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Breastfeeding In Public: To Cover or Not To Cover

As the mom of a 2 month old and a 4 year old two things are often true: 1) I am out in public and 2) the baby needs to eat. Since I’m breastfeeding, that means that I have lots of opportunities to nurse in public. The question then becomes, to cover up while nursing or not?

I’m a big fan of breastfeeding, anywhere and everywhere. I think nursing is natural and normal and a great way to get a baby fed. That being said, I’m not radical about it. I don’t see anything wrong with formula feeding and won’t judge a mom for doing that instead of nursing or in combination with nursing. I don’t like coercion of moms on either side of the feeding equation and I think everyone should lay off and just applaud the fact that we live in a time and a place where we have the technology to feed all babies. Yay for full bellies!

As a nursing mother, I know my comfort with breastfeeding exceeds other people’s comfort with the sight of nursing babies. You hear tales all the time about people who are so affected by the sight of nursing mothers that they say some pretty bizarre things about the appropriateness of breastfeeding in public or suggest that the mothers find another venue in which to nurse. I happen to know that in my state, breastfeeding is appropriate anywhere I’m lawfully permitted to be, so anyone who tried to get me to move would be referred to the Maryland legislature to lobby for a law change if that’s what they really wanted. (Here’s a handy list of state laws on breastfeeding for your reference) Generally, if I’m nursing in public, I’m doing it in a place where I can watch over my son and moving is not an option and anyone who doesn’t like it? Well, they just need to get over it or move away from me.

But the second part of the issue is what responsibility do I have regarding other people’s sensibilities regarding the sight of breasts. Is it up to me to throw a cover over my boobs and my baby to protect others from discomfort? Or is it the responsibility of others to remove themselves from the situation if my boobs disconcert them in any way?

For myself, I pick and choose when to cover up. One thing that will always have my pulling my nursing cover out is direct sunlight. I’m not down with sunburn on my breast or my baby’s head. But practical matters like that aside, I usually only cover up if I’m in an unfamiliar place among strangers.   I’m in the shade at my local park or pool, I know no one will bother me so I can feed my baby au natural.  It’s only when I’m not confident that everyone around me will be polite that I use a nursing cover. The cover is my gesture of appeasement to those who find something wrong with nursing in public. It’s not an admission that there’s anything wrong with breastfeeding or with breasts.

It would be nice if everyone could feed their baby however they want, wherever they want without worrying about being scolded about it. But until that days comes, nursing mothers have to make choices about when to cover up and when to fly their lactivist flag high.

Do you nurse in public? Do you cover up or not?

Read more from Rebekah at Mom-in-a-Million, The DC MomsThe Broad Side
Follow Rebekah on Facebook and Twitter too!

Photo credit: photo stock

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