Public Breastfeeding Support
Public Breastfeeding Support
Corky Harvey & Wendy Haldeman (Board Certified Lactation Consultants/Co-Owners of The Pump Station) gives expert video advice on: What if I feel too nervous to breastfeed in public?; Are there support groups available for breastfeeding in public?; What happens in a breastfeeding support group? and more...
What if I feel too nervous to breastfeed in public?
Women get very nervous breastfeeding in public. They'll tell us their palms are sweaty and they're pouring sweat and their baby is screaming and people are looking at them. So, I think it gets easier as you go. The first time you do it, you're really sweaty. Oh my God, what am I going to do and the waiters and…. So I think starting, as we said before, in places where it's noisy and it's easier and there's nobody looking at you because there's too many people around and getting your practice in those kind of places and then moving out. I still think the best thing you can do as a novice breastfeeder in public is to go with a mom, or a couple of moms, who have done it over and over again. They just make you feel so at ease, and comfort in numbers. And then start in the bathroom and then move out to a restaurant. Start and move out. It will be a real cool day when you see the breastfeeding symbol in every store. It just welcomes women and says: “Can I get you a glass of water, what can we do to help you?” I just think that airplanes, they should be doing that for moms, they should be coming down the aisle. They do, to some extent, but to that breastfeeding mom: “Can I get you an extra glass of water, do you need an extra snack?” Those kinds of things would be so terrific.
Are there support groups available for breastfeeding in public?
There certainly are support groups for breastfeeding in public in our area because we do them, and we know that there are lots throughout the country at hospitals at centers like our own where women can go and get that support. Where we have how many a week now Wendy? Seven? At Least between the two stores. We have three in one store and three in another with the moms with babies 0-4 months and then we have another each with babies 4-8 months and they just come in those groups. It isn't just about breastfeeding, they can ask any question and it's deeper than that, it provides a community around their new motherhood. A minute ago I was talking about airplanes and breastfeeding and all but it's more that just breastfeeding, its a respect in our culture that doesn't exist for motherhood. We really don't embrace it we don't support it like other cultures might, we'd love to see that trend change. So these groups provide that place, that community if you will, that coffee clach. That shared environment where they don't just rely on us. We are in the room facilitating and answering the difficult questions that they don't know but they share with each other. We'll turn it back to the mothers all the time how do you handle that, what are you doing about settling your baby for night, what are you doing about nursing your in public, you traveled recently, what was your biggest tip? And certainly Leche League has been out there for many many many years providing support and grassroots for moms. They are probably in every city, they certainly try to be and then we would certainly send it out there to moms that if your in a community where there a not a lot of breastfeeding moms that you are aware of, then start your own groups, reach out to each other. I was in a group like that, it developed two times with two of my children, I lived in a community where that wasn't anything like what we have, so I met some other women who were having babies in my Lamaze class and we just started meeting on a weekly basis, and I'm still, we are dancing at each of those kids wedding today it is great we are still friends with those people.
What happens in a breastfeeding support group?
Probably every support group would be differen; it depends on who runs them. What we do at the pump station is first of all, any mother and baby are welcome. Corky or I facilitate -- there's no set format or agenda and we just quickly go around the room and ask each mother to introduce themselves and their baby and tell us how old their baby is, and then we usually ask them to share a positive and a challenge for the week. Then we just open it up for discussion, and it can go anywhere -- it's amazing, it's not just breastfeeding. We talk about so many things. For the La Leche League meetings I think they have a designated subject but I think it branches off from that tremendously and into many, many other subjects. We talk in our groups about a great variety of things. We talk in our groups about birth control. We talk about how to cope with husbands, fathers, friends. We talk about traveling. We talk about all the things we've got to do today, going back to work, how to get your milk supplies up, how to get them calmed down, what do you do when you have too much milk, is there a way to deal with gas, how to pump, how to store, just tons of motherly topics that aren't just related to breastfeeding. And then sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep or the lack thereof.
Why has breastfeeding become taboo in our culture?
Our culture is not good at teaching ... first of all I think that mothering and breastfeeding was meant to be in a society where you were mentored because you watched it all through your life. Our culture you like get pregnant so you have to read everything about that, and then you breastfeed so you read about breastfeeding, but you never saw it. So, it would be so much easier if we grew up watching it all our life like it use to be. You lived in a tepee next to and you were around the campfire and this woman was breastfeeding or you went to the red tent and you were taught how to breastfeed because you watched it all your life from the time you were a tiny girl. And, then you had your baby and there were other women right around there saying "Well, I had nipples like that and this is what I did." And, we just don't have that and so hopefully these kind of groups, from La Leche League to ours, help mothers with that process. But still, it is not that mentoring of tiny girls up through those ages.
What encouragement would you give to a new mom about breastfeeding in public?
To hurry up and learn how. The more you'll do it the more comfortable you will become. Freedom, they want their freedom, they love to go places and do things, and to not let your breastfeeding tie you down. Yeah, it doesn't have to at all, it's so simple. Take it on the road, we even have pumps nowadays that you can plug into your car or adapter and so we occasionally have a woman who is pumping and feeding exclusively. She can go to her car if she needs to, and her husband can keep driving while she's pumping in the front seat. I'm telling you there is so much freedom to be had and we would tell them to learn and to embrace it, to empower themselves by asking questions and watching and going out and trying.
What's a nurse-in?
It's a demonstration for breast feeding in public. Done by lactivists. I told you one experience I had, where the nurse-in happened in the Santa Monica place, because a security guard had booted a mother out of the mall for nursing on a bench. And then there was a recent one, where a woman got removed from an airplane before it took off because she was nursing her child. And so all over the country, the word went out, and they had a nurse-in. I think they swarmed that airline, and had a nurse-in in front of them, and all over the country people responded by having nurse-ins. It's just a demonstration. And they had placards, and signs and so on. And they all showed up and breast fed their babies. Nursing is important and I'm making healthy babies.
What can I do to help a mom who's nursing in public?
Smile at her. Ask her if she needs any help. Give her a glass of water. Tell her how great she is. Don't stare, because that would make her uncomfortable. I always identify myself. Oh, do you? I do. I'll kneel down and say "Hey! My name's Corky, and I'm a breastfeeding consultant. Good for you! Is there anything I can get for you?", and then we'll just talk about her baby for a little bit and how she's doing. It's great fun. I love doing that.