Saturday, April 9, 2011

Breastfeeding Etiquette

Things in the nursing department, especially etiquette seems to change every few years.  Things were different when I had my first baby almost 6 years ago.  Which is odd to me, because it doesn't seem so long ago, so you'd think that something as simple and natural as breastfeeding wouldn't change so much in a short 6 years.  But you have to remember, 6 years ago if you told someone you were "Going Green" it meant you looked like you were about to lose your lunch.  Things change quickly these days.

And breastfeeding etiquette is one of those things that change from time to time.

Now as a mom with a newborn and getting ready to take the baby out for longer periods of time, I find myself googling Breastfeeding etiquette, only to find mostly what people who don't do it think we should do it.  And most of the stuff I have found doesn't say it very nicely.  I have found blogs where people get really nasty about both sides and mom's taking stuff way too personally.  There are very strong opinions on both sides of the aisle on this one.

I think lots of people out there don't understand that etiquette is a culture thing too.  It may be okay here, but not there and visa versa.  So what I want to do is state a few of the basic etiquette here, ask YOU a few questions and then open it up to what YOU think.  So I want lots of comments because traffic here has been good lately and I am sure there are lots of new mom's out there googling this too.  Breastfeeding is wonderful and best for baby, and the most natural thing in the world.  But it is good to be prepared with knowing what you are facing when going out into the world with that new baby.

Here are a few of the basics:

1.  Unless you don't have much of a choice, use discretion in public.  Now I know in most cultures it is totally alright to whip out the bare one in public, but here in the states, people just don't see it that way-- and they can get pretty darn nasty about it, too.  Sure we women have more rights now than ever, and when we hear about a woman getting kicked off airplanes or out of restaurants for nursing we all get our backs up about it... but sometimes it's just not worth the confrontation.  As for me, I really don't care when other mothers are nursing.  I just don't stare!  But I cover up because not only do I know others care but I don't want people seeing my stuff anyway!  Nursing is between me and my baby... no one else's business, I like to keep it that way.  HOWEVER:  keep in mind, that most people out there would rather have you do what you have to do than to hear a baby screaming to be feed.  So do what you have to do, seriously.  Baby first! -- you can't please everyone all the time anyway!

2.  Invest in a couple nursing covers.  A big part of nursing is the bonding time with the baby, and lots of covers out there prevent that because you can't see your baby under a blanket or some covers.  But now there are covers out there that are open on the top with some boning in the lining so YOU, and only you, can see your baby.  They didn't have those when I had my last two!  There is a site where you only have to pay $9.95 shipping for one with a code ("family2001").  Granted they are back ordered for a few months.  I am making my own with my pink camo fabric left over from my rocking purse I made last year.  If I am covered people really can't complain too much.  It chaps my hide when people complain about nursing mom's who are totally covered.  They say it's just wrong because they KNOW what is going on under the cover.  Silly reason.  Nursing is the most natural thing in the world, women have done it since Eve!

3.  If they don't ask, don't tell.  People usually don't want to hear about your breastfeeding adventures, unless they ask.  So if you are a big mouth like me, try to take cues from the looks on their faces... if they look grossed out... well, change the subject.  Because honestly, we nursing mom's will share our breastfeeding info with anyone who might be interested.  What mom doesn't like to share her advice and experience?

4.  As one mom to another, wear nursing-pads.  Please.  There is nothing more embarrassing for all (public and mom) to see a nursing mother out in public with the wet dots... you know what I am saying...

And as for a few tips from a mom who has been there done that:

Get a great pump!  Ask your friends or research the best ones for you... don't just go out and get a cheap one!  It is SOOOO not worth your time, money, or space!  Just get a nice one to begin with.  I like the nice electric ones, but my sister loves the hand-pumps.  Everyone has different preferences.  My hand one gave me carpal tunnel in my hands... but that won't happen to everyone.

And get a few nursing bras.  When you're breastfeeding, style should be the last thing on your mind.  Comfort and convenience are number one.  Just remember that breastfeeding is not forever!!  Just focus on your baby and being comfortable and healthy.

Now, I can go on and give you all my advice and tips, but really, I want to hear it from you.  So....

(Note: You don't have to answer ALL the questions, just give us your best tips!)

What is your best tip on breastfeeding etiquette?  What do you do when you need to feed:  At the store and you have only half your cart full?  When you are on the road?  When you are visiting family?  When at church, the park, zoo or other public places like that?  What do you do different when you are with friends vs. family?  How do you answer your other kid's questions about nursing?  Do you do anything different with night feeding?  What are some foods to stay away from that can give baby gas?  How long (months) do you nurse for?

Now, I know that we all have opinions on this, so keep your comments nice.  Thanks!



Haley said...

Great post! I have nursed all my babies and love it!
The one thing I get uncomfortable about is how long to nurse a baby. I feel like I can't even go into the mother/baby room at church once my baby is one day over a year old!
Studies are saying that for health reasons actually nursing until 2 years old is best. I never have nursed a baby that long and doubt I will, but I don't feel it is anyone’s place to judge someone who chooses to nurse past a year either. What are your thoughts?
And yes, I think the only ones complaining about nursing issues are the ones who don't do it and haven't been in our shoes.

Mama Nut said...

Personally, I have no issues with mom's nursing their kids as long as they want. Most kids ween themselves when they are ready anyway.

I did a mom nursing a 6 year old at church once... and that was a little awkward, for me anyway. But try not to judge... to each their own.

Anika and Sean said...

My tips on breast-feeding... hmmm.
First of all I think you have to do what feels comfortable to you.

