An Infant, Breast-Feeding and a Wedding


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Christoph Niemann

My wife and I are invited to her cousin’s wedding six weeks after our baby is due. She plans to breast-feed at the festivities using a special dress and cape. (Neither breast nor baby shows.) But her mother and aunts are adamant that she use the bathroom. At 90 minutes a feeding, based on her experience, she would be there for hours. Same with pumping: She pumps for an hour every two hours. We will be flying cross-country with three small children for this wedding, and my wife doesn’t want to spend the day alone. May she breast-feed discreetly in public?

JOHN, WYOMING

I am never as happy as when I am holding a baby. So your wife is welcome to breast-feed at my wedding anytime. And as a legal matter, nearly every state protects your wife’s right to breast-feed in public, as long as she is otherwise entitled to be there. (It’s important that mothers know this for when restaurant managers or others ask them to take their hungry babies elsewhere.)

My concern: Are your mother-in-law and her posse the type to carp about the breast-feeding all day long? It would be a shame to contribute to an ugly drama at someone else’s wedding. Why not ask the bride and groom how they feel about your plan? Assuming they are cool with it, tell your mother-in-law that the bridal couple has signed off. If she doesn’t like it, she can lump it. (If the bride and groom also want to relegate your wife to the bathroom, who wants to go to their wedding anyway?)

Unsolicited advice: Why drag a tiny newborn (and siblings) across the country for a wedding? I am not a pediatrician, but babies’ immune systems take a few months to fully kick in. And I rarely make long flights unscathed by some respiratory aftermath. So, much as I encourage your wife to feed the baby as and where she is comfortable, I hope you aren’t flying cross-country just to prove the point.

Work in Progress

I am a recent college graduate, but I am working nights at a convenience store until something better comes along. I don’t usually see people I know, but a high school classmate seemed smugly surprised to see me at the cash register. I mumbled some excuse about travel plans falling through, but it sounded lame. How should I handle these embarrassing run-ins?

BRETT, GAITHERSBURG, MD.

Never be embarrassed about honest work. Do you think Brad Pitt is ashamed that he started out delivering refrigerators, or Kanye West is blushing that he folded sweaters at the Gap? We all begin somewhere.

Ignore smug looks. Life is generally long enough for all of us to have ups and downs. One of the marks of nice people is not being snooty about our ups (or superior about other people’s downs). If someone asks, “What are you doing here?,” you can say: “Working until something better comes along. Got any leads?”

Write What You Know

I participate in a writing workshop of eight people in the senior residence where I live. Our leader suggests a topic, and we read our essays at the next session. Some members are excellent writers and have even taught writing. But one member, who is 100 years old, always writes about the same thing, no matter what the assignment: his family. He is older than the rest of us, but he still has his faculties. Any advice for getting him to stay on topic or dissuading him from attending?

ANONYMOUS

Coloring inside the lines is overrated. I’ll take good writing over the assigned topic any day of the week. And I have yet to encounter the subject that can’t be explored through the prism of family. Perhaps one of your experts can help the centenarian shape his essays to be more responsive to the topics. Or if group discussion ensues, you could encourage him that way. But it would be unkind to dissuade a working writer from attending. No one liked Kafka’s work while he was living either.

Right of Passage

I was settling into my airplane seat when I said “Hi” to the passenger next to me. She remained stone-faced. Not the merest nod or acknowledgment of my existence for the entire flight, even when I passed her the tomato juice she ordered. Do I have the right to feel that she was rude?

TED, NEWTON, MASS.

“What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been,” as the Grateful Dead called their greatest hits album. You have the right to feel anything you like about your silent companion. Her behavior was out of the ordinary, for sure. A smile and “thanks” are customary when receiving glasses of orange juice. (And for me, it’s harder to ignore people than to say hello. The tension!)

But perhaps this woman is shy. Or maybe you looked like a talkative Ted to her, and she had just flown six hours with a nonstop, chatty stranger. (Call it the “Pandora’s box” defense.) I don’t recommend her behavior, but try not to take it personally. She doesn’t know how great you are.



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