The One About Breastfeeding

Of course I would be in public, surrounded by elementary school children no less. My husband was coaching a 5th grade boy’s basketball tournament and I was there to support him. Then my daughter got hungry – in public, of all places. Trying to hush her cries I cast an eye around, debating on how to proceed. I decided to go for it. While unsnapping my nursing top, my grandmother – who was in town for a visit – spoke up. “Aren’t you going to use your cover?” 

To cover or not to cover? That is the great breastfeeding question. I want to be clear that I don’t begrudge my grandmother for asking me to cover up. Not at all! I understand her position and compiled without fuss or a fight. It’s just that I feel a mix of emotions about the whole ordeal.

In my mind there’s nothing discreet or subtle about draping a tablecloth-size of printed fabric across your body while wrestling a ten-pound baby with the appetite of a barracuda underneath. “Nope, nothing to see here.” Reality screams otherwise. Oddly enough, I feel embarrassed when I use a nursing cover. I think I look ashamed to be attending to my child. Not to mention that nursing covers, no matter how whimsically they are named, are perhaps one of the dorkiest accessories ever invented other than Crocs, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  

For starters, when breastfeeding became so taboo? When did we get so squeamish over a mother nurturing her child? When did it become generally accepted for breasts to fulfill an ornamental role and not a practical one? Can’t they be sometimes one and sometimes the other? I don’t have answers to these questions, and I can’t say I’m even looking for them. I just wonder. I wondered that at the 5th grade boy’s basketball tournament while sporting my very own ‘Udder Cover’ – not a ‘Hooter Hider’ thank you very much – and feeling weird about the whole thing. And then I came up with some answers.

Here’s where I hang my hat when it comes to breastfeeding:

  • Moms should feel free to feed their children however they choose and wherever they choose.* Do you prefer to bottle feed? Do it. Do you prefer someone else to bottle feed? Let them. Do you prefer to breastfeed? Please do. Do you prefer to breastfeed uncovered? More power to you. Do you need a quiet, calm, and secluded place to feed your baby? Find it. Can you feed your little one in the middle of a crowded mall without batting an eye? Rock it. We – you, me, everyone – should support moms in whichever way they choose to nurture their little ones. *Within bounds of reason and safety, of course. Please, don’t try to breastfeed your child on top of construction scaffolding just because you can.
  • Women who prefer to be uncovered while breastfeeding should be understanding of those who want to cover up. Though I’m in the camp that advocates for moms to nurse freely and uncovered, I’m not militant. I think moms who do prefer a bit more modesty when breastfeeding shouldn’t feel badgered to unveil themselves in the name of liberation.
  • Women who prefer to be covered while breastfeeding  should be understanding of those who don’t want to cover up. Alternatively,  some women feel completely liberated while using a clever nursing shawl – others don’t. If you prefer to cover up, then you should. But if the mom next to you doesn’t feel compelled to follow suit, you two can still be mommy buddies.
  • Breastfeeding isn’t a battle, an exhibition, or an embarrassment. For breastfeeding to take on any sort of normalcy across the boards, I firmly believe that all sides must play nicely. If I were feeding Carson in public and was asked to cover up or move locations, I would. I wouldn’t be a fan of the request, but I would do it as a courtesy to the person asking. That’s just common courtesy. To bring about change, I don’t think causing a scene is necessary – but quietly, calmly going about your business is. Moms shouldn’t experience inner turmoil every time their baby cries for food in public spaces. Don’t fight, be obnoxious, or ashamed about it. Just mother your child as you see fit. If you get interrupted, graciously deal with the interruption – just like you already graciously deal with all the little interruptions in your mommy day. Mom, feed your child. And maybe one day no one will bat an eye at however you choose to do that.

Mothering is hard work, and figuring out breastfeeding is just part of the mountain of responsibilities. I imagine this post will get some interaction; I really do want to hear from you! I just ask that we keep all conversation civil. I hope one day we will find ourselves sitting next to each other swapping stories and feeding our babies – with a breast, bottle, or whatever they come up with next.

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