05 July 2011

Nursing In Public ~ To Cover or Not To Cover

Probably one of the first and most intense arguments Jake and I really had was over a Facebook poll asking something to the effect of: Do you think that women should be required by law to cover up when breastfeeding? The poll was very poorly worded in the first place and our different interpretation of the question was what initiated the fight. Experience on both sides played into it and yes, I threw a "Well, next time you nurse the baby if that's the way you feel about it!" in there somewhere among all the tears and the rage about feeling misunderstood. I use a cover when I'm out in public; for goodness sake, I make and sell them. I think they're great! I don't use it to hide what I'm doing, mine right now is blue flames print, I'm trying to bring attention to the fact that I'm nursing.
I've used it to keep Jaron focused when he's in the "hey what's that?"- while rotating 180 degrees and trying to take me with him - mood, the cover keeps out distractions and it makes it easier to nurse him to sleep if he can't see what else is going on. I've used it as a changing pad, as a blanket, to cover him from the rain and to block out the sun. When I first designed my cover I added extra length, so I can tuck it under his body and he can't throw it off when he wants to see what goes with that noise he just heard (trying to get him to sleep, remember?) It's been a lifesaver in another way too. I'm rather...umm, blessed...in the milk making factory area. It's typically a very involved process to uncover and then recover everything no matter what I wear, the whole "one-handed" nursing clasp doesn't work that way for me. This wouldn't be a huge issue, except that I not only have to nurse in public (NIP) on occasion, but I have to supervise and control a strong-willed, independent, and determined 2 y/o boy at the same time. Jumping up to keep him from escaping the mall play area would have been more than a little awkward and definitely more time consuming if I had to mess with my shirt or worry about what Jaron was doing or (not)covering while I ran for him, backwards cape to the rescue! No one had and idea what may or may not have been hanging out or doing the mommy flop as I firmly escorted my escape artist back within the confines of kids zone. I have NIP uncovered before and it doesn't bother me, I'm discreet and I don't think anyone knew besides my family that knew the baby needed to eat. No biggie, it's just not the most comfortable way of doing things for me all things considered. I will also use the cover when I'm around people who I know are uncomfortable or nervous about seeing something they don't want to see. Prime example: my brother. He knows it's natural, he wants his future wife to breastfeed, but he doesn't want to see his sister's goods. I love him and I respect that so I use the cover...most of the time. He's coming around, he used to leave the room even if I had the cover on! The other day he walked in the door and gave me a hug while I was nursing covered. We're getting to the point where one day I'll ditch the cover and he won't even notice. I can tell that by respecting his views and comfort level I am making a positive and lasting change to his thoughts about NIP. Jake comes from a different experience. First I'll say that he is 100% fully supportive of breastfeeding and he's supportive of breastfeeding in public. His mom did, I do, his sister probably will. But he was subjected (and yes, in this instance it was meant to offend, so I feel subjected is an appropriate word) to a certain type of nursing mom not only once but twice, two different women completely unrelated to each other. The type that give the rest of us a bad name. The type that "whipped it out" not just to feed their baby, but also looked you in the eye with the expression that they want you to say something. The ones who are trying to pick a fight. So going back to our fight, I saw the word "law" and firmly believe that no government agency should tell me how to feed my baby. If I forget my cover at home what happens? Is "public" sitting in my car in a parking lot? How far would that go? Jake read it more along the lines of "Should women be required by law to be discreet in how they nurse their babies." I wholeheartedly agree with being discreet, in fact, most state breastfeeding laws incorporate some form of "with as much discretion as possible." I've come to believe that there are 4 basic types of nursing moms. Some do what they do because they feel that they have no choice or no support to do otherwise, others do what they do because it feels right. The first type is the mom who never nurses her baby in public. She'll rework her schedule to be home, nurse in the car or the bathroom, or pump a bottle. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn't help normalize breastfeeding in today's culture in the USA. I think many first time moms start out this way, some may keep the same practices and others may change their style as they get more comfortable with themselves, their babies, and nursing in general. The second is probably the category I most closely fall into. Nursing with a cover, blanket, or shawl. For the various reasons I stated at the beginning of the post, for me it has less to do with privacy and more to do with practicality. For others, they may simply need or want the privacy. I have friends who are just naturally private and modest people, we never could share dressing rooms and they always go into the bathroom to change their clothes, I don't see that part of their personality changing just because they had a baby. I know others that feel that nursing is an intimate bonding experience every session and don't want to share that with the world. The third type can easily NIP without a cover and with discretion. You might notice what they are doing if you do a double take, but for the most part they just feed their babies and keep going without drawing any extra attention. Any extra skin being shown is accidental as part of the process and it quickly disappears. A favorite blogger of mine wrote this post about her move from type 2 to type 3. I am so proud for her and think it's great that she can do that! The fourth is the type that Jake had experience with. The mom who goes looking for a fight, who, when nursing isn't focused on her baby or on the people she's with, but on trying to get attention and deliberately get reactions. There is no subtlety or just nursing. It's a statement, a loud statement that tries to declare war in their environment and on a whole group or people who didn't even know they were anywhere near the vicinity of hostile territory. This by no means is meant to cram every nursing mom into a box, at any point in time a mom can be one or another or have aspects of multiple types. These are just the most obvious delineations that I've noticed. So. To cover or not to cover? That's up to you. What are you comfortable with? What are those around you comfortable with. While it's easy to say "They can just get over it!" How do you respond when someone says that to you with that kind of attitude? Things aren't going to change overnight, but change isn't impossible either. Maybe if we took the type of system I use with my brother and used something similar on culture as a whole we'd get there a lot quicker and friendlier than just trying to set all of America on it's ear. But then again, we're American, being loud and obnoxious is what we're known for.... What's your opinion on covering or not covering? If you do, why do you? If you don't, how did you decide that that was right for you? If you're not a nursing mom, what do you think when you see a non-covered mom nursing as opposed to a covered mom? Follow me on Facebook or Twitter so you don't miss out on any of the Milk Bubbles that just might make your day that much more special!

