Why I Breastfeed in Public

Here’s the thing: I value modesty. You won’t catch me in a super low cut shirt because I prefer not to show cleavage to the whole world and it’s important to me to dress in a way that is respectful of those around me.

But I also value breastfeeding. It’s the number one tool in my motherhood toolbox. My babies nurse around the clock whenever they’re hungry, thirsty, overwhelmed, tired, in pain, sick or scared and that’s totally cool with me.

When I had my first child, I had no idea how to reconcile these two values when I was in public. On the one hand, I wasn’t comfortable with the thought of being at all exposed and on the other hand, I felt helpless as a mom because my go-to trick was unavailable. It was the middle of the summer and the thought of using a cover was unbearable for both me and my sweaty baby so I mostly spent my time frantically searching for private rooms or bathrooms to feed her in.

Fortunately, by the time I got pregnant with my second daughter, I had learned how to discreetly nurse in public using the “two shirt method” and a full repertoire of nursing friendly clothing.

Secondly, I had invested in a couple great nursing covers for those situations where I just felt better fully covered.

And finally, I had also become a doula and I learned so much about the many struggles new moms face with postpartum and breastfeeding. It is always my goal to do my part in making this transition easier for women.

So even though I still try to be as modest as possible, I feel strongly that I should be breastfeeding in public. Here’s 4 reasons why.

1. Because Seeing Someone Breastfeed is the Best Way to Learn How

Our culture struggles with breastfeeding. At this point, most women attempt to breastfeed but many do not continue past the first few weeks or months. A good latch is hard for us and countless women worry about their supply.

Part of the reason for this difficulty is that most girls grow up without ever having seen someone nurse a baby. In general, we don’t know what a good latch or a comfortable position or modest breastfeeding looks like because we’ve never seen it. And we’ve certainly never seen a woman nurse while cooking or putting on makeup or playing mini golf or whatever else her day may bring.

Consequently, breastfeeding remains a mystery and it feels too hard to master.

This is the first reason I feel it’s important to nurse my baby in front of other women and girls. I want them to know that breastfeeding can be comfortable, it can be enjoyable, and it is possible to live life while doing it. When they can see that this is true with their own eyes, they’re more likely to have confidence when it’s their turn to nurse a baby.

Breastfeeding in a minivan is all too common because breastfeeding in public is difficult, inconvenient, or shamed upon.
Breastfeeding in a minivan is all too common. Also notice how I can nurse without actually exposing anything. It is totally possible to nurse modestly in public. 🙌🏾

2. Because Something So Good Should be Normalized and Easily Accessible

Breastfeeding has tons of benefits. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to be obese, breastfeeding mothers are less likely to develop breast cancer and the immunity factors in breast milk change depending on what germs are around so it’s always the perfect medicine for the baby. I could go on and on about all of that but the point is, breastfeeding is so good and healthy for all involved.

Why then do we have to make it so hard for women to nurse their babies?

We need to make a change. We need to welcome and encourage the breastfeeding mother. We need to accept the fact that breasts were created for nurturing babies and allow them to fulfill that purpose.

When I breastfeed in public, I am helping the world around me to get comfortable with something that always has been and always will be a beneficial aspect of raising the next generation.

3. Because Feeding in a Bathroom is Gross

It’s true, sitting on a toilet in a public bathroom while nursing a tiny child isn’t sanitary, comfortable, or necessary.

Can we all just stop pretending that this is a good option for breastfeeding moms?

I did this with my first baby but honestly, this is where I draw the line this time around.

Is breastfeeding an effective form of birth control?? The answer is YES, IF you follow these rules.Is breastfeeding an effective form of birth control? The answer is YES, IF you follow these 7 principles. Click the image to find out more.

4. To Empower the Isolated Mom

This last reason is probably the most important and what really drives the need to breastfeed in public home for me. There are too many new moms out there who don’t want to leave their houses because finding a private place to nurse their baby is too difficult (and a public restroom is too gross).

As a result, they end up feeling trapped and alone in their home.

Or there may be moms who do go to social gatherings but they wind up breastfeeding alone in someone else’s bedroom and their heart aches because they are missing out on conversation and festivities with their loved ones.

Both of these situations leave new moms feeling isolated which is extremely important to note because isolation and Postpartum Depression go hand in hand.

As a society, we must make it easier for women and babies to get out of the house and this starts by getting comfortable with breastfeeding.

So I’ve resolved that I have to do my part. If just one woman sees me nursing my baby in public and this helps her feel more confident in leaving her home, getting fresh air, and feeding her baby then it’s worth it to me.

