Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Real Reason Not to Cover Up Nursing Mothers (By Martha Neovard)

I was browsing the internet last night at about 3 am, while lying in bed and listening to the crashing of a distant storm, when I came across a recent blogpost, by a woman named loralee (See the blog). The blog itself was fantastic. The author openly admitted she has a level of discomfort when confronted with the sight of an openly nursing mom and baby. Her first reaction is kneejerk, a "cover that up" level of discomfort. Her second reaction is to check herself, take some deep calming breaths, assure herself it is well within the dyad's rights to eat wherever, whenever, no matter what implement they are using to do so. Yes, the article was fantastic, level-headed, pensive, and provoking. A very well-written piece, and after I read it I was left with a sense of relief and satisfaction. So then, stupidly, I moved on to the comments section.

Oy vey.

"I support any mom who wants to breastfeed, and anywhere she wants to, but my old-school upbringing about ‘good girls’ don’t show their boobs in public keeps getting in the way."

"I read your friends’ posts Loralee and I’m sorry, but their posts just made me feel angry. I do NOT agree with what these women feel is their motherly right. Fine, breast feed, go ahead, but cover up first! I feel sorry for the children, who are not theirs, subjected to quite honestly, a traumatic and disgusting event! NO ONE should EVER be subjected to having to see that. I agree, women should NOT have to go to a bathroom, or leave the room, or do it in private. BUT I do feel absolutely, they they CANNOT and SHOULD NEVER be LEGALLY allowed to whip out their tits..." (There is more to this shocking quote, but I will omit the rest, as it would certainly distract from the point of this post.)

"I never comment on anything that can be controversial. Ever. That being said…I nursed all my children and when necessary I did so in public however, it was never obvious. It doesn’t have to be. Nursing our babies is a natural thing but we can be discreet. My youngest child is 29 years old so that was quite a while ago. My daughter-in-law nursed all the grands and she too was discreet. There’s nothing wrong with not putting “it” out for all to see. Just saying…discreet."


I repeat. Oy vey.

For the record, I would never criticize or look down on a woman who wants or needs to use a nursing canopy to feel comfortable nursing her baby out in a public place. In fact, if that is what a mother needs in order to breastfeed when her baby wants/needs to, then I am right behind her, holding the straps (figuratively of course, otherwise I'd be breathing down her neck). They are a useful device, and certainly they are valuable to mothers everywhere. But I digress. The real point of this article is to explain WHY nursing uncovered is so important to breastfeeding moms everywhere, and why they should defend their blanketless state with emphatic arm-waving and raised voices. I repeat, I am NOT opposed to the option of covering whilst nursing, however I am opposed to the idea that some sort of cover is a NECESSITY for breastfeeding in public, and that all moms should use some kind of object to cover themselves so no one can see what they are doing.

Now you are thinking, oh brother here we go. Entereth the raging feminist with her trident of women's rights! No, actually. My concern is not the comfort of wee babies, or overheating, or woman and child rights, or even the reckless abandonment of muted colours in nursing covers (although these do factor in as well). No, instead my concern has to do with brain function and future generations.

Wha?

You see, as Kathleen Kendall Tackett points out in this 2009 article, breastfeeding is a right-brained activity. That means that no matter how many times we discuss it, how much we read about it, and how much we study pictures of it, we cannot teach our bodies how to do it. We need to be in close proximity to breastfeeding in order to understand the concepts associated with positioning, latch, swallowing, and multiple other small factors that go into breastfeeding successfully. It is something that Nature designed us to learn from our mothers, or from the community of women we interact with daily. Nature intended us to see other women breastfeeding their babies, and to internalize that knowledge to use with our own children. It is not something we can comprehend from the pages of a book, or from staring blearily at a nurse lecturing on the importance of breast milk.

As Kendall-Tackett states in her article, learning to breastfeed is much like learning to ride a bike. So, picture this. You have never seen a bike up close in your life. Maybe you saw it in a movie, but the bike was turned so you could only see the wheel, or the person riding it was mostly offscreen, or they just cracked weird bike jokes the whole time. You know that in 10 months time, you will be in a bike race. This bike race will be one of the most important events of your life. For months, people talk at you about riding a bike. Some people tell you to make sure to put your weight in the back, others say the front. Some say peddle swiftly, others say peddle backwards. Some say grip the handlebars just so, others say don't touch the handlebars, because that didn't work for them. You watch a couple videos about bike-riding, but they seem overly technical, and a lot of the jargon flies right over your head. You ask your parents, but their only reply is "We never rode a bicycle, just give it a try and hope it works for you." You go out in public to garner some information, but almost everyone who rides a bicycle rides them behind very tall hedges that you cannot see through. You feel a bit panicky, and a lot apprehensive. At last, the day of the race arrives. You wobble up to the starting line, someone hands you a bike, you climb on hesitantly, and they give you a good shove down a very steep hill and yell "YOU'LL FIGURE IT OUT!!!"

