I can’t say I put a lot of thought towards breastfeeding before I had Bitmap. I figured it was something I’d do, and didn’t really think about it beyond that.
I don’t consider myself an activist, and certainly don’t feel the need to participate in any nurse-ins at Target. But after spending the last 2 months with my life more or less revolving around feeding my kid, I’ve got a new perspective. Mostly it’s this: if you’ve got a problem with seeing women breastfeeding (or pumping, for that matter), get over it. It’s something we need to do, and it’s hard enough without having to worry what someone else will think.
Breastfeeding can be really isolating. Bitmap eats roughly every two hours when she’s awake, and feeding her takes about 15 minutes. If we’ve got friends over or want to go out, I’ve got two choices: leave the conversation and hide myself in a spare room, or feed her in front of other people. I spend enough time cooped up with the baby, it’s hard to convince myself to sequester myself for the sake of modesty.
I make what I think are reasonable accommodations while feeding Bitmap. I’ll pick a seat in the corner rather than the middle of the room. I choose tops that allow me to stay mostly covered. If it’s cool enough, I cover up with a blanket. Most of the time, you can’t see anything but the back of my baby’s head. Sometimes, you can. Sorry.
Pumping while out is definitely weirder, and I try to avoid it. The machine is noisy and requires considerably more set-up and tear-down. I can usually plan things so I don’t have to pump when I’m out, but when I went to Brooklyn for the day last week I knew I was going to have to figure out something. Not only do I have to pump frequently to keep supply up, but it’s actually incredibly uncomfortable to go more than about 4 hours without feeding or pumping. There weren’t any private rooms I could sneak off to on Amtrak or at NYC Resistor (before you suggest “bathroom,” please tell me if you would like to spend 20 minutes sitting in the bathroom of an Amtrak train).
The good news is between the roar of the train and the fact that everyone else is on their iPhones, no one even noticed me sitting next to the outlet with a strategically placed blanket over my shoulder. And if anyone at NYCR had something to say, they kept it to themselves.
I’m not saying we need to get up in everyone’s face about breastfeeding in public, but I do think it needs to become a little more normal. A lot of my fears about doing so aren’t because anyone has ever said anything negative to me, but because it’s not something I’ve seen anyone else do. So it seems weird to me too. But I’ve already given up a lot of my flexibility and independence in order to meet the needs of my baby, I’m not giving up more just because people “don’t want to see that.”