I have never had a negative NIP experience. I have never even gotten a funny look. I figure it’s because I live in a big city where we are confronted with so many people doing various strange things on a daily basis. But today I went to the Post Office, the Post Office in the big city of Chicago, and had a very odd experience.
I walked a few blocks to the local Post Office branch with Jack in tow in the Ergo. The purpose for the journey was to get a PO Box for the small business I have started. You know the one… The Badass Breastfeeder. When I arrived I handed my application over and answered a series of questions from a man behind the counter. Jack wiggled and whined so I let him out of the Ergo so he could walk around. Once the keys hit the counter Jack was interested in what was going on. I picked him up in my arms. He began to dig at my shirt. Without thinking I swung him into my right arm and pulled my tank top and cardigan sweater down under my breast with my left arm. He latched on as I fumbled to pull my coat over, my scarf up and my sweater down further out his way. It’s 25 degrees Fahrenheit here in Chicago; that’s -4 degrees Celsius. I was bundled up for our walk so I had quite a bit of clothing to work with.
As I was fumbling around with my clothes I sort of pulled my scarf back over my breast to cover my skin. I had so many layers on that I just did it without thinking. I laughed at myself inside my head as I do not cover when breastfeeding in public. I got back to looking at the man behind the counter and continued to answer his questions and get my PO Box number. Out of the corner of my eye I saw some commotion. I looked over and 2 or 3 female Post Office employees were staring wide-eyed at me. As I noticed their stares they turned around, giggled, whispered to each other and continued to take quick glances at me. They looked shocked. I thought to myself “oh, here we go.” This had never happened to me so I had no previous experience to build on, but I am not afraid to NIP. I am not afraid of other people. And most importantly, I am not afraid of confrontation. I stared back at them. I smiled. I acted natural. I kept a look on my face like “I am not doing anything odd or strange.” They were acting like teenagers that just caught a glimpse of a penis. I finished up my business and walked around the counter to meet the man at the PO Boxes (the man who had yet to show that he gave a shit about me nursing Jack). As I passed their end of the counter I looked them in the eye. I gave them a sort of sarcastic confused look as if to say “what’s the big deal? I don’t see any penises flapping around in here so what’s all the ruckus?” They lowered their heads and avoided the eye contact. I am not afraid of confrontation, but I also do not believe in starting it. I wanted to give these women the opportunity to say something if they really dared, but I did not want to act crazy and start yelling or something.
I opened my PO Box-the key works! It’s official! The Badass Breastfeeder has an address! I thanked the friendly man and he went back to work. Now there I was. Standing in the Post Office, my business sorted out, but I had this nagging feeling like I was letting these women get away with something. I said to myself “I’m the fucking Badass Breastfeeder. I can’t just walk out. It’s like I’d be walking out on thousands of breastfeeding Mamas.” So I walked back to the counter and put our coats and papers down. I stood right in front of them. I did not want to start the confrontation, but I wanted to give these women every opportunity to start it. I looked at them as I walked behind Jack while he explored the Post Office. One woman said “where’s the baby?” I said, as I pointed down, at Jack, “he’s right there, exploring.” She said, “he’s such a calm baby.” “Yes, he is,” I said. The woman said, “that’s why I was looking at you. He’s such a calm baby. Most babies are fussy and crying when they come here and he is so calm and peaceful.” I knew this woman was full of shit, but she appeared to be trying to make up for her rude staring. I thought about going into a huge rant about how breastfeeding on demand helps babies maintain a sense of safety and security especially when they are in unfamiliar surroundings. That he is so calm and good-natured because I meet his every need whenever and wherever he shall express this need. That babies and toddlers are still very dependent on their mothers for their own emotional regulation, and breastfeeding is an important part of a child’s emotional experience. But I didn’t. I figured she was doing what she could in the moment to make up for her stares. That she didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable and was trying to make things right. The woman she had been standing with earlier returned to the area and looked at us talking. She looked curious about whether they had been “busted.” I turned my attention back to Jack satisfied that these women had gotten the point that I am a real person and not a freak show.
At first I felt like this was a negative experience, but now I think it is actually what needs to happen. And you can bet your bottom dollar that this Post Office branch has been signed up for Public Breastfeeding 101 by The Badass Breastfeeder herself. This is now my favorite NIP location. These women were not abusive. They were given every opportunity to be rude if they wanted. They were simply surprised. They likely never see this. They likely have not been exposed to women breastfeeding comfortably and uncovered in public. Breastfeeding a running, talking, squealing toddler no less. In fact, I did my job today. Sure, they could have been more mature about it, but let’s take this mission in stride. I normalized breastfeeding for a few women. Maybe next time they will not be so surprised.
