I’ve seen a lot of remarks lately about breastfeeding in public and would like to share with you what it is like for a working mother with a family trying to breastfeed her baby in a state that offers no breastfeeding protection. First I will offer a little background and then I will respond to some common remarks I see people post about breastfeeding. I work 40 hours a week. In order to have enough milk for my baby for daycare, I spend 15 hours (3x per day, 1 hour each time) pumping during the work week. I’m very fortunate to have a job where I am able to accomplish this. I also pump for 1 hour in the morning each day of the weekend to keep my supply up so that I will be able to pump enough the following week.
Q. Why don’t you just give your baby pumped milk instead of nursing in public?
A. Did you know that babies are much more efficient at getting milk out of the breast than a pump is? My child can do in 10-15 minutes what it takes me an hour to accomplish with a pump. I already spend 17 hours a week pumping, I don’t want to have to be hooked up to my pump anymore than I have to. I want to be able to enjoy time with my family, not to mention that the house needs cleaning, dinner needs made, etc.
Q. So just feed your baby in your car or in a bathroom or stay home?
A. I will not leave where we are to trek who knows how far to the vehicle. If you live in Idaho, you know… we don’t have much of a window between burning hot temperatures and freezing temperatures. If my baby is hungry (and possibly crying) then I’m going to feed him. I see no reason to make him wait for what feels like an eternity (to him and anyone listening to the crying) to haul him all the way out to the car to sit in uncomfortable temperatures. As far as feeding in the bathroom goes, I will under no circumstances feed my baby in the place where people do their business. A bathroom is a place for food to EXIT the body… not the other way around. Both of these options also remove us from our family time. As a working mother, I value the weekends and any time I get to spend with my family. By running to hide so I can feed my baby, I am missing out on this sacred time.
Q. So just plan your schedule around your baby eating.
A. It is not always predictable when a baby will need to eat. And if they are going through a growth spurt, then there is a good chance they are eating more often. You try to plan family outings or grocery shopping around someone that needs to eat every hour or two. It isn’t so easy.
Q. So if you must breastfeed in public, why not use a cover?
A. Have you ever put a blanket over a baby’s head? It turns into a game of tug of war, or peek-a-boo. Not to mention how warm it can get (especially with Idaho summers). Even in an air conditioned room it can get warm because the flow of oxygen is significantly less if I cover my baby’s head. This leads to him unlatching frequently and the entire process taking much longer than it would have without a cover. All babies are different. Some may tolerate a cover, but mine will not. I use a two shirt strategy. One shirt goes up, the other goes down. This minimizes boob exposure… however it is nearly impossible to be 100% covered, 100% of the time despite my best efforts. (Plus wearing 2 shirts in summer is HOT). I promise you, I am not flashing my breasts in public for fun.
Q. No one wants to see your boobs.
A. So quit looking. I know if I’m hanging out in the park, looking around, and suddenly see an eye full of butt crack, my first instinct is not to stare. I look away. If you catch a glimpse of something you don’t want to see, the easiest thing to do is to move on. Don’t stare. It’s not like I’m swinging the girls around shouting “LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!” and bursting into dance while singing “my milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.” No.
Breastfeeding is hard(at least at first). If you haven’t done it yourself then you may not realize all the difficult things that come with breastfeeding. When a baby is born, they do not always know how to properly latch on. This is a learned skill for both mother and baby and it can take time (7 weeks in our case) to master.
Breastfeeding mothers fight for the proper latch, and against milk blisters, cracked nipples, clogged ducts, mastitis and more. Yet we gladly take on these difficulties for our child. I have to eat and drink very specific things every day for my child to have enough milk. But I’m okay with that.
Breastfeeding is more than just a fight, it is a war. A war I will gladly fight for my child to make sure that he has the best nutrition possible. A war I’ve successfully been holding my ground in for nearly 7 months. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way complaining. I love being able to breastfeed my child. I love the way he looks up and smiles at me. I love the bonding time we share during this magical moment. I love breastfeeding and will continue to do it as long as both my child and I want to.
We are all just trying to provide for our children in the best way possible. But don’t you think we have enough against us? In addition to all the issues that may come along with breastfeeding, all the battles we must fight and the pain we must endure… we don’t need another enemy. Don’t make us fight the public too.
This is not meant to be insensitive to mothers who chose not to, or were unable to breastfeed. I respect your situation, please respect mine.