I won’t eat in a bathroom and my child won’t either

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Yesterday we went to our Bradley class reunion where we got to meet 10 other babies that were born to parents all seeking natural births. I figured that if any crowd would get my sometimes crunchy ways, it would be this one. While I only saw two babies being bottle fed, the other moms used covers to shield their nursing.

Nothing is wrong with using a cover, and when I am out and about, I use one too, but in the comfort of someone’s living room, using a cover is the last thing I would do.

Covers are annoying, ugly and make nursing more difficult. It’s a challenge getting baby to latch on when a bulky piece of fabric is floating around. It gets hot under a cover and I know Atticus nurses better when he can see me.

While I thought nothing of my nursing sans cover, Kevin brought it up when we got home. He mentioned that some of the other moms said “I could never do that” and “I’m not comfortable.” He also referenced my nursing as “whipping it out.” that term irks me. I’m feeding a child not, not flashing a crowd at Mardi Gras. I also highly doubt anyone got a full view of my breast, Atticus covers the majority of it and if you are staring that long, you were probably seeking that .2 second of boob.

So what makes these mothers so uncomfortable with nursing their child in front of a room full of natural birthing women so uncomfortable? I know when I am out and about with friends that do not have children I do ask if they mind if I nurse at a table. I know that it can make people uneasy (I honestly don’t care in the event my son is screaming for food though), but I have yet to have someone flinch at the question.

Part of my reason for nursing is to provide my son the best food I can give him, and the other part is to keep the practice of nursing alive. We live in such a Puritanical society that wants us to provide the best for our children, but chastises us for using our breasts for something other than a sexual accessory.

I breastfeed without a cover to silently encourage other women to do the same. If we all did this, there would no longer be anything to be uncomfortable about.

My question to you is what do you feel comfortable with? Does seeing another woman breastfeed make you more comfortable with feeding in public too?

About the author

Xza
Xza Louise Higgins is the founder of MommyCon, creator of The Mommy Dialogues, and punk rock mom to two year old Atticus in the great city of Chicago, IL. She is incredibly passionate about birth options, human rights, and promoting gentle parenting practices.

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  1. Kasey -  February 12, 2012 - 11:11 am

    I breastfeed in public all the time without a cover (N won’t let me use one and dh encourages me to not feel uncomfortable about it). As he says, there’s nothing wrong with feeding your baby. Seeing other moms BIP makes me happy. If more women breastfed in public sans cover, it would become the norm (as it is in many foreign countries). I hate how Americans have sexualized the breast so much that it makes many women uncomfortable to breastfeed. Whether you breastfeed with or without a cover or bottle feed your baby, you should be proud of your choice and be able to do it anywhere.

  2. Tiffany -  February 12, 2012 - 11:50 am

    Hey Xza! It’s Audrey’s momma. I have never nursed in public bc believe it or not, I’ve never been in that situation. I don’t leave the house often and I feel more comfortable nursing in my car versus nursing in an aisle in target. At church I stay in the nursing mothers room because she can’t handle the loud music. Having said that, if I needed to nurse her at a restaurant or another public place I would still use a cover. I’m pretty modest and uncomfortable with drawing attention to myself since Audrey has always been a fussy nurser and I would die if someone saw my bare boob! Mostly men bc there are always creeps lurking around and I sure as heck am not giving them a free show. I also don’t like when young boys 9-13 (even family) watch me nurse. I always use a cover around them bc they seem to glance more than I would like. Now this is what I’m comfortable with but by no means do I think all women should cover up. I think every woman should do what makes her comfortable and if I see a nursing mom without a cover I always wish I had the guts and confidence to do it myself!

  3. Tiffany -  February 12, 2012 - 12:08 pm

    I should add the reason men and or young boys stare is bc they weren’t taught that bfeeding is the most natural thing and best thing for your child. They aren’t exposed to it enough versus being exposed to cleavage and breasts being used as a sexual object. I know I am in a way contributing to this bc I stay covered up but I need to do what is most comfortable for me and Audrey doesn’t seem to mind being covered. It actually keeps her nosy self more focused on eating and less distracted by what is going on around her.

