Do you ever hear a mom's story about public breastfeeding and think that this shouldn't even be a big deal. But it is -- especially if that mom is publicly breastfeeding a toddler. Mom of four Katharine McKinney says she nursed her toddler at LEGOLAND. And my first reaction was, "So?" But then I noticed that key word: Toddler. It takes some courage to breastfeed an infant in public. But your big, walking, talking toddler? Now that takes confidence.
McKinney says she was always shy about nursing in public. But she believed strongly in nursing her toddler if he still wanted it. Nursing had helped restore his health when he was in the hospital with pneumonia. It gave him a health boost. And it gave him a little extra comfort during his turbulent toddlerhood. If only it weren't for those stares you get from other people.
After years of hiding herself in dirty bathrooms and missing out on group gatherings where she would have been welcome, McKinney decided enough was enough. She found herself with her four kids at LEGOLAND in the late evening. It was half an hour before closing time, and the other kids were still playing. But her youngest was definitely done for the day and ready to settle in for a nursing session. So McKinney did what made the most sense for everyone in her family at that moment:
I found a bench and sat down at one end, close to the wall surrounding one of the rides. I sat him on my lap, facing me, his legs straddling mine like a horsey ride. I quickly lifted my shirt, latched him on and held him close so his body covered the bulk of my exposed flesh. He leaned his face to the side, against my chest, and let my milk calm him.
I chose to meet my child's needs. Without shame. Right where I was. At the LEGOLAND Discovery Center.
Of course, she still caught someone looking at her. I wish it had been another mom, giving her a supportive smile. And McKinney's story makes me think -- maybe those of us who do think moms should be able to nurse a baby or toddler in public without shame should go out of our way more to send that message to other moms. It could be a small thing, just a quick smile.
I know it takes social courage to make eye contact with a stranger, even a stranger who is a fellow mom. But it takes a lot of social courage for moms to breastfeed in public, too. And we can make it a whole lot easier by giving each other more visible support.
What do you do when you see another mom breastfeeding a baby or toddler in public?
Image via Shane McGraw/Flickr