We live in the same small town where I grew up, close to the farm that my family has lived on for 365 years. It’s the kind of town where you always run into people you know while at the grocery or hardware store, and where everybody knows everybody.
I think the perfect example of what it’s like to nurse in public in my town happened last summer at our annual Potato & Corn Festival. Joshua was four months old at the time and my brother was in the tractor pull. I wore Joshua in a front carrier while walking around, but it was a hot day and when we finally got to the pull I was sweaty and tired. A family friend saw us and offered me his chair. I was so thankful to him and not at all surprised when Joshua started to root around after we settled into the comfortable chair in the shade.
At the time, I was still a pretty new mom and wasn’t exactly a stealthy when it came to nursing my baby. I wasn’t embarrassed to nurse my baby, on the contrary I was proud that our breastfeeding relationship was going so well, but I was nervous about who would catch a glimpse of me. I really didn’t want anyone to see the flabby stretch-marked skin on my belly.
But, my baby was hungry. There I sat in the shade of a tree in a borrowed chair; I took a deep breath and began to fumble with my nursing bra and nursing pad. Before anyone knew what had happened, Joshua was nursing. My mom handed me the lightweight sarong that I liked to use to cover Joshua in the sun and I placed it over his exposed legs. I looked down at him, adjusting my shirt just so, and then I got up the nerve to look up. I had read far too many nursing in public horror stories online and I was sure someone would have a problem.
To my surprise, nobody was staring. Most people were watching the tractor pull. But then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw two police officers. They were coming to ask me to cover up, I was sure of it! I looked over and one of the officers smiled at me then went back to watching the pull. Crisis averted! Next, an elderly man walked right up next to me. I was sure he’d say something! I held my breath. He opened up his folding chair and positioned it right next to us, without even looking at me. He just wanted to sit in the shade!
A few friends came over to chat off and on. My dad and brothers visited in between pulls. Joshua finished nursing and we stayed there in the shade to enjoy the pull. I realized that if I could nurse my baby right there at a tractor pull, in front of the whole town on a hot day in August, I could nurse him anywhere without a problem. It was no big deal! Most people were oblivious while others smiled at me, and I’ve found that to be the norm around town.
Now that Joshua’s older I don’t nurse him in public very often anymore. In 16 months, nobody has ever asked me to cover up or stop nursing in public and I have a feeling they wouldn't start now. I’m not afraid to nurse my 30 pound toddler in public, but the fact that there’s not all that much to do in our town and I’m a homebody, combined with him nursing much less now (about five or six times during daylight hours) means that I just don’t have as many opportunities to nurse him when we’re out and about.