Monday, June 22, 2009

Easy, discreet way to breastfeed a toddler in public

Welcome to the June Carnival of Breastfeeding: Nursing in public

This month we're bringing you posts on the topic of breastfeeding while out and about. Be sure to check out the links at the end for the masses of other participants' excellent posts!


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extended breastfeeding in public on a tramI'm a big fan of nursing in public. The reason is that babies nurse a lot, and eventually you're going to want to leave the house. There's absolutely nothing wrong with breastfeeding, because it's the normative way to feed your baby. But just because it's the biological norm doesn't make it the cultural one, which is why breastfeeding in public can take some getting used to, even for the boldest mamas among us.

That's why I've written several times about nursing in public before.

There's my post on NIP tips, easy and inexpensive ways to nurse discreetly while out and about. My basic tip, and one that's served me well, is to wear two shirts, preferably with stretchy necklines, then lift one up over the active breast (I just coined that term, and it's amusing me) and one down underneath the active breast (I needed to use it again, for fun), leaving just the right size opening for a latch.

There's my post about my failed attempt to use a nursing coverup. When my son was an infant, I tried casually draping a blanket over my shoulder on a boat tour, and the whipping wind just made me more conspicuous, like I had pinned a banner proclaiming "I'm bare-breasted over here!" to my shirt.

There was my recent run-in with a covered-up mother at the playground, who it turns out was bottle feeding. For some reason, that made me laugh.

Since my son is two years old and still nursing with the frequency of a newborn — ok, I might be exaggerating: let's say a four-month-old (I counted 16 times the other day) — I've also been thinking a lot about what it means to nurse in public with a toddler. Am I required to be more discreet, so as not to jeopardize breastfeeding's hard-won and fragile foothold in American parenting society? Or should I continue to be outwardly insouciant about the matter and let other people get over their hang-ups without any help from me?

It's further complicated, the older my son gets, by his increasing physical and verbal insistence. He has a sound for "nummies" now, which so far sounds nothing like any word people would recognize, almost like a dolphin cursing. But his little grabby paws pulling at my shirt are an unmistakable signal to anyone looking for evidence of a nursling.

But my husband and I have a phrase we use all the time that is so far the tack I've taken: "Procrastination pays off."

Ok, it's not much for a family motto, not the kind you'd want engraved on your coat of arms. But we've found that often, if we don't think too hard to try too keenly, things have a way of resolving themselves. So, for now, I'm just letting Mikko nurse when he wants to, wherever we are, and trusting that the rarity of a nursing toddler will partially protect him. People see what they expect to see, after all, and few people expect to see a large two-year-old latched on.

I'll illustrate this with a story and a tip, all in one.

My son is heavy. He's actually gotten a little lighter recently, as he's shooting up and slimming down, so he's at a fighting 34 and a half pounds. But, still, he can be a load to carry if you don't have both arms to do the lifting.

He can walk, and likes to about half the time, but the other half he still likes to be held. I don't, however, always have a wrap or sling with me anymore when we go out, because of his increased mobility. Invariably, there comes a time when we're running errands that he needs "shnhee shnhee" (that's the closest approximation I can get to what he's calling it), and I'm trying to walk somewhere or get some shopping done. I don't always feel like taking a break, and there often isn't anywhere convenient to sit. I'll admit that sometimes I've just plopped right down in an aisle on the floor, but usually I'm on a mission and don't want to abort.

So, here's my latest tip for nursing in public, particularly good for older babies and heavy babies. Hold your child on your hip. Pull your shirt and bra down from the top, and let the little sucker latch on. Continue walking casually.

That's it.

I know, it's not that exciting. And, really, you could do it a lot easier with a sling or wrap to assist you (both with weight and discretion) in a hip or front carry.

But what's so intriguing to me about this NIP technique is how discreet it is on its own. It goes back to what I was saying about people seeing what they expect to see.

A mama sitting on a bench, with a long-legged toddler cradled across her lap, pressed close to her bosom: Either he's unusually calm, or he's nursing. A mama walking through a store with a toddler on her hip whose head is down: No one thinks anything of it.

Here's my story to illustrate. I was walking through the mall with two good friends (single and without children so far), and these friends have known me since before Mikko was even a tiny bump in my belly. We've been meeting weekly throughout Mikko's life, and they've seen me nurse him at every single one of those get-togethers. I couldn't hide it from them if I wanted to, and why would I want to? So they know he still nurses like a champ, and they expect to see it at every meeting.

