08 January 2012

The Nursing Conservative

Lately there has been a loud rumble across media (television – internet) over breastfeeding in public. I have not posted any of those links or attended a Target [shudder] “nurse-in,”but that doesn’t mean I’m not a strong advocate for breastfeeding.

While some women might think gathering in a large group to nurse en mass is a great idea, I disagree. It turns breastfeeding into a spectacle, and if the point is to encourage more moms to breastfeed I don’t think that’s the right approach. Conservative mothers will run for cans of formula if you’re suggesting that breastfeeding is a bold feminist statement and they need to become the next poster-mom for the cause. It will, however, draw out other radical breastfeeders.

What’s wrong with using a cover or tucking yourself away? Breasts were made to produce milk, but c’mon ladies – we all know they’re more than that. Put a cover on, adjust your jacket, turn to the side – I’m not saying you must use a public restroom but sometimes that’s not a bad idea. I alwas feed my son before leaving the house.

I have photographs of me breastfeeding my son but I don’t post them. Why would I? It’s a private moment within our family and he will thank me once he’s in junior high and kids are LOL’ing over old baby pictures that can be dug up online thanks to the mommy-blog fad. Will my son even want to hear about it? I find that unlikely. I have yet to hear a man brag, I was breastfed! They don’t want to think about it. They want to focus on their wife’s breasts and when the time comes for her to feed their child he will see her in a new, beautiful light.

I’m very grateful for the higher awareness that ‘breast is best’ (or at least better) and for all the lactation consultants and forums to discuss breastfeeding. My son spent two months in NICU and was nipple confused so I relied heavily on those resources. I exclusively pumped for four months which was hard and stressful. Now I openly write about my experience and encourage other preemie moms when they need it. These resources have nothing to do with breastfeeding in public and the message those mothers hope to send.

I don’t see anything wrong with a Target employee offering some privacy to a mother and her hungry baby; I would appreciate that. Organizing herds of lactivists (as breastfeeding activists call themselves) to plow through Target’s automatic doors won’t send the message they’re hoping for. It’s just a spectacle begging to be forwarded around and mocked – except, of course, by other lactivists.

I want pregnant women to know there are avid breastfeeders who use covers and value privacy. You can choose to feed your baby the way nature intended without making a public roar. It’s natural, so just do it and get the job done.

Please, ladies, remember that discreet isn’t a bad word.


  1. I disagree with you a little bit here. I always used a cover (although I rarely nurse in public anymore), but that's my personal choice. I also support that women should be able to nurse without a cover if they need to. Some babies won't nurse with a cover. I actually don't think Z will nurse with a cover anymore. We've just managed to avoid having to nurse in public for several months. I'm not sure what I'd do if I tried to nurse him and he pulled the cover off of his head. Continue to nurse him, I guess.

    From my perspective, I think it's important to support women who want to breastfeed any way that they want. Even if I'm not as radical or lactivist as they are, I still support their choices. While I don't think I'd ever participate in a nurse in, I support what they're trying to do. I look at it as the same sort of sensationalist things that happen during a gay pride parade. Sort of a, "Oh, this makes you uncomfortable? Well, let me THROW IT IN YOUR FACE until you're comfortable with it." (As for the gay price parade, I'm referring to some of the REALLY crazy stuff that happens). Would I do it? No, but I understand why women do. By throwing it in people's faces, they're trying to shock people into becoming comfortable with it. While I don't know if it works that way, I support these women's attempts.

    I guess what I'm saying is, while I try to be discrete, I support other women who aren't.

  2. My point in writing this is that in every single breastfeeding group that I'm on most women are loud, bossy, rude, and/or crass about how others should bf. It's repulsive to women like me. If I didn't have a more radical background and was thinking about bf'ing my baby and reached out to one of these groups I wouldn't find anyone relatable. I would start seeing bf'ing as more of a political statement/cause.

