Heading to Target to do some shopping, I waddled my way (at 7 months pregnant) onto the Metro and found an aisle seat. Sitting behind me, I noticed a couple of very fashionably dressed high school students. Sitting several seats in front of me, a corner of boisterous 1-4 year olds of various ethnicities darted between their mothers/nannies legs to peer questioningly at each other and then dart back to the safety of their own corners. I watched, enthralled by the happenings of these cute little humans exploring the train; a particularly cute Latino little girl wanted to sit on the floor and her mother quickly let her know that she couldn’t. She started getting upset and I quickly averted my eyes and opened my new novel. I feel that when parents have to admonish their children, it’s their business what they do and they don’t need an audience.
Several pages into the book chapter, I hear one of the teenagers behind me say, “That is soo nasty! I can’t believe she’s doing that.” I turned, saw two women in their 60s shaking their heads in disbelief. I raise my eyebrows unknowingly and turn back to the toddlers. The Latino little girl’s mother had started nursing her sans cover to distract and comfort her. My Metro stop came before I had a chance to say anything to the teenagers or to the women.
I smiled at the nursing mother and waddled away. But inside I felt like a major failure!!! Uggghhh. I should have said something witty! I should have said “breastfeeding is more natural than formula” or “what’s nasty about feeding a fussy child?” or “seriously ladies, I’m less offended by her nursing her child than folks feeding theirs salty chips and sugary soda everyday”. But no! I had to waddle off of the train. I was ashamed. Did my unknowing smile make the women think I was agreeing with them?!? I sure hope not!!! I am one breastfeeding-mama-to-be. Forget the old women who may have been set in their ways, but what if those teenagers had never considered the benefits of breast feeding? Again, I felt like a failure.
Becoming a vocal Breastfeeding Advocate (self proclaimed title) in the last few years has been somewhat of a journey. I did not know many mothers who breastfed their babies when I was growing up. My own mother only briefly breastfed my brother and myself secondary to discomfort and lack of resources and support. More recently, when one of my good friends whipped out her breast to feed her son during dinner day several years ago I was a bit taken aback. For me, it took time to realize that breastfeeding was perfectly normal and that I had to get over my hang ups of “modesty” and “privacy”.
The issue has become all the more important now that my husband and I are welcoming our own little baby into the world. Personally, having a supportive husband who doesn’t see the need for formula, several busy friends, sorority sisters, and a mentor who successfully breastfed from 8 months to the 1-year plus mark also helps. Although I plan to use a cover to be a bit more discrete, I applaud the mama on the Metro who appropriately responded to her little girl in the most nourishing way she could! Next time I hear someone say something disparaging I’ll be ready, no more breastfeeding advocacy failures for me!
Mommabee is an upperclass Medical Student at a mid-Atlantic medical school who is interested in community-based Pediatrics and has a background in public health. She and her husband are pregnant with their first Baby Bee.