One of my friends looked at Mikko nursing away as we walked along and said, "Boy, he's really sleepy tonight, isn't he?"

I just laughed and asked when he had ever fallen asleep while we were out, and she realized in surprise that he was eating.

So there it is. Sometimes I get myself more worked up about what other people are seeing or thinking of me than I need to, and it helps me to remember (and here's another mantra I tell myself) that no one's as fascinated with you as you are. Most people are thinking just of themselves and not trying too hard to analyze what your kid's doing against your chest there. There will be a few kooks out there who will stare at every mama with a potential nursling, hoping to scold or shame, but thankfully I haven't run into any of them.

My best tip for nursing in public is just to do it. Just treat it as normal. Practice it a lot. Be casual and confident, continue your conversations, practice in the mirror beforehand if it helps reassure you that your child's head and body, and your own clothing, hide a lot.

Most of all, just concentrate on your sweet child, whether she's three months old or three years old, and know that you're giving her something she needs. Mama love.


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Please read the excellent posts from our other carnival participants:

Breastfeeding Mums: "Nursing in Public - What's a Breastfeeding Mother to Do!!"
Never a Dull Moment…: "Breastfeeding Hats? YES! Nursing Covers? Uh... Not So Much"
Breastfeeding Moms Unite!: "Nursing in Public: A Fresh Perspective on Nurse-In's"
Tales of Life With a Girl on the Go: "Planes, trains and automobiles - we’ve breastfed in them all"
babyREADY: "A wee NIP in the park!!"
Mama Knows Breast: "Products that can Help You Breastfeed in Public"
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: "Get kicked off a bus for nursing in public? Here's how to respond."
Musings on Mamahood: "NIP, no tuck"
Blacktating: "Thank You for Nursing in Public"
Warm Hearts Happy Family: "Breastfeeding and the summertime"
Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: "Why Worry About NIP?"
Stork Stories: "Little Old Men... & Nursing in Public"
Breastfeeding 1-2-3: "To Cover or Not to Cover"
Mommy News & Views Blog: "Breastfeeding In Public"
Tiny Grass: "Nursing in Public as an Immigrant"
Mother Mary's Soapbox: "June Carnival: Breastfeeding in Public: Breastfeeding Oriana"
Massachusetts Friends of Midwives: "Nursing in Public: Chinatown, the Subway, the Vatican, and More"
MumUnplugged: "Aww, is he sleeping?"
GrudgeMom: "Nursing in a room full of people you know"
Kim Through the Looking Glass: "Here? At the restaurant?"
PhD in Parenting: "Would you, could you nurse in public?"
Dirty Diaper Laundry: "Breastfeeding in Public- Talents- I haz it"
Lucy & Ethel Have a Baby: "Nursing in Public (Boobs) Out and Proud"


Photo titled "Would you, could you in a tram?"
courtesy Ronen's Dad on flickr (cc)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Support nursing and working mothers' rights with the Breastfeeding Promotion Act

breast pumping at workCalling all lactivists and breastfeeding mamas! Here's your chance to support some important legislation that would protect nursing mothers in the workplace.

Angela White at Breastfeeding 1-2-3 sent out some information about the 2009 Breastfeeding Promotion Act (HR2819 / S1244).

The bill would bring breastfeeding mothers under the protection of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect breastfeeding women from being fired or discriminated against in the workplace, as well as require employers with over 50 employees to provide private space and unpaid time for mothers to pump during the workday, and establish tax incentives for employers that comply and tax credits for nursing mamas. It also sets quality standards for breast pumps.

Representative Carolyn Maloney and Senator Jeff Merkley introduced the bill in Congress June 11. If you're a U.S. reader, please lend your support to ensure that this legislation goes through.

     • Spread the word on your blogs, with your local breastfeeding groups, and with any U.S. lactivist friends.

     • Enter your name and address here to have the United States Breastfeeding Committee send emails to your representatives and senators asking them to cosponsor the bill. You can amend the email to make it more personal if you wish. For instance, here are the current state breastfeeding laws. You can find your ZIP+4 here. (By the way, you can see who is already cosponsoring the bill here by clicking "show cosponsors" — if your representative is listed, you can send a note of thanks and encouragement instead.)

