I am a modest person. During gym class in my formative years, I always turned the front of my body toward the locker when changing. Nowadays, at the YMCA, I dive into a dressing room to get changed. I never liked breastfeeding in public (I certainly wasn't as carefree as that mom I saw the other day breastfeeding her child in the Jewel while grocery shopping), but traveling with a baby definitely puts some extra constraints on feeding time. During the 11 months I breastfed, I did it: in the back seat of the car (don't worry, the car was safely parked), at a drive-through hot dog stand, in a restaurant, at Millennium Park, in a hotel room, in other people's bedrooms, in an airport waiting area, and on the airplane. From my experience, I learned a few things:
- The toughest thing about breastfeeding in public is getting started without flashing the rest of humanity. There are a lot of products out there to help, but at the end of the day, you still have to do some unbuttoning, releasing of bra flaps, and positioning the baby. For a while, I tried to hide this process with a blanket. But it always seemed to slip down at the most inopportune moment (like at the outdoor concert in Millennium Park when a bunch of high schoolers on a field trip walked by me at the exact moment I was pulling my boob out to feed TJ, and the blanket fell down). Ugh.
- So, I purchased The First Years Nursing CoverUp by Learning Curve, which did help a little. Of course, then I got a few questioning looks because TJ liked to punch and kick the shawl, so it looked like I was hiding a small raccoon or something on my lap. But at least I had a little more privacy. There is another clever product that some of my girlfriends swear by (although I've never tried it), called the Hooter Hider Bloomst by Hooter Hider. Even if the Hooter Hider doesn't work so well, at least you have a good conversation piece!
- You know how mobsters always want to sit in the back corner of a restaurant facing everyone? Well, breastfeeding moms are like the anti-mobster. If you know you'll be breastfeeding in a public place at some point during your visit, scope out a more secluded area or a corner where you can face away from the crowd and choose to sit there. This advice works for restaurants, airport waiting areas, and public parks not currently hosting field trips.
- High school kids notwithstanding, most men are actually pretty oblivious to public breastfeeding, so don't worry about it too much. If you stare at the wall and pretend like nothing is going on down there, they will likely believe you are just a lady with a shawl sitting in the airport. I am now adept at spotting other breastfeeding mothers, and if I drop a comment about it, Travelin' Dad inevitably says, "Who is breastfeeding? Oh, that lady over there, really?" Women are more likely to notice breastfeeding, but they are usually very understanding.
Of course, there are bound to be a few downright humiliating incidents while breastfeeding on the road. I've flashed passengers boarding an airplane, found breast shields clinging to my clothes hours after breastfeeding, and had to pump in the middle of a Las Vegas airport bathroom, but I received few stares during even these most embarrassing moments (of course, anything goes in Vegas-- if you have to breastfeed/pump in public, that's a good destination to do it). So, you should take solace that: (1) most people will either not notice or not care that you're breastfeeding in public and (2) if you take a few simple precautions, breastfeeding during travel will hopefully be the least memorable part of your trip.