A recent article I read got me thinking about the awkward position you may find yourself in if you are seated next to someone who is breastfeeding. While breastfeeding is certainly natural and in this blogger’s opinion should be encouraged more, I do recognize that not everyone is comfortable sitting right next to someone whose baby is slurping away. I am actually of the mindset that as a breastfeeding woman it is most polite, if possible, to find a discreet area to nurse in. However, I am also of the mindset that it is more polite to breastfeed than it is to leave your child screaming in hunger and so if you’re on. . .let’s say a crowded subway. . .and your child starts to scream when you know that you still have ten more stops to go. . .well, you really have little choice.
So how should you act towards a breastfeeding mom if you find yourself right next to one? During my breastfeeding “career” I’ve been bothered very rarely. However, you certainly cannot breastfeed as long as I have and never have an incident or two. Use my examples of things that have actually happened to me as your guide of what NOT to do.
Even If It’s Crowded, We All Still Have Personal Space
Some breastfeeding babies are easily distracted. Depending on where you are in your nursing session, a distracted infant who pulls off can leave mom’s let down spraying into the air. . .or onto a person who is standing way too close. And while it’s great that junior wants to know all about it, you can explain it to him at home without invading the nursing mom’s personal space.
Be Supportive From Afar
I don’t expect people to clear the area when I sit to nurse. Most breastfeeding moms, including me, try to find a place where they’re not going to be bothered too much. However, I’ve also been approached by those earthy mamas that think it’s so great that I’m nursing (and twins no less) that they freely proclaim excitedly how great it is that I’m nursing! Support is great. . .but not if it draws attention to something that I’m trying to be discreet about.
You don’t have to discuss breastfeeding with the breastfeeding mom to show your support. Silence is just fine. Again, she probably wants to be discreet and having a conversation about areola with someone you don’t know is. . .a little weird.
Know the Law
Some people are so genuinely offended by breastfeeding that they will alert security. I strongly advise against this. Forty three states have laws which have language that either omits breastfeeding as indecent exposure or specifically protects the rights of mothers to breastfeed pretty much anywhere. In New York State, the language is so specific, I can show off my nipple if I want to. (I assure you–I do not want to.) My point is that the law is on the breastfeeding mother’s side. If you’re really very offended, walk away, turn your back, or close your eyes.
I do hope there is a day when breastfeeding is the norm and seen as natural. However, if it is the responsibility of a breastfeeding mom to be discreet (and I think it is), then it is also the responsibility of the breastfeeding ‘observer’. . .not to observe!
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