Friday, July 9, 2010

My Vow to NIP (Nurse in Public)

Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige at All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public ("NIP"). See the bottom of this post for more information.


When I became pregnant six years ago, I always planned to  breastfeed, but I didn't think about what that would mean when it came down to actually implementing it. I worked in a small office with mostly women, and the topic of women nursing in public came up (as it inevitably would with me puking almost daily and growing to look like a whale). Now, like most Americans of my thirty-something age, I come from a family of formula-feeders, although I do recall visiting an older cousin of mine in the hospital after the birth of her 2nd son and seeing her latch that teeny baby onto her huge, postpartum breast. Note that such a sight at age 19 was the first time I'd seen boobs do what they're meant to do; it was totally natural and serene and I knew in that moment that I would do that, too.

But back to the watercooler conversation, right? My immediate supervisor made it beyond clear that she was exceedingly uncomfortable seeing a woman nursing in public and much preferred "they do that somewhere else where [she doesn't] have to look at it." Okay, file that one away as 'Don't nurse in front of T' it. (By the way, YES she knew I planned on breastfeeding.)

Fast forward about 6 months. I've had my beautiful baby boy, Khary, am out on maternity leave (that would later become permanent), and one of our other officemates is having a retirement lunch. This will be my first outing with my 4-week-old son, so I draw upon my La Leche League meeting memory and nurse him right before we leave to meet everyone at the restaurant. Khary starts screaming about halfway through lunch; I know he's hungry, but T is virtually across the table from me, and I wouldn't want to knowingly offend her after having had that conversation way back when. So he screamed. And screamed. Several people suggested he was hungry, and I laughingly agreed and excused myself to the bathroom (I had to go anyway, and I wanted to get my composure).

The wonderful hostess at the restaurant directed me to the Ladies' room and said, "You're not going in there to nurse him are you? I can open the private dining room for you if you'd like." "Oh, no, I just need to go. We'll be fine, but thanks for offering." (Stupid Raegan.) So there I am, sitting on a toilet, granted in a nice restaurant's nice Ladies' room --but a toilet is a toilet, trying to nurse my still-newborn baby. By this time he was so worked up he couldn't latch on properly, and he was so tired from fussing/crying/screaming that he was extra cranky.

After about 10 minutes I give up, re-join my lunchmates, Khary still screaming, but less plaintively now. I finish my dessert and make a lightning-fast exit to the car. Khary has always fallen asleep in the car, thankfully, so we drove the 10 minutes back home, got out, nursed for what felt like hours, and I bawled.

And I promised my perfect baby that never again would I forgo nursing him in any place where it's socially acceptable to bottle-feed a baby. So basically anywhere, anytime. He had a right to the nourishment that Nature intended for his sustenance, and I was denying him that right for what?--for the consideration of a grown woman with whom I worked and to whom I had no moral obligation? I put her needs above my newborn son's; I put my own need to be socially accepted above my newborn son's need to nurse.

To this day, almost 5 1/2 years later, I still feel sick recounting that story. But it steels my resolve:

Wherever it would be okay for a mom to give a baby a bottle, it is okay for me to give my baby my breast.

Two months later, my husband, son, and I were at our Credit Union waiting (and WAITING) to finish up paperwork on a car loan. By the time we finally got on the other side of a desk from a loan officer, Khary was fussy and hungry. I proudly lifted my shirt, unhooked my nursing bra, and latched my baby onto my breast. I could tell the loan officer, a woman, was a little uncomfortable, but that quickly faded as I engaged her in conversation about the car loan.  After we left, my husband said he was surprised and impressed that I nursed Khary right there at the desk. When I told him what I'd promised Khary two months earlier, my husband beamed. I have a fantastically supportive husband--and he knows I won't put anything above the care and nurturing of our babies.

I wasn't a part of my attachment parenting group yet when I went to that lunch, so I hadn't been out with moms nursing their babies and toddlers yet. I didn't have any nursing role models. Sure I'd been through the Bradley Childbirth classes and attended several La Leche League meetings, but that was different; that was among "my" people (read: granola), not "the real world." I try now to make a point of gladly nursing my toddler whenever I'm around pregnant women--perhaps it will plant a seed of confidence in them that I didn't have.

And I share my story now, along with my vow, in hopes that no one else will look back with regret at a time when they didn't put their baby's rights first:

Wherever it would be okay for a mom to give a baby a bottle, it is okay for me to give my baby my breast.

Art by Erika Hastings at

Welcome to the Carnival of Nursing in Public

Please join us all week, July 5-9, as we celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. And visit any time to connect with other breastfeeding supporters, learn more about your legal right to nurse in public, and read (and contribute!) articles about breastfeeding and N.I.P.

Do you support breastfeeding in public? Grab this badge for your blog or website to show your support and encourage others to educate themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers and children.

This post is just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts - new articles will be posted on the following days:

July 5 - Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World

July 6 – Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child

July 7 – Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.

July 8 – Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives

July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It


  1. Oh man I hate that feeling of wanting to nurse your baby but knowing the people around don't want you to! Brava for making that promise to your son :)

  2. That's a great story. I'm sure a number of moms have regretfully done the same thing. Your story is very empowering. Thanks for sharing.

  3. That is basically what we do when we hold off (I did it too), we put that other person over our own child. This is what people ask us to do. It's not right.

  4. I love your story. So true that babies deserve to be breastfed anywhere that bottles can be used! I am saddened that so many of us have to be in uncomfortable situations like this, particularly in the early days with our first baby. I am sure that after a few of those experiences, women with less resolve would switch to bottles. If we really want breastfeeding rates to improve, then we have to help moms out by not making them feel like they are put in this kind of a situation!

  5. Oh Raegan. I've heard that story before and it still makes me weepy - but the fact is that your experiences, your journey, your passion for your kids - that's what makes you such a powerful advocate for babies now. That story is not cringe-worthy, it is part of the seeds of change!

  6. That's an awesome post. I remember being so embarrassed trying to NIP the first time. Good for you for doing what is best for your baby, and major kudos to your husband for being so supportive of NIP!