Thursday, March 22, 2007

I can't be the only one to find the acronym 'NIP' funny

I am not as uncomfortable nursing in public as I thought I would be. I knew I would do it, of course, but I thought I would be self-consious. In fact, I've found that I'm not uncomfortable at all at this point. ("I guess I'm just that kind of girl," I told Brian today as I settled down to feed the baby in the grass at Farragut Square at lunchtime.)

The first time I had to nurse in public was at Kaiser, when we took the baby in for her first visit with the pediatrician. I nursed in the exam room while we were waiting for the doctor and I thought Adriana was full, but when we went down to the lab so I could have some bloodwork done, she started fussing to be fed again. The waiting room was small and full, with no corner to hide in, and since we were only just getting the hang of latching, I wasn't sure I could be very discreet. I bounced the baby and hoped she could wait. Finally, Brian went to ask the receptionist how much longer I would be waiting, figuring that we could go find a place to nurse if we were going to be waiting much longer. We were assured it would be just a couple more minutes, but Adriana was getting more vocal about her hunger, and I decided I'd rather have people see me nurse than be the woman with the screaming baby. As I struggled to unfasten my nursing bra without lifting up my shirt (learning quickly that turtleneck sweaters are not appropriate for new nursers to wear in public), I noticed that there was a man standing beside me, looking down at me. He was just looking at the baby, I'm sure, while he was waiting his turn in line, but his presence made me fumble more. Before I could get the hook undone, my name was called, and I handed the baby to Brian, hoping he could keep her gone while I was in the back. Once I was done, we found a quiet corner near the pharmacy where I could feed the baby while facing away from everyone else.

Since then, it hasn't been a problem. In the beginning, I needed a boppy to get into a good position to nurse, but was able to improvise with the diaper bag, my jacket, or the sling. Now, I've nursed the baby in various bookstores, by the receptionist's desk at my former office, the birth center, a La Leche League meeting, a babywearing meeting (okay, perhaps those last three aren't surprising in the least), Whole Foods, a yoga studio, a restaurant at brunch with friends (holding baby with one hand, mimosa with the other), the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum (just feet from the Wright brothers' plane!), and in Farragut Square. For the most part I think I've been pretty discreet, although sometimes I see someone looking at at me and I start to wonder. One day I sat in the cafe at Barnes and Noble to feed Adriana. I got her latched on and looked up to see a man a couple of tables away staring at me. I knew that with the angle of the tables and where the baby was, he hadn't seen anything, and I don't think I would have cared if he had. I looked back down at the baby, but when I glanced up again, I saw that he was still looking my way. I made eye contact with him and smiled. He looked away. I kept checking to see if he was going to stare again, but he never even glanced in our direction. I was disappointed: I thought it would be funny to wink at him if I caught him looking again.

Brian asked me at one point whether there were laws in Virginia and the District to protect breastfeeding. I remembered that a year or two ago there was a bit of a stir when a woman was asked not to nurse her baby in a Starbucks in Maryland, which violated both Maryland law and Starbucks corporate policy. La Leche League has a good list of breastfeeding laws on their website. I was happy to see that Virginia does protect women's right to breastfeed in public, and that they even exempt breastfeeding women from jury duty. The District isn't so great: there are no breastfeeding laws in DC. But federal law does protect women breastfeeding on federal property--including museums, so we were totally cool at Air and Space last weekend.

I complained about the lack of laws in DC to a friend, who pointed out that there may not be any laws on the books because it hadn't been necessary: women breastfeeding in public generally aren't asked not to do it. I thought he had a point. And I don't know if he was just unobservant, or if I am really becoming more discreet, but he had no idea I was feeding the baby at the table at brunch that day.


Foilwoman said...

I nursed two children whereever I wanted, whenever they wanted to know public outcry whatsoever. I've never understood the interactions between the anti-nursing people and the "we need laws" crowd. Sit in a comfortable, clean, place that isn't in a traffic aisle. If you need to ask someone to move to get a better space, big a young man who will be mortified and move his butt quickly while blushing. Military guys are good for this. Wear clothes that accommodate nursing (you don't need to show both breasts). Do your thing. Don't worry about everyone else. Notice the people who do have confrontations (I'm betting nursing confrontations aren't their only confrontations, just saying). A few social skills and common sense will go a long way.

And anyone who tries to get between a nursing mother and her child is an idiot (mammalian protective response, anyone?). Just stab them with a knitting needle.

Brunch Bird said...

My boyfriend's sister-in-law, who is awesome, says two things to people who complain pointlessly about nursing in public:
1. Why don't you try eating your lunch in a public bathroom.
2. Throw a blanket over your own head if it bothers you so much!

Ken and Belly said...

Receptionists at pediatrician's offices have probably seen quite a few versions of the experience you describe-- I know ours did at our first visit 6 weeks ago!

(I found your blog via DCBlogs. Hi! Did you know you're featured there today? :)

E :) said...

I just don't understand the fuss that people go on with about breastfeeding. It's how babies eat and bond with their mothers. How something so normal is shunned by some really astounds me.

If I ever have children I will feed them whenever and wherever they need it.

Jennifer said...

I'm probably more of a "lactivist" than I ever intended to be...I started a Flickr group for nursing in public, and i LOVE our URL:


Elizabeth said...

Jennifer, I was going to have Brian take my picture nursing on another nature walk over the weekend for your Flickr group, but I hadn't charged our camera batteries (again!) so it didn't work out.

Daigh McCumhal said...

Not to offend anyone (I am male), but when I see a baby nursing. Personally?

I think "Lucky kid!".

*pause for effect*

Not what some would think. But more because many mom's don't do it.