    It's as though those resources are directed towards only those with the same agenda. Which is a shame. During this whole hoopla I didn't hear anyone say, so?? and I don't think it's because nobody disagrees. It's just easier not to say anything than to stir the pot. I wish there were neutral organizations because that's how more women will return to bf'ing.

    If T pulls off his cover when we're in public he's done. Those are my rules and he knows them.

  3. If I'm available, then we are bf'ing, whether in public or in private. The only time that I pump and E uses a bottle is when I am not available. I use a cover, although with her getting bigger, it's getting harder (since she likes to pull it off, down, play with it, etc). I've fed her in a public park, in a public bathroom, and in our car in a parking lot. It's not always convenient, but I am a strong advocate of breastfeeding. Not only for the physical benefits for my baby, but also for the emotional bonding it facilitates. That emotional bonding is very important to me and I would exploit that bonding time between me and my baby.

    One of my good friends lives in Germany and they are very open with breastfeeding in public without a cover. She is from the US and could never get comfortable with it, so she always used a cover in public. The difference I see here is that overseas, bf'ing in public is to feed the baby, not to make a political statement.

  4. Well, I think it's how she was shoed into the dressing room, and not offered...I don't think hoards of lactivists would be nursing in at Target if they said, "Would you be more comfortable nursing in one of our dressing rooms?" I mean, once, with Patrick, I grabbed something to "try on" at Old Navy, JUST to use their dressing room..I'm a much different person now...I wouldn't hesitate to just go in and say that I need to nurse my baby...

    I don't use a cover, but I don't advertise...I'm very discreet, you know that...covers don't work for grabby babies ;)

    For the record, I'll never nurse in a bathroom. It's never a good option...it's dirty and germ filled, and just gross...I cringe when I have to take Patrick to the bathroom and make him play Simon Says so we can touch as little as humanly possible in there...there are a hundred gazillion places better than a bathroom...

    Did you know that every Motherhood store welcomes nursing moms to just use their dressing rooms to nurse? Thought you'd like that ;) Also, most department stores have lounges near their bathrooms...with cush chairs, and they are usually hidden well..but alas, the second time around...I'll nurse wherever and whenever...but I won't advertise it...

  5. Hear hear!!! I am terribly uncomfortable with flashing the world while feeding my babies. My boobs are pretty big so it's hard to nurse without a cover and still be discreet, and even then it's usually easier to just go somewhere private. I HATE it when other, more radical BFing moms make me feel inadequate for preferring to do it that way. I nurse to feed my babies, not to make a statement. It doesn't make me less of a BFing mom!

  6. I'm pretty sure it was just her word against theirs - and everyone just rushed to her side without considering that she took it the wrong way. I've seen that when people are really passionate about discrimination they are often looking for a challenge and by that creating something out of nothing (or little to nothing). I only nursed T in a restroom once. It was at a Starbucks right after Christmas and I didn't touch a thing. Motherhood rocks, I know they have restrooms from when I was pg ;)

  7. I would have loved to have used a cover. Or at least not to flash half the room. But nursing P. was such a dicey proposition because of her weak preemie latch (and she wasn't killer with a bottle, either) which meant that I fed where I could, however I could. If someone saw, well, I was just grateful she had actually latched on and was holding steady!

    With Bo, who's got a much tighter hold (ow) I am a lot more modest. I have a lovely scarf I usually have around that's soft and light and perfect for making a little tent if the need arises.

    I fall in the 'folks should get over it' camp, but mostly because I don't know someone's situation. Maybe they're having a tough time even getting a latch, and trying to manage a cover at the same time is just too much. I know it was for me!

  8. Thanks for your two cents, lady. I wrote that at the height of rah rah shove it in people's faces hype and I feel strongly that it turns some women off. I get that flashes happen but I also understand when people say they don't want to see it. It's a private moment...and maybe that's my own reaction to latch issues. I really don't know what the big deal is about nursing in a restroom. People get heated over that but I must be a bathroom ninja because it's like nursing in air. I BW so that helps for sure!


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