As a mother of four children who has nursed three of them past their first birthdays, I knew just what to do when my toddler began to get fussy at the school carnival. As he tried to dive down the front of my shirt, I navigated the crowded hallways of the school, looking for an empty bench to sit on.
Smiling at the PTO president, I collapsed into a bench in the main hallway, chatting with a friend as BabyBear latched on. Quickly, his eyes began to close and he drifted off into dreamland.
Just as he had fallen half asleep, two seven year old friends of BigBrother ran up to me. I felt my heart quicken; not because I minded them seeing me nurse, but because I didn’t know how their mothers felt about someone nursing (an 18 month old!) in public. The children stood in front me, chattering to the baby who was oblivious to them.
Suddenly, one of the kids leaned over and looked straight down at the nursing toddler. I knew no one could see anything if they look at me from the front, but this child was looking at him from the “top down,” and had the same view I had!
“Awe, he’s so cute!” Then he giggled. “He’s so silly! He’s sucking your arm!”
Relief washed over me. “Well, actually honey, he’s nursing.”
“He’s doing what?” asked the other child, confused.
“Breastfeeding,” I said as all my potential comebacks to any irate adult rushed through my head. I was nursing in a public place but my son had a right to be there so he also had the right to nurse . . . it was this or a screaming toddler . . . breastfeeding is normal and natural . . . .
But I had no need for these comebacks as the kids said, “Oh! Cool!” at the same time and skipped away.
As they left it occurred to me that two seven year olds standing in front of me looking down at a nursing toddler could not tell what I was doing. Many nursing in public nay-sayers complain that they don’t want to see “that” (ie, a child sucking on a breast): it is indiscreet and should be covered up. Many people see nursing in public from a distance as they walk past a mother and baby pair. Yet these kids, who potentially had a perfect view of the package BabyBear’s nap time snack came in, couldn’t see anything. They couldn’t tell what he was doing.
I’d like to think that I was a good role model for those kids that afternoon. Yes, I led by example and nursed a toddler in public. But really, they are the ones who taught me something by reminding me that breastfeeding in public (even without a cover) is discreet.