The bottom line is this: both breastfeeding and the entire postpartum period are down right hard. But for so many reasons, not being able to feed a baby in public just makes it harder.

So as a doula, a breastfeeding advocate, and a woman, I know now that it is my responsibility to nurse in public in support of my fellow moms and I hope that others will do the same ❤️

4 Reasons Why I Breastfeed in Public

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Where To Give Birth In Elkhart County

As a doula, one of my biggest goals for my clients is that they are completely aware of all of their options surrounding the birth of their baby. Because choosing a care provider is one of the first decisions you make after finding out you’re pregnant, the place you plan to give birth is also decided quickly. Fortunately, we have a plethora of options right here in Elkhart County so planning for the birth you want is definitely possible! Let’s explore all the local birth places as well as different things you need to consider as you make your choice.

THE NUMBER ONE FACTOR

When choosing where to birth, I always tell people that the number one factor is deciding where you will be most comfortable and feel the safest. This is because labor cannot progress well when the mother is tense and afraid. Fear is a sign to your body that now is not the time or the place for a baby to born. Unfortunately, for many moms this fear turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. They are afraid birth won’t go well so their body slows the process down and guess what? Birth does not go well. So finding a way to eliminate fear is step number one.

Are you someone that will only be able to relax knowing that you’re in a hospital, right down the hall from the operating room should an emergency happen? Will your support team be tense enough to stress you out outside of the hospital? If you answer yes to either of these and you’ve done your research on the safety of birth, then the hospital may just be the best place for you to labor and meet your baby.

On the other hand, will constant beeping from the monitors and people continually coming in and out of your room stress you out? Will you be intimidated by all the wires and the equipment and will the knowledge of an epidural distract you from your natural birth plans? Can you truly feel at home and comfortable on a twin bed and small couch? If these questions raise a concern, consider a birthing center with a homelike atmosphere and a peaceful environment to labor in.

Finally, does the idea of quickly packing your bags and driving to your birth place while having contractions seem chaotic to you? For some, it’s enough stress to disrupt the flow of labor, at least temporarily. Would you be most comfortable in your own home, in your own bed, knowing that as soon as baby is born you can start to settle in to your new life? If this sounds like a dream, why not try for a home birth?

With all of these options available locally, I encourage you to truly consider each one. Take tours of both maternity units and birth centers. Ask your friends about their experiences. Does one option stick out to you more than the others? What does your gut say? Your instincts may know more than you think.

MIDWIVES VS OBSTETRICIANS

Another big factor to consider when choosing a birth place is if you want your birth attended by a midwife or an OB. In Elkhart County, there are different midwives who attend home births, birth center births, and hospital births but obstetricians only attend hospital births. So what’s the difference between the two? Obstetricians are qualified physicians who have gone through many years of schooling. They are well trained in the various complications of pregnancy and are able to use different medical tools during birth such as the vacuum extractor, forceps, and cesareans. Conversely, midwives typically have less years of schooling but are well trained in healthy, normal, low risk pregnancies and birth. Though they do not have the license to treat serious complications, they are diligent at screening for any and all issues that may arise and they follow specific protocol for when to refer a client’s care to an OB if necessary. Therefore, if you are someone who is in good health and you view birth as a normal, physiological process that women have been navigating for centuries, you can be confident that you will be well taken care of by a midwife both in and out of a hospital. On the other hand, if you are high risk or issues arise during your pregnancy, you will likely be cared for best by an OB in a hospital.

COST

Another factor to consider when choosing a birth place is the financial cost. Though money should never be the main reason you choose to birth at a specific location, it is nevertheless, important to consider. In general, a home birth is your least expensive option, followed by a birth center birth. A midwife attended hospital birth will be considerably more expensive and a birth with an OB costs the most. However, you must factor in your health insurance with counting costs. Some insurance companies do not cover home births or birth centers which means you might pay the least out of pocket if you give birth at a hospital. Other health sharing ministries cover home births, birth centers, and midwives at a higher percentage because they bring the overall cost of health care down. Every insurance company and plan is different, so be sure to thoroughly consider your options as you choose where to give birth.

LOCAL OPTIONS

So now that you have an idea of what you might be leaning towards, let’s go a bit more in depth about your specific options in the area. In Elkhart County, Indiana, we are fortunate to have two hospitals, two birth centers, and several home birth midwives. Of course, looking just outside of the county presents you with even more options but for today, we will stick to these five.