     • Mail, fax, or email this letter to your representatives and senators.

     • Join this Facebook group to support the bill and spread the word.

Thanks for lending your support to breastfeeding mamas in the workforce!

Photo of pumping in the workplace courtesy webchicken on flickr (cc)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Gender-exclusive bloodletting technology

Tenderfoot Preemie Heel Stick Devices, Itc - Model Tfp1000I was tooling around Amazon looking for some fabulous cream that's supposed to tackle dry, cracked heels that has the unfortunate name of "Heel Stick," when I found these actual heel stick devices.

As those of us who have had a newborn and any run-in with established medical care know, a "heel stick" is a term for slicing open a newborn's foot to dribble out blood for tests.

(Hence, the unfortunate naming of the lotion I was referring to, because I don't think milking a newborn's chubby leg for blood is what we want to think of as we pamper our feet for sandal weather.)

We had numerous heel sticks with Mikko. We chose to have the standard newborn screening tests for genetic diseases, and we had very little choice at all (or so it seemed) in having our newborn tested for blood glucose several times over a twelve-hour period after he was born a healthy 11 pounds, 13 ounces. (Yes, he was fine, and so was I.)

The hospital didn't offer me this option, but for the second newborn screening test in my pediatrician's office, I was able to breastfeed Mikko throughout the bloodletting ordeal, and he didn't seem to even notice. I highly recommend giving it a try for any nursling medical procedures where it's possible.

Now, Mikko might have tough heels, but I was quite squeamish about the whole thing. His blood didn't exactly flow, so it was a long drawn out process, and I felt so bad that we were cutting up my infant's perfect little feet.

Think how much better I would have felt if my pediatrician had used these gender-coded heel stick devices! I would have butched up if she had pulled out the manly baby blue for my little guy, rather than using a boring old neutral. And I'm sure mamas of girls would appreciate the prettiness of the pastel pink coordinating with the deep red of the blood dotting the testing card.

Does anyone else think it's weird that we gender-type babies from the minute they arrive? Blue hats, pink blankets, baseball birth announcements and flower birth announcements, construction truck onesies and "I ♥ gossip" bibs, all before any preference is given.

But the matchy-matchy heel sticks have impressed even me.

Hobo Mama's astonishingly full disclosure and privacy policy

law library booksPosted June 12, 2009
Last updated March 18, 2010


I've decided it's a good idea to post a disclosure policy outlining my blog's practices in regards to advertising, reviews, privacy, comments, and copyright. I'll include a permanent link to this policy on my front page and will update it as necessary.

Contact: Lauren Wayne, www.HoboMama.com, Mail AT HoboMama DOT com



CONTENT

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by Hobo Mama, aka Lauren Wayne. For questions about this blog, please leave a comment or contact me directly. I appreciate all communication, but I (sadly) don't always respond quickly or consistently, so if it's very important or urgent, please mark it as such or contact me again.

My posts reflect my own honest opinions and research on varied subjects, mostly to do with natural parenting (breastfeeding, babywearing, attachment parenting, continuum parenting, cloth diapers, elimination communication, child-led weaning, home birth, gentle discipline, unschooling, and the like). I am not what this culture considers an expert on any of these matters. I have, so far, one 2-year-old child, Mikko, who daily teaches me what I do not know. I reserve the right to be ignorant and ill-informed and to change my mind when such matters are pointed out to me. I reserve the right to accuse others of the same, but I try not to be mean to individuals. If I've hurt your feelings, I'm truly sorry. Sometimes when I write, I am far rantier and less gracious than I would be in real life. Please do not take my opinions as the only and final word on any matter. Cross-check with your own intuition, child(ren), co-parent(s), other family members, community, research, real-life experts, trustworthy books, and healthcare professionals as necessary.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Laughing at tantrums: funniest toddler meltdowns

I wrote before about tantrums, but that was more about the annoying variety.

Whereas there are also the meltdowns that are so bizarre that you can't help but laugh, even in the moment.

To wit, this article on Babble, which cracked me up no end:

        10 Craziest Reasons for Toddler Meltdowns

Miriam Axel-Lute has collected ten hilarious ones, but you have to read the comments to get the full effect. Parents wrote in with their own experiences, and boy howdy if toddlers aren't the nuttiest little creatures on earth.