If you live in the US I would definitely say you should be completely covered up in public. Get a cover-up that is large enough for the task. Usually you have some warning as to when your baby needs to be fed so you may have 30 minutes leeway before you have to feed. Don't let yourself get into a situation where you feel rushed to feed. It won't be a good experience for you or the baby. Your baby can sense when you're tense, so it's best to be comfortable.

I fed my baby a lot in the car. On road trips I was able to sit in the back with the little guy and feed him without taking him out of the carseat (I still don't quite know how I did that).

When I'm at someone's house I can usually tell if it's okay if I nurse in front of them (covered up), but I usually ask first anyway. If I get the "really uncomfortable face" I ask if there's a bedroom I can nurse in.

No matter where you are you can usually find a semi-secluded spot to sit and nurse. In the cases where you can't... you do what you gotta do and just ignore everyone else.

In answering other kid's questions about nursing... just be honest without being too graphic. Or you can always do the "Why don't you ask your Mommy?" bit.

In determining how long to feed your baby... I definitely think that is a cultural/personal thing. In the US women don't usually feed past 1 year. My advice on this one is that when either you OR the baby wants to stop... then stop. I know some Moms that kept breast-feeding because they wanted to maintain that bond with their child, but their baby didn't want to feed anymore and was ready to move on. On the flip side I knew Moms that were in agony breastfeeding because they didn't want to do it anymore, but their baby still wanted to. In these cases, personally, I think it's time to wean the baby.

I made a goal for myself to breastfeed until 1 year and about a week before the little guy's birthday he was done wanting to nurse, so we stopped. I've also seen kids that were like 4 being breastfed (different culture), so again... it's a cultural/personal decision.

Just a little side note. A product I loved for preventing leakage were lilypadz ( or they also sell them at Target). They are a silicone nursing pad and they are AWESOME! You do have to check them every once in awhile but they are great. I do warn not to use them at night or until your milk supply has been fully established to minimize the risk of getting mastitis.

With nursing... I go back to my first rule. BE COMFORTABLE (or at least as comfortable as you can be) and that can pretty much answer any question that may come up.

Sorry for the excruciatingly long response. :)

Mama Nut said...

Anika, your comments were EXACTLY what I was asking for... not too long at all!

As for the Lilypadz, I have NEVER heard of those, but I checked out your link and I am SOOOO ordering some! They sound awesome!! Thanks for the head's up and all your great tips!

Cammy said...

Just an FYI on the Lilypadz, I bought them with my second and liked the idea of them but didn't really like that the milk would pool in them and then they ended up giving me mastitis (breast infection) twice within a month so I had to stop using them. For some that may not be a problem but it is something to be aware of before you start using them.

Just to add my two cents on the breastfeeding subject. Yes, I agree that we should have the right to do it wherever we need to but I also think it is important to be courteous to those around us and realize that it can make them uncomfortable. My sister will often breastfeed her baby at the dinner table during large family gatherings. She is very well endowed and she doesn't ever cover up. I know it really makes the dinner table uncomfortable for my husband, brothers and brother-in-laws. Just something to think about.

Mama Nut said...

Cammy, good point!

Your comment made me chuckle a little, only because it made me picture myself in that situation -- if my sister did that... my husband has little tact when it comes to stuff like that I imagined what would fly out of his mouth... Probably something that would cause food to start flying!

Jill said...

I have an udder cover. LOVE IT! I was given a homemade one, but the "boning" they use to make the curved part in the front is flimsy. So if you make one, get strong boning. (I believe that is what it is called.) I still use homemade one once in awhile, but the udder covers are great!

As for nursing in public, I always go in another room. And for church, I always go in the mother's lounge. I have never had a problem nursing my kids in the back seat of the car. But I take my kids out of the seat and promptly put them back in. My breasts aren't superman so I don't know how people get theirs to do it with the child in the car seat.

As for how long, I nursed my first for 14 months. But by then it was once a day and just before bed. My second had some feeding issues and I nursed him every 1 1/2 hours (no I'm not joking) until he was 2. Totally not my choice. It was out of pure necessity. But he's great now. My 3rd is still nursing. He is 16 months. But he's had some health problems that are about done with and I think we're very close to weaning. I think it just depends on the child for length. My sister-in-law's baby eats solids great & weaning isn't a problem. But my 2nd & 3rd didn't do so great in that dept so weaning was delayed. You just do what is right for the kid.

For foods, I stay away from garlic til my baby has started eating solid food. Chocolate is another one that my kids have never done well with. Also, milk of all things. I have to wait a long time for that one. But I'm not a milk drinker. Cheese has never been a problem or yogurt, so I do that instead of milk to keep dairy in my diet.

For milk supply, I still take prenatal vitamins as well as those Nursing Drops I gave you the link for before. LIFESAVER! When my baby had RSV, my supply was almost gone, but I was able to keep it up well enough with the drops so that when he was healthy again, I could resume our normal levels.

Good luck! I always found that nursing was hardest for the first 4 months til a routine was well established. But after that things were smooth. Anyway, that's my rambles. ;)

Mostly Diane said...

I have 8 kids and have lived here and there and everywhere with a breast feeding baby.

In New York nobody covers, nobody stares, it is nice and natural and good.

Other places people either stare or act embarrassed or run off. These place, I try to find a quiet place and cover up well. When i am with a group of ladies I ask their preferences.

I will be glad when I am done nursing babies.

Amanda said...

I recently posted a tutorial for a nursing cover with boning...I love mine so far and everyone really seems to appreciate it. Like you said, it's between you and baby and this way the baby can see you and won't freak out about having a blanket over him.

lily padz said...

Well, these lily padz come in different shapes and sizes? I am a C cup and don't want to buy something that's one size fits all in case it doesn't work.