Yeah, yeah, "Breast is best." Tell us something we don't know. Like, where can a motivated mom turn for help with sore nipples, a lazy latcher and other common troubles? What do you do when you're out in public and your infant is screaming for a milk fix? (At least he gets the "on demand" part.) Then there's the less acute but still nagging problem of finding a non-dowdy top, equipped with nursing flaps, to wear for a nice dinner out with your baby—and your infant.
Turns out, when it comes to nursing support, NYC is stacked. The health department recently expanded its efforts to encourage the practice, publishing an info-packed PDF pamphlet, The New York City Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding, and inviting moms to call 311 for instant access to the National Breastfeeding Helpline. Now that's what we call looking out for our girls! Below, an essential and nonjudgmental guide to nursing in the city.
"If it's so natural, how come it's so freakin' hard?" The challenges some women face with nursing can be one of the biggest shocks of new motherhood. Bring your tempest in a D-cup here:
La Leche League International
Most likely the only help available when your mom was nursing, the 50-year-old La Leche League remains the country's best-known breastfeeding advocacy group. The nonprofit was founded to encourage breastfeeding at a time when it was practiced in the U.S. by only 20 percent of mothers (blame the original Mad Men). Today the league has chapters around the world—and one in each of our city's five boroughs. Weekly meetings held in apartments and public spaces in many neighborhoods provide information and emotional encouragement. Topics range from "Advantages of Breastfeeding" to "Breastfeeding and Beyond: Solid Foods and Weaning." Volunteers staff a 24-hour phone line to help with urgent predicaments. 877-452-5324, lllusa.org
Founded as a resource center for moms-and dads-to-be, Real Birth also hosts many classes and workshops for new parents, including drop-in clinics led by certified lactation consultants: A deal at $20 a pop, it's the perfect solution for mothers who don't want to shell out big bucks for a private home visit. Friendly, focused seminars tackle "Breastfeeding Multiples" and "Breastfeeding Your Older Child," which advises moms on nursing kids into toddlerhood and beyond (for more on that, turn the page). While you're here, you can rent a hospital-grade pump, get a referral for a lactation consultant, and find out about classes held in other locations, including City Treehouse in Chelsea, Brooklyn Center for Yoga in Carroll Gardens, and Tribeca Pediatrics in Tribeca, Park Slope and Williamsburg. 715 Ninth Ave at 49th St (212-245-0796, realbirth.com)
Prenatal Yoga Center
Outstanding pre- and postnatal yoga classes are just the beginning of what you'll find at this popular UWS studio. In addition to workshops on infant massage, music for babies and hiring a nanny, the venue hosts an option for lactating moms: a Tuesday drop-in "Breastfeeding Support Group" ($15). Bring your problems or general questions to expert Andrea Syms-Brown, a certified lactation consultant with 20 years of experience. 251 W 72nd St between Broadway and West End Ave (212-362-2985, prenatalyogacenter.com)
92nd Street Y
Keeping it class-y, the Y includes a regular drop-in "Breastfeeding Support Group" ($20) in its rotation, where lactation consultant Heather Kelly invites moms to come by on Mondays with any issue at all. 1395 Lexington Ave at 92nd St (212-415-5500, 92y.org)
New York Lactation Consultant Association
A networking, referral and professional association, the NYLCA is a good place to start if you're too tired, sore and frustrated to head out to a workshop or support group. The organization's website features a list of contacts for international board certified lactation consultants serving this area. Initial consultations average $200 (sometimes, ordering in is worth any price). The site's FAQ section answers such head-scratchers as "Can women with swine flu breastfeed?" nylca.org
This excellent breastfeeding site—founded by Kelly Bonyata, a consultant in Florida, and recommended by NYC lactation experts —offers a convenient way to find answers to a wide range of nursing issues, from why babies go on nursing strikes and what moms can do about painful plugged ducts to whether breastfeeding and pot smoking mix (it's actually debatable!).
You've got the boobs and the baby—what more could a nursing mother possibly need? Read on, young naf...