Here's an example from the article:

"There was the 'I want to eat your eyeball' tantrum. I am not kidding. You probably think I made this up, but I cross my heart and hope to die—one of mine went into all out hysterics that I would not let him eat my eyeball."

Here are a couple commenter samples:

"My 2.5 yo flipped out the other day because he wanted a tissue that I had thrown into the toilet. He wanted me to get it out so he could have it. Not only was the tissue soaked (obviously), but if it's yellow, we let it mellow so...extra gross, no way. He was having a first-class meltdown and I stupidly thought that flushing the toilet might solve the problem. Tissue out of sight, out of mind was not gonna happen, though. He asked my husband to get the plunger to try to retrieve the flushed tissue!" — Molly

"Because he couldn't balance something big on top of something small and I said 'I'm sorry baby that's just how gravity works, there's nothing I can do about that' To which he replied 'I HATE GRAVITY!!' over and over again getting louder and more upset." — S. Brykczynski (her blog contains even more conversations with this amusingly perceptive child)

And you have to read the comment by km, for sure, to see how meltdowns defuse as soon as there's not an audience.

Here's my own true recent meltdown. I thought I wouldn't be able to compete with the above, but I'm pretty pleased with this one:

I went into our drawer where we keep extras of toiletries to replace something or other, and Mikko reached in right after me and pulled out a bag of disposable razors. We'd gotten several on sale years ago and are still working our slow way through them. (Sam and I are both not big fans of grooming...) This is not part of the story, but they were 37 cents for 7 razors! Isn't that hilariously incredible?

Ok, back to the story. Mikko was gesturing something with the razors, but I couldn't figure out what. Because it made no sense. I finally realized what he was signing was "food." I guess crinkly bag with colored goodies inside = tasty treat to a 2-year-old? I told him, No, those aren't food. They would be very sharp if we took them out and could hurt you.

Reason could not soothe him. "Foo," he sobbed, bringing his hand to his lips over and over. He thought I was the meanest mama in the world for not letting him eat razors.

Do you have any good tantrum stories to share? We might as well laugh while we cry...

Photo of adorable tantruming child courtesy christine [cbszeto] on flickr (cc)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Time to cancel the diaper service?

prefold cloth diapers rainbowWell.

Our cloth diaper service delivery guy knocked on our door on our most recent pickup day, thinking we had forgotten to set out our dirty diapers for the week.

No, we told him, we didn't have any. Not one single dirty diaper to wash in 7 days.

I had taped a note to the mailbox to let him know not to look for any, but apparently he hadn't seen it. Good thing, though, because he let us in on a secret: Our diaper service offers training pants as well! Same deal: You rent the number you need per week, put out the dirties once a week, and bring in the cleans. No lather, no rinse, but repeat.

So I called and signed us on up for the minimum number of training pants. I have the feeling it will be too many. If all continues along this trajectory, we might have to — gulp — cancel our diaper service altogether.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How to photograph your baby for the beginning photographer

When my photogenic niece was born seven years ago, Sam and I were in the market for a good baby gift and found this excellent book by Nick Kelsh titled How to Photograph Your Baby. original how to photography your baby by nick kelshThis was in the days before digital cameras were ubiquitous (I know — gasp!), so we bundled it with a couple rolls of high-quality film (one color and one artsy black-and-white) and a nice frame. We were set, and had found a baby gift package we could give for several years, until digital cameras became so common that giving film seemed pointless. Without the film, the bundle didn't seem quite as intriguing. Sigh.

But the book is still very good.

Kelsh has since put out other volumes — How to Photograph Your Family and How to Photograph Your Life — and added in information on digital photography in the last.

revised how to photograph your baby by nick kelshHe's even put out a new and revised edition of How to Photograph Your Baby to include digital information.

But, regardless, his basic tips from the first edition are actually enough to get anyone started in any photography, whether digital or film, whether of babies or dogs or flowers or buildings.

Because you will note that we did not have an actual baby at the time that we first bought this book, but we went ahead and got our own copy and memorized all the tips.

I will herewith regurgitate what I learned, and I recommend getting the book(s) as well (your library might have them if you want to take a peek), because they have, well, lots of pictures! As well as a neat fold-out layout that offers more detailed suggestions and real-life examples, many by amateur photographers like me.

