I remember the first time I nursed in public. The strangest part for me was that the sensation of cold air on my nipples was reserved for being at home, being naked, dressing, showering or having sex. As soon as that sensation hit, I might as well have been totally naked. It just felt … wrong.
I was a first time mom, and as much as I was figuring out how to be a mom, the people in my life were figuring out how to be around me in this new role. My father-in-law would leave the room when I started nursing. I don’t think he was uncomfortable. I think he wanted me to be comfortable. The relief when a mom who already had babies visited and came right over to my babe at breast and stroked his cheek. There was no awkwardness.
Pretty soon, I had mastered it. I’d wear a nursing camisole under a regular shirt. Up went the shirt. Down went the camisole. A perfect tiny window for baby to latch on.
When I’d go out and nurse, at first it was a very intentional action. My baby is hungry and I am going to feed him. Damn the torpedoes! I undressed my breast in the manner I described above. When he latched, I’d feel extreme satisfaction and pride. Especially when people wouldn’t even know what I was doing. How sneaky I am!
Oh-and then there was mastering the art of nursing while babywearing. Boo-yah, nursing ninja. I could go grocery shopping and be nursing. No one would even know, except for the satisfied slurping sounds emanating from within the wrap.
It really didn’t take long for my nipples to get used to being out and about. And pretty soon, I didn’t even care who knew I was breastfeeding. This is not to say I shoved it in anyone’s face, but if it was easier just to whip the whole breast out of the top of my shirt, by golly, that’s what I did. If my baby had a cold and had to nurse being held upright, sure, no problem. Giant three-year-old, no big deal. Both at once, bring it on.
One time a kid asked me if the baby was eating. I love that kids are so direct. It was a proud moment. I felt like I had done something to help this kid be supportive of breastfeeding.
Maybe this is egotistical, but I really felt like I was doing a public service. Imagine if every single person saw at least one person breastfeeding every day. Pretty soon, it wouldn’t be noteworthy. No one would have to be embarrassed. I know that I made the conscious decision to pretend not to be embarrassed until I actually stopped feeling that way.
When I see a woman breastfeeding in public (and really, it’s very rare here still!) I remember how I felt when that other mom was comfortable enough to look at my baby. I smile and ask, “how old?” and normally remark on how sweet he is. I fight the urge to cheer for the mother, but that’s what I want to do. (And by all means, if you want to cheer, go ahead!) I act like there is nothing out of the norm going on. Because there isn’t.
About Olivia Hinebaugh
Olivia Hinebaugh is a stay-at-home-mom to a three-year-old boy and baby girl. She is an aspiring novelist and steals time whenever both kids are sleeping to clack away at the keys. She tweets about mothering and writing @OliveJuiceLots
She can also be found on Facebook.
Bio photo by Lauren Preti.