Why Women Nurse in Public

You know, I’ve been on both sides now. Before I had my baby, I had a couple friends who breastfed their babies, and you know what? The first few times, it made me uncomfortable. I think part of people’s discomfort comes from the fact that it’s just not a stage of life that lasts long, so people don’t have a chance to be exposed to it often. It’s that same reason that people say such dumb and inappropriate things to pregnant women. Anyway. I really thought most women breastfed their babies, but it never occurred to me that that would mean they would have to breastfeed them in public. Which is ridiculous, really. But in the same way that all childless people know everything, I had the two obvious solutions: nursing mothers could cover up, or they could use expressed milk in bottles while in public. And don’t those seem like such obvious solutions? Well, here’s why they’re not.

  1. The problem with covering up: For a one-month-old baby in the stage in which Steve used to call Kara a human larva, covering up works just fine. But as soon as a baby starts wanting to interact with the world, this is no longer feasible. Baby doesn’t just want to eat—he wants to interact with Mommy. He wants to make eye contact, smile, touch her face, and use those marvelous hands. A cover is not just confusing, it’s a fun toy that he’ll pull down as soon as you put it up just for the sake of using his hands. And, really, a nursing baby covers up pretty much everything. Yes, it’s obvious that a baby is eating, but there’s nothing inappropriate visible even without a cover.
  2. The problem of the bottle: Well, really, there are many. The first is that breastmilk is liquid gold for a mother who works hard making it and pumping it. You don’t just cart that stuff around unless you’re absolutely certain you’re going to use it. For a nursing mother, every bottle she pumps could be a trip out of the house without a baby or a date night with the husband. You don’t risk that on a trip out of the house when Mom and Baby are together just on the off chance you might need to nurse where there’s not a comfortable private place to nurse. The other problem regards Momma’s body. When Baby wants to eat, Momma’s body gets ready for Baby to eat. Baby cries, and Momma’s milk is gonna drop whether or not Baby is gonna eat it. So if you think a nursing mother is indiscreet, what do you think about a mother walking around with two huge wet milk stains on her shirt?
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