And that, my friends, is an important point to make. If you are a professional or avid photographer, step away from the blog.

girl in pink winter outfitIf you are an enthusiastic beginning photographer of your children but wish your photos were just...you know...better, read on.

I will give you five simple tips to make your photographs a hundred times better within a day, assuming you haven't already been following these suggestions.

And, to repeat, we got most of these ideas from Nick Kelsh's book, though I've internalized them since, so I won't be quoting directly here.

Because a post on good photography would be pointless without some good photography — as well as some bad photography to compare it to — I've put in some examples from the web. The bigger ones are the good examples, and the small ones are the bad ones. To prevent hurt feelings in that case, I've used only ones that were tagged problem photos by the photographers themselves! Click on any photo to see it bigger on its original page.

baby feet1. Get close.
        Children are short and small. Bend down. Sit on the floor. Take a step closer. Now another. Now another. Don't rely on your zoom. Really get close. See what interesting things you can see from that vantage point. Maybe you'll take a picture of just your child's chubby starfish hand with those funny dimples, or maybe you'll get the unique whorl of an ear. You can back up if you find yourself too close, but really, this tip alone will help in so many ways.
baby lost in clutter        First of all, it will eliminate background clutter. If your point-and-shoot doesn't have a good lens to blur out the background, you'll find countless distractions behind the cuteness that is your child. There will be a tree sticking out of his head, or a bright toy that seduces the focus its way. And if you're taking a picture in a crowd, there will always, always, be someone in a red shirt walking behind the person you're trying to capture. Always. Getting close will crop out these annoying aspects. Sure, you could do it later in photo editing, but save your time for more important things!
        Check out the example "bad" photos here: Can you even find the baby in the picture above and to the right? And is the picture below to the left of the couch or of the boys? If you click on it, you'll baby boys in front of couchfind: It's of the couch! Well, one of the couches, anyway. But I'm sure you've seen many fine examples of just this sort of portraiture, where the people are the intended target, but what's needlessly captured all around is a large expanse of wall, carpet, and furniture. Cut out what you don't want to take a picture of.
        Another thing getting close does is that you get to see details. If all your pictures are from adult height and fifteen feet away, you'll get a good idea of your baby's scale in relation to your entire living room set, but you won't see the sweet little ringlet behind your darling's ear unsmiling girl shadowsor the scratches on her hand from playing with kitty. Sam and I are going through some frustration right now in poring through our own baby photos and being able to find exactly none that show us what color eyes we had at what age. (I'm curious as to whether Mikko's will change from the deep gray they are now to either Sam's brown or my dark green, but our mothers can't remember dates for when ours changed from dark blue/gray at birth.)
        One reason we don't get close when we take pictures is self-consciousness. The good news is that babies have no personal space to invade. They don't care if you get right up in their face, and they'll still act (because they are) natural.

contact sheet portrait young girl2. Take lots of pictures.
        Go hog wild. This is easier now that we've gone digital. But even if you haven't (you Luddite traditionalist, you!), film is cheap, and so is developing. Just go for it.
        If you have digital, take a picture a second if something adorable is going down. You can always delete the fuzzy and unattractive ones later. If you have film, be prepared to go through a roll a day. Don't second guess this. Just let your thriftiness go, and embrace your inner artistic side.
        Our hesitance to take as many pictures as are necessary to capture the best moments and expressions stems from two issues: The first is that film and prints used to be expensive, but they aren't anymore, so get over that. Now.
        The second is that self-consciousness thing again. And, again, I will tell you that babies don't care. You can take a hundred photos of a baby in a row, and they won't bat an eye. They'll just keep on being cute.
        Older kids and grown-ups, on the other hand, can be very self-conscious and give fake smiles with the first shutter clicks. But here's where taking lots of pictures can help in another way by gradually accustoming them to the process. Just keep on going, and you'll get something genuine along the way. Take the contact sheet above and to the left as an example. The first box is what you'd have gotten if the photographer had stopped with one photo: a forced smile and stiff pose. But by continuing to click that button, there's now a series of precious moments to choose from.

