Monday, July 19, 2010

NIP a Lil Giant, How We Do It

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Nursing in public has been a difficult personal battle. On one hand, I want to be a positive role model for other breastfeeding moms and feed my children whenever they need it. On the other, I am fearful of how the community I am in at the time will react to me breastfeeding or nursing in public (NIP).
We have lived in many different places and I have breastfed  in public in many different circumstances. Some of the steps I have taken to make it easier to have a successful public breastfeeding experience are, ditching the cover, using a sling or carrier, wearing layers, and ignoring the weird glances.
With my first child, I read all the parenting books I could get my hands on. I was a teenage mother. I was wholeheartidly going to breastfeed. I did not have money for nursing clothing, I had 2 nursing bras, some hand me down re-useable cotton nursing pads, my pre-baby clothing and my boyfriend's closet. I tried using a cover and was successful some times. Even so, usually it took so long to get the cover, a receiving blanket, correctly positioned so none of my flesh was exposed and I could still see my baby that she was so upset her crying drew the attention of people nearby more than me breastfeeding. Eventually, I ditched the cover. I started layering my tanks over my nursing bras with some button down shirts I borrowed from my boyfriend. NIP became so much easier. Unclip the bra, unbutton the top few buttons, pull up the tank, it was so much easier and baby cried less.
Recently I learned that if we wait until the baby is crying to breastfeed them, then it is already too late. When they start crying their tongues retract and it is harder to get a good latch, that is probably one reason why my nipples were so sore and scabbing those first 2 months. Instead, we should watch for their hunger cues, such as them licking their lips, moving around their arms and legs, putting their hands to their mouths, etc. This is when we should breastfeed them for a more successful breastfeeding experience.
As my first got older, I learned about slings and oh how I wished I had one when she was younger! For my second child, years later, that is one of the first things I bought for her. I found used slings on craigslist, for about 1/3 the cost of them new. I got two ring slings. I wanted to be able to adjust how closely I carried the baby over the time of her rapid growth. I never left the house without a sling. She was such a long baby I did not feel really comfortable with the cradle position and her legs tucked into the sling, either did she. We did a lot of upright time in the sling and cradle time with her legs hanging out to the side. It might have looked funny with a baby's legs hanging out on my side, but I did so much NIP with no comments on me "whipping it out", no weird looks at me for breastfeeding it was awesome. I highly recommend a sling especially for the first year and a half. I walked around stores breastfeeding hands free while pushing a cart. Just take safety precautions and make sure the baby has space to breath and their heads are not tucked downward making it harder to get enough air. 
As DD2 got older I needed something that would help disperse her weight more evenly but allow for us to breastfeed while I carried her. I found the ergo baby carrier. It seemed like exactly what we needed. There were not that many locally for sale online that were used. I started bidding on ebay and then a friend found out I wanted one and bought me one that was on sale through amazon. I cannot speak on using an ergo with an infant, but it has been awesome with a toddler. I can still go about town and breastfeed hands free in public. I can do it comfortably too. The hood allows for some extra coverage, although it would be cool if it were a bit wider. Unlike many other carriers, baby is body to body wth you. You can adjust the straps making baby sit lower, so breastfeeding upright in the carrier is super easy.
I have also continued to do layers with DD2. I hardly wear a nursing bra now. I use mostly nursing tanks or camis with no bras but stretch so I can pull down or up. I do not need much support, I am smaller breasted, we breastfeed often, and I do not leak much now (so I do not need to keep a nursing pad in place). If I do wear a bra, I prefer the stretchy pull aside cross front style. No snaps, clips, or buttons to deal with. I put a thin shirt on top in warmer months or a thicker one in colder ones. I wear my zip or button down sweater or jacket in really cold weather over the carrier or sling when really needed.
Now that I am more comfortable with NIP and it is also getting a lot warmer, I mostly just go with a nursing tank or cami. I pair that up with our carrier's hood and nobody really sees anything except a happy mommy and content toddler.
Mostly we get questions about our slings and carrier more than comments about our breastfeeding in public. Occasionally, a rude person will cast an ugly stare in restaurant or other place. I have learned to either ignore them or stare back, finally smiling, then looking down at my beautiful smiling child, and remembering that she is what really matters. I breastfeed for her, her wellness, her security, just for her. Breastfeeding is an affirmation of love and a gift I am thankful to give.

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  1. would you believe i did not discover nursing tanks until my FOURTH BABEH!?!?! i don't know how i lived.

  2. I've actually had people come up to me and try to look at her while I'm nursing her in a carrier!

  3. I wish we had nursing tanks and slings when i had my babies.... 30 years ago YIKES! You bring up an excellent point about crying...I think so many new moms do not realize crying is the last sign of hunger. It is a big teaching push now to use terms cue based feeding not "demand" feeding... some moms would wait for a "demand"-crying- and have trouble with latch. At home or NIP. great post!

  4. isn't it great to gain that confidence!? :)