  4. Tiffany -  February 12, 2012 - 12:14 pm

    My first response didn’t show. I’ll retype it.

  5. Heidi Prucker -  February 12, 2012 - 2:07 pm

    I am completely uncomfortable feeding in public. With my first born (Karoline) I always covered with a blanket or I was that mom who fled looking for a private area to feed her. I have fed her in the restroom, I have fed her in my car in a parking lot, but I tried many times to get comfortable. It’s hard being raised around people who aren’t comfortable with nudity. I would even go hide upstairs at my parents house when I had to feed because it made THEM uncOmfortable making me uncomfortable. But at my MIL house I first would go into a room to feed but she would barge in to talk to me and spend time with her grand daughter. So I felt perfectly comfortable feeding around her. And if anyone came to my home, well you better be used to boobs because. I refused to feel uncomfortable in my own home feeding my child the way I decided was best. So this time with Max I will be much more confident and proud… Nursing will be an enjoyable experience as it was with Karoline.

    • Xza Louise -  February 13, 2012 - 11:33 am

      Hi Heidi, thanks for responding!
      Before I had Atticus, i was pretty self concious about my bust. I thought for sure I would want to cover myself, but once I saw other women nursing uncovered it empowered me to do the same. I hope that when Max arrives you can feel comfortable feeding him in public/private/anywhere you please with or without a cover.

  6. Kate -  February 12, 2012 - 7:41 pm

    As one of the other moms at the reunion yesterday I have to say that I didn’t think twice about your nursing without a cover or the other moms who did use one. I see that as a personal choice that each woman has to make for herself. It does surprise me that Kevin heard other moms making negative comments though. I think that our society is very quick to judge others for the personal decisions that they make in general and definitely in regards to breastfeeding and nursing in public. Since my baby has to be breastfed with a bottle, rather than nursed (he takes his meals to go rather than from the tap, as it were) I never had the chance to decide between using a cover or not. I honestly don’t know what I would have chosen to do if things had turned out differently with my little one.

    • Xza Louise -  February 13, 2012 - 11:36 am

      By no means do I mean nursing with a cover was wrong, but the comments caught me a bit off guard too. Plus, we all are birth warriors who naturally birthed beautiful healthy children. It was one of the few crowds that I thought would get it.
      Your dedication to feeding your baby pumped breastmilk is terrific. One of our writers, Jessica has had to do that as well. Talk about dedication!

  7. Valentina(mamideamanda) -  February 12, 2012 - 9:10 pm

    I ony use a cover when I’m at the mall or a restaurant, and this is because insist want those people look at me and be uncomfortable, otherwise I never use a cover, BF is the most pure and innocent act.

  8. Stefanie -  February 12, 2012 - 9:12 pm

    I wish I was more comfortable! I use a cover in restaurants and always request a booth so I can hide in the corner. When I’m at the mall or stores I aim for dressing rooms. I really don’t know where to feed her. I’m not really embarressed, I think it’s beautiful but I don’t want to give people a reason to talk negatively too me.

  9. Nicky Preston -  February 13, 2012 - 12:00 pm

    When breastfed i never used a cover when it was just girls but so many of my guy friends would be so uncomfortable with it that I just kinda always used when I was somewhere that men might be (stores and stuff) just in case. I wouldn’t care if they saw anything but a lot of the guys I hang out with make a conscious effort to not see breast that aren’t their wife’s so I respect that for them.

  10. Jessica Murphy -  February 13, 2012 - 9:21 pm

    I suppose that in some ways the fact that I pump rather than breastfeed most of the time makes it easier to go out in public without weird looks from people. If I fed both babies at once in a mall… Yes, my boobs would be very much on display. I know of no cover that would work for all of us at once. And I’m just a cover-free kind of girl most of the time. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable, but what do you think breasts are for, anyhow?
    Now, pumping in public…. That is complicated.

