How privately breastfeeding my children is the right choice for us
I wrote these words originally back in April of 2013 when my youngest was a couple of months old and my oldest was 3. This is part of my story of breastfeeding and what worked best for my children and me.
Sometimes I read something that really irks me. This was the case last week when I came across a link to an article titled “If you don’t support breastfeeding in public, you don’t support breastfeeding” on Huffington Post. It made me roll my eyes. And it made my blood pressure rise a notch or two. Let me explain.
First, I’m proud that nursing is working for my son and me. I had to exclusively pump milk for my now 3-year-old and that left me with many mixed emotions. Forming a working nursing relationship with my son has been precious to me, even during the times when I’m exhausted and seriously doubting my decision to nurse. (I’d wager every nursing mother has had those moments and powered through them.)
However, I don’t feel like I have to nurse my son in front of everyone to be proud that nursing is working for us. It’s our own private journey we’ve taken together. Sure, at home I nurse him in front of my 3-year-old and my husband. I’ve nursed discreetly a couple of times in front of my mom, but that’s where I draw the line. If anyone else is at our house I go to another room with the door closed.
The main reason I breastfeed in private has to do with myself.
Here’s the important message why: I do this for my own comfort. My OWN comfort. I think my extended family would be supportive should I stay near them and nurse my son. However, I’m not comfortable that way, even with a nursing cover. For now, at just over two months in, I find the nursing cover almost creates more trouble than help. I still need to see him and what he’s doing. I would be too uncomfortable to nurse sans cover in front of others for my own modesty reasons and just plain comfort. (Just so you know, my own modesty includes not showing my breasts, cleavage or even bare belly.) And so, my boy and I head off on our own during feeding times.
Not everyone needs to be part of my breastfeeding journey.
Second, random strangers are not invited to be part of my breastfeeding experience. I long ago had to get over the judging looks I’d sometimes get in public when I gave my daughter a bottle. At first I wanted to scream at those people that I was giving her breastmilk. I wanted to scream even louder that they should mind their own business and just be happy I’m feeding my child. Please know that I have no problem with formula-feeding moms. We all do what is best for our babies. Keeping them fed is most important no matter how we do it. I worked through those feelings last time and I refuse to let them they creep up this time. My choice is to either nurse in the car, which I’ve done a couple of times, or to pump and take milk with me.
And I know that pumping and taking a bottle gets some moms in a tizzy. They decry the torture of the breast pump. As someone who has logged hours upon hours upon hours upon hours hooked to a breast pump, I can say I’ve never found it torturous. In fact, the pump has been kinder to me than my baby. It never turns its head away while still attached to me. It never gets mad and bites down. My breast pump just stays attached and keeps a steady rhythm.
They also decry supply issues. These are the same kind of women who would say that you can’t build and maintain a milk supply with a breast pump. They irritated me last time around, too. I have the proof that’s possible since my daughter got breast milk from me via a pump and bottle for her entire first year and just beyond. Yes. It can be done.
I know that right now my milk supply isn’t completely established, so I have to be careful. Supply is established at 12 weeks; I’ll hit 10 weeks tomorrow. I know these things even more so based on my previous experience. Because of that, I’m careful about pumping and making sure that if I miss a feeding from the tap with my little man that I’m pumping enough around that feeding time so my supply doesn’t suffer.
Just last week, for example, my husband and I had a chance to go to dinner and a movie. I took my pump along with the car adapter. We parked behind the movie theater so I could pump before we went in since my son was getting a bottle at home from my mom. This time around I’ve pumped extra milk to have a bit of a stash built up. So I’d daresay that pumping has actually helped me build and increase my supply in conjunction with nursing. And it gives me a bit of a cushion to know I have milk for my son in case something happens and we need it in a pinch.
My baby drinks faster from a bottle.
The other benefit to giving my son a bottle is that feeding him goes faster. He takes a bottle in 10 minutes. With nursing, he takes twice that or more by taking at least 10 minutes per side. Having 20 minutes to sit anywhere in public is often a challenge. So, I’m more comfortable with a bottle. Thus far he’s had a bottle at church, two restaurants and two doctor’s appointments. He’s not minded. He’s had a chance to actually get his fill before we had to switch activities, and I’ve pumped within an hour at most of each of these bottles. We’re both happier.
Most importantly, this makes me most comfortable and at ease so it benefits my baby the most. We’re both more relaxed. I know how I’d feel nursing in public. The thought of it makes me feel antsy. That’s never a good feeling to associate with nursing. And it’s sure not helpful to my son who picks up on my emotions and reacts to them.
Breastfeeding in public doesn’t change anyone’s mind.
To say that I don’t support breastfeeding because I don’t nurse in public is offensive and downright incorrect. I have proven that I support breastfeeding by tying myself to a pump for a year to make sure my daughter got breastmilk. I have proven it by allowing my son to latch on and use my breasts for sustenance when, quite frankly, sometimes I’d rather be doing something else — like sleeping. It’s not about me, though. It’s about my children getting breastmilk. I’m happy to provide that for them.
What I support most is feeding babies however works best and is most comfortable for them and their mommies. For some that’s with formula. For some it’s with pumped milk through a bottle. Others nurse directly at the breast. Still others use a combination of methods. For me, I am most comfortable giving a bottle in public or going to the car. If a nursing mama is comfortable nursing in public, she should go for it. I don’t have an issue with anyone else nursing in public. I just know that it’s not for me and I don’t feel I should be chastised for that.
And I am not keeping nursing on the back burner by not nursing in public. Seeing me nurse in the middle of the mall is not going to change anyone’s mind about breastfeeding just as seeing political posts on my Facebook News Feed is not going to change my mind about my own political views. I don’t owe it to society to nurse in public. It’s not going to further advance breastfeeding. I only owe it to my baby to make sure he’s fed. And I will choose to do that in a way that feels most comfortable to me.