My preemie P. took a long time to get the hang of nursing. Like, a really long time. Months of pumping to keep my milk supply up and to produce the supplemental bottles she downed after every breastfeeding session. It was frustrating and it was exhausting since my tiny baby stayed on an ‘every three hours’ schedule for a long time. Doctor’s orders.
What it all meant was that for the first quarter of her life we carried bottles everywhere. Nursing in public was no big deal because I rarely nursed in public. Between P.’s weak latch and my awkward attempts to position her and her tendency to fall asleep, it wasn’t worth the trouble. Sometimes it didn’t seem like it was worth the trouble when we were at home, alone.
So on one unseasonably warm spring day when I was sitting outside at a café with a friend and P. got to fussing, naturally I had a bottle handy. Feeding her should have been no big deal.
Except P. wouldn’t take her bottle after repeated tries on my part to get her eating. On the off chance the nipple was blocked, I unscrewed the ring. The milk had curdled in the sun. No wonder she wasn’t taking it.
My choices were taking the long walk home while she cried with hunger, finding a spot nearby (and equally public) to feed her, or nursing her right then and there. I chose the third option because I couldn’t think of anywhere in town where there wouldn’t be someone walking by.
And anyway, I had a blanket in the stroller that would make – I thought – a perfect nursing cover. Except that P. wouldn’t latch on with it over her head. She kept yanking it off. I also quickly realized that even with a makeshift nursing cover over my shoulder, the people inside the café could see straight into P.’s blanket fort.
So I slipped the blanket off of me and off of P. and she ate right there in public. As offensive as that might already be to some, she managed to make it even worse by repeatedly popping off my breast to look around. I was probably giving all of Main Street the free peak of a lifetime.
I couldn’t have cared less.
Here I was, nursing my baby like any other mom while drinking a cappuccino at a sidewalk café. And she was doing it, getting her fill. Taking breaks, sure, with her weak latch and all but suddenly we were working together and getting it done. I don’t know what was showing and what wasn’t.
24 hours earlier I had made the decision to call it quits. Breast feeding wasn’t working, not even with all the breast feeding support in the world. I would pump and P. could have the occasional formula bottle and we’d just need to make it to a year. I was tired and spent and ready to wash my hands of the whole idea that we’d ever get it. I guess P. and the universe had other plans.
From then on I was so ecstatic to just be able to feed my baby that I wasn’t going to hide behind bottles just because someone might think nursing is icky. I wanted to kick the bottles to the curb forever, anyway. And then when my second came along and wouldn’t take a bottle, I wasn’t going to hide away in my house for the next six months – or, ugh, feed him in the bathroom. Gross.
Which isn’t to say that I “whip them out” or am in your face or am even given people the same kind of gratis show I did that day on Main Street. If you see some nip, it means you were really searching for it.
And that strikes me as a lot less acceptable than publicly feeding a baby.