A Moment of Kindness

Moment of Kindness


My breastfeeding journey is not unlike many others; there were difficulties and mistakes, some regrets, some heartache. There were triumphs and bliss and quiet moments I’ve tucked away next to my heart.


But my favorite breastfeeding story is none of those things. It was really only a fleeting encounter in the end, but the impact rippled out immeasurably from there and became not just about breastfeeding, but a reminder to give people the benefit of the doubt and a boost of courage when I needed it most.


Sebastian was a difficult, exhausting baby who took his first steps at eleven months and, elated with his new found mobility, started running almost immediately. Everywhere. He became an active, exhausting toddler, who had decided that food was okay for occasional snacking, but still got almost all his nutrition and comfort and momentary naps between adventures from nursing.


We went to Disney World when he was thirteen months old and his older brother was three. Despite being probably too young for Disney to really get the most out of it, they both had the time of their lives. The weather was pleasant, the park quiet in the off-season. He ran and ran and ran. And ran.


At Pooh’s Playful Spot (RIP) I sat down on a bench; the closed off, padded play area a welcome oasis of containment. I watched my boys climb and slide, hide and run. After a bit, Sebastian came up to me a made his sign for nursing. He’d finally run out of steam, needed to eat and drink and get a revitalizing cuddle from Mama. Lucky for us, nursing still remained all of those things, in a very convenient and portable package.


I looked around nervously. The play area was fairly quiet and I was tucked in a corner with a bench to myself. I’d never been as comfortable nursing in public as I wished to be. It wasn’t and isn’t something I encounter often where I live; seeing a nursing mother is a thrilling rarity, like spotting an elusive Glasswinged butterfly, or maybe a nervous lizard darting into the shadowed underbrush.


I’m a private person, and I dislike confrontation. I wanted to be the type of mother who had a witty, biting comeback, who nursed wherever and whenever no matter what anyone said, but I was probably more likely to freeze up and leave in tears.


But I plucked up my courage and did it anyway; always discreet, somewhere quiet if could, and if I couldn’t, I’d just remind myself that I was not doing anything wrong. That I was not trying to prove anything to anyone; I was not there to make someone else uncomfortable. I was feeding my baby. Period.


But nursing a toddler had brought all of those uneasy feelings back, and sure enough, a woman spotted us, walked across the play area and sat down right next to me. I braced myself, frantically trying to locate my husband as he played with our three year old to back me up, searched my mind for a comeback or defense or just a way to politely but firmly tell her to mind her own business.


But then, “I just wanted to tell you how sweet you two are. The moments I spent nursing my boys are some of my fondest memories. I miss it dearly. Good for you.”


I don’t think I managed much of a coherent reply. Probably just stuttered and blushed and choked out a thank you. Her kids came by then, two preteen boys, and she left. I never got to tell her how much her words meant to me. How it was the first time a stranger had gone out of their way to say something kind, just because. How after that encounter every dirty look and offended scoff no longer bothered me quite as much.


I try to pay it forward, encouraging when I can. I’m still private, still tend to keep to myself. But when I see a nursing mother I at least offer an encouraging smile, though I’m always afraid it comes off as creepy and slightly manic, I try.


If I could do it again, I would tell that lovely woman that her words meant more to me than I could ever say. And to all the nursing mothers who still have to look around nervously, ready for confrontation, I’d like to say that you are so sweet and the moments I spent nursing my children are some of my fondest memories. I miss it dearly. Good for you.



About Jill Vettel

Jill Vettel is a writer and stay at home mom of two preteen boys and their little sister in Durham, NC. In her spare time she smiles awkwardly at strangers. She means well.

7 thoughts on “A Moment of Kindness”

  1. What a wonderful article. I remember nursing my babies into toddlerhood as well. Thank you for writing this – and keep writing!!

  2. Thank you so much for your story. I was also very private about nursing my two boys, but I’ve wondered how I could be supportive of those Glasswinged butterflies when I see them out in the world. Now I know–I will say what that kind woman said to you. It has been 2 years since I nursed my littlest for the last time. Yes, the time spent nursing both boys (now 5 and 9) is filled with warm, fond memories.

  3. Awww, you brought tears to my eyes. Beautiful. I am an outspoken person that would tell someone to mind their own business if they had a problem with it, but deep down inside it is not easy to do. I breastfed both my babies in to toddler hood.

  4. You brought tears to my eyes too. I can totally relate – I still dread conflict, although I’ve learned to be confrontational and defensive (part of the career I’ve chosen). I nursed in public quite a bit but it became much harder for me once my son became a toddler because of the stigma surrounding nursing “older” babies. Thanks for sharing with us your experience, and reminding me to “pay it forward” as well, because chances are there is a nursing mom out there who needs that encouragement or kind word.

  5. Such a beautiful story! I’ve breastfed my boys in public plenty of times and felt the same way. No one has ever confronted me in a positive or negative way, but I think its wonderful when mothers encourage each other in this way. I too have a son named Sebastian who fits your son’s description to a tee!

  6. Aww 🙂 thank you for sharing your story. Isnt it strange how women have to feel uncomfortable with all these things that are totally natural, ie breast feeding and menstruation.

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