Fall is in full swing. Some of my personal favorite memories of the season has breastfeeding involved.
When I had my first child and my parents flied half way around the planet to visit, I decided to take them to the safari park when it cooled down. Without any surprise, the baby got hungry when we were out there. To my surprise, there wasn’t a nursing room in the park. The park ranger told me, “you’re welcome to breastfeed anywhere you like.”
Hesitantly, we sat down in a cafeteria and I started to breastfeed. My mom opened an umbrella and tried to cover me. That was just embarrassing. Everyone walked by looked at us. I felt like one of those park animals.
Then I saw there was another family at the other side of the dining area. They were all eating: The father was eating, the mother was eating, the baby was eating, or, to be accurate, being breastfed.
“Mom, look!” I elbowed my mom, pointed the family to her with my chin. “Do you see that? And they are not using an umbrella!”
“Ah, American!” She murmured, but put the umbrella down.
Nobody looked at me anymore. I was relieved. Baby ate and was satisfied.
By the time my second child arrived, I got comfortable enough to breastfeed in public, but still feel obligated to breastfeed in a nursing room if there’s one.
One day I took my first child—now four years old—to his swimming lesson. He made me promise that I’d stay and watch the whole session. But, alas, the baby was hungry and I retreated to the nursing room.
The baby finished eating just when the preschooler finished his swimming lesson for that day. When I stepped out of the mother’s privacy room, my older child grumbled, “I did very well today, Mom. But you were not there to watch me!”
“I’m sorry,” I said. And I meant it. “I wanted to watch you but DiDi was hungry. I had to feed him.”
“Why don’t you just feed him by the pool? I saw other kids eating on the pool chaise lounge. That should be okay.”
I looked around and saw a couple of toddlers eating gold fish or other crackers. And then I saw a mom breastfeeding! Funny enough, she was wearing the same nursing dress that I have. I couldn’t help it but walked up and thank her for breastfeeding.
“Ah? Yeah…you’re welcome.” She didn’t know that she just granted me the right to breastfeed by the pool, to feed my baby and watch my 4-year-old swimming at the same time.
When my younger one turned 1 year old, we took him to pumpkin patch for the first time. (His birthday falls in October.) When he got hungry, I just sat on a big mac pumpkin and nursed him. Across the field I saw another mom sitting on the ground, lean on a big mac, also breastfeeding. She saw me, too. I smiled to her and she smiled back. Then she gave me a high-five from a distance and I high-fived back. I feel encouraged. I think she is encouraged, too.
My younger one turned two years old earlier this month and was officially not a baby anymore. Thank you to all the moms who have breastfed in public. You helped make this journey much more pleasant for all the other moms.