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The Part About Breastfeeding That Still Scares Me

Photograph by Twenty20

I sit as far as humanly possible from the playground and watch my two tots and husband play on the equipment without a care in the world. Me? Not so much.

I look down upon my little one who is sucking on her fist, smacking her lips, fussing and showing all the obvious signs of hunger. The time confirms my suspicions. She's hungry and due for a feeding. I can’t help but to be overcome with anxiety and nervousness as I feel my face turn red. It doesn’t matter how I feel—there's no escaping the situation I'm in and, regardless of my comfort level, nothing will calm my baby until I feed her.

As my hands shake and I keep a more than watchful eye on my surroundings, I swoop a blanket over my shoulder and proceed to nurse her. My feelings of fear quickly dissolve as our breastfeeding session gets in full swing and in that moment, I question my initial hesitation. I think to myself, my baby is hungry therefore I'm going to feed her.

Nothing more, nothing less.

This false sense of pride and confidence quickly fades as I notice a family with some kids enter the play area. As they scan the playground, we lock eyes. They quickly look away as if to pretend to not have seen me, but we both are aware of each others' presence. Filled with an overwhelming amount of anxiety, my heart races and I immediately feel the need to stop, as if I was doing something wrong.

Only a few minutes after arriving, the family leaves. Did they leave because me? Were they uncomfortable with their children witnessing me breastfeeding out in the open?

Most likely their departure had nothing to do with me and what was going on underneath the blanket covering my child, but I can’t help to have these constant worries when nursing in public. Why did I care so much and have such a hesitancy with feeding my child outside the comforts of my own home? Why can’t I help but to feel terrified when I have to breastfeeding in public?

What is there to be so scared of?

Not a day goes by where I don’t come across a news story depicting a breastfeeding mom who was shamed in one way or another. Between scanning social media and watching the news, these countless experiences are inescapable. Whether a mom was eating at a restaurant and told to cover up or leave, or if she was minding her own business at a local park and given side-eyes coupled with rude commentary, these encounters happen all too frequently.

I need to somehow hone in on the overwhelming confidence of the moms I envy and exude the same IDGAF attitude.

Accompanying my fear of ridicule and contention is my overall lack of confidence regarding breastfeeding. While growing up, no one in my family breastfed their children and I definitely don't remember ever seeing it done in public. Before even starting, I already felt ill-equipped to navigate through the journey of breastfeeding.

All of this culminates to a perfect storm of immense insecurity and self-doubt—all of which, I’m vowing to get over already.

I’m tremendously jealous of those breastfeeding mommas who nurse in public without a care in the world. They whip out their tatas in the most subtle movement, no one has any idea it’s happening. While effortlessly nursing, they carry on whatever activity they are engaged in, almost as if they're waiving a mental middle finger to everyone around who doesn't agree or has an issue with it.

Then there’s me.

With an obvious look of discomfort and panic on my face, my amateur, awkward maneuver is very weak at best. I’m pretty sure I accidentally flashed a few unlucky patrons in my early attempts.

I need to somehow hone in on the overwhelming confidence of the moms I envy and exude the same IDGAF attitude.

I refuse to let this insecurity hold me back from truly enjoying life and being present in the moment. Most of all, I refuse to hide. I’m not going to hinder any family's activities because Mommy needs to find a hiding place in which to feed the baby.

When I’m at the zoo with my two toddlers, I’m not going to abruptly tell them we have to leave and I’m definitely not shoving us all in a bathroom stall. That sounds like my worst nightmare.

I refuse to let it prevent my participation, forcing me to be cooped up in some guest room or stay home and miss out completely.

While I still feel anxious and scared when I know I should feel proud and confident, I'm hopeful that with time and practice, it'll get easier.

At the end of the day, if my baby is hungry, I'm going to feed her—wherever that may be. Those passing by giving a dirty look or murmuring something crude underneath their breath can STFU and keep on moving.