Stories about breastfeeding in public often involve criticism, shame and other negative reactions. But a North Carolina mom was pleasantly surprised when her public nursing experience led to a positive affirmation.
Becky Wetherington needed to breastfeed her 3-month-old son Dylan during dinner at an Outback Steakhouse on March 19. After she finished nursing, a stranger approached and shared kind words that left the mom feeling truly empowered.
"Dylan got hungry at Outback tonight," she began her post. "Other than struggling to nurse once in an empty restaurant when he was only 3 weeks old, the situation hadn't really presented itself since then."
Though she was incredibly nervous, Wetherington said she was able to feed her son and felt very comfortable about the situation.
"Later, a lady came over to our table and put her hand on my shoulder to ask me if I'd been nursing my baby, and told me what a beautiful thing it was that I was doing -- how good it was, and that I had a beautiful family," the mom continued. "I managed to not get emotional (just barely) but I was so touched."
Wetherington felt this stranger's words offered a glimmer of hope. "I hear so many stories of mothers getting nasty looks or harassed or insulted or asked to leave when nursing in public," she wrote, concluding her post, "How lucky am I for my first interaction to be such a positive one? The next time the situation arises, I think I'll feel empowered instead of paranoid."
The new mom told The Huffington Post that she decided to share her story to inspire other parents. "Breastfeeding has been such a sensitive topic lately, for women on both sides of the fence," she said. "I wanted to share a story that any mom could read, no matter how they feed their child, and feel encouraged in knowing they’re making the right choices."
When it comes to moms who do breastfeed, Wetherington emphasized the importance of allowing them to feel comfortable and accepted in public.
"Ultimately, the only thing that matters, your only responsibility, is to the child in your arms," she said. "If you’re comfortable, the child can feel at ease as well. If you don’t feel safe, confident and empowered nursing your child wherever you are, whenever you like, you’re not really free -- instead, you’re bound by judgment and stigma. And that’s just unacceptable."
Because breastfeeding wasn't common in her family, Wetherington said she felt nervous about nursing her son for the first time, but after overcoming some minor hurdles, she's had a positive experience, which she attributes in part to the support of her loving husband Todd. The interaction at Outback Steakhouse made her feel even better about feeding her baby.
"I was so moved when the woman approached me and offered me encouragement," the mom told HuffPost, adding, "In my mind, I had successfully breastfed without being 'caught' -- almost like I had been doing something wrong that I was trying to hide. She made me feel like I never should have felt nervous to begin with. I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of our dinner."
Such a sweet story.