girl pushing stroller3. Don't ask for a pose.
        Let your babies be babies. Let your toddlers and older children get engrossed in a task, and come up from the side to steal some candids. Don't think that every shot has to be a "Stay still and say cheese" type of moment (although that one to the left is actually pretty adorable!).forced smile boy
        Again, I think this goes back to our film days, when every shot had to be a winner, because it was going to be six months before you got the roll developed and found out whether one of you had your eyes closed. So everyone had to concentrate really hard to be looking at the camera, having a pleasant face, and staying motionless. Come to think of it, maybe this goes back to the early, early days of photography, when people were bound in place like Barbie dolls and the exposure took thirty seconds. Ha ha! Again, people, get over it.
        Now, it can be a good idea to have an occasional official portrait, where you face the baby or child toward the camera, make sure an Olan Mills pose is affected, and coerce some oh-so-genuine smiles. You might also occasionally like to set up a pseudo-candid situation, giving your kids something specific to do, like play with a certain toy or make a funny face while you snap away.
siblings with new baby brother
        But the most beautiful photos are often the natural, spontaneous ones. Your toddler looking pensively through a window, your baby giggling at someone off camera, your 18-year-old jamming on the piano with her eyes closed. Yes, that's right — get your babies used to parents-as-papparazzi now and they'll let you continue when they're older! I hope. I really do hope.

newborn baby flash4. Turn off the flash.
        Argh, those flashes. Those hideous flashes.
        No point-and-shoot has a good flash. Just admit it with me, and let them go. If you really, really need a flash sometime, to capture a moment in the dark that otherwise will be lost for all time, then fine.
india baby girl        But, seriously, 99.9% of the time, just turn it off. There should be a setting on your camera for this purpose. It will have a line through a lightning bolt or similar. That is your friend.
        Now you're going to have to figure out how to take pictures without it. To do that, press the button.
        No, but seriously, current digital cameras usually do quite well without flash. Become aware of available and natural light (and you will, once you start taking pictures without a flash). Position your babe by a window, or arrange your family portrait in the shade from a building. You'll find that direct sunlight can be rather harsh and unflattering, and cloudy days can be magical. Dappled light from a tree or shades can be either distracting or enchanting. Lamplight can cast some marvelous shadows, bringing out the structure of your sweet baby's plump cheeks.
girl in sunlight and pink coat
        Flash, on the other hand, flattens out nuance. It throws an unflattering white light across everything, throwing background into deep shadow and usually washing out skin tone. I'm talking here about point-and-shoot flash, not professional flashes. Sometimes you need some extra light, but if you don't have access to studio equipment, try to find something else suitable, like a window or lamp.
        If you don't believe me about the flash, just try it. You'll like it. Really.

baby boy in sunglasses with blue sky

5. Try different angles.
        Not every horizon shot needs to be shot horizontally. Not every portrait of a person needs to be a full-body-length vertical from tippy top to shoes. You don't even need every picture to be lined up parallel one way or the other.
        Get creative. Turn the camera every which way. It's not on a track, and it's not that heavy. Give it a whirl.


Now, naturally, rules beg to be broken. Every one of these rules will have situations come up where the best picture means flouting one or several. But that's fine, too. Experiment, play around, and find out what works for you!

Naked Babies by Nick Kelsh and Anna QuindlenBy the way, if you want to see some of Nick Kelsh's photographic tips in action in his professional capacity, check out his photography and essay books created with Anna Quindlen: Naked Babies and Siblings. You can do the "Look closer" feature at Amazon (click either of the title links above) to see samples of his work. The back flap of Naked Babies even has naked baby author photos!

Happy photographing!



Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cover that up! It's disgusting.

Breastfeeding is not obscene nurse-in protest signI had the funniest thought train yesterday and wanted to share.

Mikko and I ventured forth to the playground to enjoy this fabulous Seattle summer weather. We were sitting in the sandbox when a lady came over who had an approximately four-year-old daughter and an approximately four-month-old infant. The baby was in one of those stupid plastic infant carrier things I hate, but I tried not to judge (no, really!), because she did have the two kids and I wasn't clear if she'd just come from her car or had walked there. I didn't see a stroller or similar, so I figured she might have just come from her minivan. (Ha ha, I guess I can't resist some judging. She just looked minivan to me. Don't worry if you like minivans — who knows if I'll eventually fall prey to the lure...)

