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>Breastfeeding in public – not worth making a fuss about?

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There has been a little bit of a storm on Twitter recently after a so called celebrity suggested that whilst breastfeeding was natural, it was only natural if done with a cover up.

Now I’m not sure what kind of cover up she had in mind (a burka, a tent, a bin bag), not least because I think that the much marketed breastfeeding covers actually make it more obvious that you are nursing in public than doing without.  To me they shout – hey people, under this brightly coloured cover I have my boobs out!

In general I reckon that just carrying on quietly, discretely means that most people don’t realise what you’re up to.  A fact that was made apparent at my sister’s wedding (when Babygirl was 6 days old and feeding continually) when my Mum suggested I stop cuddling the baby and let someone else have her….

In fact the only time I’ve ever had any strange looks have been when my husband has bellowed ‘do you mind if she breastfeeds?’ rather than just letting me get on with it in the background.

Checking with friends everyone was of the view that if it came down to a screaming baby they would rather that the baby was fed and that they could always look away, or walk away, or just ignore what was going on.

The first time I nursed in public was on a crowded commuter train home – it came down to a simple decision, let the baby continue to scream for food or nurse.  And to find a way to discretely nurse.

Over time I’ve perfected what I’ve worn but its always been a variant of what I had on then.

  • A nursing bra
  • Over that a light vest top that gets pulled down and makes sure my tummy is covered (M&S do fabulous ones with tummy sucky-in panels that are nice and long so they don’t roll up)
  • Another vest or tshirt over that which gets pulled up and covers my boob
  • A cardigan, shirt, shawl that can then be drapped over any remaining bits that might be visible

In fact having tried it in a mirror, I reckon you can see next to nothing once the baby is nursing and you can’t see a great deal whilst she’s getting on and off either.

The other great way to nurse in public is in a sling – I’ve found it really easy to wiggle Babygirl down whilst she’s in my favourite Connecta and to get her latched on.  The greatest benefit is that it gives you hands free nursing – in fact my Twitter avatar is taken whilst Babygirl had a feed whilst we were walking on Epsom Downs.  Only thing is to be careful to cover up the top bit – especially if you’re on the short side like me!

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This week is National Breastfeeding Awareness Week.

The  main  aim  of the this week is to raise  awareness of the health benefits of breastfeeding, increase  social  acceptance  of  breastfeeding  and  promote  support  for  breastfeeding.

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16 comments to >Breastfeeding in public – not worth making a fuss about?

  • London City Mum

    >Am all in favour of the 'discreet' approach.

    It is the 'boobs on display, watch me get them out in public' attitude that gets to me, as if really trying to make a point.

    Maybe I am just a prude.

    LCM x

  • T-J Hughes

    >I was very much a 'just get on with it' without any fuss sort of girl. I didn't bother with any covers, and tended to use blankets/clothing if needed.
    My family were horrified, and have to say I was as well, when my sister in law chose to get her breast out in public in a very public display…
    Yes there are loads of things out there that can help, but a good nursing bra and the clothes you wear are the most important things. At the end of the day you have to be comfortable, if you're not, your milk won't 'let down'. Happy to advise on bras or tops if anyone really has no idea what to look for.

  • Livi

    >I don't see any problem with nursing in public, it's far more discrete than the women who walk around with skirts up to their bum, exposing all sorts! No one ever complains about that!

  • Emma

    >Discreet, under a sling, a little bit showing, whatever is easiest.
    I do feel slightly uncomfortable when I see people breast feed but I have no idea why and it's my problem not theirs…and I would never dream if saying anything!
    Think I'm maybe just a bit jealous as I didn't manage to do it with my little one!

  • Paula

    >It sounds like we had the same breastfeeding attire – I was always more concerned about people getting an eyeful of my stretch marks that fainting at the sight of a nipple or two! I really don't see the issue, nor why it prevails – everywhere we go we are assailed with images of near nakedness, and yet people claim to be offended by the sight of a breastfeeding mother? Ridiculous…

  • HoaxCaller

    >I couldn't care if a woman removed her teeshirt to feed her baby if it was distressed or hungry in the middle of a crowd. I'm sick of people having an opinion on covering up. It's the most natural basic act of survival and I think its bizarre that people have issues. Yes I try to cover up when feeding and it is barely noticeable during the feed but its the preparation bit when I'm undoing bra straps and lifting tops when I end up flashing. Over a period of 10 years with four children I have once been asked to stop feeding and once been asked if I wanted to move somewhere more private. The first occasion, I told him it was tough, my baby was hungry and he was a waiter in posh bar restaurant,luckily, baby's godfather was the manager and intervened and the 2nd time, I told the health visitor I was haapy feeding my baby in the GPs waiting room after her jabs and didn't feel the need to hide away. I feel quite militant about it to be honest. If someone objects, I will offer to hand over a screaming child for them to deal with or just wap out a tit :)

    Once I got locked out of my car with a 5 day old whilst wearing the most ridiculous summer dress unsuitable for feeding. I had no option while waiting for the AA to rip the dress strap unleash a breast and sit on the pavement feeding my baby.

