While we were there, another mother and I made passing conversation between throwing diving sticks, tossing children, saying “I did see! It was amazing!” or “Stop splashing her in the face!” She divided her attention between a set of twins who were seven (I know this because they were having passing conversation with Shooter) and her two-year-old.
I happened to see her again as we left, while Shooter went to talk to one of his buddies in the family game room. She was sitting quietly in the lounging area with the television, surrounded by people scattered in the other seats, quietly and unobtrusively breastfeeding her youngest. As with most public breastfeeding, unless you have done it yourself or are married to someone who has done it, you would never know. The little boy was cradled in her arm, appearing to be sleeping, wrapped in her jacket with one hand reached up to clutch the collar of her shirt. Not a millimeter of skin showing.
It reminded me of the day before when we went on a field trip to the Nature Center for a picnic and a hike with two of my best friends. Both have nurslings, and during the museum portion of our field trip, they both stopped at some point to breastfeed. Again, had I not known what it looks like, I would never have realized they were breastfeeding their babies. I nursed all over the place with two of my children, once I got over the stigma of public breastfeeding. Grocery stores, malls, museums, classes, meetings, even during church. No one ever noticed (that approached me, anyway). I even had a man come up to me once in a store and ask if I knew where a certain item was - he obviously had no idea I was nursing and even after speaking to me didn’t notice.
I really wanted to tell the mother I saw nursing at the YMCA “Way to go!” but found my self with an interesting situation…She was sitting in an open area with lots of other people sitting close enough to overhear anything I said. As with most public breastfeeders, she does not have a desire to call attention to herself. So it would defeat the purpose if I went over and said, in front of all the quiet TV-watchers, “So glad to see you breastfeeding that toddler! It’s really the best thing for him! Isn’t it wonderful?! I breastfed all mine past two also.”
You can imagine how that might make her uncomfortable as well as alarm others around us who are uneducated about breastfeeding. Though extended breastfeeding is recommended by both the American Academy of Pediatrics (they recommend AT LEAST one year and as long thereafter as mother and baby desire) and the World Health Organization (they recommend AT LEAST two years and as long thereafter as mother and baby desire) and the worldwide average weaning age is four-years-old, extended breastfeeding tends to make people even more uncomfortable than public breastfeeding. So I didn’t want to go there. No scenes, please. Not the time to educate others.
So I walked by on the outside of her chair, she smiled at me and I managed something along the lines of
“I just wanted to say, before we left, how great it is to see you sitting here taking care of your little one like that. I did that for years with my own and it’s wonderful to see someone else out-and-about doing it, good for you!”
The trouble was, at first she didn’t know what I meant. And once again, I didn’t want to actually say “breastfeeding” with the crowd of ears. Should I have? If I had embarrassed her or caused a scene it would have completely defeated the purpose. I was not trying to inform the other people there about breastfeeding, I just wanted to give that specific mother support, a boost, a warm-and-fuzzy “GO GIRL!”
I was able to clarify by explaining “You are very good at it, isn’t it easy to be discreet when you’re in public?”
Have any of you had a similar experience, and what could I have done differently?