve always been kind-of modest. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and I knew the logistics of the process but I guess I never really thought about doing it out in the open. Sure, I had seen other moms do it and I never really noticed. I was always too mesmerized by the cute little baby toes of the sleeping newborn to care, I suppose. So when I had my son and experienced that first glorious moment of attachment and felt the comfort from being able to feed him straight from my bosom, I was hooked---Literally!
But loving breastfeeding didn’t take away my need to be modest. I mean, I had been a little “fun” in college, so sharing parts of my midriff or low-cut tops were never an all-around life-altering experience for me. So, when I had trouble breastfeeding in public, I was kind-of shocked. I mean, they were just breasts after all and they were being used for a very important purpose. I remember the first time everyone in my family was gathered around the living room and I felt like I had to grab the nursing cover stat. Believe you me, my hippie parents had seen a boob or two in their day and I didn’t have anything that was going to warrant any attention. My mom had breastfed her children and I had seen my grandmother’s bosom more times than I can count, so what in the world was my problem. It was me. All me. Something in my head that wouldn’t let me feel totally comfortable doing it. And I’m not the only one that feels that way. Carolyn Hash, a mom to two littles in Galax, VA says “With my first son, I was very timid about nursing in public. I would usually hide out in the car under blankets and covers. There is the added pressure of being a teacher and where that fits in, or doesn't.” I agreed. The first time around, I just couldn’t find my breastfeeding traction if you will. As the months passed on, I got a little bit more comfortable with the breastfeeding process but I was never able to just do it without thinking about it. I always felt self-conscious.
In the years following, I’ve watched, read and learned all I could about public breastfeeding. My own ah-ha moment came when I was at the playground with a friend, and she just whipped up her shirt, attached her babe and never missed a beat in the conversation. She looked totally natural---happy, even. I knew in that moment that I wanted to be her. I wanted to be brave and fearless. And why shouldn’t I be? Every state in America has laws in place to allow a mother to nurse in public. Was I afraid of being judged? Becky Ballinger, a mom to the sweetest little boy in Knoxville, TN says she’s currently breastfeeding and feels the pressure. “When I nurse in public I feel very judged like I'm doing something wrong. Even with a cover I would still get very strange looks!” And she’s right, some moms are still asked to leave or relocate while breastfeeding even though it’s against the law. “Nursing has been the hardest thing I've ever done and the most I've ever felt judged,” she says. I wish people would start accepting breastfeeding more in our country.” According to the National Institutes of Health, “In American culture, breasts have often been regarded primarily as sexual objects, while their nurturing function has been downplayed. Although focusing on the sexuality of female breasts is common in the mass media, visual images of breastfeeding are rare, and a mother may never have seen a woman breastfeeding.” Was that it? Did I think these things should only come out on a Saturday night? Lindsey Ferguson-Haas a mom to two adorable kiddos in Atlanta, GA says “I am all for breastfeeding and I breastfed both of my children,” says Haas. But sometimes she feels like it’s too much. “I saw a woman just today at the pediatrician’s office sitting in the lobby with her breast completely hanging out with the baby feeding away.” She adds, “I don't mind public breastfeeding as long as you somewhat cover up, because you would never be in public with that much of your boob hanging out of your shirt. I think some modesty is necessary in breastfeeding.”
But in this world where dads are carrying babes in their backpacks and toddlers are mostly welcome at all restaurants, the conversation is starting to move in the right direction. All the time, I think about women in other countries and how it is the social norm for them to just feed their baby or to carry their babies on their backs. Here, in America, our culture of advertising and media influence has shaped what we think about when it comes to breastfeeding. With my next baby I want to breastfeed whenever and wherever the little one needs to eat. I am going to try my hardest to feel at ease. And it seems like the second time is the charm. Kelsey Blue, mom to one cutie with one on the way in Anderson, South Carolina has big plans for the next one. “Before I had my son I was a little nervous about breastfeeding in public without being covered up. However, once he was born I didn't care anymore. I had to put his needs above the comfort of anyone else. I'm going to do the same thing with my second son.” And Hash’s second chapter went the same way, “With my second son, I am much more brave and bold. I feel an obligation to do what is best for him. I also feel that this is, in part, due to the changing views on breastfeeding in public.” And she’s right, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card says the breastfeeding rate in our country is growing, up to 79 percent in 2011. That’s a great start. “While I may treat it more modestly depending on the circumstances, I have always admired women who shamelessly feed without a cover and wherever they want. I feel a dedication to support and protect their right (and mine) to do that. I make eye contact and smile in hopes that they see I am on their side and I get it,” says Hash.
Though it may take me some time to get the hang of it and I may still need a nursing cover (It’s just the way I am!), I want everyone to know that I’m really trying and I am certainly not judging. I want so badly to be able to do it freely and I will constantly strive for that opportunity. At the end of the day, if your baby is healthy and growing, that’s all that matters—whether you’re covered up or not. Remember, the most important thing is that we accept each other’s choices whatever those may be. What do you think? Is the breastfeeding conversation changing? Which side of the spectrum do you fall? Let us know in the comment section.