NIP Club

NIP Club

Nursing in a solitary cell while on an historic tour at the Idaho State Pen. It was cold, so the cover came in handy!

Despite all the controversy, publicity and media coverage that nursing in public (NIP) gets, it’s really not a divisive issue. Babies want to nurse all the time, especially newborns. If you ever want to leave the house as a new mom, you’re going to have to either not be bothered by the cries of your baby, or you’re going to have to nurse in public.

So, in the event that you do want to leave the house with your baby at some point, how do you master NIP?

  1. Practice. If you feel uncomfortable at the thought of nursing in public, start small. Go to a place that isn’t your home but not heavily populated, like a park, a public nursing room, or even just at home in front of supportive friends or family, and nurse. It will take practice to master the latch and your clothing in a way that you feel comfortable doing in public. All moms have different levels of comfort, so find what works for you.If you feel exposed or are worried about being exposed while nursing in public, practice latching baby in a mirror and notice how little of you another person can see while you nurse. Even without a cover, nursing is a pretty discreet act.
  2. Get nursing friendly clothing. You don’t have to buy expensive clothes made for nursing—just make sure what you are wearing can be adjusted easily and quickly for comfort. Stretchy knits, V-necks, criss-cross, and low-neck tops are all easy access for nursing. If the neck of your shirt won’t come down, you can always wear a nursing tank and lift your shirt up.
  3. Realize that it’s not a statement. News stories, nurse-ins, and link-bait debates can make nursing in public feel like an act or performance art of some sort. It’s not. It’s not a political statement, it’s not a feminist statement, its not a statement of anything, except the fact that your baby is hungry. You aren’t taking a stand or siding on a debate when you nurse in public. You’re just feeding a baby. 
  4. Know that most people don’t care if you nurse. Most people either don’t care or avoid looking at a nursing mom in order to give her privacy. No one is going to faint, die, or go to hell because they saw a part of your nipple. People are much more likely to be bothered by a screaming, hungry baby than a nursing one. For the few people who are bothered, it’s much easier to hide online and post angry comments than to actually accost a nursing mom face to face. 

    Another part of this point is not pre-judging who you think will have a problem with nursing in public. Once I was seated with my infant on a plane next to a hulking, burly man’s man, and I was just dying inside. I NIP Club thought he was going to be really uncomfortable with us next to him. But once we finished nursing, he started talking to me, showed me photos of his infant daughter on his phone, and cooed at the baby. He told me his wife always nursed on planes too, since it keeps the baby so happy and quiet.

    On the other hand, one time I got a flat tire and ended up in a tire store with my hungry baby and started nursing in front of a mom and her son. She clutched her pearls in horror and ran outside (there was a Hooter’s next door–just sayin’) to wait on her car, while the tire guy who was helping me treated me just like any other customer. So, you just never know. Don’t stress yourself out over someone else’s opinion until they make it an issue. 

  1. Know your rights. In most places in the U.S., you have a right to nurse anywhere you are legally allowed to be—with or without covering. The laws in 46 states prevent nursing moms from being asked to leave an area or be required to nurse only in designated areas. You can nurse anywhere you are legally allowed to be, even if there is a nursing room or designated area for moms available. It’s your choice, no one else’s. 

In the South where I was raised, other people’s feelings are very important to consider, and that upbringing was hard to overcome but necessary. I had to learn to be “selfish” when it came to my baby. It wasn’t worth getting the hot sweats every time I had to latch in public, or searching the face of everyone who walked by, searching for signs of disapproval.

If someone has a problem with nursing, it’s just that–their problem. Nursing in public is something I had to learn to do to survive. That doesn’t make me an activist, or a lactivist, or an attention seeker. It just makes me a mom with a hungry baby.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls. She has nursed on a plane, on train, in a house and with a mouse. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.

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