Just five and a half years ago I would not nurse my newborn in public. What has changed to make me comfortable nursing my three year old for all the world to see?
On Monday night my husband Kris and I took our kids to the mall. Neither Kris nor I realized how tired our daughter Sydney was. The night ended in a total melt down complete with tears, howling, and hives.
Kris and I tried everything, but nothing would bring solace. Finally, through sobs and with raindrop tears and a red face our three year old said: “I. Want. To. Nursey.” The gasps of air in between each word emphasized the necessity of nursing. Right now.
As I sat there quietly looking at her and rubbing her hand, I reflected back to five and a half years ago. This is the same mall that I used to visit when my son Owen was born. My husband was traveling a lot then and it was winter. As long as I kept Owen close, the mall was a place for him and I to come so that I could interact with people, grab a coffee, and get out of the house.
I knew where every discreet breastfeeding spot was and constantly had a route planned in my mind of how to get there- I mean, when an infant needs to eat, he needs to eat N.O.W.
Motherhood Maternity offers their fitting rooms to nursing mothers whether or not you are shopping. Macy’s does not offer this service, but Owen and I spent hours in their dressing rooms anyway. There was also a set of chairs just outside of Sears that if turned properly (and if blankets were placed appropriately) could ensure that nobody saw my breast. When all else failed, my keys were readily available to take Owen to my small sedan and nurse him in the parking lot until he was full. It was perfect.
Except… while we were at the mall my eyes were constantly darting around looking for the closest and most discreet nursing spot, and I never fully engaged in conversation with others because I knew that if I had to quickly leave the conversation to feed my baby, the other participant might think me rude. If the line at the coffee shop was too long I skipped getting a coffee. The pressure of being at the counter waiting for my drink and worrying that Owen was going to need to eat right then was too much for me.
The mall added loads of stress to my life, and none of the connection I was seeking.
As I sat nursing Sydney this past monday night I thought about how far I had come. Here I was, in the middle of a mall, nursing my three year old! My THREE year old! I had not even considered whether or not I should nurse her- I just… did.
What has changed?
I have come to understand fully that it is not I who questions whether nursing in public is appropriate. I know that babies should eat when they are hungry and that children should be comforted when they need it- no matter where they are. If it is not my issue, why am I owning it? Why I am compromising my baby’s needs and child’s well being to accommodate somebody else’s stuff?
The more I read and educated myself, the more deeply I understood this.
As I sat on that lounge chair on monday night nursing my three year old for all the world to see, I did not wonder if others were staring at me or bothered by what they saw. I did not think about how I would cover up if somebody came too close. I was not worried about a quick escape to a secret hiding spot.
Instead, I cuddled my daughter. I focused on her and what she needed. I stroked her cheek and smiled into her face. Owen kept rubbing her leg as Kris got us all some water. Together, we calmed Sydney and allowed her to feel safe, connected, and calm. This was all that she needed.
Change can be a really, really good thing. In this case it has allowed me to focus on my children- instead of other people.
Jennifer Andersen blogs at Our Muddy Boots. Though she takes the importance of learning to parent more fully seriously, she does not take parenting too seriously. When she’s not sharing her own parenting
victories mistakes, you can find her chatting with other like minded parents on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, or hanging out on the beach with her kids taking pictures.