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Breastfeeding in Public Is Harder Than It Sounds

Image source: Thinkstock
Image source: Thinkstock

I think a woman should be able to breastfeed her baby, uncovered if need be, wherever she needs to. It just seems like common sense.

Even so, I’m a little jealous of the array of pictures on social media depicting women beautifully and delicately feeding their children — hands free no less!  Because when I try to delicately feed my sweet baby, I’m awkward, fumbling around, pulling a huge rump roast out of my shirt trying to feed a fidgety baby. I’d prefer a little privacy and avoid that debacle in front of strangers. Except, of course, that time I couldn’t avoid it…

Since motherhood began for me just a short time ago, and most of it in the dead of winter, I’d never had to actually breastfeed my baby in a public place. My errands were usually short enough that the need never arose. But now that spring had arrived, I was ready to emerge from my home cave and live my life. But that also meant feeding my baby on the go, like during my weekly shopping trips to Whole Foods.

Nothing is more natural and organic than breastmilk, so I was certain if I wanted to feed her naked with a loaf of Ezekiel bread lying across my lap, no one would have noticed. I tried to find a place to sit in the dining area, but it was packed with the lunch crowd. I tell you, more wine and hormone free meat was being consumed than at an ancient Greek feast.

Undeterred, I looked around for a cozy spot and found … well, a spot. The only place left to sit had a beam of light shining on it as if God was revealing it for me as my magical breastfeeding place. When I sat down, I quickly realized it was just a chair in the blazing hot sun. Sweaty pit stains started to immediately develop once I hit the seat and I was squinting like my mom when she’s perusing a menu without her readers. Probably sensing my distress and knowing it would be a perfect time to make it worse, my baby’s fussing started to amp up.

As we discussed earlier, my preference to not pull out a rump roast in front of strangers was still in play, so I tried to throw a nursing cover over my head, but kept missing because sun rays were burning my retinas. My baby and I were getting deeply annoyed, but the lady sitting next to us eating a cage-free quiche with a glass of Pinot Grigio looked quite relaxed. I looked around for another place to sit, but it was like trying to find an empty seat at a Neil Diamond concert. Finally, I gave up and decided to feed her in the parking lot with my car’s A/C cranked.

I placed my groceries in my trunk and realized my car had also been spending this time roasting in the sun. I quickly put her in the car seat and made my way to the back of the building. Her cries were pretty heavy at that point, so my head was about to explode like a confetti popper.

There weren’t a lot of places to park except near a ramp where they make deliveries of things like raw coconut oil and tank tops crocheted by hippies. The area was in the shade and completely vacant, perfect for feeding my baby. As we got all settled in, I started to hear the familiar rumble of a semi pulling up behind me. Well, this is awkward, I thought. The truck driver wasn’t doing anything, so I couldn’t tell if I was in his way or if that’s where he wanted to park, so I just rode it out. She was already latched, my options were limited.

It didn’t take long before I noticed the back door towards the ramp opened and men started pouring out. I couldn’t tell if they were waiting for the delivery or sneaking in a smoke. They started to notice me and I unwillingly made eye contact with each one of them. It’s obvious they had no idea what I was doing there, sitting in my car, staring at them. They couldn’t see my baby — all they could see was a blank look on my face.

I felt my blood pressure starting to rise and I kept reminding my baby she didn’t have to drink all of it, but my pleas for her to wrap it up weren’t working. I tried to point down and mouth, “I’m feeding my baby” but to them it just looked like I was pointing at my crotch.

It didn’t take long for the scenario to awkwardly evolve into a stare-off. No one really knew what to do next, so we did nothing. Well, I was feeding my baby, but they didn’t know that. It’s possible I was even making them nervous, like I was the getaway car in a heist. Each sweat droplet on my upper lip signified each passing moment. What is this, Thanksgiving dinner? I think to myself while trying to will my baby to satiation. In reality it had probably been three minutes, but in that hot seat, it felt like hours.

At this point I was trying to think about what to do with my face. Should I stare back at them blankly? Should I look down? Smile a little? It was while I was debating this when she finally smacked off. I brought her up to burp her and a belch in my ear had never sounded so beautiful. I opened the car door and everyone stiffened up. They relaxed when they saw I had a baby, then appeared even more confused.

“I’m so sorry, is my car in the way? I was breastfeeding my baby.”

“What?” one of them yells out.

“I was breastfeeding my baby.”

“What?”

“I WAS FEEDING MY BABY!”

“Oh, ok. It’s ok.”

As I strapped her in, my head poked out from the car door. “You guys should really have an area in your bathroom for breastfeeding mothers. I mean, this is Whole Foods. I would expect you to have a lounge with free cheese samples or something,” I shouted over the rumbling semi.

“What?”

“You guys should have an area for breastfeeding mothers!” I shout louder.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“NEVERMIND!”

“What?”

My response that “what?” was the high-pitched squeal of my wheels as I got the hell out of there.

As we drove home, I became agitated. I understand it isn’t logical for every place of business have an area for breastfeeding mothers, but businesses where a woman could spend a considerable amount of time can do better than toilet seats. There’s one local mall I favor above all the others because it has a private lounge with mirrors, comfortable seating and a spacious changing area. To me that’s just good business. But many still don’t get it and one place that really should is Whole Foods.

In fact, I think I may write them a letter that they’ll completely ignore, and it will start with something like, “If I’m going to buy an 8 ounce bottle of hand squeezed coconut water for $30, the least you could do is give me a comfortable seat in a private area where I can feed my baby. With cheese samples. And cupcakes if you’re so inclined. Thank you.”

How many characters is that? I should tweet them.

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Article Posted 4 years Ago

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