ELKHART GENERAL HOSPITAL

The Elkhart General Center for Women and Children is a Baby Friendly Hospital meaning that it values bonding and breastfeeding and follows specific protocol to support those processes. This includes allowing babies to room in with their parents 24-7 and constant support from lactation consultants. Furthermore, nurses will never give a breastfed baby pacifiers or formula without the parents consent. Elkhart General Hospital’s facility is also equipped with an in-depth security system to keep your baby safe and a level 2-B NICU should you need it.

According to the Leap Frog Group, 17.4% of first time, low-risk, full term mothers will have their babies via cesarean section at Elkhart General Hospital putting them well below the natural target (23.9%). Additionally, 2.5% of moms receive an episiotomy here which is better than the national target of 5%.

There are several different obstetricians who attend births at this hospital and the Beacon Medical Group OB/GYN employs a couple of midwives who manage births there as well. As far as pain relief options go, every labor and delivery room is equipped with a shower and most of them have tubs as well for labor, though water birth is not an option. Of course, narcotics, epidurals, and even low-dose epidurals are available as well.

GOSHEN HOSPITAL

The Circle of Caring Birthplace at Goshen Hospital is also a recognized Baby-Friendly hospital that values the family unit and moms are given ample resources to support breastfeeding. They are also armed with a security system to make sure you and your baby are never separated.

This hospital did not report its cesarean or episiotomy rate to the Leap Frog Group.

Fairhaven OB/GYN employs a team of midwives who attend births at Goshen Hospital as long as they are not currently at a birth in the Goshen Birth Center, discussed in the next section. Of course, there are many different doctors who work at Goshen Hospital as well. The Circle of Caring Birthplace has one inflatable tub that can be set up in a women’s suite on a first come first serve basis for use during active labor. However, water birth is not an option in these tubs.

GOSHEN BIRTH CENTER

The Goshen Birth Center is a beautiful, out-of-hospital option for local women seeking a natural birth. Equipped with 3 birthing rooms and comfortable queen beds, the Goshen Birth Center is designed to feel like home. Big, jetted tubs allow for water births and provide much needed relaxation before and after birth. As birth approaches, the midwives began baking fresh bread which fills the Center with a wonderful aroma. Extended family can enjoy the cozy living room as they wait for the newest addition to arise.

Women who see the Fairhaven midwives and who are experiencing a low-risk, healthy pregnancy have the option to birth here. While there are no narcotics or epidurals for pain relief at the Goshen Birth Center, they are one of the only facilities to offer Nitrous Oxide to take the edge off of the pain. Nitrous Oxide provides the women with a self-controlled, temporary feeling of relaxation during the peak of contractions. As the contraction fades away, the laboring women stops breathing it in and returns to a normal, calm state in between contractions. Nitrous Oxide has no effect on the baby and can be extremely helpful in managing transition or active labor.

After the birth, new moms are treated to a soothing, herbal bath and get to enjoy freshly baked bread and whatever else they may have brought to prepare in the center’s kitchen. Families are discharged within 4-8 hours after birth and a nurse visits and checks up on the mother and baby in their own home twice within the first 48 hours.

Furthermore, the Goshen Birth Center is state-licensed and the Midwifes follow clear protocol for when a transfer to the hospital is necessary. Ambulance drills happen routinely to ensure a quick transfer and the hospital is just three right turns away. The midwife goes with the women to the hospital and remains her primary care provider. While transfers are never fun, these aspects help to make the process smooth and safe.

BLESSED BEGINNINGS CARE CENTER

Located in Nappanee, Blessed Beginnings Care Center is another out-of-hospital option for women. They have 7 rooms equipped with a queen bed, a shower, and a jetted tub in each room. Additionally, they have one room with a whirlpool tub for water birth. Clients also have access to Nubane and anti-nausea medication to help ease pain, if needed. Certified Nurse-Midwifes with their own individual practices attend births here. Usually these midwives do not have hospital privileges so, in the event of a transfer, a hospital doctor takes over the care and the midwife becomes part of the support team. Clients are allowed to stay at Blessed Beginnings for up to 72 hours. Call 574-773-7755 for a current list of midwives to schedule your prenatal care.

HOME

Many of the same midwives who attend births at Blessed Beginnings also attend home births. Birth tubs are available to rent if needed and the midwife brings all necessary equipment for a safe birth. Because birth happens in the mother’s home, the environment is set up exactly like she wants it and she never has to worry about accidentally forgetting to bring certain items since they are already there. Immediately after the birth, the new family can settle in with their sweet addition. Usually the midwife does home visits after the birth as well.

