tales of breastfeeding in, *gasp*, public

I breastfeed H on demand. Sometimes H wants to eat every two hours, sometimes every three or four. He’ll take his time on the boob on occasion, but generally, it’s less than ten minutes. Any woman who’s breastfed knows you are on-call 24/7 to your baby, but your breasts also grow minds of their own. There’s nothing like holding plank position during an intense gym class and feeling the spiky tingles of a let-down at the mere thought of your baby.

I have a complicated relationship with breastfeeding in public. Put me in an airport waiting area and I’ll whip my nipple out at the first whimper of my baby’s cry, no issue. But if I’m at the public library, a place I frequent often, surrounded by moms I know only by sight, I feel ashamed and do my best to hide what I’m doing.

I found myself parked near and off-ramp of Grand Central Parkway, in Queens, this past weekend. L was asleep, E was bouncing around in the backseat of our Outback. I watched the traffic creep by as I fed H, and felt extremely grateful for the ease of breastfeeding. At that moment, I loved the fact my milk was there and ready for whenever H was hungry. Perfect temperature, no bottles no water no powder needed.

This was a breastfeeding-in-public highlight.

A few weeks ago I was in a similar situation, three kids, one of them starving and needing my boob, but we were in Target. L was seated in the cart, pointing at all the toys and candy she wants me to buy, E trying to help by pushing the cart, but really causing me more anxiety as I’m always afraid he’ll run down some poor old ladies Achilles heel.

There’s not a lot of “sit down” areas in Target, and I hate causing a scene. That video circulating a few months back of a woman breastfeeding at the Starbucks in Target and getting harassed floated to the top of my mind. I didn’t want that same situation to happen, and besides, I was about as far away from the Starbucks as I could be in the massive store.

So, I found an empty shelf area, sat down, angled the cart to block us, and fed H. My son kept pushing the cart back and forth and L started getting antsy. I looked down at H and willed him to eat faster than normal. My knees were up practically to my ears. Several people passed us by and I felt like I was doing something illicit, something wrong. Not my finest ten minutes.

Breastfeeding in public lowlight.

Then, today. At the gym, in a class, I kept watching my phone waiting for the text to ring through- “please pick up Holden from babysitting”. I’m sure the instructor was annoyed by me constantly checking the phone, but I knew at any minute he could decide he needed to eat. Class ends and I walk to the babysitting room, to see the sitter holding H, and he’s screaming a scream I’ve never heard come from him before. H is pretty lucky in that he rarely gets to the point of crying like this; so it rattled me to hear the pitch so desperate, so piercing. The sitter assured me he “just started crying like this” but I’m not so sure.

I asked if I could feed him in the room, but the sitter informed me the policy required me to nurse in the ladies locker room.

Insert eye roll here.

I had my screaming newborn in my arms, and my nearly two-year-old pulling on my pant leg, wanting to leave the nursery. I knew I couldn’t exit the room without her. My husband was still working out downstairs. My number one priority was feeding H, so I steered L out of the room and told the sitter I’d be back to gather all our stuff once H ate.

L sprinted – okay, her little toddler legs don’t allow for much sprinting, but she certainly hoofed it as quickly as possible for our usual exit down the stairs. Since she’s still little I had no way to coax her with words towards the locker room. I tried grabbing her hand, but she pulled it away. So, I scooped her up under one arm, around her midsection, with H in my other arm trying to nurse on my shoulder and screaming, and headed towards the locker room.

Multiple women offered help, but by this point, I had tunnel vision and needed to put H on my breast as soon as possible. His hunger and tears were making me want to cry as well.

I sat down on a bench against the wall, pulled down my two sports bras (a lovely bonus of breastfeeding and exercise is larger than life, heavy boobies, that require extra support) and H latched like he hadn’t eaten in days. L happily flirted with all the old ladies from the class, and I tried avoiding eye contact with anyone. Each person who entered the locker room looked briefly at me, and I could see what I was doing register in their faces as they uncomfortably looked away.

Another Breastfeeding-in-public lowlight.

Sometimes I just don’t want to breastfeed in public, and even though some women #freethenipple, for me it just depends on my mood. I will feed my baby when he needs it, but my own stress level rising affects him too because newborns are mood barometers and if I’m uncomfortable he gets that way too. And I know it’s all in my own head. I hate using breastfeeding covers because they are too hot, cumbersome, and the baby doesn’t like them either, but I at the same time don’t want anyone to watch me. I realize I’m making way to much of an issue of this, and if someone really has a problem with me feeding my baby in public the issue is on them, not me, but — I’m a people pleaser. Always have been. I am more afraid of confrontation than an average person.

Once H is a bit bigger I can feed him while wearing him and this nursing in public issue will cease. After three kids, I’m pretty sure my uneasy feelings will not change. So, I’ll just have to suck it up when I’m out and continue to try and time my outings around the last time H ate. As with everything with raising kids, these situations are fleeting and only temporary. And if I ever find myself in a Target and see some poor mama crouching on a shelf, I will smile at her and give her a thumbs up, because I too have been there.

1 Comment

  1. Breastfeeding is such a wonderful thing, but doing it in public sometimes leaves much to be desired! I absolutely love being able to nurse on demand and easily feed my baby (youngest is now almost 6 months) without doing the whole bottle thing! But, yeah, even after four kids, I still enjoy the seclusion of my van while we’re out. It isn’t that I won’t feed her if the need be no matter where we are, but I much prefer having privacy. I like quiet and calm while feeding my little one, and that can’t generally be found amongst the public.


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