Posted in Blog, Breastfeeding, Emotional wellness, Featured, Life as a mom, Shawna

Can I nurse here??

The other day, I was visiting a friend who had just had a baby at Swedish. As we were leaving, my 10-month-old daughter made it very clear that she needed to nurse immediately, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200 (OK, truthfully I had been picking up her hints for about 15 minutes, but I was hoping we could get out of the hospital first, ICK!!).

I quickly scanned the floor we were on and spotted a chair sitting by a bank of secondary elevators. About five people walked out of the elevators while I nursed her, and I think only one guy noticed what I was doing and quickly averted his eyes. Sitting there, hoping that the seat we were in had not contracted MRSA, I reflected on how far I’d come from those first frantic months when I had no idea where to nurse.

Yes, I know that Washington state law allows a woman to nurse anywhere. And that is wonderful. But it doesn’t mean you’re comfortable whipping out your boob while sitting in a 10-top at Canlis, or behind home base at SafecoField (though more power to you if you do!), especially during the first few months.

My first public nursing (besides the homes of friends and relatives) ended up being on a park bench in downtown Ballard. Quinn was about four weeks old and we were still struggling to get a good latch. I had just had tea at the now-defunct Chai House, where my friend nursed her own newborn without a hitch.  Just after my friend drove off, Q totally lost it. I knew that I couldn’t make it home.

After wandering around a bit, desperately seeking “the perfect spot,” I took a deep breath, sat down on a park bench on a fairly busy street, and pulled out my boob  (inconspicuously, lifting my T-shirt with a nursing tank underneath). And it was totally fine. Yes, Quinn screamed and took a few minutes to latch on, but I faked calmness and soon she took the bait. A few people noticed us, but all pretended to see nothing.

I learned a lesson then: Outside seems like one of the scariest, most exposed places to nurse, but it is actually ideal because people don’t really notice you and the background noise muffles baby cries. I’ve nursed at area parks and benches about a million times since then, and it’s always been a good experience. Even at Greenlake, where a good 4,000 people will walk by in 10 minutes, you can still go relatively unnoticed. (I recommend one of the benches that faces the lake, which seem to be more prevalent near the Bathhouse side.)

A few other things I’ve learned: A coffee shop can be a pretty terrible place to nurse, if it’s one where people tend to camp out with their laptops and expect complete silence. If your little one latches quietly and easily, go for it, but otherwise you may feel a little conspicuous.This is especially true in places like Starbucks and Tully’s; sometimes smaller, local shops are great because people actually go there to sit and visit. I’ve nursed at Caffee Umbria in Pioneer Square, at the Cherry Street Coffeehouse, and several other local spots without a hitch. If you can hear people talking and laughing when you first walk in, you will be fine.

Incidentally, public libraries can be great spots for nursing in a pinch. Head to the children’s section, where there is almost always a bench and a handful of noisy kids, or look for an empty meeting room off the main entrance.

Most restaurants are actually great, what with the noise of other patrons and the distractions of food and people moving around. The noisier and busier the better! You may be inclined to walk around looking for a quiet, private corner, as I desperately did one day at Ivar’s Salmon House, but your best bet is to just stay where you are and nurse as calmly as you can (which I eventually did).

Some women like to use their Bebe Au Laits in these circumstances, but I prefer to just take an inside corner seat of a booth or turn slightly toward a wall as I latch Q on. I’ve only ever received encouraging looks, and I’ve nursed in a LOT of local restaurants, even La Bastille in Ballard and Cafe Flora in Madison Park. I’ve also nursed at a few area wineries, and there is always a lovely little spot custom made for breastfeeding.

If you’re shopping, you can always find a great place to nurse. Nordstroms has those wonderful women’s lounges designed for nursing mothers. So does Babies R Us, and most area consignment and new baby shops have chairs that they reserve for the purpose. Just ask a clerk and they will point you in the right direction. If you’re at U Village, the Kids Club also has a great nursing room, which is quiet and distraction-free. Bellevue Square also has a great nursing spot– the seats on the third floor that overlook the Kids’ Cove play area (above Center Court). Maternity and kids clothes shops are also really accommodating, and used to women seeking shelter.

You can also always use a dressing room, whether you are at Target or the Red Light. Grab a few items and walk in as you would normally, or ask the salesclerk if you can nurse in there. I’ve had great luck with both methods; the latter works better if you know you will need a few minutes and don’t want someone knocking on the door several times to ask how you’re doing. I once nursed in a dressing room at Nordstrom Rack during the holiday rush, and the clerks could not have been sweeter about it.

I’ve also had great nursing experiences in lobbies of hotels. Lots of people come and go, and you can usually find a really comfy spot with a nice view. Kid-friendly spots like Woodland Park Zoo and community centers are also great places to nurse.

Of course we all believe that nursing is healthy and beautiful and NO ONE has the right to make us feel bad for doing it ANYWHERE we PLEASE but the reality is that when you first venture out of the safety of your living room (where you have probably been sitting topless for at least three weeks), public nursing can suddenly be a really scary prospect, even in a town like ours.

I hope these suggestions make it a little less scary. If you’re still scared, take a few weeks to go to the places where nursing is de rigeur, like mama and baby yoga classes, baby consignment shops, and gatherings like First Weeks, PEPS and La Leche League. You will see other mamas nursing and get the support and encouragement you need to venture forth! I’ll see you out there.

Hello everyone,As you all know, Quinn’s first birthday is rapidly approaching (the pace is a little too rapid for her daddy and me, quite frankly). I thought some of you might be considering a first birthday gift for her, so I wanted to pass on the information about her college fund, in case that’s something you might be interested in. We certainly don’t expect first birthday gifts from you (well, except from her grandparents!!), but I just wanted you to have the account information in case that’s something you might be interested in.We have started a fund for Quinn with Washington state’s Guaranteed Education Tuition program. The way the fund works is tuition units are set at a current dollar amount, currently $101 a unit, and they will be applied as an equivalent unit in the future even though college tuition units could be $1,000 by then (a rough estimate 😉 ). Essentially, you are pre-paying college units for slightly more than they cost today, making them a phenomenal deal 18 years from now. And the state guarantees that the money will be there, raising costs annually to make sure they make good on promises to past payees.They also don’t have to be used in Washington- they transfer to almost every college in the nation at that year’s Washington state unit rate, so they’re still a great deal whether she goes to school here or way, way too far away from her mama. If you have more questions about the fund, you can get your answers here: http://www.get.wa.govYou may ask why I am sending this email now when Q is only 10 months old. Well, the GET program raises unit prices twice a year on May 1 and Sept. 1. So, I thought if this is something you’d consider doing, you might be interested in making a contribution by April 30 so you get more bang for your buck. I don’t know for sure what they new rates will be, but I imagine they’ll take at least a little jump.If you do want to contribute, here’s how you do it:Write a check to: GET Program
With Account Number 09003943 and Quinn Lininger in the memo line.And mail to:GET Program
P.O. Box 84824
Seattle, WA 98124-6124
Or let us know you want to contribute, and Todd and I will get you added as a gifter and they will mail you a handy gifting kit.

Thank you so much for considering this!

Shawna, Todd and Quinn

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  1. This is such a great post. I came across it while looking up nursing information. Thanks for writing it!

  2. Your post made me so homesick. I had my first baby in Seattle, nearly 15 years ago, and reading your post brought back memories of being a first time mum, learning to nurse in public in the beautiful city of Seattle. Your post was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. Thanks.

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