My Brest Friend blow-up travel nursing pillow, $50; at Upper Breast Side
1 Upper Breast Side
The retail Big Mama catering to nursing moms is this tiny, tidy, superstocked shop, opened in 1999 by the no-nonsense Felina Rakowski-Gallagher. The unmarked entrance and automatic sliding door lend it a speakeasy vibe, and women are bound to feel a bit intoxicated by all the specialized products, from the nipple creams and nursing covers to creative milk-storage containers and a vast array of My Brest Friend nursing pillows, including blow-up ones for travel. In the formal inner sanctum of the clothing and lingerie department, you cannot shop without being assigned your own fitter. Don't be put off. The seriously knowledgeable staff, outstanding assortment of Anita nursing bras, and cool nursing tops, dresses and pajamas by Japanese Weekend and Boob make it worthwhile. The store also offers pumps for rent or sale, along with a consultation at the "milk bar" on the proper use of your model (who has the time to page through an instruction booklet?). Thoughtful touches include a bassinet where your baby can snooze while you're trying things on, and a Dutailier rocker for a relaxed nursing break. 135 W 70th St between Columbus Ave and Broadway, suite 1L (212-873-2653, upperbreastside.com)
Mayreau's chic cowl-neck nursing dress, $106; at Yummy Mummy
2 Yummy Mummy
The newest all-nursing outlet in town is an airy storefront boutique on the Upper East Side, where owner Amanda Cole grew up and currently resides. The mother of a one-year-old, the former marketer says she struggled with nursing difficulties for her daughter's first two months. She attended support groups at the 92nd Street Y but had a vision of a complete breastfeeding emporium on her side of the park. Voil: YM sells and rents pumps; stocks supplies like Double Blessings nursing pillows for twins, hands-free pump holders and expression cups (for when you're nursing on one side and the other side leaks); offers a fabulous selection of nursing tops and dresses by Milkstars, Mayreau and Japanese Weekend; and hosts classes. A breastfeeding support group meets on Wednesdays, with other classes—from prenatal yoga to infant CPR—sprinkled throughout the week. Can't make it uptown? Visit the shop's newly launched online store, where you can order fashions and extra pump parts from the comfort of your nursing rocker. 1201 Lexington Ave between 81st and 82nd Sts (212-879-8669, yummymummystore.com)
Bravado Body Silk seamless nursing bra, $50; at Boing Boing
3 Boing Boing and boing!
"At your cervix since 1996" boasts the website for Park Slope's Boing Boing, a homey maternity/nursing/baby store and learning center that owner Karen Paperno opened after she couldn't find help with her own breastfeeding challenges. "There was nothing around at that time," she recalls. "I didn't know what a lactation consultant or breast pump was. I wanted a place where you could find out everything." Today the business outfits Brooklyn moms with pumps, nursing pillows and pads, and hands-free pumping bras and tops by hard-to-find brands like Ta-Ta for Now and Momzelle, plus it stocks a great selection of baby carriers, kids' clothes and toys. Paperno, now a certified lactation counselor, is frequently on hand to answer your burning questions, and also leads new-mom groups in the "nursing sanctuary" of the Seventh Avenue location, opened in 2008. *Boing Boing, 204 Sixth Ave at Union St, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-398-0251, boingboingmaternity.com); *boing!, 461 Seventh Ave at 16th St, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-840-5880)
Bb au Lait nursing cover, $35; at Metro Minis
4 Metro Minis
Known to attachment-parenting fans as the place to buy any sort of carrier for your infant, this storefront is also equipped with various mammary goodies—including coveted Glamourmom tanks with built-in nursing bras and colorful Bb au Lait nursing covers for mothers who are particularly self-conscious about public feedings. Most of the baby carriers here—from the Ergo to the Kangaroo Korner pouch—were designed with breastfeeding in mind: A close fit makes nursing both easier and more discreet. 821 Park Ave at 75th St (212-313-9600, metrominis.com)
Majamas sexy nursing PJs; $70, at Belly Dance
5 Belly Dance Maternity
We have good reason for sending you back into a maternity shop: Belly Dance's generous selection of nursing wear, which includes adorable tops from uncommon brands like Olian and Mayreau, plus nursing covers from Bb au Lait and an impressive range of lingerie and sleepwear from Majamas, Glamourmom and Belabumbum. 548 Hudson St between Charles and Perry Sts (212-645-3640, bellydancematernity.com)
Need to make a nursing pit stop but don't know where to go? If you're not near one of the aforementioned breast-friendly bizzes, here are some good options in a pinch.
