Tales and Woes of a Bashful Breastfeeder

Breastfeeding has worked for my babies and me. I’m grateful for the financial savings and for the extra calories burned, for the snuggles and for the convenience of just being able to feed on demand, regardless of time or place, since my breasts are with me at all times — except I don’t use that convenience to its full advantage.

I’m embarrassed to breastfeed in front of other people.

I mean, not EVERYONE. I’m comfortable baring my breasts around my husband, kids, mom, sisters, and certain friends. But outside of that, I run and hide, even when I’m in my own home with guests like the neighbors or friends that I’m not that close with come by to see the baby in their first few months of life and end up seeing Mama with her ta-tas out every five minutes. 

It is our right protected by law in Wisconsin to feed our children wherever we please. I know this. I know that it’s no big deal. I know that most likely no one will look at me funny or say anything against what I am doing if I nurse in public. It is my own personal hang up.

I am self-conscious about my boobs. I cringe at the thought of busting them out anywhere in the open, even if it is for a noble cause.

I’ve been embarrassed about my breasts since puberty because, well, they are frighteningly huge. We’re talking big like I might suffocate my child if I make the wrong move. And before you start rolling your eyes, thinking you’d love this problem, imagine with me for a moment. Imagine a world in which you cannot do any of the jumping moves at the gym. A world where you cannot demurely tuck your infant up into your shirt to nurse, only exposing a tiny bit of your torso because your breasts literally cover three-quarters of your torso. It’s super uncool.

I see other moms nursing their babies wherever it needs to be done, and I am envious of them. “Teach me your ways of self-confidence, O Wise Ones,” I think to myself. And then I retreat to my car because the baby needs to eat.

I’m jealous of bottle-feeding moms, who casually produce a bottle and pop it in their baby’s mouth without even pausing their conversation.

My first baby and I pretty much never left the house because where and how was I going to feed her? My second got nursed in public one time, and I was so nervous and uncomfortable that I sweat through my shirt. After that, we didn’t leave the house again. This time, I’m trying to be more brave and nonchalant. With two older kids, I cannot keep us cloistered in our home because I’m shy. I made the rule for myself that, with the exception of my in-laws, if someone is in my home and I need to feed the baby, I’m not leaving the room. I have stuck to this exactly twice and no one died (but I’m pretty sure my husband’s buddy isn’t coming over ever again…or he might come every week, not sure yet). I’m brainstorming a list of places where I can be okay-ish nursing if necessary. The zoo tops the list because of their nursing pods, especially the one conspicuously located in front of the milking parlor in the Dairy Barn (I see what you did there, zoo). And for the places where I’m not cool with setting The Girls free, I pack a bottle. These baby steps are helping our family bond together while maintaining my sanity and keeping my tiny one fed.

I wish I could simply feed my baby without a care, but in the meantime, I’ll celebrate how far I’ve come.

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