Friday, January 7, 2011

Have tits. Will travel. Breast-feeding on the go.

I am not a breast feeder who channels the goddess each time she nurses. I do not feel ultra-feminine or empowered or special by virtue of breastfeeding. (More power to you if you do. Seriously, I think that's great.)
 
I DO feel more confident as a mother knowing that I can nourish my baby any time, anywhere. In fact I’m nursing as I type this. Usually my instinct to nurse outweighs any prudishness I might feel based on who's in the room.  After all, baby's gotta eat, right? Still, after six months of practice, I occasionally experience bouts of shyness about the act of nursing in public, so I do my best to hide my breasts behind blankets, coats and my trusty Moby wrap.

How does this affect my travelling? Well, in different ways. I don't own a breast pump - basically because I'm too cheap to buy one that really works - though I did borrow one for a recent trip to India. (More on that later.) Until Baby was four months old, she was strictly breast fed. So, that means nursing in stations, airports, on the train, and especially on long flights. And I am happy to report that I have never been confronted or been made to feel uncomfortable because I'm feeding my baby. People, it seems, are pretty cool with breastfeeding.

It helps that breastfeeding equals a silent baby. On flights especially, my sense is that even people who might otherwise be squeamish are so appreciative of any effort you take to quiet your child, they are willing to endure a flash of a shiny, swollen nipple. Once I was even allowed to board a flight ahead of first class because Baby was fussing like mad and the gate agent said to me, "Just board and feed that baby, please."

The nature of commercial flying also lends itself to more privacy than might be immediately apparent. People take their seats, and while they might occasionally glance left or right, for the most part they stare straight ahead. This seems to be part of a group effort to minimize the pyschological impact of being trapped in a big metal tube with so many other people. If we don't focus our attention on each other, we can all pretend that we are alone in the sky. Same deal with the bus.

Even in my beloved café car on the Amtrak Northeast Regional train (the most prosaic name for a train route of all time, btw) where having a baby invites stares and sparks discussions with total strangers, breastfeeding is simply NBD. Now as stated, I am kinda bashful, so I like to slip my coat backwards over my shoulders to create a nursing shield. I am sure many people walk by my seat and have no idea what I'm up to.

It helps too that the law is on the side of breast feeders. Forty-four states (plus D.C. and Puerto Rico) have laws protecting a woman's right to breastfeed in public and private places.

So to my sisters who might be feeling nervous about how exactly to get expressed milk past the TSA, or the prospect of having to pump in a bus station restroom (ick) I say you should embark with nothing but your baby and your nursing bra.

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