Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A New Mama's Tale for Nursing On The Go {re-run}

Welcome to the 2013 World Breastfeeding Week! Below is a story I'd like to share from when Penny was 2 months old and our experience with learning how to nurse in public. 

Last year, Penny and I took a family trip across the country from the Pacific Northwest to the Gulf Coast for my brother's college graduation from the University of Alabama. Penelope had just turned 2 months old. This was my first vacation with the little one, and unfortunately my husband wasn't able to make it due to work. Luckily I have the great support of my parents, and we were accompanied by my other brother and SIL + 8 month old nephew (bottle fed, I'll explain in a bit why I make the distinction). After the 'Bama graduation we drove to Pensacola, Florida for a week on the beach. Pretty amazing vacation, but definitely tiring! Even with the extra help from family, managing this little miss for a trip of this proportion had a little bit of coordinating to do - specifically when it came to feeding her.  Penelope is exclusively breastfed and in her first 2 months I had only nursed in public a few times. Although I became more and more confident each time I did it, this vacation opened my eyes to what feeding my baby on the go really means.

For starters, I'll give the disclaimer that the entire reason why I had any trouble because the most efficient way for me to nurse Penelope at the time was by using the football hold, which is not the most "travel friendly" hold. We were able to do cradle and cross cradle just fine, but football hold keeps nursing to 20 min per side, while any other hold is upwards of 40 minutes. Not sure why. In a restaurant, park or other public area, this is not functional for me.
This was a fairly low key trip, with visits to the beach and a little bit of sightseeing. But everything was accompanied with nursing session, or three. Here's some of the situations we found ourselves in:
  • In a restaurant: still haven't mastered the whole eating while nursing thing, especially since I'm such a novice at cradle/cross cradle.
  • At the beach: during the hottest part of the day, both of us are already uncomfortable and now to stick my little one's head under a cover and eat. We did what we could to keep air moving around under the cover, but there was not much to be done. Now this 17 month veteran BF'ing mama would have no problem discreetly nursing without a cover, but back then it was still very much a production and I was concerned about my privacy. And trying to do this while sitting on a sandy towel, and the empty beach loungers close by look so enticing but are a whopping $25/hour.
    Here's a little aside: why do I need to concern myself with a nursing cover on the beach where 90% of the women out there are showing more cleavage than I am?!
  • On the airplane: I nursed her at take off and landing in order to help with her acclimation to change in air pressure. It worked great. But trying to fanangle this in a coach seat? Almost impossible! Luckily I sat next to my mom and we just put the arm rest up to give me more room.
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love nursing my baby. I am committed to breastfeeding as long as she wants, and don't intend to keep nursing an "at home only" event. But in each of these little scenarios, I also watched my SIL whip out a bottle for her son with ease and fed him in no time flat, with little fuss and no muss about silly covers and ways to hold her child. Not going to lie, as I fumbled once with getting Penelope into a comfortable position where I tried football hold while sitting at a picnic table, I got jealous. I thought about how much easier my life would be to get Penny on the bottle with milk from mama. I just hadn't introduced the bottle in time for this vacation. Note: On the contrary, not having to deal with bottles is AMAZING! I never did end up giving her a bottle. The only way Penny gets milk is directly from me - which again, this seasoned mama wouldn't have it any other way. 
Oh and the stares I got! I am positive that breastfeeding is no more out of the ordinary in Florida than it is in Washington State, but I certainly got a few looks from "the hot babes" on the beach and even was admonished by a man at graduation while I nursed with a cover - "miss, you can't be cold on a day like this!" After my confused look, it clicked for him and he says, "oh, is there a child under there?" Why, yes, there is! "I've never seen a woman breastfeed in public." And he walks away, chuckling at what I'm sure is the darndest thing he had seen that day.
But, even if I had been on the ball and started giving her a bottle in preparation for this trip, there's a few reasons why I still would have chosen to nurse her on this trip instead of having the convenience of a bottle.
  • I wanted to be able to give her the emotional comfort of nursing while we're in a strange new environment (and certainly new climate!). Even though we were on the go a whole lot more than we are at home, she at least got the consistency of the breast.
  • In terms of nutritional value, breastfeeding gives the highest source of nutrients. Makes sense, its the freshest way, right?
  • Lastly I didn't have to worry about all the accessories that comes with bottle feeding. Pumps, bottles, ensuring supply, cool packs, the ability to warm a bottle after being kept cool, etc. When the time comes, I pull out my cover and away we go. My SIL, despite the convenience of the bottle, would find that she can't find little Zeke's bottles because they were moved around, or she ran out of juice/formula/water.
So although I've battled the silliness of finding a comfortable position in skinny booths, jumped in shock in mid sentence when she chomped down a little too hard, had to cut feedings short because it was time to go (and consequently ended up having to nurse more often!) and dealt with feeling like I'm sweating all over my child, I wouldn't trade it for the world. Because above all that, I had the happiest baby on this trip. No night-time crying or fussing, and a perfect angel during the day. I can't say that the entire reason behind this stellar behavior is because of nursing, but I'd like to think that my choice in consistency versus convenience did make a difference.

What was your experience with taking your little one out on a big trip for the first time? 

Do you have any funny stories or tips to share? 

This post was originally published on A Little Bit of All of It.


  1. I too nursed a 2 month old on a trip across country. It was a driving trip though and I feel you pain/happiness. So much harder/easier. LOL My hubby was right there with me making sure that we did as much for the little guy as we could to get a full feed before driving off again.
    I've actually done one with my mom as well with my 10 month old too. She was not supportive though and made things much harder. She would cut feedings short by insisting we leave in the middle of a feed and complaining that the bottle would have been done by now. I'm glad you didn't have that problem at least.

  2. I have always been a pretty open nurser!! We do use a cover when I have the availability too though!! Thankfully I have never had an awful experience!! Its hard but absolutely doable!! I would just find a corner tucked away, a tree or so on!! I normally brought a great outdoor blanket with me in my diaper bag and would pull that out to sit on whenever I needed it!



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