By the by, in New York City, it is a woman's legal right to breastfeed in any public or private place she likes. However, many of us are too darn modest to let our baby dive in just anywhere.
In addition to being handy when you need a bathroom break, the caffeine vendor is also a cushy place to grab a seat for giving baby his own fix. Amid "customers" on laptops using the venue as free office space, who's going to notice a little suckling? Bonus: baby-changing stations in every bathroom. Score!
Time Warner Center
Make a beeline for the wide, tucked-away bench on the second floor, just outside Eileen Fisher. It's a favorite gathering place for nannies to feed or rock their tiny charges. Just ask the gang to make room for you.
Your infant is shrieking, and it's cold outside. Do you (a) stick a pinkie in your howler's mouth, (b) hail a cab and whip out your nip for $5 per mile, or (c) head into a fitting room at the nearest department store, Gap or—why not?—chichi boutique? While any of the above would work perfectly well, (c) sounds the best to us by far.
Once spring weather hits, remember this so-obvious-you'll-miss-it option. Where else will you find fresh air, benches and moms who get it?
Public open spaces
The city planning department maintains a record of covered plazas and building atriums with seating and drinking fountains, rated by comfort and amenities. Access its map at nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/priv/mndist47.shtml.
Where do you go to nurse while out and about? E-mail the info to email@example.com.
On the DL
Illustration by Jesse Kuhn
Parents who practice "extended breastfeeding" insist it's no big thing. But even in hippie-chic NYC, most moms keep mum.
Still letting your three-year-old belly up at bedtime? You're not alone: More New York City moms than you might guess choose to nurse their kids right through the toddler years. Just don't expect to see much public evidence of it.
"Even if they are still doing it, they're not flaunting it," notes Ayelet Kaznelson, a certified lactation consultant who runs breastfeeding clinics and classes at Real Birth. "That's because, in our culture, breasts are seen as sexual. So people think it's a little perverted. But it's really just a matter of providing food and comfort and a lot of other things."
"I want him to feel secure in life," says Cathy Finlay, an Upper West Side yoga instructor who still nurses her nearly four-year-old son on demand. "Sometimes, if he hasn't seen me in a while, he looks at me and says, 'Milk.' I think it's mostly an emotional thing. But I take my cues from him."
Finlay doesn't hide her extended breastfeeding, and she gets her share of grief about it. "My sisters are like, 'You're crazy,'" she admits. "And some of my yoga students are uncomfortable. They say, 'You should really rethink what's going on.' Plus I get funny looks from people because he's so big; he looks like he's five."
Sally Gottesman, also on the Upper West Side, breastfeeds her three-year-old daughter, Alice, "in the morning, in the evening and whenever she asks during the day." She says she hasn't gotten any negative reactions, though she realizes it's not the norm. Still, she adds, "I have no set time for how long we'll go on with it. But I feel like it's so convenient, why would I stop? It's also the most calming thing for her."
Leigh Anne O'Connor is a certified lactation consultant who has appeared on the daytime medical show The Doctors nursing her four-year-old son and discussing the health and emotional benefits of extended breastfeeding. O'Connor also runs the monthly La Leche League meeting "Breastfeeding Your Older Child" at the 14th Street Y. She says that about a dozen moms turn up each month to discuss anything from other people's judgments to their own inner conflicts about weaning.
While extended breastfeeding is largely invisible, cultural pressure is not wholly to blame. Older kids nurse less often than babies, notes O'Connor, and usually at comfort-needing moments, like bedtime. "When you're nursing an older child, it's not out on the playground," she says. "That's one of the reasons it seems hidden."
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding at least through a child's first year, though the average American mom nurses for three months. The World Health Organization recommends nursing for two years or more, and the world average for breastfeeding is four years.
"When I tell my classes that it's been four years, people are, like, gasping!" says Kaznelson, laughing. "Either way," she adds, "it's an individual and private decision."