I Make Milk!
What’s Your Superpower?
By Yafa’ Ajweh, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant
We’re celebrating mamas around the world this month. Whether you are breastfeeding, mixed feeding, weaning, struggling with fussy babies, have a baby with allergies or illness, you’re amazing!
Nursing a baby is the world’s best superpower and the most natural thing in the world. It was once the only way a baby could be fed and survive. These days, breastfeeding is a very touchy subject and a lot of people find themselves feeling nervous or insecure even talking about it.
In the first months after our baby was born, I was incredibly nervous and daunted about nursing in public. I always covered up and felt very uncomfortable and awkward. I would hide out in my car or plan my schedule around her feeding schedule. I fed my baby every two to three hours for around 25 minutes. I spent a large part of my day breastfeeding. Should I stay at home? Do I nurse in public? Nursing in public left me feeling embarrassed, too nervous to feed my crying baby, or feeling like I had done something wrong.
When our daughter was 40 days old, I went to the mall and asked someone if there was a place I could feed my crying baby in. She pointed in the direction of the public restroom. It was smelly, dirty and with nowhere for me to sit. I cried my eyes out. Why does our baby have to eat here? It was extremely unhygienic and I felt so guilty. I fed her enough to settle her and quickly got out. It then took me another couple of weeks before I fed in public again. But I continued to be concerned about what others would think as they passed by me breastfeeding in public.
Many mamas find themselves in the same scenario when all they’re trying to do is keep their babies healthy. Why should mothers be made to feel like this? Breastfeeding is natural and when your baby is hungry it shouldn’t matter where you are or who you’re with; a baby has got to feed.
Nursing with comfort and confidence in public
Building a supportive village: Although women have the equipment to breastfeed, it certainly does not mean they should be doing it alone. Your spouse, family members and friends can play a key role. Take someone with you the first few times you go out for moral support and as an extra hand to pass you things. Build your supportive village and surround yourself with like-minded mothers and parents
Encouraging others: Together, we will normalise breastfeeding. I remember a positive experience when I had to breastfeed in public in the food court. A woman walking past saw me feeding Ela and just smiled and told me that baby and mama come first. Those few words meant so much to me. Breastfeeding can be hard and stressful, especially as a new mama. I never used to know what to say to a mother breastfeeding in public, but now I know you don’t have to say anything. Just a smile and an encouraging nod go a long way
Practice makes perfect: I encourage practising a few times at home and feeding in front of a mirror; you’ll be surprised at how little you can see. Keep practising until you find the best solution that works for both of you and until you’re comfortable breastfeeding in public
Wearing breastfeeding-friendly clothes: I like a loose-fitting t-shirt with a belly band or stretchy tank top to cover the belly with a t-shirt I can pull up easily. Other great choices are dresses and tops designed specifically for nursing as they provide comfort and coverage
Wear your baby or try to cover: A nursing cover or sling provide more privacy and comfort. The whole point of the cover is to be discreet, but there are times when a mother will be trying to get her baby to latch on while baby is annoyed; the cover may end up going everywhere and exposing more than you would like of yourself. Try to turn away from people while your baby is latching on and turn back once your baby is well-positioned at your breast
Knowing your rights: No one should make you feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding your newborn or toddler. Be confident in knowing that you’re nourishing the life you created and that your baby is receiving the best nutrition possible.
To all mamas who breastfeed in public; thank you for helping mothers see that is doesn’t matter if it’s in a restaurant, a food court or under a tree, breastfeeding is beautiful. It’s also a very powerful tool for women in gaining a strong sense of self-esteem and self-reliance as they realise their unique ability to nurture babies.
You can contact ‘Ajweh at firstname.lastname@example.org