Breastfeeding in the Workplace

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Today I retired from my job at a large power company.  One of those places filled with cubicle after cubicle of engineers and geeky types.  I had to go into the office to fill out some final paper work, turn in a few things and my group wanted to have a quick little going away party.  It was extremely nice of them to throw together a party and it was set for 9:30 am today.   I arrived just a few minutes late and knew that Grant was going to want to eat shortly after I got there.

I sat off to the edge of the room next to one of the other female co-workers, there are only two left now.  They handed me a funny card filled with kind words and signatures and an envelope with money.  Super awesome!

Then Grant started to fuss so I warned that I was going to need to feed the baby.  Now to set the picture.  I had a nursing tank on, along with a sleeveless drapey top.

My outfit today

On top of that I had my blue and white ring sling.  I stated that I needed to nurse and the body language in the room immediately got uncomfortable.  Now, I wasn’t trying to make some type of breastfeeding statement.  I just wanted to feed my baby.  There were chuckles of uncomfortableness as I tried to get situated.  I heard one person joke that I could go behind the closed door off the my right (the area that had the microwave, copier and  vending machines and was not a room but a hallway), another joked that they could go get the key to the janitor closet where I used to pump and get me an extension cord.  My response, was “Ummm, he is my extension cord.”

I made sure that for their comfort and really for mine too, that I did stay covered.  I put the sling over Grant’s head.  I don’t normally cover his head, but I could see that I was making everyone around me quite uncomfortable.  This was the first time in almost five years of breastfeeding where I have felt completely unwelcome to feed my baby.  One of the younger childless engineers shuddered when I said I was about to nurse the baby. The woman next to me looked at me a little disapprovingly (she didn’t breastfeed) and the guy (who has two children) in front  of me turned his head away while still talking to me and said, “I need to make sure and look you in the eye.”

My response was, “That’s where I would expect you to always look.”  However, he still remained with his head turned.

The rest of the men in the group turned their backs to me and the socially awkward engineer who seems to amaze me with the craziness that comes out of his mouth says quite loudly, “It’s like National Geographic in here.”  Ummmm, not quite.  I was completely covered, my kid was sweaty underneath the sling and the only reason why I warned these guys is I didn’t want them to come up and try to play with him and then feel really awkward when they realized I was nursing.

Grant couldn’t have cared less what was going on and continued to happily nurse.  Some friends from my old group came down, two women and a male.  I was super thankful that they spoke to me like I didn’t have a third head coming out of my shoulders.  One of the ladies was my maternity leave, natural birthing and breastfeeding mentor of sorts.

You know, some people would have left the room to nurse their baby, or brought some expressed milk in a bottle but I was not going to do that.  The party was for me and I was going to stay and guess what?  Grant was done within about five minutes.

Before I left the building, I had to take care of my paperwork and say my goodbyes to a few people.  I stopped by some co-workers desks and chatted for a minute. They looked at the baby and said congrats on retirement.  Then I had to tell them about the National Geographic comment because of me nursing in the conference room. I was joking and laughing about it.

However, one of the guys, immediately switched his body language, tensing up, and turning his body away from me, no longer maintaining eye contact.  This is a guy that has a nursing baby at home, yet, just by me telling him what I had done, I had made him uncomfortable.  He didn’t look me in the eye for the rest of the conversation.

Maybe it wasn’t “appropriate” to nurse in the workplace, but my baby was hungry.  You may agree with the these guys and gals, or maybe you are disheartened like me, that breastfeeding is disgusting to them.

When I left the building, I got a little teary eyed for the way that I felt they treated me in those minutes I nursed my baby.  I saw how twisted our culture is about breastfeeding, how completely unacceptable it is to do in public for some people and how uncomfortable it made them and then me because they didn’t know what to do.  I would share this story with my husband, but I found out this past weekend that my nursing in public even makes him uncomfortable and I’m not a breast hanging out kind of nurser.

We were at a birthday party, sitting outside and Grant was hungry.  I started to nurse right there, completely covered and my husband asked if I wanted to go inside.  I said no, I wasn’t showing anything and no one cared.  Apparently he did.

So anyway, I’m retired.  I’m sure I will always be remembered at that girl who nursed her baby at her retirement party.  Maybe I should have had a nursing cover like one of my favorite cartoons…..


4 thoughts on “Breastfeeding in the Workplace

    Elizabeth said:
    August 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    I’m so sorry!!! I hate that our culture is so out of touch with reality. What is normal has become the abnormal and vs. vs. I’m proud of you for feeding your baby and not being ashamed! I know there are many who are ignorant of (where a baby comes from. lol.) how a baby eats. But things will never change unless we do them differently even when it’s awkward! Love you!

      lahancock responded:
      August 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      Thank you Elizabeth

    Laura said:
    August 17, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    What makes me the saddest about this is that it was supposedly a party for YOU. What’s wrong with people? I guess I’m just so far removed from normal that this stuff never ceases to shock me. Grow the hell up people. If that’s normal around here I am so glad to be a freak.

    Adele said:
    August 17, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Maybe we should all go sit in the lobby at TVA and nurse our babies!

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