  11. Jessica Murphy -  February 13, 2012 - 9:25 pm

    Side note – our obsession with breasts is very much cultural. I warned my brothers that they would likely see some boob while I nursed one of the twins recently. My younger brother had spent several months in Southern Sudan and mentioned that the idea of breasts as sexual body parts is laughable there. They are for babies, obviously.

  12. Brittany Roth -  February 14, 2012 - 12:47 am

    I have never used a cover, I have one but I used blankets before I got it and Rylei did NOT like anything over her face. She would get hot, sweaty, and wiggly. No cover will mess up feeding her. In other people’s houses I relocate to a less busy room or find a seat on the floor so most wandering eyes never hit me. I do it as discretely as possible but I would much rather the comfort of her eating than my own comfort. Therefore, when she gets hungry she eats wherever. I do feed her before I leave the house so it minimizes the chance of having to make people potentially uncomfortable but I cannot guarantee she will not eat for four hours.

  13. Jess(kyliejadesmom) -  February 14, 2012 - 11:35 am

    At first I didn’t feel very comfortable with breastfeeding in public so we always tried to schedule our outings around Kylie’s eating schedule, or stay close to a BabiesRUs so we could use their “mothers room.” It always seemed like such a process. Then i saw a video on YouTube on how to bf in public without a cover, so that no one could see anything. Now i always feed Kylie wherever we are, sans cover. I never ask if it makes anyone uncomfortable and to be honest if someone said it bothered them, they can go eat in the bathroom or leave the room because I’m feeding my baby! and i haven’t seen any other mothers breastfeeding in public without a cover (or with a cover for that matter) but it would definately make me feel more comfortable if i did.

  14. Katie -  February 14, 2012 - 7:14 pm

    I bf Wes when and where he wants to eat and have been for the last six months, I bf on demand for him and it works for us. I do however use a cover in public as it makes me feel more comfortable which I think makes him more comfortable too. I generally use a cover when I bf if anyone other than my hubby is around. I know it makes people uncomfortable and I have no intent of doing that but I’m also very proud of the fact that I am able to bf him because I didn’t with my first baby. I think that mom’s should feel free bf any way they feel is best for them and their baby, and I do think that it is encouraging to read theses posts and to see other moms bf in public, covered or not.

  15. Soleil Van Til -  March 6, 2012 - 1:59 pm

    I loved reading this little story. It is sad how us moms (even amongst similar crunchies) end up being so judgemental. We’ve all probably been guilty of it at some point. I nurse uncovered in public and everywhere, church, the airport, the store, friends houses etc., and I would like to think I am somewhat descrete about it. The fact is: Society needs a change in perspective. As long as we are not just letting our boobs hang out for entertainment sake, feeding our babies should be a very normal, common and unammusing part of our day. Thanks for sharing Xza!

  16. Jazsmin Earl -  June 12, 2012 - 12:06 am

    If I saw another mom feeding without a cover it would deffinetly make me feel more comfortable about doing it myself and I’d love to. My only concern is young boys seeing that. When I loved in Costa Rica it is widely accepted that women don’t cover up and they even have their entire shirt off so that even the breast that isn’t feeding is also exposed. My younger brother was bothered by this(being a young hormonal boy like any other) and couldn’t concentrate on supper after seeing a woman do this at a restaurant. I know that nowadays there’s several young girls everywhere you go that dress a little revealing and they show just as much if not more and they are not feeding a child, but I’m a mom and try to cover up because I don’t feel that I should expose my body like that(not that breastfeeding without a cover is being provocative or inappropriate). If I were in an area with all adults I’m sure I’d be excited to finally be able to do this. But does anyone share my concern?

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