It is no mystery that breastfeeding in public is a topic that sparks much controversy. The word “shaming” is thrown back and forth between the liberals and the conservatives, the introverts and the extroverts. I love seeing celebrities lining up to stand up for public open breastfeeding (kudos Alyssa Milano!). I, personally, do not bat an eye when I see a woman feeding her child in public. But what do you do when the unease of a woman’s breast “exposed” while feeding her infant comes from someone near and dear to you; say, your husband?
With the expectancy of my second child, I was taken back by the many changes and progresses made in recent years. My oldest is 7 years older than my newborn. In a world where everything changes so rapidly, my surprise ended up translating into confusion. But, nevertheless, I was ready to learn to be a parent again. My husband and I discussed many of the updates and changes made since our first was born, but one thing we had not discussed was breastfeeding.
I had a relatively “easy” first child. She fed on time, was happy and predictable. I was able to run errands and go places knowing she would be content within a certain period of time. My second child has been very different. Our son was a bit on the colicky side and would not conform to a routine. His feeding time was pretty much when he deemed necessary. It wasn’t until we were in a store and my son decided that he was hungry that I realized my husband was completely uncomfortable with what was about to happen… feeding time.
As I prepared to unhinge my maternity shirt and place my child close to nurse, I saw the look of shock take over my husband’s face. In a matter of seconds, he quickly grabbed our son’s blanket and covered me up. My first reaction was to laugh at his fast reflexes and my astonishment, but that smile faded from my face and a concerned look took its place. I looked at my husband, placed my hand on his arm and asked if he was OK. He wasn’t. He was upset, embarrassed and seemed humiliated.
I felt a heat wave come over me while standing in the aisle of the store. His complete discomfort made me feel both sad and frustrated at the same time. I never thought I needed to “ask” my husband or prepare him for the moment I needed to breastfeed our child in public. I figured we were both modern and liberal enough that matters like these wouldn’t be of concern. I had no idea how uncomfortable breastfeeding in public made him feel.
I wanted to express my opinion and breastfeed as I deemed necessary; wherever I wanted, whenever my son was hungry. NOT in a bathroom and NOT wearing a heavy blanket. After all, it is MY body and I was feeding OUR child. Yet, I also did not want to disrespect my husband or make him feel uneasy. I quickly realized this was going to be a subject that we would have to compromise on, and I would need to meet him half way.
In hopes to change my husband’s point of view, I looked up everything from written articles to news clips; I event went so far as to show him boudoir style breastfeeding images; I consider it art and he considered it “extreme.” At times we had heated debates where feelings of frustration flared, but the outcome was the same: my husband supported public breastfeeding, so long as it was discreet. He did not want people staring at me or making me feel uncomfortable. His concern about me exposing myself to another person (or people) made him extremely uneasy. It was difficult for him to grasp that it was his unease which made me feel more uncomfortable than any stranger looking my way.
I continued my attempts to push his boundaries, many, many times. I was stubborn and even demonstrated at times how I could breastfeed without exposing myself. But he simply would not budge. The most difficult compromises would need to be made. It took a lot of strength for me to push my opinions aside. I agreed I would wear a nursing cover when nursing in public; something practical and light.
It was not easy for me to compromise, and while I still feel strongly about breastfeeding openly in public, I continue to hope that his opinion one day may change. It comes from love and respect for my husband that I chose to cover up.
What are your (or your SO’s) thoughts on breastfeeding in public? Please comment below.