Guest Author - Nicki Heskin
Breastfeeding mothers are sometimes nervous about attending weddings or funerals with a nursing baby. Sure, taking a nursing baby out to any occasion can have unique issues (see my article on Celebrating Special Occasions While Breastfeeding in related links below), but weddings and funerals are times of heightened emotions so they add special challenges.
I've nursed at weddings (several) and funerals (one) and never encountered too much trouble. Truth be told, people may make faces or grumble, but most don't have the nerve to actually say anything to you. At a funeral, a family member came over and told me he was going to "have to ask me to stop doing that here, ok" to which I just replied "no, it's not ok.. babies need to eat when they need to eat." He really didn't know what to say, so he just gave up and walked away.
The thing that's important to find out about the wedding or funeral is if children are welcomed at all. People generally understand that children can be disruptive and can make an event less than "perfect." If a bride, or the family member of a the deceased, is going to be disturbed by every noise, or with looking around and seeing everything the way they imagine or expect it should be, nursing is the least of your troubles.
It would be a mistake to try and get someone to make an exception to a no-child rule because you are nursing and otherwise can't come there will just be resentment, especially if your child is at all disruptive. It is probably also a mistake to leave your child if you are not able to do so (if the child is still a newborn, or not taking a bottle) or just not ready to do so. If you are not able to focus on the proceedings because your thoughts are elsewhere than your presence is of no service to you or anyone.
If the event is one that you have a "right" to attend (like the funeral of a parent), then assert your rights to the decision about child attendance as you would about anything else, and understand that you may have to just deal with any ill feelings. If the wedding is one you really *need* to attend or are getting pressure to attend, like that of a sibling, then you have time to make your case, and get the bride and groom or any family members to come around to the idea that you and your nursling are a package deal. Let them talk to others who have welcomed children at weddings about the experience and see what happens. Ultimately, let it be their decision about which is more important to them you or no children, and be prepared to accept their decision.
Whatever happens, understand that nursing during a wedding or funeral is in no way "disrespectful" to anyone involved. Would it be disrespectful for an elderly relative in a wheelchair to need special assistance or accommodation? Babies are what they are
they can't be held responsible for knowing they are at a solemn occasion, and neither can you. Actually, nursing may be the most responsible and respectful way to handle a baby during a formal ceremony they stay content and quiet and leave you free to focus on what is occurring.
For those who have decided to attend a wedding or funeral with a nursing baby, here are a couple practical tips:
Wardrobe is Key It can be tricky to find wedding or funeral attire that can even give you access to your breasts to nurse, before you even deal with issues of what that access looks like. If you can get away with a skirt and separate top, that is your best bet. If it must be a dress, like for a fancy wedding, something with a flexible enough top to pull down, and then a cardigan, bolero jacket or wrap for cover is your best bet. Normally, I couldnt care less who sees what when I'm nursing in public, but at an occasion like this, it's best to at least make the effort.
Know the Schedule If at all possible, find out what sort of timeline you are facing. Is the ceremony long or short? Do you have a role if so when will it be? At a wedding, you may want to try to wait to nurse until after the procession so you don't have to rise for the bride with baby at the breast. Similarly, you might want to anticipate any funeral prayers or sections that will involve standing or kneeling or walking so that you can do your best to time nursing around them.
Choose Your Seat and Be Prepared to Step Out Sit near the back, ideally on an outer aisle with access to a door. The inner aisle at a wedding will draw you more notice as everyone will be looking towards it. If nursing isn't "working" be prepared to step out and do it quickly. You can take a second or two to see if putting your child to the breast or calming them can work, but no one should be missing vows or eulogies because you are talking to the baby. Be fair to others at the event, and never risk angering a bride (even those who understand and even welcome some disruption aren't going to appreciate it if it gets out of control).
Choosing to attend a wedding or funeral with a breastfeeding baby is a decision that will affect your experience as well as others (for others, not so much the breastfeeding itself, as the issues that surround a young child in attendance). Your baby's needs aren't going to change simply because you or others would find it more convenient, so take your decision to attend seriously and just do your best to keep focused on the occasion at hand.