I’ve breastfed six children over the last 14 years. I remember the first time I ever tried to breastfeed in public. I jammed myself into the corner of a McDonald’s restaurant, trying to keep my back turned while fumbling with a blanket and blushing profusely. I was so embarrassed to do something so natural. But I was also defiant. I was tired of leaning against a bathroom wall, balancing a hungry baby and trying not to make eye contact with the women washing their hands. My baby shouldn’t have to eat in the bathroom, I reasoned. So I took a stand that day and chose to breastfeed in public.
In the years that passed I became more skilled at how to position myself and my baby, artfully draping a blanket and suddenly becoming very interested in the ceiling to avoid anyone’s accusing stare. With baby number four I was blessed with a nursing cover. I love it! This apron-like cover has a stiff outer ring that allows me to look down at my baby while maintaining our privacy.
It’s so fun to peek down and see little eyes looking up. It’s like we’re sharing this stolen moment, alone with each other, in the middle of the chaos of the world. Little hands will often reach up from under the cover to play with mommy. It’s a fun game for us.
As I cruise through breastfeeding blogs, boards, and sites I keep coming across a challenge to all nursing mothers: we should breastfeed in public without covering up in order to normalize breastfeeding. The idea behind the challenge is the more people who see moms openly breastfeeding, the more normal and accepted it becomes. Breastfeeding rates will increase, people will be healthier, utopia achieved. All moms should do their part and proudly breastfeed without the need to cover up.
And there are times when I breastfeed in public without our cover.
When we are out in the open, at the park and other airy places, I often will nurse without a cover so my babies can have the benefit of fresh air and sunlight. As my twins are getting older they want to see more and more of the world and they’ll sometimes fight the cover, push it out of the way and take a look around. I always wear a tank top layered under a looser shirt to easily breastfeed without having to worry about my belly hanging out. I’ve had six kids, my body is not exactly picture perfect. Carefully selecting my outfit with some forethought helps keep me comfortable when breastfeeding uncovered in public.
I certainly don’t use a cover in my own home around my closest family and children. I want my daughters to be very familiar with breastfeeding. I want them to see all of the sweet moments spent cuddling babies.
My toddler is usually playing with my nursing cover anyway.
So why not breastfeed uncovered all the time?
Yes, I want breastfeeding to become accepted and celebrated. I adore my children, I want good things for them and breastfeeding them is one way to give them my very best. I want all mothers to experience the joy of feeding their babies with their own bodies.
But I also consider others around me.
If I am in public, in close quarters (like a restaurant, or church) I will use a nursing cover. There is no shame in this. I cover up for the sake of others around me and for my own personal comfort. It’s called being considerate.
What I am going to say might ruffle some feathers.
Staunchly calling all moms to defiantly bare themselves for the sake of the cause does not help to normalize breastfeeding. I’ve heard nursing covers referred to as “boobie burqas,” implying that using a cover is somehow a crime against women. Many moms will never be comfortable nursing in public without a cover. I know some mothers who are not comfortable even with the benefit of a cover and choose to breastfeed in a private room. I also have wonderful friends who are completely happy to nurse anywhere, anytime without feeling the need to use a cover.
All are great ways to feed their babies.
No mother should ever feel her way is wrong. If she wants to nurse without a cover, great. If she wants to nurse with a cover, great.
It’s another pointless battle in the Mommy Wars. Do you work? You’re a terrible mother. You stay home? What a sad example for young girls. Breastfeeding without a cover? Shameless. You decide to cover up? You’re helping to perpetuate the stigma of breastfeeding is dirty.
It’s all nonsense.
Motherhood is hard enough without the back-biting and drama caused by women with different opinions.
Feed your babies.
Use a cover if you’d like. It’s up to you, mom. Don’t second-guess yourself just because someone else does it differently.
Breastfeeding is beautiful, however you choose to do it.