Monday, April 20, 2009

Breastfeeding and eye contact

TopHat wrote a great post about how to be comfortable around breastfeeding. Her comment about eye contact was particularly insightful:
Like a friend of mine said, "It's like when you're with a friend at an ATM--do you try to look away when they put in their pin or do you continue facing them in conversation?" I was afraid that the mom would be nervous if I was looking at her. Would she be uncomfortable if her baby popped off and I saw a millisecond of nipple? I realized something though: if she's comfortable to be breastfeeding in front of you, then she's comfortable with whatever you might happen to see, so just keep talking and enjoying yourself. Would you turn away if she was handing the child pieces of fruit or crackers?
Before I had a child, I remember having the same thoughts myself: where do I look? do I try and act casual and pretend I don't notice at all? do I make a comment about her nursing (positive one, of course, but it would draw attention to the fact)? Once I had a nursling of my own, I got so used to seeing & doing breastfeeding that I never had to think about the eye contact question again.


  1. I need to post this on Heather's post, too, but this made me also think about how we treat those who say they're uncomfortable with breastfeeding in public.

    (I honestly can't remember seeing women breastfeed before I was doing it myself. Maybe this was a self-selecting thing, because I was the first of my friends to have a kid? I know my mom breastfed (my littlest brother is 14 years younger than me), but I don't remember it being a big deal.)

    Anyway -- my point is that we (I) sometimes get really impatient/scornful of those who are "uncomfortable" about public nursing. (I'm thinking of how I felt when Barbara Walters was talking abt the woman next to her on a plane breastfeeding). And yet if women/girls who presumably plan to breastfeed themselves in the next few years are uncomfortable in the presence of breastfeeding before it is something they do themselves, then we need to cut other people, especially men and boys who will never breastfeed themselves, some slack.

    I'm not saying this sort of awareness campaign isn't a great idea (it is), but the wonderful honestly of Heather's and yours needs to accompany more understanding of those who are still in the uncomfortable camp, and who may, by virtue of never breastfeeding themselves, always remain so.

  2. i always let moms who nurse in front of me know... "it's okay btw. i don't mind you nursing (done it myself twice), so don't feel like you have to cover up for my sake. it's nothing i haven't seen before."

    more often then not, i've seen mom's relax and not keep tugging at their shirt/blanket...

  3. hehe. i thought this was a post about mother baby eye contact and how impt it is for that netural feedback loop! you know, i have never even thought about it from this point of view, it never dawned on me to think that someone would have an issue like that. ignorance is bliss through 3 babies! lol

  4. I'm a nurse preparing to sit for the Lactation Consultant exam (and I work with babies and moms in a hospital setting within the lactation department) and I've nursed four or my own children. I think I remember this feeling of where to look when someone is starting a baby at the breast, but after two or three years of helping moms get babies latched, I probably am a bit TOO comfortable watching babies nurse now! I love to watch babies nurse since all I get to generally see is Day 1,2,3 when they're often trying to figure it all out. : -)

  5. So Rixa, is this about women in front of other women? What about us guys... I am actually quite comfortable with nursing - I remember as a kid seeing one of my aunts nursing all the time, she never tried to hide it, as a young boy this grossed me out a bit... but I was a kid. If it was my mom I don't think it would have been the same. Here at our house with our kids they have grown up with nursing and are use to seeing it all the time. For me, as a man, even though I am totally comfortable with the nursing thing I do find that I worry I may make a woman uncomfortable by making eye contact when nursing in my presence...worried she may think I am some sort of pervert if I am too comfortable. Perhaps though it is my own anxieties.

  6. I like when people either say something right away (in the imaginary scenario of nice old lady at the mall or something, I the tune of "Its lovely that you have a nursing baby, etc") that is positive, or just truly act like it isnt happening and look as much at me or the baby or eyes as they would if I were feeding the baby a bottle or holding a baby.

    That being said, I am STILL struggling with bucking wild baby (#five) who wants my entire breast to be out and it is difficult. I dont know if I will ever be that woman who just is okay with that and I wish I was. In front of the kids and husband, I couldnt even tell you when or how I nurse, I am 100% whatever about it. But in front of others, I guess maybe the real *best* situation would be if we all just laughed about it.

    One more little anecdote--we have a close male friend who used to alwasy be around. When our baby Mickey was born, he truly did nurse almost non-stop. Well, our friend would see me fiddling with my shirt and try to excuse himself, go outside, etc, (at least it was summer!) and I finally told him "You know what, this baby seriously nurses many many times an HOUR---theres no way you can leave the room everytime, it really doesnt bother me, just stay, I promise."
    and we had a good laugh and it broke the politeness/tension. this was back when none of our freinds had any kids and we were all real young.

    I used to joke with my husband but of course wouldnt/didnt ever go through with it: I used to tell him if we had all our freiends over for one big gathering, I would lift my shirt up and flash them all, full boob, just once. Then I would say "Now youve seen them. So by that logic, I will not have to struggle to bend over and tug at my shirt to keep a teensy bit o' nipple covered up ever again."

    But I never did it! Too shy!

  7. I had only seen a woman breastfeed a few times before I became a mother so I can understand why it would be hard to know where to look.

    I just had my first baby three weeks ago and I wondered how comfortable I would be nursing in front of other people. Turns out
    I'm so focused on my daughter that
    I don't even realize my whole DDD breast is out until a few minutes in. Then I pull my shirt down a little depending on company.

    I've nursed a couple of times in public and I've been a little more modest, but I think that will be less of an issue as time goes by and the baby and I are more practiced.


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