I am not the most discreet person that you will see breastfeeding, but I don’t have to be.
On Saturday, I went to the commissary in San Diego with both of my kids (5 and 2). My 2 year old still nurses a lot, especially when she is tired and overstimulated. Normally I use my Toddler Tula to breastfeed my daughter in while we are out and about partially because it covers up a lot so it is less obvious, and also so I can still go about my shopping without fumbling awkwardly with a nursing child. This time I brought my ring sling but it offers less coverage. It doesn’t bother me, but I know not everyone feels the same way about someone openly breastfeeding. However, that won’t stop me from nursing in public.
I was innocently talking to my 5 year old son while I was breastfeeding his sleepy sister in the ring sling when the woman standing feet from us was staring and said something along the lines of you have something hanging out and directed her hand to her chest, indicating that my breast was out while I was nursing my daughter. I told her that I was aware and that it is perfectly fine.
“I don’t want my son to see that,” she said with disgust. “This is a family establishment!”
I was shocked but I retorted, “well maybe it is something your son needs to see so he knows what they’re for” as she walked away.
That wasn’t all she had to say, either. She walked a distance away but I could still see her nearby staring and muttering about me. I could hear her telling the people around her that what I was doing was inappropriate. Everyone just stared at me, standing by the fish, breastfeeding my tired child. Tears started to well up in my eyes and I was starting to panic.
I don’t remember the last time I had felt so isolated. I anxiously looked around for a fellow mom that could back me up, but I failed to find a friendly face. I no longer felt welcome in that area, so I started to walk away.
I had to walk nearer to the lady to get some groceries that we needed, and she still continued to stare and make comments to those around her. She even walked after me a bit down an aisle, her son now with her, saying how he doesn’t need to be seeing me doing that. More stares from bystanders. I was starting to feel threatened by her presence. Many people could hear her berating me and me crying, yet no one spoke up.
I hurried away from her down the aisle and started to cry harder, all the while trying to keep my kids calm. My son knew there was something bad happening and was asking me what was going on. I explained how that woman was being mean to me for breastfeeding and that it wasn’t right. I called my husband, who was walking back to the commissary after working out, to cry to him and wish for him to be there faster. I suggested that I talk to the store about it, and he agreed.
I found an employee up front and explained my situation to her. She seemed more confused than anything and said she would call a manager to the front. After about a couple of minutes, the manager at the commissary came up and I told her what was going on. She immediately asked me to take her to the woman. She reaffirmed that it wasn’t right that she was behaving that way and also that it was my right to breastfeed. I was so relieved to have found someone on my side.
It wasn’t difficult to find the woman; the first aisle I walked down took us to her. The manager asked the woman about her having a conversation with me. The woman was still so enraged that I was breastfeeding so openly. She started to become angered all over again and told the manager that I was letting my breasts hang out of my (get ready to laugh) “thingamajig”, which she was referring to my ring sling. The manager indicated that I could leave. I am glad that I didn’t hang around to hear that woman say more. As I was walking away, I could hear the manager telling the woman that it was my right to breastfeed there but the woman continued on.
I was so relieved to be away from that woman, but it took me a little while to gather myself. I was very glad to have my husband find me shortly thereafter.
While I may have cried a lot during it, I am still proud that I spoke up and found a manager. I wasn’t going to let myself continually be harassed for something so normal. The commissary in San Diego is also doing a fantastic job educating their employees and for shutting down that type of behavior.
About the Author at – Stephanie Persinger, CLE & Blogger at Ramblin Urban Hippie
Stephanie is a certified lactation educator and writer that lives full time in an RV with her family. She is passionate about breastfeeding, mental health awareness, and yoga. She is a proud military spouse supporting her husband in his military career. Her previous work has been featured on The Badass Breastfeeder. Find her on Instagram.