NIP. For anyone who isn't a breastfeeding mother, these three letters are probably meaningless. But let me enlighten you. NIP is appropriately an acronym for Nursing In Public. Ironic, don't you think that breastfeeding activists everywhere have managed to make a boob-a-licious acronym for a boob-a-licious activity. Personally I smile at the wit of it. :)
Lately I've been seeing a lot of publicity on the internet on the topic of NIP. It seems to be somewhat of a hot topic. So since it seems to be the hip thing to do I think I'll weigh in with my two cents...
**WARNING: If you are easily offended, stop reading now.**
I am a breastfeeding mother. And I am more of a NIPer everyday. I don't nurse in public because I'm trying to make a political statement, or because it is my life's work to make everyone around me uncomfortable. It is my right and all that, but the long and short of it is I nurse in public because I would much rather nurse in public than listen to my baby cry when I am in complete control of making it stop.
Let me explain something about parenting a small baby. Babies cry. A lot. My Little Man is quite possibly one of the easiest, most mellow, calm, non-crying babies ever, and he still cries. A lot. Nobody wants to just sit and listen to a crying baby, especially the mother who is with said baby 24/7. Or at least that's how I feel. So, when my baby cries out of hunger I'm going to feed him. And I don't really care if it offends someone else.
But I didn't always feel this way. Before Baby was born I was a giant nervous wreck about breastfeeding in general. And I definitely had my very conservative very vocal opinions about NIP. But I'm secure enough to admit that I had no &^%$*#^ idea what I was talking about. Breastfeeding is so many things. It is a gift, and a privilege, and a chore and an art. And before I did it I had no understanding of it, and no respect for it. Most women work extremely hard to breastfeed their babies. And not all are successful. It is a selfless commitment that generally means more work and less sleep.
Now, after 4 months I see in myself how the ease of breastfeeding is developing. **Note I said developing, as in still in process** Baby knows what he's doing now, and it isn't a painful struggle to get going every time he needs a snack. But I still don't have the knack for phantom nipple. It still hangs out, sometimes for a few seconds, before Baby decides he's actually going to eat. And that's after 4 months of nursing. Let's do the math. I nurse roughly 6-8 times/day and those 4 months had 31, 31, 28, and 31 days. So that's...calculating...calculating...between 726 and 968 latches of practice. Seriously!! I've done this nearly 1,000 times and it still isn't perfect.
And how does this pertain to NIP you might ask. I'm getting there...
I'm not going to argue if a woman has a right to breastfeed in a restaurant/park/mall. And I'm not going to address whether it's sanitary, or necessary, or why breastfeeding mothers can't "just use a bottle". Those battles are for a different arena. I'm going to tell both sides of the NIP debate how I feel about their stance.
I HATE, I mean H-A-T-E HATE! how both sides of the NIP fence end up shaming the breastfeeding mother. The pro-NIP extremists shame the modest mother because she isn't blatant enough about her nursing. And the anti-NIP idiots...I mean conservatives...shame any mother, modest or not, who dares do something so inappropriate/disgusting/vulgar in public. Either way the breastfeeding mother loses.
To all of the extremists out there, who think everyone should whip their boob out because they have a right, or just to prove they can I say this: NIP is not for everyone. Obviously it is not for men, or grandmothers *shiver*, or
women who choose formula over breastfeeding. But
NIP is also not for every breastfeeding mother. Some women will never be comfortable popping their ta-tas out for the world to see while they get their little angel latched on. And definitely not once that angel is a little older, and likes to nurse in staccato fashion, looking around every two mouthfuls... Some women are more comfortable nursing if they are covered (this would be generally where I fit in), but that's not an absolute solution. If a woman is nervous about being exposed in public there is still a risk, even under a cover. So if you're one of those people who thinks a woman nursing in a corner or under a cover should instead stand on a table and make a public announcement maybe you could just applaud her commitment and be supportive instead of shaming her for not being more conspicuous.
**I think it's important here for me to note that I don't think a woman
should ever be ashamed of nursing her baby, wherever she is. But there
is surely a difference between feeling ashamed/embarrassed and being
modest. I do not feel ashamed of breastfeeding, but I also don't want to
be flaunting my breasts around to half the free world. They are mine,
and part of the allure is only sharing them with people who are worthy,
and will truly appreciate them. That has nothing to do with my
commitment to breastfeed.**
To all of the prudish conservatives out there who think anything negative about women who breastfeed when and where their baby is hungry I say this: GET. OVER. YOURSELF. First of all, if you feel that way it's fairly obvious that you either have never breastfed a baby yourself, have some perverted delusion about the true function of breasts, or are a self-centered overly conservative moron. Well, I guess it's possible that you could be all of the above. Remember how I said earlier that breastfeeding isn't easy? And how I mentioned that the women who do it have made a commitment that most often means more work and less sleep. Yeah, so how about you consider that it probably takes that mom more effort to keep her eyes open than it would take you to close yours. And just imagine how much more energy you would have to avert your eyes if you kept your mouth shut! Amazing! That breastfeeding woman is doing more good for her baby in that moment than most people do for another person in a lifetime. If you're so offended leave. And if you refuse to leave, turn your head away. And if you can't manage that, and you feel the need to glare, at least keep your trap shut.
And finally, to all of the breastfeeding women out there: NIP, don't NIP it doesn't really matter. What matters most is the commitment that you have made to your baby. If that commitment means you only leave the house between feedings, and rush back praying you are in the privacy of your own home before the baby gets hungry, that's wonderful. If it means you find a quiet corner of a noisy cafe, or nestle your nursing baby under a blanket or cover, that's wonderful. And if you are the woman pushing a shopping cart through a grocery store with a boob in the babies mouth, that's wonderful (and can you teach me to be that coordinated). What you are doing is wonderful, no matter when, where, or how you do it. Try to remember to let the world drift away when you nurse your baby. Those moments are precious and fleeting.