As a supporter of breastfeeding, I believe that nursing in public is important for normalizing breastfeeding, providing an ally for other nursing moms and providing a role model for parents-to-be, people who want to have children, and well, everyone. I fully support a woman's right to nurse in public, anywhere and everywhere, whenever her child needs to be fed. But I personally haven't always been comfortable nursing in public.
The first time I nursed Joshua in public was at the beach. It was a warm May day, Joshua was about two months old, and we decided to have a picnic at the beach. There weren't many people there because it was a weekday, but there were some moms and children as well as some sunbathers. I was nervous about nursing Joshua in public, but after looking around at the bikinis and other skimpy outfits, I realized that I'd still be one of the most covered people there. I wasn't good at covering up with a blanket while nursing, since I never used a blanket at home, but since it was my first time nursing in public, and since the sun was so bright and I didn't want Joshua to get burned (not to mention my fair skin), I threw a thin blanket over my shoulder. I had a bit of trouble trying to get my nursing bra unhooked while staying covered and holding Joshua, and I joked that while it's called breastfeeding, it requires at least three hands to do successfully. Once I finally got my act together, Joshua latched on and happily nursed.
I was a little concerned as a bikini-clad mom and her young son walked towards us. Nursing in public horror stories from the internet flashed through my mind, ones about moms being asked to leave stores and restaurants. I adjusted the blanket, which was the common pink and blue striped hospital blanket that found its way to our house, to make sure that nothing was showing. It was windy, so a little adjustment made me feel better. I was covered from shoulder to lap, and Joshua was completely hidden.
To my surprise, the mom smiled and said, "Congratulations!" as she walked by with her son. I breathed a sigh of relief and thought Hey, I can do this!
I held my head high, happy to know that I was doing what's best for my son, best for me, and what's also good for breastfeeding women everywhere: nursing in public. This mom will probably never know what she did for my confidence, and it's wonderful that one positive experience could make me so comfortable nursing my son.
Now that Joshua is a nursing pro, I tend not to cover up when I nurse him in public unless there are a lot of people around and I feel a little uncomfortable (for example, if I'm wearing a bathing suit). I'm pretty modest, but I've found it's easy to nurse discreetly without a blanket. In fact, I've even had conversations without people realizing I'm feeding him -- they just think I'm holding him. There are still times that I prefer privacy of a bedroom or the car, especially if it's hot and I want air conditioning or if I'm tired. But it's nice to know that I can nurse Joshua wherever and whenever he's hungry, without having to worry about pumping, bringing a bottle, warming it up and giving it to him. And I'll always remember how supporting new moms who nurse in public, even with a smile, can boost confidence and promote breastfeeding.