St. Thomas and Breastfeeding in Public


FullSizeRender-9One of the biggest challenges of traveling with an infant or even daily life with an infant is figuring out where and how to feed your baby. I’ve read about some really crazy experiences women have had where people would tell them to cover up, go to the bathroom, and how generally disgusting it is that they’re feeding their baby in public. We just came back from our first family vacation in St. Thomas and I can happily report that everyone was so friendly and supportive. I used this nursing cover (here is one that isn’t sold out) and tried to have it with me everywhere we went. You can also put it around the car seat to serve as a nice barrier between your baby and any nosey passerby. Anytime Perry got too fussy, I put on the cover and started feeding her. But of course, nothing is ever that simple.

Sometimes the cover bothered her, I had to adjust her position or she spit up on it so it was not available for use. This is where breastfeeding in public came into play. Unless you plan on becoming a recluse, you’re going to eventually have to figure out how to feed your baby when you’re on the go.

When I was pregnant, I thought I would be shy about breastfeeding in public. I worried that I would feel uncomfortable or that people would give me weird looks or ask me to cover up. Surprisingly, I don’t have any major issues with it now. I normally wear a cover but if Perry is feeling feisty, she can inadvertingly pull it down or if she’s crying and i’m rushing, I may start the feeding without the cover. Her head pretty much covers any chance of overly exposing myself anyway so i’m not too concerned about it.

I’ve read many stories about random passersby saying hurtful things to nursing women so I did my research and made sure I had my facts ready if anyone ever gave me attitude. I had an entire internal monologue ready regarding my right to publicly breastfeed. It went something along the lines of, “you want me to feed my baby in the bathroom? Are you serious? Do you enjoy eating where you shit?” or “breastfeeding in public is legal and you are welcome to look away if you feel uncomfortable.” Thankfully I didn’t have to go there.

It sounds dramatic and i’m normally much more laid back and nonconfrontational but if I have a hungry and hysterical baby demanding food, I want to make sure i’m prepared to address any unnecessary obstacles. Plus, I feel better knowing I have a reply ready instead of having to look for another location for the sake of avoiding a scene mid-feeding. Thankfully, strangers have been wonderful and most of the time, people don’t even notice that i’m breastfeeding. Sometimes people will even smile and have a normal conversation, which restores my faith in humanity.

I also find myself getting passionate about the whole idea of breastfeeding in public. It’s shocking to me that anyone would want to make a new mom feel bad about feeding her child when there are already so many things she’s juggling and trying to do right. I think it’s so disturbing that the amount of nudity we see in the media is acceptable but a woman feeding her child in a public setting can be seen as offensive. What can be more natural and important than that? Why can breasts be exposed for the purpose of sexuality but not for sustenance? What baffles me most of all is that it’s actually so modest. The baby’s head covers up almost everything that’s happening. I’ve breastfeed Perry in several different public settings and I can happily say that it’s a great experience. It’s so freeing to be able to address her needs on the spot instead of having to go back home or find a secluded spot, which I’ve done in the past as well. Now, I don’t give it a second thought and just nurse her where I need to.

Throughout our vacation, everyone acted like it was no big deal and even went out of their way to make sure we were comfortable by offering a quiet section of the restaurant or letting us board the plane first. When we took the car ferry back from St. John to St. Thomas, the attendant saw we had a baby and directed our car to an area that would allow us to exit first upon arrival instead of letting us go where we were originally headed, which would have put us all the way in the back. We didn’t expect any of these kind gestures but we definitely noted them and besides making things much easier, it gave me a warm feeling inside knowing how good natured strangers can be.

One wonderful experience we had during the trip was when we ate breakfast at Coco Joe’s. The restaurant is split into two major sections. We were one of the first people to arrive and were sat on the left side.  Perry quickly got anxious so I started breastfeeding her while eating breakfast. After about 20 minutes, we noticed that our section was completely empty except for the three of us. We realized that the hostess was purposefully not seating anyone in our section so we could have some privacy. I thought that was so unexpected and thoughtful. We were able to have a peaceful breakfast with Perry being well fed and not being constantly distracted but all the kids and action surrounding her. After breakfast, we went straight to the beach and she had a nice long nap under the umbrella.

I want to encourage all of you mamas out there, whether you nurse in public or in private, breastfeed or formula-feed, latch or exclusively pump, and any other decision moms (and dads!) often get judged for, to do what you feel in your heart is right. I think it’s important to normalize breastfeeding and help women feel proud and comfortable nursing their beautiful babies in public if that’s what they choose to do. Of course, if you don’t want to breastfeed in public, you shouldn’t but if you do want to, please know that it’s not strange or weird. It may feel uncomfortable the first time but I got used to it quickly. I’m happy to say I have now breastfed in the car, on a ferry, on the beach, at the airport and in multiple restaurants.

Some of the most reassuring moments I have had since having a baby is passing other parents with their strollers or moms nursing their babies and giving each other a little nod and look of encouragement. I love when women support other women. Please know that you have support no matter what you choose to do! If you’re thinking about feeding your baby in public, know that there are moms in the blog world and in real life cheering you on, including me. xo, Tanya

Have you ever breastfed in public? What kind of reactions did you receive? Do you try to avoid it? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Comment below!

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