Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Celebrating Six Years

Breastfeeding my Monster at a park in Rogersville, TN. 
He's nearly 3 years old here! 

Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige at NursingFreedom.org. All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public ("NIP"). See the bottom of this post for more information.


Recently my oldest daughter turned six years old. Her birthday was also something special for me; not only had I been a mother for the better part of a decade, but I had also been the owner of this super-power called lactation. I have nursed through three toddler-hoods and two weanings only missing the achievement of nursing three children by a few months. Even after all this time, I am still utterly (no pun intended!) amazed at how remarkable my body is.

During my third and last pregnancy, I was nursing both my older daughters. Our oldest, 3.5 years at the time, weaned only a few months before her brother arrived and I continued to tandem nurse the younger two until our middle child weaned at the age of 2.5 years. At 2 years 8 months, our youngest child is still nursing.

I have nursed in many places and do so proudly. I have no reason to hide! However, I haven't always felt that way. I used to be the mother to search out the fitting rooms, or sit in the car whilst the rest of my family enjoyed shopping or other outings. One day, I realized how much I was missing out on by feeling the need to hide. I didn't come to this realization from my own experience, but from one I witnessed.

While out shopping one day, I had to take my oldest daughter to the restroom. Unbeknownst to me, I walked in the public restroom to see a momma jugging an infant and trying to nurse beside a changing table in a stuffy bathroom. This wasn't a nice bathroom with lounge chairs or attendants. It was a box retailer's run of the mill generic public restroom. At first my heart sunk. Why was she nursing in the gross bathroom?! I gave the mom an encouraging smile, but really, what message did I send? I, too, was hiding when I nursed. Looking back, at least a million times, I had wished I would have told her "Good for you" or "It's sad we feel the need to hide" but I didn't. Instead, I vowed to never hide again. I can breastfeed discreetly and I will.

From that day on, I nursed anywhere and everywhere. Disneyworld? Nursed there. Gatlinburg TN? Right there on the streets. The local zoo? Many places, but a favorite of ours is overlooking the Savannah with zebras and elephants.

My husband was a little concerned in the beginning, but it wasn't long until he realized how much easier it was to just nurse where ever we were and how little you could actually see while nursing. For both of us, this was a huge change to the culture of where we both grew up. The breast was so sexualized and the bottle was glorified that I had only seen breastfeeding very briefly one time before having my own children.

Which brings me back to the six years of continuous nursing day. We took our daughter and my husband's parents out to eat at a pizza place for our daughter's birthday dinner. After a day of mini-golf in the sun, we knew our two year old was only breaths away from a tantrum and meltdown. After being seated, it was only minutes until our son asked to nurse. Of course I let him! No one in the whole restaurant cared. The waitress never blinked; however, my father-in-law was sure to keep his head down the entire time I was breastfeeding. At least he didn't leave! Hey, that's progress, right?

Art by Erika Hastings at http://mudspice.wordpress.com/

Welcome to the Carnival of Nursing in Public

Please join us all week, July 5-9, as we celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. And visit NursingFreedom.org any time to connect with other breastfeeding supporters, learn more about your legal right to nurse in public, and read (and contribute!) articles about breastfeeding and N.I.P.

Do you support breastfeeding in public? Grab this badge for your blog or website to show your support and encourage others to educate themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers and children.

This post is just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts - new articles will be posted on the following days:
July 5 - Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World
July 6 – Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child
July 7 – Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.
July 8 – Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives
July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It


Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Thank you for nursing your toddlers in public. Normalizing full-term breastfeeding is one of my passions! I invite you to share a story about the joys of breastfeeding toddlers on my site - email me :)

Rebekah C said...

Congratulations! It will be six years for me next month, as well. It's been an amazing, inspiring, truly wonderful journey, hasn't it?

oursentiments said...

Your experience leads me to share something I did. I was having a not-on-the-ball day. K2 just informed me that she had to go to the bathroom just when I was next in line for check out, during a mega sale. Of course I dropped everything and went to the washroom.

When K2 and I went into the bathroom I saw a mother and her son (roughly 6 months) going into the larger washroom.

I regret, not what I said but how I said it. Me having a bad day does not give me any right. I asked her if she was going to nurse in the stall, and she said she was. I got so mad for her. Our mall is a baby friendly mall and still mothers think they have to hide in a stall.

I told her she did not have to nurse her baby in the bathroom, I told her I still nurse and I know how it is. I was stuck in the bathroom when she was younger. The mom said she wanted to sit down to nurse.

Even though I think the information I gave was valuable. Even though I hope she will one day feel free enough to sit on our mall's new 5 inch foamed and comfortable benches instead of the toilet. I could not help but to think:

This mom can't make anyone happy. She goes to the stall and she gets me, but if she were to go to the bench she would get someone else.

I still hope that one day I will see this mother again, to apologize. I had no right, I wish I could have done it over. I wish I was on the ball.

So we both feel the same way on this experience, we should have done something different.

Congratulations on 6 years!

Lisa C said...

I used to be so scared of nursing in public, but now I am only scared to do it in certain places or around certain people. I hope next time around I can be braver and start a nursing relationship without being fearful.

Casey said...

Congratulations on 6 years! That's wonderful! I had a 4.5 year streak of nursing with almost 3 years of that being tandem nursing. Plus, I found out I was pregnant in January. I also felt happy with my ability to meet my children's needs through breastmilk. Both of my children chose to stop nursing this spring (only weeks apart). While it's a different kind of nice not to be breastfeeding now, I'm also a little disappointed to miss out on the chance to either nurse all three or tandem with my middle and youngest sons. :)

I have also seen mothers breastfeeding in not-so-nice bathrooms. On the one hand, I want to tell them, " you don't need to be in here! Go sit at that table in the cafe area!" On the other hand, I know that mothers' anxiety about NIP is very real. I'm hoping that while I might not always have the right words to encourage mothers in that situation, maybe I can help out by being visible to them while I am nursing.