Family and friends
Not all of your friends and family members will be comfortable when you breastfeed in their company. Unfortunately, it’s often this pressure from others that makes women nurse in hiding or wean prematurely. Remind your friends that you’re doing the best thing for your child, and remind yourself that their discomfort is their problem, not yours. You can be sensitive to those who seem uncomfortable, but don’t let them dissuade you from breastfeeding. With a little gentle persuasion, friends and family may soon be helping to create private space for you to nurse. Most passersby won’t give you a second glance.
Is your partner embarrassed when you breastfeed in public? Call your La Leche League leader for ideas and a schedule of meetings for couples. Watch how other mothers nurse at meetings. Give your partner articles about the benefits of breastfeeding, and talk about ways to increase your privacy, minimize discomfort, and support your decision to breastfeed. A partner who is a strong ally helps make the experience a positive one for all of you.
Encourage your partner to hold your baby as much as possible. Skin-to-skin contact is believed to stimulate production of the hormones that motivate protective, supportive behaviors in men as well as women.
The toddler challenge
Many mothers find that the higher activity level of their nursing toddlers brings about changes in breastfeeding. Although long nursing sessions probably aren’t at the top of most toddlers to do lists, toddlers do like to know the option is available, so they check in now and then for reassurance. If your toddler proceeds to unbutton your shirt, pull off the blanket that covers you, or reach through your shirt for your other breast when you are away from your home, you might feel uncomfortable. Discouraging these habits at home will translate to more discreet nursing in public.
If you aren’t in a position to nurse immediately, many toddlers are amenable to a certain amount of negotiation. Say, let’s look for a more private place, or you can nurse as soon as we get to the car to hold off your child for the 30 seconds it takes him to get interested in something else. Just be sure to follow through on your promise.
Tandem nursing: two at a time
Tandem nursing in itself is challenging, never mind doing it in public. Success depends on anticipating your children’s needs and finding a good place to feed them before they are unhappily hungry. Nursing the first baby who wakes from a nap or the one who isn’t occupied with a toy can simplify the task. If you do find yourself in the position of having to nurse two babies simultaneously, nursing tops with two openings will make your life much easier. If you are nursing a newborn and a toddler, feed the newborn (who is more needy of your breastmilk) first.
Getting the support you deserve
Breastfeeding confronts the rules of our culture that breasts should be covered in public. Those who disapprove of breastfeeding in public probably aren’t focusing on its purpose: nourishment of children. When we sense disapproval from those around us, we tend to retreat to more private places or find ways to stop nursing in front of others, which can be a disservice to our children.
Need someone to call for support and information? Call a La Leche League International leader for a warm, friendly, and caring perspective. Go to La Leche League meetings and get to know other nursing mothers. Practice nursing with the support of others nursing right beside you. Start a mothers group with women in your childbirth class, or find a family center or another place in your community that offers support to infants and toddlers. Check out such websites as www.lalecheleague.org, www.breastfeeding.com, www.promom.org, www.motherwear.com, and www.attachmentparenting.org.
Build your confidence, and soon you’ll feel at ease. Many of us go through a time when we’re unsure in the midst of so many changes, and we’re swayed by others advice, even bad advice.
© 2002 Motherwear, Inc. The complete catalog and website, for the nursing mother. Supporting, inspiring, and serving nursing women since 1982. Visit us online at motherwear.com, or call us toll-free at 800-950-2500.