By: Coreen Ehlinger, Co-Creator of the Niche
My visions of what is now the Niche first came to me about seven years ago, while sitting on the floor of a Target bathroom.
There I was, breastfeeding my newborn daughter, when I found myself staring across the stalls at a diaper-changing station–trying to imagine some way I could crawl up and sit on it to better support us. Hunched over and aching, I desperately wanted relief. I desperately wanted some sort of alternative to the cold, hard floor. I desperately wanted this moment to be easier. But I couldn’t quite convince myself that occupying a diaper-changing station (or an open toilet for that matter) was any better. So I kept our seat on the floor.
For the record, my daughter was what the lactation consultants would call a “gourmet eater.” During the first few (long) months of her life, she required at least a one-hour feeding every two-to-three hours. It didn’t exactly leave time for much else.
Not to mention the fact that she was (and still is) my “spirited” child–much more interested in the world around her than in the food in front of her. As you could probably imagine, this made our away-from-home ventures quite challenging. And while I had anticipated these challenges long before even having a baby to breastfeed, I simply couldn’t settle. Getting the job done was going to require more peace, more quiet, and more liberation.
Six months in to my role as a breastfeeding mother, my husband’s beloved grandfather passed away. Anxious to join our family during this time of mourning, we packed up our car and began the 10-hour drive ahead of us. Along the way, however, we ran into a little car trouble (and by “car trouble,” I mean the car broke down and died–halfway to somewhere, in the middle of nowhere). Luckily, we found our way to a small airport nearby, where we were able to rent a car (and feed the gourmet eater in the process).
Small airport or not, I had assumed that my options for breastfeeding would be anything but limited. I was wrong. After walking the entire length of the windowed terminal (twice), I resigned to a row of small, interlocking seats. The entire world had a view, but at least I had found a quiet place to feed my child. Or so I thought.
I retrieved the awkwardly cumbersome nursing cover-up from my bag–the cover-up that seemed to either suffocate or distract my daughter–and we settled in . . . Within seconds, an alarm began blaring, and I realized I had parked us directly in front of a soon-to-be-flooded baggage claim area. I watched with frustration as the conveyer belt became surrounded by noisy travelers, buzzing about and quickly filling up all seats and standing areas around me. Sure enough, my spirited little gal began flailing her way out of the cover-up, anxious to remove anything that stood between her and such excitement (this girl loves a good party). My milk was now spraying everywhere, and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry… There we were–broke-down on our way to a funeral, and all I wanted to do was feed my baby.
This wasn’t the only time I struggled with breastfeeding in public. After my son was born, I faced the challenges of pumping upon returning to work–a job that required long and demanding shifts, leaving very little time for even my own proper nourishment.
As a mother AND a nurse, I understand (and can fully appreciate) the benefits that breast milk provides a child. But even still, I can admit there were many times I just wasn’t sure I could do it anymore. And I wasn’t the only one . . .
Over the years, my husband and I have watched our friends become mothers, and we’ve seen them experience the same struggles. Some had babies that were easily distracted. Others needed calm surroundings to be able to supply the breast milk necessary for their little ones. And some were just longing for a place to breastfeed that allowed their other children to wait safely.
Thus, the Niche was born.
It’s no surprise to me that 40 percent of mothers admit to breastfeeding in public as their greatest challenge. And it brings me so much joy knowing that this new concept has the great potential to impact that statistic in such a positive way.
The mission really is that simple.