***If you or anyone you know would like to have more support nursing in public check out my free course Become a Badass Public Breastfeeder in 7 Days.
Abby Theuring, MSW
Thanks for reminding me that it’s world bdeistfeerang (or booby, nummy, num-num, as my nursling calls it) week! I know lots of moms and kids who’ll be happy to celebrate. We’re still going strong, through pregnancy and all, at over 2 1/2 years; hooray for the nummies!
I loved reding your story! It made me feel better about my choices to BF and work at home. I think many women are just jealous.
I will NEVER regret BF!
Awesome. Thank you for your posts and more importantly for your commitment to this cause.
Way to go! My daughter is two years old and I’m still nursing. In the AA community that is a little odd for some but I have to think about how it benefits my child. We’re both happy. I try and educate as many people as I can and I do love it when other moms, especially AAs, give me kudos for continuing the journey, despite what others assume.
As a Newbie, I am constantly searching online for articles that can benefit me. Thank you
I am 100% for breast feeding but what I get confused about is the modesty issue. Its 100% a mothers choice to cover or not but you cannot expect the rest of the world to not feel a little awkward when there is a boob on display. Its a boob! They are sexy even though they have this great wonderful job. I myself (and I nursed my child) have had extensive conversations with people who are also complete advocates and one is even works at wic and coaches new moms about this fact. Just because you are comfortable whipping it out on full display doesn’t mean that others are unsure of how to process it. That is natural too and its fair for anyone to assume that not everyone sees breasts wholly as feeding tools but also as sexy. I appreciate the awareness your work is bringing to the matter but in all fairness there are two sides and the modest view isn’t the wrong one. Support of the act period is what counts. Just trying to gently offer my take. Ive nursed and covered in my own home and it still makes people feel a little strange. This is natural too lets not make people feel like they are wrong by natural feelings!
@Natalie, have you tried taking her to a chiropractor??? I am taking my son next week. I have heard they work wonders, it may take a few visits but thats totally worth it if baby gets ‘better’.
I love that you had this opportunity to teach….I have been the teacher to shy mamas out in public. Encouraging them to nurture their babies needs…pull out the breast and feed, relax the tired baby, calm the baby that is scared, be apart of every need from your child. I love that you are so I tuned into your body and Jacks needs…for this I feel a part of and not separated, because at times I do feel like a freak breast feeding my 2 year old….but it’s not about me all the time. I love it to be honest. My boy is already deciding to self ween and it really makes me sad, but again, it’s not about me.
Thanks for being bold!
This is why I absolutely adore you Abby! You are my mentor!
I’m glad it. Most of my NIP has been a non-issue as I’m usually very discreet. (People just generally don’t notice.) The one time there was ever an issue I was at an apartment swimming pool, where my kids and I had been visiting family. We were well withing the rules of the locale.
There were numerous apartment kids around, all initially curious, but otherwise very polite about my nursing my little one. (None wanted me to go as I was the sole supervising adult.) The apartment manager came striding by & did a double take when she realized I was nursing. She started snarkily attempting to admonish me & saying I needed to cover myself or leave. I promptly, but politely informed her that none of her tenants had mentioned having any problem with me nursing & pointing out that I was well within my legal rights to be doing so.
She looked flustered at being called out on it & threw her hands up in an odd little gesture as she practically fled the scene. XD The apartment kids were glad I’d stood my ground as it meant my children & they all got to continue swimming together. I was frustrated at the woman’s rude behavior, but happy on several other counts. I was happy to be normalizing my breastfeeding for the large group of kids. I was happy to have kept my head & stood my ground in the face of that woman being ugly. (I’m not very good at confrontation.) I was especially happy that all those kids got to see her snarky intolerance get shut down. :) Score some points for NIP & trying to normalize it for people. ^_^
I just happened to stumble across your blog post and wanted to tell you- you are not alone. In short, I too am a social worker, who promotes/practices breast feeding and wholesome nutrition, and somewhat of attachment parenting. I also have had a very screaming new baby… for a while… and at everything or for not reason. I mean flexing-every-muscle-in-her-little-body screaming. Also she simply seems to hate breast feeding, as though I’m giving her nasty cough medicine. Additionally she is not a snuggler by any means. I feel like I completely missed the boat to “new mother la-la-land” where nothing else in the world matters except your baby. I have definitely had days where if it was legal to sell your kid, I would have.
Sounds like a positive experience, they learned from you, and will share this with others! Wtg!
Good for you for exposing them to something completely natural and normal! Be proud of yourself for maintaining your composure so that you could expose them in a natural way