The first time I took my newborn daughter out to a public restaurant, I was in near panic as she began to wiggle and fuss in her infant seat. How am I going to breastfeed her? My whole extended family was with us, and there was no way I was going to attempt to latch her on with my dad, uncles, and strangers as witnesses as I fumbled to feed her– even if I had a nursing cover. Ten years ago, I wasn’t aware nursing covers even existed, but even if I’d owned one, I still would have been too insecure to use it.
I found myself sitting in a bathroom stall perched on the edge of a nasty public toilet seat, breastfeeding my six week old. Gross. On other day trips or running errands I would rush to the car for privacy, unsure of the public perception and severely insecure. I loved breastfeeding, but somehow there was this shameful side of me that felt the need to keep it private and away from everyone, even within my own household.
Of course, breastfeeding was (and is, as I’m now nursing my fifth child) a beautiful, sacred time just between a mother and child. A time to admire the growing arm rolls that my milk was providing nourishing for, a chance to sit within my ever-busy day, a good excuse to nourish my introverted side and get quiet amongst the chatter at stores or family events.
That sense of privacy certainly is valid– but what about when we have to feed in public? I hated to feel so apprehensive about something that should be so natural. Feeding our babies is what boobs are for, after all.
I was thrilled when I was pregnant with my second baby and discovered that nursing covers were a thing! After my son was born, that cover was freeing compared to being confined behind shut doors or bathroom stalls. Yet, I still preferred privacy and wouldn’t even nurse around men with a cover. It wasn’t so much about what others thought– I knew I was going to feed my baby regardless of that– but my own anxiety was holding me back from fully breastfeeding in confidence.
My third nursling experience was similar, but was also a turning point in slowly unpeeling my layers of insecurity. With envy, I watched my friends who were openly confident in their breastfeeding experience, whether in public or not, and I used those opportunities to build my own confidence around people I knew wouldn’t care if they saw a nipple slip.
With my fourth baby, I became even more self-assured and began nursing without a cover on playdates, learning how to be breastfeed discretely. Finally, it really sunk in that it is nothing to be ashamed of, but a natural part of life and having a baby.
Now, as my fifth nursling is five months old, I have finally reached a point that I just don’t care anymore! I don’t overthink it– I just do it. I have confidence not only in breastfeeding itself, but in how to do it discretely. Recently at a conference I toted around my sweet baby and popped her on whenever and wherever. So many times I heard the comment, “I couldn’t even tell you were breastfeeding!”
My hope for you, mommas, is to start your breastfeeding journey more confidently than I did. Thankfully, America is changing and becoming more accepting of the simple act of breastfeeding our children! I hope you’ll cling to the assurance that you have every right to do so, and don’t bat an eye or sit in fear as your nursling stirs in the carseat nearby, knowing they will need to eat soon. Don’t overthink it!
Use a cover if you want to, but don’t ever let your own anxiety find you perched on a toilet seat to nurse. You and your baby are worth so much more than that.