By: Dyan Eybergen BA,RN,ACPI
As reported in the weekend edition of The Globe and Mail: Pope Francis baptized 32 babies in the Sistine Chapel this past Sunday and told their mothers, to have no qualms about breast-feeding them there. “If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice. Because they are the most important people here,” he said. Amen to that!
Not that it’s imperative to have a Religion head’s permission to breastfeed in public; but it certainly helps to support that side of the debate. My own recollection of being a first time mother sitting feeding my baby in an open market I was remarked upon by a well-meaning individual [I’m sure] who told me to “take it into the bathroom”. My response as I was feeling ridiculed was fueled with indignation: “Would you like to eat your lunch in the bathroom?” I dare asked.
Current recommendations are to breastfeed exclusively for six months and to continue breastfeeding with added complementary foods for two years and beyond. This article is not to suggest breast is best and the only option. If you read my book Out of the Mouths of Babes you would know I am proponent of Mother’s Choice is best. But if you do choose to nurse your baby and you’re not comfortable feeding in public, you will find rendering yourself housebound, especially during those early months of infancy, to be very socially limiting; which does not prove proactive against the post-partum blues.
Here are some tips to help you and those well-meaning individuals who feel the need to comment get over yourselves.
- Be preventive and situate yourself before your babe begins crying. Find a place where you’re comfortable and where you have enough room to organize yourself so you are not fumbling around causing your hungry baby more angst which is sure to invite attention from others.
- If exposing yourself is out of your comfort zone then cover-up – it will probably make those around you feel more at ease too. Commercially made cover-ups specific to breastfeeding are so widely available now and make being discreet so simple. You can also opt for a shawl or a blanket to help keep babe and your breast from being exposed.
- Wear comfortable clothing that makes it easy for babe to access your breast. Not having to fidget with clasps, buttons or tight fitting garments increases the ease and flow of baby latching on.
- Don’t look for people’s opinion. Concentrate on the task at hand and be confident in your endeavor to nourish your baby. If you do happen to catch someone staring, smile briefly and look away. Making eye contact may elicit comments from on lookers and unless they are commending you for being a wonderful mother, you may not need to hear what they have to say.
- Be self-assured that you are well within your rights to breastfeed in public and no one can ask you to leave or “take it into the bathroom”. Even the Pope knows that!