Metaphor much? Yes, breastfeeding these days is a lot like that. We don't see it done. We get some bits and bites of information in the months leading up to birth, then when the moment arrives, someone puts the baby on you and says "Okay, go!" How are you to know what this should all look like? What should it feel like? And really, how are we to know?

The thing is, most of us can't learn this from our mothers. We lost generations of right-brained hereditary knowledge to aggressive marketing and bottle-feeding. For those moms who do come from a family where breastfeeding was the norm, is it still enough to internalize the breastfeeding knowledge we need? How old were you when your youngest sibling was weaned?

Now what if everywhere we went, we saw moms nursing their babies, comfortably and openly? Every time we witness a friend, relative, or complete stranger breastfeeding their baby, our brains subconsciously make notes. So when it comes to our turn, our brain gathers up what we know, and we remember that the baby went THIS WAY, and mother held him just so. We may have even had the opportunity to ask questions. This is how we learn, and how we will know.

I think there is no better illustration for the necessity of seeing breastfeeding than this story, found in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding:

"In a zoo in Ohio, a female gorilla was born and raised in captivity, got pregnant and had a baby gorilla. On the day she had her baby, she didn't know what to do. She had never seen another gorilla nurse, and she had no concept of breastfeeding. Sadly, the baby gorilla died.

When she became pregnant again the gorilla's keeper called The La Leche League and had volunteer nursing moms come down to the zoo and nurse their own babies in front of the pregnant momma gorilla. At first the gorilla ignored them, but as her delivery date grew closer she became very interested. When the baby gorilla was born the momma gorilla forgot all that she'd learned and started to freak out. The keeper quickly called the La Leche League and another volunteer rushed over and slowly showed the momma gorilla what to do. "She brought her baby's chest to her chest, slowly cradled the baby's head in her left arm, held her breast with her right hand, and tickled the baby's lips with the nipple to get the baby to open his mouth. Then she pulled the open-mouthed baby toward her breast and with one rapid arm motion, got the cooperative baby quickly onto her breast. The gorilla watched, mimicking the moves step by step until, with a nearly audible sigh of relief, the gorilla looked down at her chest and saw her baby feeding happily for the first time."(p 29).


So I ask of you, when next you see a mother breastfeeding her baby without some sort of covering implement, please give her a big smile and bring yourself and your child closer to see. I can guarantee she will smile back, and most will comfortably explain to your child what they are doing. You are doing your child a favour, so that when she has her own baby, the imprint of this encounter will rise in her brain, and assist her instincts in learning to breastfeed your grandchild. If your child is male, he will internalize how to assist and support his partner in her breastfeeding journey. Please, no more calls to "cover up". Anyone who cries for a cover over the beautiful sight of a nursing mother and child is unwittingly and devastatingly calling for the destruction of womanly knowledge, and the handicap of the next generation of breastfeeders.


(Blogger's notes: We are not yet to the point where we see breastfeeding moms everywhere and anywhere, where we are able to internalize by watching. But luckily for us, Nature always has a back-up system where one system fails. Please check out Biological Nurturing and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett's article here to learn about instinctual breastfeeding, and how best to trigger both mom and baby's instincts to achieve a strong latch. Also please consider attending a breastfeeding support group meeting, like La Leche League during your pregnancy. Many women breastfeed openly at these meetings, and they are a great resource both for right-brained knowledge garnering, and for creating a support network, and meeting new mommy friends!)

158 comments:

  1. Excellent article. Great metaphor. I didn't know about the right brained stuff. Really thought provoking and helpful thank you.

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  2. Great article. I was once given a nursing cover as a gift - I was so offended, but told the person that gave it to me it would be very handy - if someone was offended by seeing me breastfeed they could use it to cover their own head.

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    1. exactly! :)

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    2. yikes! way to throw a gift in someone's face! ouch!

