This year I was fortunate enough to take part in the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project. The boys and I were photographed at Whole Foods Market in downtown Austin by Leilani Rogers. PBAP works to normalize breastfeeding and show the beauty of breastfeeding in real life, everyday situations. According to a 2012 survey, nearly half of breastfeeding women list breastfeeding in public as their greatest concern, even more than latch issues, pain, or milk supply.
My first real breastfeeding in public experience with E (that wasn't a doctor's office) happened at a restaurant in north Texas. I remember it clearly: we had a successful pediatrician's appointment and E was finally gaining like a champ, so we were able to stop supplementing with my expressed milk. To celebrate, my new family of three went out for a late lunch/early dinner. As we sat in the mostly empty restaurant, I remember being glad that it wasn't full of people.
We were able to eat most of our food before E got up from his nap, wet and hungry. I changed his diaper in the bathroom and tried to nurse him in there. I was so grossed out by the toilets and flushing around me. I swore I'd never do that again. We got back to our table and I pulled out the nursing cover. Somehow I managed to juggle an angry newborn, my large breast, and the cover to nurse him. I distinctly remember an older woman sitting at another table across from me staring at me. I was freaked out, thinking she would come over and say something, but she never did. E and I got rid of the nursing cover a few months later as I grew more confident with nursing him.
I didn't know anything about breastfeeding laws and whether I was protected for feeding my baby. All I knew was that my baby was hungry and I was feeding him at the table, where food is served and eaten. I knew that I had worked really hard to get to this point with him, as evidenced by the continued weight gain from his birth day the month before. I had no idea that breastfeeding advocacy and support would become so important in my life. I wanted to be able to feed my son whenever he was hungry, wherever he was.
Photo by Leilani Rogers for the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project
When Rohan born, I was so confident with breastfeeding him in public. I knew how to do it so I would be comfortable, I knew what the law said, and I knew it was the right thing to do. With a new baby comes a new breastfeeding experience. I got more practice by breastfeeding him at breastfeeding groups. I knew it was a safe place and I could get pointers from other moms if needed.
I'm thankful for having the faith in myself and wherewithal to feed my sons whenever they're hungry, wherever we are.
I breastfeed in public because my child is hungry and I'm fulfilling one of his most basic needs.
Moms are encouraged to breastfeed their babies more than ever, but society needs to do its part in supporting nursing mothers. Breastfeeding in public needs more support than what it is getting from the general population. I hope the images from PBAP give a mom the confidence she needs to nurse her baby in public.