Did you know that this week is World Breastfeeding Week? As a Mom of three young daughters, I’ve spent a lot of time in recent years nursing in cafe corners, the passenger seat of our Subaru, church basements and most notably, a transpacific flight.
I’ve gotten pretty comfortable unclipping my bra and nursing in public, but it hasn’t always come so naturally.
Almost two years ago I went out to lunch with my mother-in-law for the first time after the birth of my second daughter. It was a hectic time, as you can imagine. I had a 4 or 5-week old baby girl and she needed to eat as soon as we walked into our busy brunch spot. I was scanning across the crowded restaurant looking for the most private booth. There wasn’t one available. We were seated directly behind a group of older men dressed up in suits. They looked like my uncles at Christmas.
Shoot. I started to sweat. Where am I going to feed her? I wondered if there was an employee coat closet or chair in the bathroom. There wasn’t. And it started to pour rain, so I wasn’t heading back out to the car. To calm her screams, I decided to feed her in the public booth. I had brought a discreet cover-up and you could hardly tell there was another human eating lunch at our table. But, I was still uncomfortable. I checked nervously to ensure my tummy wasn’t showing from my lifted shirt or that my baby girl didn’t pop off and expose me. I wasn’t looking for a recreation of Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl performance.
As I was finishing my avocado toast and my daughter was changing sides for her second course, a woman approached our table. Oh man, what was I going to say? I braced myself and held my newborn close to my chest. Was she going to criticize me? Tell me that my actions made her uncomfortable? Was I going to be kind and apologize for feeding my newborn or was I going to tell her off? I started to sweat even more. Instead, she quietly placed a little card next to my plate and walked away. It looked like a business card, I picked it up with my free hand and glanced at it. After I read the card, tears formed in the corners of my eyes.
“Just a note to let you know that I appreciate seeing you, a fellow mother, breastfeeding in public. You are setting a wonderful example for other mothers, as well as our children who will see breastfeeding as a normal, everyday occurrence. I applaud your courage to feed your child without shame or fear. Bravo for you!”
This small gesture made my day. And I’ve kept it in my wallet ever since. I am now living in South Korea and breastfeeding my third daughter. It helps to know that women around the world are doing the same thing. My 3-year-old and 1.5-year-old pretend to nurse every stuffed animal in our home. They tell me in a very matter-of-fact way that Bitty Baby is hungry, or that she “only wants one side.” To them, it’s normal.
My oldest recently brought over a little play teacup and placed it on my chest saying she needed some milk. Like she was going to turn on the faucet and fill up her little cup. So, while I might still be uncomfortable and sweating under my shirt, I’d like to think I am normalizing nursing a little bit for the next generation. I’ve often felt like I should pass on the card to another Mama nursing her baby in public, but I’ve never wanted to part with it. So, while it’s not quite as personal as my experience, I hope you read this and gain a little more confidence in your decision to feed your baby in public. And remember that women across the world are doing the same thing.