Does life imitate art when it comes to breastfeeding on the go?

How a few paintings in Paris helped me reflect on feeding my daughter while traveling

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week 2018 (Aug. 1-7), I’ve been reflecting on breastfeeding my daughter Eliza for almost a year now. Shoutout not only to Moms everywhere who are breastfeeding their babies but also to all parents for keeping their kids healthy and fed, every which way.

One day while taking in the gorgeous artwork on display at a museum in Paris, it struck me that I’d seen more paintings of women breastfeeding than I’d seen of actual women breastfeeding in Paris. Many of these paintings I found to be surprisingly accurate portrayals, leading me to feel as if I were sharing a knowing nod with the bosom-y depictions.

I’m far from being the first woman who has breastfed her child in public. For those of you who’ve done likewise, how do you approach nursing when you’re out and about, especially when traveling?

Every country has its own set of rules, whether formal or informal, about breastfeeding and what’s deemed acceptable. I could stand to do more research on local laws, protections, and expectations on baby-rearing abroad, but I also like learning firsthand. And, if I’m doing what I understand to be best for my child, does it matter if somebody elsewhere frowns upon where or how I feed her?

Surprisingly, it can be quite difficult to find resources that explain the customs and nuance about breastfeeding around the world. Most search results simply report statistics—or mere estimates—on how many babies are breastfed in a particular country, not where a nursing mother can go with confidence and what to expect from local attitudes. Of course, there’s a fine line between wanting to help normalize breastfeeding by doing so proudly and being unaware or disrespectful of local customs. While I don’t hide myself or feel any need to apologize, I try to be discreet.

But back to Paris: I did see a handful of other women breastfeeding in public during our weeks living there. Some were locals. Some were tourists. When we made eye contact, I offered a knowing nod. As for me, I regularly stopped to feed Eliza while out for the day, sometimes in beautiful Parisian parks or at corner cafes, and I’m pleased to report that nobody made me feel uncomfortable for doing so.

In an ideal world, all the supplies anybody might need to nurse would be readily available—a nursing cover (along with a baby who doesn’t pull it off), plenty of water and nutritious snacks, a seat with back support—but when you have a hungry baby, you’ll make do without any of them. The one thing that I like to have whenever possible, though, is a good view.

Plus, there aren’t enough times in life when you can take a few moments to appreciate one of the works of art in your own life: your little one.

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