Edmonton

Alberta hockey player 'empowered' by breastfeeding openly in locker room

A Grande Prairie hockey player wants other mothers to know they can openly breastfeed in front of anyone, anywhere, anytime — including in the dressing room.

'I think once we see more moms breastfeeding … it won't be this thing that needs to be covered up'

Serah Small breastfeeds her eight-week-old daughter Ellie during a hockey tournament on March 24. (Supplied/Serah Small)

A Grande Prairie hockey player wants other mothers to know they can openly breastfeed in front of anyone, anywhere, anytime — including in the dressing room.

Serah Small played her first tournament this weekend since giving birth to her daughter, Ellie, two months ago. Before hitting the ice, she pulled on her hockey pants, laced up her skates, and breastfed her daughter in front of her teammates.

She didn't bother covering up, and they didn't bat an eye.

"They were all really supportive of it," Small said. "We just continued getting ready. It wasn't a big deal, other than they thought she was so cute. So that was it, it was normal."

Small's mother snapped some photos of the moment and after a bit of hesitation, Small shared them online. She loves the photos and hopes they help break some stereotypes.

Small, 24, is a teacher and plays on the Grovedale Vipers women's team. She's played hockey since she was a toddler.

The sport wasn't always friendly to girls and women, she said. When she was about 13 years old, she was the only girl on a bantam boys hockey team.

She remembers wanting to cut off all her hair.

"The ponytail was pretty much a target for getting hit," she said. "Even the coaches were like, 'Whoever can take out the ponytail gets a Gatorade,' or whatever. Because girls didn't really play hockey like they do now.

"I'm so proud of where the sport [has] gone."

Small said her teammates didn't bat an eye. (Supplied/Serah Small)

'I felt really empowered'

Small was anxious to get back on the ice after a nine-month break. With her baby and mother in tow, she realized she forgot the charging cord for her breast pump, so she planned to breastfeed her during breaks in the game. Ellie ended up sleeping most of the time, she said.

Small said she tried once to cover Ellie while breastfeeding. The baby was born with tongue tie, a condition affecting the connecting skin under a baby's tongue, so she couldn't latch well, Small said.

Small couldn't see her and needed both of her hands, so she decided to just take the cover off.

"I felt really empowered and no one looked or cared," she said. "And I was like, 'Wow, why did I make such a big deal out of this?'"

I don't think breasts should be a sex symbol when their main job is to nurture our children.- Serah Small

Small said mothers should do whatever works best for them, especially if that means breastfeeding uncovered.

Mothers will be surprised at how empowering it feels to breastfeed uncovered, she said.

"I think that we feel like we need to cover because that's all we see. Even in the media if you see a baby being fed, it's through a bottle or it's a mother covering, or even baby dolls that we sell to kids, it's all bottles," Small said.

"I think once we see more moms breastfeeding … it won't be this thing that needs to be covered up. Ankles used to be covered up because they were too sexual. I don't think breasts should be a sex symbol when their main job is to nurture our children."

Small's team placed third in the tournament this weekend. Ellie will likely join her at the arena again next week for a ball hockey tournament, she said.

Eventually, she hopes to see her daughter on skates as well.

"I'm hoping right when she starts walking."