After the birth of my first child, learning to navigate the world of breastfeeding away from the security of my home was, admittedly, a nightmare. I still needed to remove my shirt entirely, surround myself with pillows, and focus as much as I could on helping my son achieve the perfect latch.
Add a child, or two, and I feel significantly more comfortable breastfeeding in public. I myself can be a little more protective in certain situations, especially in mixed company, but I never felt awkward breastfeeding a child at my parents.
Until, that is, holiday season.
My parents host for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and this includes aunts, uncles, cousins and their children, my sisters and their significant others and my nieces. Outside of my parents and sisters, breastfeeding is seen as taboo and, “inappropriate” by most of my extended family. Knowing this, the first holiday I made the decision to go elsewhere and breastfeed my child in private while at their house.
However, being extroverted, this got old really quickly. My husband's take was, “Just do it. Your baby is hungry. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to look!” While I appreciated his defensiveness, I also didn’t want to alienate family members I rarely see.
So, for the sake of keeping the peace without having to hole up in a back room, I decided to do the following:
- Do my best to use a cover. As you may know, babies who aren’t used to covers typically don’t do well breastfeeding under nursing covers. But, to respect my family, I wanted to at least make an attempt.
- Breastfeed in a corner next to safe person. While I didn’t leave the room entirely, I did try to move to the edge of a couch next to someone like my mom, husband, or sister, to use them as a bit of a shield, both physically and emotionally.
- Don’t make a scene. I’ve learned that the worst way to acclimate someone to change is by shoving it in their face (as we see during any election cycle). So, I just try to quietly and nonchalantly bring breastfeeding into the event without mentioning it. Most people won't even realize your baby is nursing and not sleeping.
So far, no one has commented, and I’ve breastfed three babies through holiday seasons. And, just last year, my cousin said she finally felt comfortable nursing as opposed to pumping bottles in advance. So, I’d call that progress.
Kara Garis is a cloth diapering, baby wearing, semi-crunchy mama to two active boys and a baby girl. She lives with her husband in Oklahoma and loves running, cooking, traveling, reading and teaching herself how to braid. She blogs at karagaris.com.