The question of whether or not to cover up whilst nursing in public is a very personal one. Nursing in public seems to be the #1 anxiety amongst expectant mums – will they be able to do it ‘discreetly’? Will people stare? Or worse, will they make rude comments?
So nervous we are about feeding our babies in public, that many a mum has made the decision to only feed expressed breast milk from a bottle in public. This is to blame for many nursing relationships failing, because it interferes with the supply and demand of nursing (especially in those all-important early weeks).
I have never been worried about feeding my children in public. If Squish is hungry, I feed him. And it was the same way with Monkey. Thankfully, we live in a town in which breastfeeding is common, and is generally accepted as normal and natural. Some people I know have had derogatory comments aimed in their direction but I have never experienced anything but positive feedback, even while nursing my 20 month old on the bus.
What got me thinking about this topic in more detail was something that happened the other day – we took Monkey to his eye test appointment, and when we arrived I settled down in the waiting room to feed Squish whilst we were waiting to be called in. Immediately, the very pleasant reception staff came over and asked me if I was happy to feed there, or did I want to sit in a private room. I assured her that I would feed anywhere and didn’t mind, and that was the end of that.
This got me to thinking about how breastfeeding is still seen as something to be ashamed of. The reception lady didn’t mean anything by it; she was simply being polite and friendly, and thought that she would let me know that I could have privacy whilst nursing if I wanted it. But I wonder, are the kind and friendly faces who offer us a private room in which to nurse actually unknowingly helping to perpetuate the idea that breastfeeding should be hidden away? In a society that constantly touts the benefits of breastfeeding, and in which some women feel immense pressure to breastfeed and subsequently feel judged if they choose not to, why is doing it in public even an issue? Breastfeeding is awesome and brilliant, so why are we all so ashamed?
Half of the time, nobody can even tell if you are feeding your baby in public. People have this idea that women will want to strip everything off in order to nurse. Sure, there are some exhibitionists out there but the majority of nursing mums will simply pop out the part that needs to be out (which will then shortly be covered by the baby’s head!). There are plenty of nursing covers on the market but I personally feel that they add to the problem. Some would argue that they simply cater to a need, but I disagree. By having these covers for sale and advertising them as a must-have to feed ‘discreetly’ (ugh I hate that word), it’s sending out a very clear message that women should be ashamed of the perfectly normal and natural function of their breasts.
What do you think? Do you cover up when nursing in public?