With a little practice, a new sort of freedom when feeding on the go
A few months before we left New York to begin our travels, I visited the Statue of Liberty with my mom and daughter. Despite living in the city for nearly a decade, I’d still never been. Before leaving, I wanted to experience this “must-see” icon and landmark. Like many visitors, I stood in awe of Lady Liberty’s size and grandeur up close, but it was another woman who caught my attention and gained my admiration on our outing.
A new-ish mother walked past us, wearing her baby in a carrier and (very subtly) breastfeeding on the go. Wait a minute, I thought, reflecting on the countless minutes I’d been sitting oh so carefully to ensure Eliza was fed without disruption or distraction. I hope I didn’t gawk, but I was simply amazed by what appeared to be such ease and confidence as she nursed her baby, apparently without skipping a beat. For nearly seven months, I had been feeding Eliza mostly from the comfort of our home or else stationary on a bench or seat (often rather uncomfortably too, learning just how many benches and seats aren’t designed with back support in mind for all of us). I had already overcome my initial worry over breastfeeding in public, which certainly made traveling (and life in general!) easier, but I still had some hang ups over being too visible. And here was this exemplar of another kind of liberty beneath the Statue of Liberty herself!
I didn’t dwell on the sight for long. However, six weeks later when we were in Paris, I don’t know what hit me but I decided to give it a try for myself. I was already walking with Eliza, sightseeing in a city with so much to see, and couldn’t find any good spot to sit when her hunger struck, so I simply adjusted her position in the baby carrier, adjusted my clothing, and helped Eliza find a good position. She started nursing right away. It sounds over the top to me now, but I felt like such a daredevil. In fact, I kept an ear out for sirens in case somebody reported me! But of course, to my surprise and joy, nothing happened, other than I fed my daughter without needing to stop doing what I was doing. No one around me so much as batted an eye. (Merci, Parisiens!) I walked a little more slowly and cautiously than I would’ve otherwise, but it was a great, freeing feeling. When Sean eventually met up with us, I was almost breathless with excitement, retelling my courageous move in more detail than I’m sure he needed to hear. And then I did it again, and again, and again. It certainly made traveling easier for all of us for the next several months.
I’ll admit I did end up experiencing a few rather strange moments while feeding on the go, like the time a couple came up to see our baby and tried to touch her cheeks, only to realize upon closer inspection that, no, those *weren’t* her cheeks. Having the ‘on-the-go’ feeding option never quite replaced the comfort of feeding at home or the joy of sitting and take a break, but overall it ensured we could see more than we would have otherwise, made it possible for Eliza to get nourishment when she needed it (not only when there was a park bench nearby), and helped me feel even more confident as a mother.
Of course, safety is vastly more important than the prospect of seeing another site or two, so don’t attempt to nurse on the go until you’re both ready. And even then, read up on how to do it, be patient with yourself, and ensure your baby is comfortable, supported, and has his/her airways intact. I started nursing Eliza on the go when she was about eight months old so I can’t speak to how easy or difficult it would be with a younger baby, but I imagine it’s challenging for the first few months as you’re both figuring out the world and each other.
Since August is National Breastfeeding Month, I also want to send a big thank you out into the world to the stranger who inspired me to confront and get over my nerves and perceptions of modesty when nursing my child on the go. Perhaps I’ve inspired someone else along the way to do the same, though it’s important to remember, no matter who you are or where you are, with your baby: fed is best.