Elkhart County truly is equipped with multiple options for new, local mothers which allows for most pregnant women to find the perfect fit for them. Feel free to reach out if you have more questions about any of these options. I would love to help you find the birth place that is right for you ❤️

What Does a Birth Doula Do?

In short, a doula is someone who supports a woman throughout her pregnancy, her entire labor, and the postpartum period. She is not a medical professional but instead she is trained to inform a woman on her choices surrounding birth and helps to turn those preferences into a reality. Typically, when a woman hires a doula, their journey together starts a couple months before the baby’s due date.

Before The Birth
Before the birth, a pregnant woman will meet with her doula a couple times to discuss her birth plan. This may include things like where she chooses to birth, how long she wishes to labor at home, how she plans to manage the pain, as well as her hopes for the immediate postpartum period. A doula does not make decisions for a woman but instead informs her of the risks and benefits of her options and then supports her in whatever she decides. Furthermore, the doula will teach the woman and her birth partner (her husband, boyfriend, mom etc) different techniques that they can use throughout the labor to manage pain and keep progressing. After these meetings, both the mother and the doula should have a pretty good idea of how they plan to manage labor.

During Labor
Usually, the main reason a woman hires a doula is to have a trained professional with her throughout her entire labor. A doula cannot perform cervical checks, take vitals, monitor the baby, or replace the care provider in anyway. She cannot and will not make any medical decisions. However, unlike the care provider who is in and out of the room and may leave when his or her shift is over, the doula is by the mother’s side focusing only on her from the beginning until the end. This consistent presence alone can have a major impact on the labor. A soon-to-be mom may let her doula know that contractions have started and the two can decide together when to notify the care provider. The doula may come to the woman’s home in early labor to help her work through contractions if she wishes. Upon arriving at the birth center/hospital, the doula may take time to set up the room with music, dim lighting, aromatherapy, or whatever the mom chooses. As labor intensifies, the doula will do whatever she needs to do to make the mom more comfortable, including massage, applying heating pads, giving food or water, etc. She will coach the woman through contractions, helping her breathe and find her rhythm. She can suggest different positions to help the baby continue to descend correctly and to encourage dilation. If any unexpected circumstances arise, the doula can inform the woman of her choices and help her ask questions so she can make the best decision for her and her baby. The doula does not speak to the care provider on her client’s behalf but she does encourage her and her partner to speak up for themselves and can remind the mother of her birth plan and preferences to help her achieve her goals. Finally, when it comes time to push, the doula may help coach the mom in bringing her baby into the world.

My doula Jayde helping me through a contraction

It’s important to note that a doula does not replace the mom’s husband, mother or whoever she wishes to have with her. Instead, the doula actually helps loved ones know how to comfort and assist the laboring woman. As a result, loved ones may actually end up feeling more at ease, relaxed, and empowered as a result of having a doula present.

Though a doula can never guarantee better birth outcomes studies have shown that when a doula is present there is a lower rate of interventions, epidurals and c-sections and labor tends to be shorter. A review of these studies can be found in The Doula Book by Marshall Klaus, John Kennel, and Phyllis Klaus. However, a doula is still a valuable asset even if the woman wishes to have a medicated birth or is planning a c-section. In these situations a doula can still help a woman through early labor, she can set up her birthing environment, talk her through pushing, and protect her wishes for the postpartum period discussed in the next section.

Immediately After The Birth
After the baby is born, the doula may remind the mother and the caregiver of any of the mom’s wishes for the postpartum period. This may include things like delayed cord clamping, immediate skin to skin, or weighing and measuring the baby beside mom’s bed. She can help establish breastfeeding and gives the mom plenty of encouragement. The doula may get some food for the new parents and she may help clean up the room. Finally, she may protect the mother’s desire for a quiet, private time with her new little family and will leave shortly after.

A Few Days Later
Within the first week or so of baby’s life the doula will visit the new mother for the last time. This generally takes place in the mother’s home and may last a couple hours. At this meeting, the doula will answer any breastfeeding questions and will encourage the nursing mother. She may do light housework for the mom or she may hold the baby while the mother gets some rest or takes a relaxing bath. To conclude their time together, they will debrief about the birth and the doula will help the mom process her feelings about it. The doula may remind the mom of important events that happened throughout the labor in order to write a positive birth story that the mother can enjoy reflecting on. After this, a birth doula’s job is complete.

Interested in a doula? Check out my website at http://birthway.co

Click the images to read my birth stories.