18 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts :) I always try to be as discreet as possible when nursing in public. This is my fourth nursling, and the first I've used a cover for. It makes my husband more comfortable, and I can tell there are some others that are more comfortable as well. Although to me, its honestly draws much more attention to the fact that I'm nursing than I did when I wasn't using a cover.

    I do want to point out that while I think there are moms who show a bit of skin while nursing to try to pick fights and start a war, I don't think they are the majority by any means. I really feel that most moms who nurse while showing more skin than I am comfortable showing are not declaring war. They are just feeding their babies and see nothing wrong with what they are doing. Just feeding their babies the way God intended, and why is that a big deal? I may not personally do that, but I can't agree with the sentiment that most of them are just being adversarial.

    Just my humble thoughts :)

    Melissa
    www.sistersncloth.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. I definitely agree with you, I think that the 4th type that I mentioned are very few in number, though they do exist. I probably should have added another grouping for the moms who aren't trying to start a fight but do tend to show more skin than most others would feel comfortable seeing.

    Thanks for pointing that out!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am probably MOST comfortable nursing at home without a cover, but with Lucy there were definitely times that we were out in public that she needed to nurse and I always just used a cover. It made me more comfortable, honestly, like I wasn't worried every second that someone would see something I didn't want them to. It made it easy to un-do and re-do latches if something wasn't working, and I could make myself comfortable again without rushing. She never seemed to mind it and I never honestly noticed a second glance. I think nursing covers are so popular now that people might even think you're using them to get the baby to sleep or to shade them from the sun, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Personally, I feel that by covering up while NIP you're showing consideration for others. You're never going to win people over to your point of view by shocking or repulsing them. I also always covered up if a guy other than my husband was in the room. That way I didn't have to worry about anyone feeling uncomfortable. To me nursing uncovered in public isn't making a point, it's simply being rude.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "To me nursing uncovered in public isn't making a point, it's simply being rude."

    Sorry, can't agree with you there.

    Melissa

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am the covering type. At home I do not cover, but in public or at someones house, I do it (1)out of respect for others, (2) so I can continue to be around and do the things I want to do, and (3)to be able to watch my other kids at the same time. With my first I used to be more of type 1 that you descibed above, but quickly moved to type 2 as I did not want to live the rest of my breastfeeding life in a bathroom stall or planning time frames of when I could or could not go out. It was a really easy move with the aide of my nursing cover!

    ReplyDelete
  7. "To me nursing uncovered in public isn't making a point, it's simply being rude."

    Sorry, can't agree with you there.

    Melissa

    ReplyDelete
  8. I just wrote a post about NIP for World Breastfeeding Week.  My son HATES covers and I own a bunch of them (they are such cute accessories!) yet they go mostly to waste unless I want everyone to see my nipples as he unlatches to sit up and flail about.  Here is my post: http://www.startribune.com/local/yourvoices/126749898.html

    ReplyDelete
  9. I like your categorizations of nursing moms.  I think I have finally fallen into a type 3...I'm comfortable nursing in public, I don't need to have a cover up or blanket to do so, but I'm certainly not looking to pick any fights!  LOL.  Great post...just stopping by from the Breastfeeding Blog Hop.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Believe it or not, I think I was always more uncomfortable about NIP than the people around me. I WANTED to be #4, but I usually ended up being a mix of 2 and 3. And sometimes #1, when I was by myself and my car was nearby :P I wanted to be an advocate, I wanted people to know I was nursing, but I found that if I was aware of my surroundings it was a lot harder for me to get comfortable!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I started out as a #2 momma and ended  up changing into a #1 nursing momma. I regret it now. My son HATED being under a cover. He would scream and refuse to latch. That's really why we went to bottles of expressed milk for outings because I was too afraid of offending someone by being too exposed. That worked well for us for a long time. However, one day out of the blue, my son refused to nurse. I know he just got used to bottles and found them easier. I tried for 2 months to get him back to the breast with no luck. I've since continued pumping and now at 8 months he still hasn't had a bottle of formula.
     For others to say that it's rude to not cover up, is just really unfair. My nursing relationship was ruined for fear of people like that. It won't happen with my next baby. I will be a #3, no question about it. 

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think that's why I made my cover as eye catching as I could (and still keep with my style), I want to advocate, but the point is for my baby to eat, not to fuss and stress because I'm stressed and uncomfortable!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I've had to NIP without my cover a couple times recently, I did it, but I don't think I could do it all the time. Bottom line is, cover or not, baby needs to eat when baby needs to eat, if I'm so stressed or uncomfortable because I'm uncovered that he can't eat then I'm uncovered for the wrong reasons. So glad there are people like you!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I tried, but not too hard, to cover up when I had to nurse in public. I didn't own a nursing cover or use a blanket when I nursed.  I did try to be discreet in restaurants, like sitting in the corner, use  a carrier, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I am also rather blessed in the milk-factory region, but my baby hates being covered, and I don't really care what other people have to say. I feel like I'm somewhere between 3 and 4, honestly. I live in a very..um...uneducated area of Indiana, and often  receive hateful comments from people when no skin is exposed , so I have to be quick on the draw!  I really am discreet, but my 7 month old is a whopping 22lbs and 28inches, so it looks like I'm BFing a normal sized toddler. She is also wiggle. On the other hand, old ladies who come up to touch my baby (she has a ton of hair) tend to FREAK THE HELL OUT when they realize what is going on, but at least they are nice about it usually.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...