    If anyone had complained I would have probably had the biggest hormonal rant!

  • hazel

    >When C was small, I preferred to cover up my flab, so used the vest top approach. I'd rather not offend other people, but tbh feeding my child was my priority so if it came to it, they could lump it.

    As C got older it became less discreet because she was usually intent on pushing covers away. These days she rarely feeds in the daytime (she's nearly 2.5) but if she does I have to feed over the top of my normal bra and clothing, because I don't wear a nursing bra any more. It's rarely in public and if it is I do try to find a way to cover up but again, largely because I don't want people staring at my horrendous flab!

  • clareybabble

    >What a great post. I always just got on with it with my 2. I managed to lift up my top, get them latched on and feed without showing much of anything. Most times people would be talking to me and suddenly realise I was breastfeeding and start to apologise. Not once did anyone say they were offended, luckily!

    Much like you, my sister got married just after Baby B was born and I fed her non stop at the reception. Apparently the owner asked my Mum if I wanted to go somewhere more discreet but didn't complain when I said I was comfortable feeding in the hall.

    I must admit though, there were some women at the local breastfeeding cafe who got their whole boob out unnecessarily and it was a bit off putting when trying to have a conversation with them!

    It is natural though and it's a shame that society tells mums it's best to cover up. Breastfeeding is hard enough already.

  • Musings of a Mother

    >I personally never felt very comfortable doing it in public – I did it a few times but felt so self-conscious each time. I tried using a blanket to cover Little L but from 3 months of age she would just pull it off.
    I am full of admiration for women who aren't shy about breastfeeding in public, I think it's great to see. I do hope when I have a second child that I will be more confident about doing it and not give a toss what people think x

  • cartside

    >Is this a cultural thing? I never ever understood the fuss about covering up, and I don't think anyone in Germany would even think about it. But then again we also don't worry about going topless to the local lake. I considered covering up only because a good friend of mine took offence. I stopped because I couldn't get it right and it was drawing more attention than just nursing. I did actually refuse to do it discreetly too. I'm not put in the background if people come to visit me and my baby.

    My daughter nursed a lot (sometimes a total of 10 hours a day) – even trying to be culturally sensitive to some people taking offence I couldn't be bothered in the end.

  • Mrs C

    >As a new mum to a twelve day old I read all this with fascination.

    I am breastfeeding, but have to admit that I have not yet tried doing so in public, mainly as I haven't been out enough to yet have the need to do so. I'm not so worried about flashing a boob at someone – my biggest worry is that I seem to be producing so much milk that I fear spraying anyone sat opposite me and needing to have a spare top for myself afterwards as I leak so much!

    Lots of practice before going out at feeding time I think…

  • Babies who brunch

    >there's nothing wrong with discrete but there's everything wrong with feeling you have to nurse under a burqua. in my opinion. that said, post 12 months and i avoided b/f in public. guess i'm a hypocrite.

  • HoaxCaller

    >In response to Mrs C with her 12 day old baby RE: leaking milk.

    It's a nightmare, even with breast pads. It always happens at the worst time too. I stood up in MIL and FIL's house after visiting for an hour to realise that I had two massive wet patches on my top.

    Just a warning for you, take a spare top when visiting Mothercare because if you are leaky, hearing other people's babies crying while trying to shop, will just send you over the edge!

  • Mwa

    >I do the vest-down, T-shirt up thing, too. Not even the last cardie or something, and I don't think much is visible at all. If someone does see something, they're staring and trying to see something – then don't come complaining to me.

    I do admit to feeling uncomfortable the time someone just pulled her strappy dress down at a wedding to breastfeed, at a centre table, with her whole boob exposed. But I don't think that was just me.

  • Mwa

    >Oh and I hate it when people assume I will go hide out somewhere, because it's just a natural thing to do and I'm not willing to miss out on too much. I will sometimes sit to the side with women rather than close to a lot of men.

  • Laura

    >An interesting post and a really interesting set of comments!

    I was a feed anywhere type and definitely found feeding whilst slinging to be a saviour. To begin with, I had a long thin scarf that I took everywhere with me which allowed me to remain discrete but after a few weeks that got ditched too. My brother was the main one who commented that in all the times he saw me feed he never once felt uncomfortable as I always managed to do it without revealing anything. Unlike his friends girlfriend who lifted her entire top up to her neck and her bra (non-nursing) down in front of all of their friends. That was pretty clearly a show for everyone elses benefit but again, OTT BFing is better than no BFing in my book if that was the choice she was facing.

    (and thanks for the link!) x

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