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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

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A Former Closet Breastfeeder

It all started with a small card that I could put in my wallet and carry around with me. It spelled out my rights as a breastfeeding mother. It wasn’t fancy, decorative or really any new or crazy, but it has absolutely changed the way I have decided to breastfeed my second child.

Nearly six years ago I gave birth to my darling firstborn and my world drastically and magically changed. I was a young breastfeeding mother (22 at the time), who had recently uprooted and moved to a new state (military life). There were only a handful of people that I had met and of them I only knew two other young mothers. Now both of these mothers decided to formula feed, for their own individual and absolutely valid reasons. I felt like an outsider.

Looking back on it now, I think I may have been ashamed to be the breastfeeding mommy. I bought a pump initially to help those first few weeks as my body adjusted to the needs of my firstborn, but it essentially became a crutch. I was constantly pumping a bottle before we would go out. It was almost too overwhelming to make sure that I had enough breast milk or trying to get things done so I could rush home and breastfeed in private. Even though I had a cover I didn’t want to use it because I was afraid it would fall off or I wouldn’t be doing it right and someone would see. I gave my firstborn formula over breastfeeding in public. Even when we would travel home to visit family, I would slink off to a bedroom or some safe space away from people in order to breastfeed. I was afraid.

Fast forward to November 2013 and I’m sitting in a new hospital, in another state, going through all the handouts they give all mothers in this hospital. Some of it I am barely reading because in my mind I’m thinking, “I’m pretty sure I know all of this already. This certainly isn’t my first rodeo.” Suddenly, I find myself reading a card that tells me that I am allowed, by law, to breastfeed publicly wherever I am allowed to be. There has been tons of breastfeeding news over the last few years, but I never really had a reason to pay attention since my oldest was no longer at that stage and I wasn’t sure I would be having more. For some people this isn’t exactly new news, but for me it was.­­­

I cannot say for certain if I glossed over the information given to me after my firstborn’s birth, or if I just did not receive this valuable piece of information. Looking back I realize how much easier it would have been for everyone in my little family if only I had known and maybe had the courage to breastfeed in public. Honestly, I cannot even tell you that it would have changed the way I breastfed my firstborn, but this time I’m a changed momma.

With my oldest in kindergarten I have this maternal desire I never thought I’d have. I want to volunteer in her classroom whenever I can. Someday she is probably going to want me as far away from her as possible, so I have to take full advantage of her wanting me around now. Because of this desire, I recently found myself for the first time with no bottle of breast milk and a very hungry baby. Rather than ask to go someplace more secluded, I found a corner of the classroom and proceeded to nurse.

I made sure to be as discreet as possible because even though I am allowed by law, I didn’t want some kid’s parents to catch wind and be offended. When a few kids did come up and ask what I was doing, I politely explained that the baby was hungry and I was feeding her. My 5-year-old came up behind them and said casually, like a know-it-all, “Yep, that’s how the baby eats. My mommy always feeds her that way.” I swelled with pride because I realized in that moment my firstborn and I were helping to make breastfeeding seem “Normal.”

Right now, I am not a breastfeeding momma that feels completely comfortable without a cover or some sort of blanket loosely covering us. I’m learning how to use my Moby Wrap to feed and I find that it is a little easier and far more amazing than I had anticipated, but it is taking some practice. For now, I am just a happy momma of two who no longer has to plan to pump or worry about having some formula, before going out with my kiddos.

Bio: Caitlyn Paramo is a Navy Wife and a SAHM of two beautiful little girls (5 years and 4-months), who likes to craft and has a new found love for cloth diapers.

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Jess said...

I love this! It's funny how you can change your own perception of normal. I love that your daughter was so proud, such a sweet moment.

marienkafer said...

I could have written the first part of your post myself. I breastfed my first for 22 months, never once in public. Often hiding in my car. Or with pumped milk in a bottle. Now my second is 2 months and while we have not gotten out much thanks to this awful winter, I have already nursed him in public and in front of more family. *fist bump*

Caitlyn Paramo said...

Perhaps I should amend my post. I was politely informed the last time that I volunteered in my daughter's class, that I'm not allowed to breastfeed in the class room no matter how discrete I am. There are other places that I am allowed to do that, just not near the kids.
I felt like the wind had been taken out of my sails. But I will continue to do my best to bring awareness and BF in other public places.

Sharon said...

I remember feeling like I had to hide (it was mostly me just being uncomfortable) and then we ended up on formula (because the babies were losing weight). I hope I will be more comfortable next time.

Michelle Tamasa said...

You nursed baby in the classroom? I've been having my MIL watch mine when I have lunch with my oldest... Nursing at his school intimidates me...

Kara Cathey said...

Love this <3 good job momma!!