Public breastfeeding may now be legal in all 50 states, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped strangers from asking women to “cover up” who are just trying to feed their babies.
The truth is, covering up is not always as simple as it sounds. Good thing there are breastfeeding heroes like mom of three Melanie Dudley, who recently gave a brilliant response to a man who approached the table where she was nursing and asked her to cover up: She spontaneously put the nursing cover completely over her head and continued.
Carol Lockwood, a friend of a friend, later shared Dudley’s image with her permission on Facebook.
“A friend’s daughter-in-law was told to ‘cover up’ while feeding her baby, so she did!” Lockwood wrote in the caption. “I’ve never met her, but I think she’s AWESOME!!! … P.S.: To reduce speculation: It was a man who asked her to cover up, it was 90 degrees and extremely humid, and, no, she wasn’t in a Muslim country disrespecting traditions.”
Awesome indeed! The Internet seems to agree, as the post quickly went viral with 64K reactions and over 199K shares.
Dudley tells Babble that she hadn’t been looking to make a statement that day — at least, not at first. She had actually been “covering up” her 4-month old baby while nursing prior to this encounter, but that day, she was worried her baby was getting too hot. The family was vacationing in Cabo San Lucas and eating at a hotel restaurant on the beach.
Dudley says it was 90-95 degrees outside and very humid.
“I usually cover when nursing in public because I’m usually pretty shy about this,” she explains to Babble. “I began to nurse my baby with a cover on and it was getting extremely hot. I decided to take the nursing cover off and thought, ‘I’m on vacation, I don’t know anybody here, and my back is towards the restaurant.’”
The thing is, the conditions shouldn’t matter, but the fact that it was hot outside makes the comment to “cover up” even more offensive.
Dudley admits that she was stunned by the request.
“Usually, I’m not one to be left without words, but as I’m nursing my baby … to hear the ‘cover up’ comments you’re in a vulnerable position, holding your baby who’s sleeping at this point,” she says. “I told my husband to pass me the nursing cover … I just wanted to make a statement without saying a word and just draped it over my head.”
Good for her!
There was a time, before having kids of my own, when I wondered what all the fuss about “covering up” was for. It never bothered me if a woman chose not to, but I also didn’t understand why they wouldn’t just do it to avoid all the drama.
Then, I actually experienced breastfeeding in public for myself. I was shocked at how difficult it really is to “cover up.” All the maneuvering I had to do was awkward and my babies hated it. They wouldn’t want to latch on and would usually pull the cover down with a death grip. Even if I got them to attach and eat (which was rare), I was always worried about them overheating, as their little heads would get so sweaty.
Being shy like Dudley, I would usually nurse in my car or even (much to my shame now) a public restroom. Oh how I wish I could have had the gumption to feed my babies out in the open without shame! My babies didn’t deserve to have to take their meals in a bathroom stall, and there is nothing wrong with public breastfeeding.
Dudley says that all of the attention that she is receiving over this incident is “a bit overwhelming” but that she is doesn’t regret standing up for her right to feed her baby as she chooses.
“I am glad that it’s bringing awareness and hopefully shines a positive light and support to nursing mothers everywhere,” she tells Babble.
Ultimately it’s about choice: A mother should be able to choose how and when she feeds her baby in this country and around the world, for that matter (considering this happened in Mexico). She should never be shamed for her decisions. If a person finds breastfeeding out in the open offensive, they can simply avert their gaze or walk away. It’s really not that difficult.