A few days ago I received a nice email from Evie Ballesteros of Mommy's Little Monkey, a nursing cover online boutique, encouraging me in my blog endevor and vowing to become a reader. Thanks Evie! So, after visiting her site, I started thinking about covering up while breastfeeding. There is also a discussion going on at the Motheringdotcommune forms about it. I am not sure how I feel about it. I do not have a specific nursing cover. I do, however have nursing clothes (just a few, and most were bought with baby #1) and tend to wear them on days when I know I will be out and about alot or in situations that could have people that could be "offended" by seeing the slightest flash of nipple such as (ashamedly) church. On days that I have "covered", I have used a sling (ring sling usually tail or in the sling) or receiving blanket. Most of the time I just kind-of hunch over my baby, make sure he's turned in, ready to go, unhook my bra, bunch my shirt around me and just do my best to get a good latch the first time. Sometimes I might just cover right at my baby's mouth with a burp cloth or put a blanket over my belly (because that is what shows more than anything) and by nature of where the baby is, the baby.
So, I am thinking out-loud here. Feel free to join me in the comments section. When I wear nursing clothes that are obvious nursing clothes I feel weird. I feel like I am anouncing to the world, "At some point I will be breastfeeding. I don't want you to see anything, so I am wearing special clothes so that you won't see, so make sure you aren't looking when I start, since I made the effort to wear special clothes". On the other hand, my nursing clothes that are more subtle, that look like clothes I would wear anyway or my extra large shirts that I wear and nurse in, don't make me feel like I am making a statement or like such a nursing leper.
I have never used a cover specifically for nursing, but my impression of covering with a blanket or special cover is this: you are announcing to the world, "I am nursing a baby right now." For what other reason do women wear blankets on their shoulders? No one just wears blankets on their shoulders. Bottle feeding mothers do not cover their babies during their feedings. No one serves solids under a blanket or changes a diaper under there. So we know it is the act of breastfeeding going on under the blanket. So what does that say? Breastfeeding is so private and intimate it can only be done when mother and baby are alone or in their own home? Breastfeeding should be covered because it is not appropriate around other people? If breastfeeding is so natural, normal and encouraged by medicine, science and common sense, why does it happen under cover? No one practices other healthy nutrition habits like eating fruits and veggies, under a covering. I also wonder what message it sends to my children, who will one day be parents. Does it tell them, even if I don't cover at home, just in public that this is something that other people shouldn't see? With all the competing pressure out there, I want my children, especially my daughter to know that breastfeeding is THE WAY we feed our babies.
On Bebe au Lait for instance, they say "neither your style or modesty is compromised". Is your modesty compromised without being draped from the waist up? Cover up Clips are clips for making any blanket into a nursing cover. They promise "breastfeeding privacy" while the Busy Baby Nursing Wrap promises "nursing confidence". The issues of blankets being pulled of by babies, feeding in bathrooms or modesty are listed as reasons to buy a nursing cover. I am just not sure what all this means. All of these products were born out of mothers own needs or desires to make nursing in pulic easier. My worry is that maybe we are going in the wrong direction. Maybe moms shouldn't feel like they need to cover up. I have to admit, I have had a few embarassing moments nursing in public (NIP). Oddly enough, because people did NOT think I was breastfeeding, they come up to me and my baby and start talking or touch the baby's head or look closely at the baby. When they realize what the baby is doing, THEY, the adult get's embarrassed. That is not my responsibility. It can however lead to an interesting discussion or sheepish comments. For that reason, and not my own embarrassment, I do sometimes cover, as if to flash a sign, "I am nursing, right now. If that makes you uncomfortable or you are afraid of seeing nipples, please for your own safety, stay away.". It usually works. My biggest problem is that when I do try to cover, it is often too hot for me or baby or both and I can't see well enough to get everthing right so it takes longer and more exposure than it would have otherwise.
Well, I am conflicted. I am not sure where I stand. Maybe it just comes down to whatever makes the mother happy and secure. Heck, if it means more moms will nurse and nurse longer and wherever they go, then it's good. If it means that the standard or acceptable way to nurse in public is to cover, I will have a problem with that. No one should ever feel like nursing their baby is something to be hidden, no matter how much breast is showing. And no mother, anywhere should ever, you hear me, ever feel like she has to go to a bathroom stall to feed her baby. The thought makes me sick and angry. This is a Western culture issue, not a morality issue. As a culture we are uncomfortable with the thought of lips on a breast, even if it is a baby getting food from his mother and that is the heart of the problem. If breastfeeding ever becomes the cultural norm in Western culture, I don't think nursing covers will be around at all, at least not in the plethora of options there are today.
I must say, that there are many cute styles and fabrics available now. They are stylish, even funky and may make a mom feel more chic. I don't begrudge them or mom's using them, I just question the thinking behind them and wonder what it says about our society. But, I have to admit, like slings, there are many cute and sassy nursing covers on the market that have become the "it" item for the modern mom's diaper bag. Maybe this is a trendiness issue, too.
I have to admit, I would try a Busy Baby Nursing Wrap or Under Wraps Nursing Poncho just because I like wraps/shawls/ponchos and have tried nursing in them but both my wraps have tassels which end up in the baby's mouth while nursing, yuck. It would be interesting to see if there was a difference in the function and fit of a shawl designed just for nursing moms.
Here are some of the other nursing cover sites I visited in my research: Covered in Love, the QT Wrap, Sasha B. Designs and the Milk Mumu.
So, feel free to leave a comment and let me know your thoughts on the subject. Do you own a special nursing cover? Have you used one? Would you? What do you think when you see a mom using one? What does covering up mean? Should we all do it or is it just a matter of personal choice and doesn't mean a whole lot?
As the Coffee Talk ladies said, "Discuss!"