The baby was crying, and the girl was asking for her mama to play with her. The mother said, "Just let me feed the baby first." So that made me happy, that she was being so responsive to the cries and was going to remove her infant from the carrier rather than just jiggle the plastic to try to calm her down.

So she settled the baby girl in her arms and started preparing to feed. Mikko was fascinated, because he loves him the babies. I kept my eyes respectfully downcast on the sand I was scooping so that I didn't freak out the mama as she arranged herself, but I talked with Mikko about what was happening.

I told him the baby was hungry and wanted some nummies from her mama. I spoke to him quietly and in German, so I figure no one could understand us, but that maybe my tone of voice showed that I was speaking respectfully about what the mother was doing.

Something caught my eye, and I noticed the mom had whipped out a receiving blanket and was settling it over one shoulder. Now, I'm not one to use a nursing cover-up, but I understand that some mamas need them to feel comfortable nursing in public. Again, I was being conscious not to judge (no, really!), just feeling happy that she was a breastfeeding mama like me, out enjoying the sunshine with her kids.

I wondered if I fed Mikko in front of her if she would feel camaraderie or, you know, not, considering my "baby" is a ginormous almost 2-year-old. It didn't come up, since Mikko was too busy staring to ask for his own fill-up.

So, like I said, I was trying not to stare, but I didn't want it to seem like I disapproved, so I looked over to see what was going on now, in case there was an opportunity to say something further to Mikko about the process or flash the mom a smile, and I saw a bottle sticking out of the blanket.

She wasn't breastfeeding at all. And, for some reason, this cracked me up.

Because the first two reasons that came to mind about why she was bottle feeding under a blanket were as follows:

1. The mother took the messages against breastfeeding in public so much to heart that she now thinks bottle feeding in public is equally disgusting. Slogans from the pro-breastfeeding crowd like "You wouldn't expect to eat in a bathroom, Breastfeed in the bathroom tote bagwould you?" made her realize that, oh, my gosh, eating really is nasty — all that moistness, and chewing, and smacking, and slurping — and that, indeed, everyone should eat in private if at all possible. But what can you do when you have a newborn who must eat while you're out? Feeding her under a blanket is the only recourse!

2. Or, she was so shamed by the pro-breastfeeding lobby that she thought she had to hide her bottle feeding. Maybe she could tell by my ample bosoms and my robust toddler that we are a breastfeeding dyad and she feared I would launch myself over and fling sand into her face for daring to feed her child the poison of formula.

And then I came to my senses and remembered that it was unaccustomedly bright out and she was just shielding her baby's eyes from the sun.

Riiiight.

Note that I have no idea what was in the bottle, and it was sort of a strange shape so could have been breastmilk or some specialty formula. I also have no idea what reasons she has for bottle feeding, so I was trying not to judge (no, really!).

Anyway, I just thought I'd share how wild my first theories were before I came up with the plausible one.

I want to share a little caveat as well, having to do with not judging. I'm personally not wild about nursing covers and I am a fan of nursing in public rather than feeling you have to resort to bottle feeding if you want to leave the house. This is not so much that I disapprove of other mothers making different choices. For instance, if you are horribly uncomfortable breastfeeding in public without a cover-up, or even with, far better to feed your baby in whatever way works for you rather than being confined at home for the duration! (Although I'd recommend that you keep giving it some practice.) And if you're in a situation where your baby needs to drink from a bottle, I hope that no one makes you feel inadequate for that choice.

The reason I'm against the suggestions that nursing mamas use Hooter Hiders and the like or take along bottles of expressed milk when out in public is that I feel an implicit judgment that not doing so is unacceptable. When someone's using a nursing coverup near me, and I'm breastfeeding without one, I wonder if that person is judging me as indiscreet and exhibitionist. I would rather every mama felt comfortable enough to breastfeed — or bottlefeed! — in whatever way works for her and her baby, without fear of overhasty and uninformed condemnation.

And since breastfeeding is so awesome, I especially want breastfeeding to become normalized to the point that no one bats an eye at a woman lifting up her shirt or reaching in to unlatch a bra strap, of positioning a hungry infant or guiding a toddler into place, without the need of a draped blanket to hide the actions.

Hey, but if either of my first two guesses were right, that makes me wonder — will bottlefeeding mamas need their own Hooter Hiders next? Bottle Bundlers? Vessel Veils? Canteen Camouflagers?

Wait for it...

