Well Being

Nursing in Public: To Cover or Not to Cover

By  | 

Welcome to the discussion of Nursing in Public for the June Carnival of Breastfeeding! If you are new here and/or have not yet joined the Facebook group I created in support of the Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009, please consider doing so!

Lots of carnival participants have shared their own stories and advice about nursing in public (see links at the end of this post), but first I would like to discuss the issue of whether women should or should not cover themselves with a nursing cover while breastfeeding in public. At first it might seem like a non-issue. I think most breastfeeding advocates would agree that women should not be told that they must cover themselves while nursing, but if a mother feels more comfortable using a cover, then she should use one — whatever it takes to allow her to feed her baby. To each her own, right? Well, maybe not.

Bebe Au Lait Nursing Cover

Bebe Au Lait Nursing Cover

I have posted instructions for sewing your own Hooter Hider-style nursing cover and have had several women say how much they appreciate it. However, I once had a breastfeeding advocate tell me that she was not inclined to post a pattern for a nursing cover because she believed it sent the wrong message to new mothers; that they might feel they had to cover up and had to breastfeed in as discreet a manner as possible.

So in the corner of Reasons to Cover:

~ It can make a woman comfortable nursing in public when she might not otherwise.
~ A cover can help an easily distracted baby settle to the task at hand (er, at breast).
~ The cover actually draws attention to the act of breastfeeding and might encourage other women to nurse in public if they see a way that they too would be comfortable nursing in public.

In the corner of Reasons Not to Cover:

~ Some babies refuse to be covered.
~ Without the “right” type of cover, some women have a difficult time seeing the baby and getting a proper latch.
~ A cover potentially can be hot and uncomfortable for mother and baby.
~ As I said, a nursing cover often draws attention to the act of breastfeeding — something a woman using a cover might actually have been trying to avoid!
~ Feeding without a nursing cover helps normalize breastfeeding.
~ Showing women that breastfeeding in public can be done without a cover might empower other women to do the same.
~ A cover might diminish a baby's communication with the mother and his or her experience with the world, if only for those feedings in public.

In the end I do not think a breastfeeding mother is under any obligation to refrain from using a cover because it might send the wrong message. Just as the woman who does not use a cover is not “whipping out” her breast to make a point, the woman who does use a cover is not doing so to send a message that all breastfeeding women should cover themselves. A nursing mother's only obligation is to her baby. Period.

What do you think? Do you use a cover and if so, why? Did you make a choice not to use a cover, and if so, why? Have your feelings changed as you have become more comfortable nursing in public? Leave a comment!

Other Carnival Participants (stay tuned for more links being added below through Monday, June 22 — this is a huge carnival!)

Lucy & Ethel Have a Baby: Nursing In Public (Boobs) Out and Proud
PhD in Parenting: Would You, Could You Nurse in Public?
Dirty Diaper Laundry: Breastfeeding in Public Talent – I Haz It
Kim through the Looking Glass: Here? At the Restaurant?
GrudgeMom: Nursing in a Room Full of People You Know
MumUnplugged: Aww, Is He Sleeping?
Massachusetts Friends of Midwives: Nursing in Public: Chinatown, the Subway, the Vatican, and More
Mother Mary's Soapbox: Breastfeeding My Newborn in Public
Tiny Grass: Nursing in Public as an Immigrant
Mommy News and Views: Tips for Nursing in Public
Blacktating: Thank You for Nursing in Public
Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog: Get Kicked off a Bus for Nursing in Public? Here's How to Respond
Mama Knows Breast: Products That Can Help You Breastfeed in Public
BreastfeedingMums: Nursing in Public: What's a Breastfeeding Mother to Do
Stork Stories: Little Old Men & Nursing in Public
Chronicles of a Nursing Mom: Why Worry about NIP?
Warm Hearts Happy Family: Breastfeeding and the Summertime
Musings on Mamahood: NIP, no tuck
babyREADY: A Wee NIP in the Park
Tales of Life with a Girl on the Go: Plains, Trains and Automobiles, We've Breastfed in Them All
Breastfeeding Moms Unite: Nursing in Public, A Fresh Perspective on Nurse-ins
Never a Dull Moment: A NIP Product Alternative: Breastfeeding Hats versus Traditional Nursing Covers
Hobo Mama: Easy, Discreet Way to Nurse a Toddler in Public