In light of World Breastfeeding Week, I wanted to continue to share our breastfeeding journey from the past year. This is my story about nursing in public (NIP). We as mothers SHOULD NOT be ashamed to nurse our babies. If our baby is hungry they deserve to (and have the right) to be fed! Coming from being the shy and modest (which aside from NIP I'm not to modest in general.... what being a competitive dancer growing up will do to ya) to tandem NIP for the first time (8/2/14 for the big latch on) I have SO much to say (especially to those who are like how I was in the beginning)..... I had plans to breastfeed my girls before I even knew any of the "real" benefits besides "breast is best." When they finally made their entrance, we had some nursing restrictions due to their size. (you can read more about our first year journey HERE). Despite all our obstacles (including M not being able to latch, and then once latched not being able to hold it for very long) we managed to have our first successful tandem nursing session by day 3!!!! I was SO proud and excited, and wanted to capture the moment to remember forever. Even as I was asking daddy to take a picture, I felt weird about it. But Why? Anytime I do something that I want to remember forever, I always take a picture. So why is this any different? (I'm sure it has something to do with the taboo and stigma society has placed on breastfeeding.)
I continued to enjoy capturing the moments we three shared throughout the year. I knew I would never share these pictures, but wanted to have something to show the girls when they were older. (Let's face it, tandem nursing is a feat within itself and something I had doubts about being able to do even when I was pregnant.) Over time, I began to question myself: "Why don't I feel comfortable sharing such a HUGE and BEAUTIFUL accomplishment?" If it was anything else, I share at the drop of a hat. All the girls milestones, any personal achievements... I always share. So why is this one any different?
The stigma and double standard that society has placed on breastfeeding is so hypocritical. As I became more active in online support groups (Both breastfeeding and twin groups) I started to become more aware of this. How many times (prebaby) did I spend hours trying to find the right bra with the right shirt to give me the PERFECT cleavage? How many times when I worked at Victoria's Secret did I come across a woman looking for something to enhance her breasts and make them look a certain way to "flaunt" them. Then I got to thinking even more. Why is it ok for women to use breasts as a sexual object and not to provide nourishment to their babies? I have never really been an "advocate" for anything, but do believe in sharing information, because knowledge is power right? It seems to me that the combination of a lack of information, and the "sex negative" approach our society takes really impacts the level of comfort for nursing mothers (especially those like me who are first time moms and trying to survive in this judgmental world and "abide by the rules.")
I have to start with a little background about where my ideals came from about NIP. I grew up around ppl who used covers and thought it was the norm to not expose yourself while nursing. When my younger siblings were nursed I was not allowed around them, which in turn planted the seed that it is something you do completely in private. My heritage and background also indirectly implied that there is something "shameful" about showing your body, which to an extent is understandable. (Not necessarily that your body is shameful, but that your body is something private that you don't share with anyone except a significant other.) When I nursed in my wrap for the first time, I was changing one baby and nursing the other. And I felt like I had just taken over the world. I mean, I had to find someway to do two things at once right? (Just one more example of how awesome and handy babywearing can be!)
Now, as you can see there is nothing showing. Just that my baby is eating. For the first (and last for a while) time I shared a "bf photo." (I had only been a M.O.M. for about a week or 2 here and can't tell you how proud i was!) People are always asking me how I manage with 2, and I saw no harm in sharing. I later received a message from an aunt telling me that my photo was inappropriate and that it made her very uncomfortable to look at with my uncle. So of course, I shut down and felt like what I was doing was wrong. These comments stuck with me anytime I took a photo and honestly made me feel shameful for it. (As you can see in most of my pix, you wouldn't even know I was nursing unless you REALLY pay attention.)
Fast forward a few months... Add in lots of exposure and education through these online communities and we now are 6 months into the girls lives. Ya, it took me SIX months for me to build up my confidence and try to NIP for the first time. And it was on a plane (where no one could see... so Idk if that even counts... lol) to PR for our vacation. I had enough expressed milk to last the whole time we were traveling, but I wasn't able to pump so it only made sense to feed the girls. (and save the milkies! Who knew how much time I would have to pump while pool hanging and beach bumming) Being able to nurse comfortably without anyone really seeing me in a public setting REALLY boosted my confidence that I CAN do this! And it reminded me the reason I nurse: to feed my kids and help their brains and bodies grow in the most healthy way I know how to provide for them!
My first "real" experiences NIP were in PR. Ironically, they do not have laws that protect BF mothers who NIP, but saw moms openly NIP with nothing to hide, and no one even giving a second look (but they do support BF with the other laws they have in place). Seeing this gave me confidence and relieved me of the stigma I felt back home in regards to NIP. I NIP both the girls (at different times) in my wrap, N first at a restaurant. The girls had JUST started BLW and had never used high chairs before (of course I forgot the covers back home). Using my wrap to nurse her let me with free hands to eat my meal. (BW FTW!) I tried not to pay attention to anyone else who may be looking (I mean there was already a lot of attention drawn to us for having twins so...). For me the key was having CONFIDENCE and having a partner that fully supported me. Once I got my "first time jitters" out of the way, I felt like the sky was opening up to become my limit. Shortly afterwards, we were walking around the city and M was in my wrap. The girls were tired from all the fun and action and were getting tired. So of course, I made my second attempt to nurse while wearing! And sure enough... It was a success and I was finally comfortable with THE ACT of NIP. (I still had reservations that I was being inappropriate by having my breast out, even though you couldn't see anything but a little cleavage.)
Once we were back home, I knew that I had to overcome my fear of someone calling me out about NIP and the fear of drawing attention from ppl (especially the creepers). The next time I tried was at our ped appt after the girls had their round of vaccines. (we have a male ped so this was big for me!) Eventually I did NIP here and there to continue to try to build my comfort and confidence but didn't do it too much, especially since I started reading all these stories about ppl being asked to leave for publicly nursing. (Although honestly, I wish someone would have tried to say something to me. Having twins, you already have a back pocket FULL of comebacks for anything ppl have to say. So whats a few more?)
So now we fast forward to the past month. Not much has changed (except for how much milk I am making, which is down to just enough to mostly comfort nurse). I learn that World Breastfeeding Week is coming along a week after my girls turned one (which obviously marked me at one year of bf), and I really wanted to use this chance to let my guard down and use my experiences to educate fellow M.O.M.s, and first time moms. Nursing (whether it's 1 baby or 3) can pose to be a challenge within itself. Being comfortable nursing at any given moment can just make it a burden. (I can't count the number of times I just made a bottle instead of nursing bc we were out in public). I REALLY hope that the information I provide here (and within this site) not only encourages moms to breastfeed, but helps them find the confidence to feel comfortable nourishing your baby wherever you all may be. There is nothing shameful, nor is there anything to be embarrassed about when it comes to breastfeeding. But most of all....
It is all about doing what makes YOU comfortable. <3
Here are a few photos of our beautiful nursing moments, both in and out of the house........