On (In)Discrete Public NursingPosted: May 26, 2015
Often parents have ideas about how they will rear their children before having a baby, only to completely change their minds once they are actually rearing their children. I had many ideas about how motherhood would look for me prior to getting pregnant with Babykins that actual experience is changing. Nursing in public is one of them.
Before I started nursing, I was firmly in the “Public Nursing is Just Fine as Long as the Mother Covers Up” camp. Oh, how enlightened I was by embracing breastfeeding while accounting for socially acceptable behavior. After all, breastfed babies should be able to eat anywhere that bottle fed babies can, but a woman must maintain her modesty. Nursing covers seemed to be the perfect solution. How hard could it be to nurse a tiny baby under a big blanket?
*Insert maniacal laughter from experienced nursing mothers*
First off, breastfeeding may be natural, but it does not come naturally to most mother/baby pairs. When a baby is first born, he or she needs help properly latching onto the breast so they can get milk and not injure the mother. In order to help the baby, the mother needs to be able to see her breast. Covers, even the ones with boning that allow you to see the baby, make this task almost impossible.
In a couple of months, the baby will be able to latch on without any help and will have better head control. So then a mother should be able to cover without any problems, right?
Sure, except that around 3 or 4 months old, the baby will become more aware of his or her surroundings. That means every unusual sound MUST be investigated and that pesky cover is just an annoying hindrance that MUST be escaped.
So what options are left for a mother if she cannot nurse with a cover and cultural norms demands that she keeps her chest covered? She must find a private place to nurse. Sometimes a changing room can be used, although it is cramped. Sometimes secluding herself in a car will work, but it can be hot and uncomfortable. And sometimes it comes down to trying to find a quite–but not private–place to wrestle with her nursling and the cover. There seems to be no good solutions as long as she cannot simply nurse her baby uncovered.*
I’m no longer firmly in the “Public Nursing is Just Fine as Long as the Mother Covers Up” camp. I personally still prefer to either find a private place to nurse Babykins or battle the nursing cover. However, if a nursing mother prefers not to cover up while nursing in public, she’ll hear no complaints from me! I understand now that she’s just trying to feed her baby.
*You might be wondering why bother with public nursing when you can just give the baby a bottle. There are a whole slew of reasons: pumping is annoying, some babies won’t take a bottle (*cough* Babykins *cough*), and the fact that babies get hungry unexpectedly are just a few reasons.