Breastfeeding nurse-in photo by Darryl Dyck of The Canadian Press

Breastfeeding and toy giveaways! (ETA AGAIN: wrap, nursing shirt, & MORE!)

(Updated again at 11:37 p.m. — scroll down!)

The Wonders of Mother's Milk by Mishawn Purnell O'NealThere are a few giveaways going on right now that I thought I'd notify you about. Go forth and win something wonderful!

(Disclosure: I get an extra entry for telling you about the first, and all three are giveaways I'm excited about!)

The Black Woman's Guide to Breastfeeding by Kathi Barber• The Blacktating one-year blogiversary giveaway ends today at noon, so hurry on over and post a comment or tweet or similar! There are seven possible prizes: The Black Woman's Guide to Breastfeeding, the only breastfeeding book written specifically for African-American women, by Kathi Barber; a 2-Pack of Organic Velour Flat diapers and pins courtesy of sustainablebabyishSloomb; a $50 gift certificate to One Hot Mama, MilkBank Vacuum Storage Systema MilkBank breast milk storage system; The Complete Book of Breastfeeding, by Sally Wendkos Olds, a classic; The Wonders of Mother's Milk, a gorgeous hardcover multicultural children's book about breastfeeding, by Mishawn Purnell O'Neal; or 25 Things Every Nursing Mother Needs to Know, a compact, beautifully illustrated breastfeeding book.

Simply Breastfeeding DVD Set by Shari and Joe CrisoBreastfeeding Moms Unite is giving away a Simply Breastfeeding DVD Set by Shari and Joe Criso. It's the perfect instructional DVD set for a pregnant or new mom who wants to learn all about breastfeeding from the comfort of her home, with any partner's support. You'll be able to see breastfeeding in action up close, something women aren't always able to manage in real life. I love the thought that, for learning purposes, you can stare and stare and not be thought rude! The contest ends June 13.

Melissa & Doug Jumbo Numbers Wooden Chunky PuzzleNo Time for Flash Cards, which is a wonderful site that gives creative ideas for children's activities, is giving away an adorable wooden counting puzzle from Melissa & Doug. It's got colorful chunky pieces that are perfect for little hands. This contest closes on June 7.

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(ETA 2:03 p.m.)

A Mother's Boutique Obi Nursing Top
I found out about some other juicy ones:

Celebrate Life With Bargains! is hosting a giveaway of a beautiful Obi Nursing Top from A Mother's Boutique, which is the same store that sponsored the Skinies cami giveaway. Enter this giveaway by June 20.

gray Sleepy Wrap baby fatherBlessed With Full Hands is giving away a Sleepy Wrap Baby Wrap Carrier, which is a stretchy wrap that sounds like it has just enough and not too much stretch to it. Intrigued? I know I am. Enter by June 15.

Sleepy Wrap baby and fatherP.S. Do you like the pictures of hawt babywearing papas? That's why I chose those ones, folks.


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(ETA 11:37 p.m.)

And I'm so dumb, because I saw this one before and forgot about it. I had even tried a search of my Google Reader for contests and giveaways, but I must have used the wrong search terms. Here 'tis:

Sakura Bloom Silk Baby SlingsPhD in Parenting is hosting a one-year blogiversary scavenger hunt! You can search her blog for the answers to a series of questions for the chance to win one of five fab prizes: a gorgeous Silk Essential ring sling from Sakura Bloom; an Enhance-me magical photo portrait that would be beautiful for turning a snapshot of your little one into a magical fairy or dinosaur explorer; one of the newfangled, eco-friendly digital subscriptions to the exceptional Mothering Magazine donated by doudou bebe; your own pick of 2 yards of funky Pink Panda Fabric,BioGreen Biodegradable BPA-Free Sport Bottle with Wide Mouth DuoFlow Lid perfect for making your own baby sling; and one of two sets of 5 BioGreen Bottles, which are fully recycled and biodegradable water bottles. So those are pretty appealing prizes, and I'm always up for a little homework. Plus, it will give you a chance to read a wide breadth of her archives (which, natch, is the point). So get searching, because the scavenger hunt ends June 7.


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All these giveaways have inspired me to consider hosting my own sometime. It sounds like fun!

Good luck to everyone! If there are any other good giveaways to list, let me know — and let me know if you win something!