Public breastfeeding: where do you sit?
Today is the last day of World Breastfeeding Week for another year. I thought I’d top off my trilogy of breastfeeding posts for the week by looking at perspectives of breastfeeding in public. When I say perspectives, I’m specifically talking about sitting on one side of the fence as a woman who has yet to breastfeed a baby and what that looks like and then hurtling over that fence to sit and see the view from the other side as a mother who, above all else, has to feed her hungry baby who doesn’t necessarily know whether he’s in public or not.
Before Baby S came along, I always thought that I would breastfeed. I can’t really put my finger on why because I wasn’t breastfed myself nor had any exposure to breastfeeding growing up. The first real interaction I had with a breastfeeding woman was when a friend of mine had her first baby and when she fed him in my company, whether it be in the comfort of our respective homes or out and about, I was always super keen to be seen to be supportive. I wasn’t 100% sure how to do this and maybe in hindsight I should have asked her but in my mind I was actively concentrating on treating it as perfectly normal, carrying on the conversation or doing whatever it was that we were doing. The one bit that used to throw me was where to look: should I be making eye contact with her and not look at the nursing baby? Or should I move between the two? Or should I have been looking at her breasts to acknowledge the nursing going on? The things we tie ourselves up in knots about when we’re aiming for political correctness! From the other side of the fence now, I wouldn’t even notice this careful positioning of the eyes of my companions.
When it came to my first “public nursing”, myself and a new friend also with a tiny two week old decided we’d provide moral support to each other and headed to the local coffee shop to try it out. Nobody paid a blind bit of attention to us and we were only delighted with ourselves. Although in fairness, we live in a part of Dublin which I might go as far as saying could be the, if not one of the, breastfeeding capitals of Ireland, so we were not an unusual sight by any stretch.
After that initial success, myself and Baby S found ourselves out and about quite a lot and very quickly my concern about other people’s reaction to my breastfeeding dissipated when it became obvious that the needs of the screaming, starving baby - who literally went from nought to ravenous in seconds – seriously outweighed my concern to be mindful of passersby and I now think there isn’t a man, woman or child in the whole of Dublin who hasn’t seen my breasts at this stage. There is nothing like the sound of an insistent hysterical infant to focus your attention and block out all else around you.
I’m an old hat at it at this stage and I couldn’t care less where, when or how I feed. Not that Baby S gives me much choice any more as he has become adept at launching himself at me across a room and nuzzling his head between my breasts! Only on one or two occasions have I felt uncomfortable but I think I might have been picking up on a vibe from people around me. I’ve often wondered how I would react if anyone passed a comment to me and I was always poised with my speech about my legal rights and threatening an establishment with a hefty fine, but the opportunity never arose . I know this comfort with public nursing isn’t something that everyone experiences and some woman prefer not to do it at all. Each to their own, I say but for me, it was pretty, pretty handy.
What have your experiences been as an observer or a nurser?