Nursing a brand-new infant looks much different than nursing a baby in middle-infancy at six months or as a toddler. Our comfort level as new nursing moms changes as well the babies need to move and be comfortable while nursing. Even the most forward-thinking breast-feeding mom understands that after a lifetime of being told to cover up your breasts, the prospect of uncovering your breast in a crowded room to feed your child can cause a little discomfort - for you and for others.
An Anxious Mom
I have large breasts. When my milk came in, I had GOOD GRIEF breasts. When nursing a baby with a breast that is bigger than the baby’s head, it can be difficult to remain discreet during the Latch on. First I’d fumble to retrieve a breast from my nursing bra and then hold the breast while my baby properly latched. Sometimes I would accidently spray her right in the face with milk. Like any new skill, it took some time for both of us to get it right. Once my daughter had latched on I expertly rested my shirt on her upper lip and she was content and no one seemed to mind.
However, in the beginning I would go to another room to nurse her. Not because I was ashamed or anyone else thought I should hide, but because I was a novice. I didn’t want any comments and I didn’t want to fumble to the point of hosting show-and-tell with one of my breasts. But, I also liked to be part of the conversation, so from some obscure back room when I heard laughter I felt left out. So, I decided to return to where the fun was and try my best with breastfeeding in a full room of people. Though at times, I wished I could have someone hold up a curtain until the latch-on was complete. Sigh.
Baby and me got the hang of things little-by-little, but comments did make things uncomfortable. I remember one family member stating the obvious. He said to someone close by, “Her boobs are huge.”
Gee thanks, I hadn’t noticed.
It was important for me to nurse my daughter and it was important to me to be part of the family gatherings. I did my best and was grateful for those who understood and encouraged me.
As your infant grows, he sees and understands more-and-more. La Leche League International (LLLI) says that this is typical during middle infancy (6-9 months). Babies are curious and learning at all times. This is a time when many nursing moms notice their babies pulling off the breast to look around and see what’s going on. This can leave you feeling exposed. My daughter’s detaching made a large suction-pop sound prompting everyone to turn and *gasp* see a nipple. It bothers some people, but many are supportive.
This holiday, your baby may feel a bit more distractible during the busy social calendar. Especially if feeding time has been a relatively quiet experience thus far. LLLI recommends either to find a quieter, darker place to nurse (yes, this means you’ll have to miss out for a few minutes) or LLLI says you can let them be distracted and engage them play instead of nurse. This may mean that baby will want to eat later when things are quiet… like when you go to sleep. Night feeding will provide your baby with the nutrients he or she needs so don’t worry if baby is not interested in nursing during all of the excitement. Baby is not disinterested or starting to wean. He is just distracted and wants to have fun.
When Others are Uncomfortable
It happens, and it’s easy to spot because seldom do those who feel uncomfortable keep quiet. Plus it seems the older the baby is, the more uncomfortable people become. A cover becomes impractical. The baby will most likely yank it off so he's more comfortable.
Mom of nine-month-old twins, Joey Catilla, says, “We are way beyond the point where I can cover up even if I choose to. I was nursing at a family gathering, and someone told me that it was time to wean because my daughter was trying to stand up and nurse, like she's not supposed to move around and get comfortable.”
I also recall a time when I was nursing my 18-month-old daughter and a family member asked, “Would you be more comfortable back there?” He pointed to a dark obscure part of the restaurant. I answered, “No, would you be more comfortable if I went back there?” I wasn’t rude, but I was not going to pretend that suggesting that I move was because of mine or my child’s discomfort.”
During the holidays, you are mainly going to interact with members of your family - however extended that may be. Your frankness and comfort level may vary depending on who attends the gathering and you can adjust accordingly. The important thing is that you do what you are comfortable with and what is best for your child.
Also, be kind. Not everyone is educated about breastfeeding nor have they had much exposure to how everything works. discomfort may just mean that it’s foreign to them. Be patient and when comments are made or questions asked, use it as an opportunity to talk. Don’t educate in a condescending or judgmental manner. Just open the dialogue. What is best for you may not be best for others. Openness on both sides is key. My young niece once leaned on the arm of the sofa and watched within inches of my nursing child. My niece was mesmerized with curiosity. She had lots of questions. Did I shoo her away? Of course not. I let her watch intently and I answered her questions as best I could. This was a welcome opportunity for her discover one of the wonders of motherhood.
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Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a writer and mother of two. Find her on twitter @writerbonnie and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WriterBonnie