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    3. That is sad of you to be so rude to the gift giver. I have taught my children to always say thank you for any gift, because they didn't have to get you anything!!!! Why get so in peoples faces like that? my I don't want people gawking at my breast while I feed my baby.

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  3. Bravo! Beautifully written and your example of the mama gorilla really touched me.

    I work with first-time pregnant moms and so many of the challenges they face are non-existent in tribal cultures where "body knowledge" is absorbed by observation and osmosis.

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  4. Hilary - thank you for the very funny nursing cover comment! Love it. And great article, thank you

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  5. I <3 this VERY much! Consequently I am suffering from harassment from my mobile home community for nursing my child. I generally do wrap him in a towel while at the pool and then nurse him so things are generally somewhat covered simply by default. While arguing with what I thought was the manager (only recently found out she was the secretary not the manager) I did simply pull the top of my swim suit aside and nurse him with no cover. She ordered me out of the pool "indefinitely" pending talking to her lawyer, then banned anyone under age 3 from the pool, rescinded that the next day and just told me I have to be "Decent" while nursing. I would ABSOLUTELY LOVE some like minded mommas to join me on my facebook page to learn more and support me and my son as we deal with these things! http://www.facebook.com/pages/STOP-Canterbury-Mobile-Home-Park-Harassment/228966887137442

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  6. @newincs...don't you have the legal right to feed your baby anywhere?

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    1. in australia you do

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  7. Thank you so mush for this post! precious...

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  8. Exactly! I do attempt to cover my skin, but I do not think that anyone watching me has a doubt as to what I'm doing! I have said I consider it my civic duty to NIP - normalization has to start (again) somewhere!

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  9. Too much drama over too small an issue. "Anyone who cries for a cover over the beautiful sight of a nursing mother and child is unwittingly and devastatingly calling for the destruction of womanly knowledge, and the handicap of the next generation of breastfeeders." Destruction of womanly knowledge? Handicap of the next generation of breastfeeders? Sorry, I'm not buying it. I smile warmly at ALL breastfeeding mothers that I pass, both with and without covers. To each her own.

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    1. A SMALL ISSUE???? A woman who breastfeeds her child full-term (the 2 years recommended by the WHO or longer) receives LIFE-LONG protection from breast, cervical, and ovarian cancers because their cells actually change and become stronger and therefore (and yes, this has been clinically proven many times over - pubmed is a great resource for scholarly journal articles if interested) over 40% more resistant to cancer. Babies who are bottlefed do not receive the oxytocin and seratonin (nor do their mamas) which are an integral component to the human bonding experience, and can affect baby's ability to connect with others, and to feel empathy for others, for the rest of his or her life. Additionally, some of the leading causes of death in the US, heart disease, diabetes, etc, have all been shown to be dramatically reducable through, once again, full term breastfeeding, and once again, for both babies and for mamas!! Oh, and did you know? In the US, fewer than 41% of babies breastfeed for longer than 3 months - and what happens at 3 months? Babies gain the manual dexterity to be able to yank a nursing cover out of the way. In Sweden, on the other hand, where people have more relaxed attitudes towards breasts and nudity in general, over 72% of babies nurse for longer than 6 months - so, I don't see how it could possibly be a bigger issue - I mean, literally life and death. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer alone, over the course of her lifetime -- do you REALLY think this isn't a big deal????

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    2. 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer if they live to be 90. My only patient to die of ovarian cancer did so at the age of 26. Her son was 18 months old. My only patient to die of breast cancer was 23, with two children, both breast fed for over one year. It's great for YOU to spout off this information and try yet again to guilt women in to breastfeeding for the full 2 years recommended by the WHO. Why do YOU get to make women feel guilty for their choices? I breast fed all of my children for well over a year, the youngest to almost 2 years. I breast fed in public; restaurants, church, the grocery store, etc. I didn't care. Sometimes I covered up, sometimes I didn't. My father-in-law wasn't comfortable with me nursing in front of him without a cover, so I covered at his house. At my house, he could go to another room. You can't make a blanket statement that this is a RIGHT and we have the RIGHT to embarass others and make them uncomfortable. And, I would be somewhat interested to know what you tell women whose children naturally wean themselves before age two, that they failed? That they are responsible for a theoretical increased risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease in their child? (Like our crappy north American diets have NOTHING to do with these issues!) Why is YOUR thinking correct and everyone else's wrong? How often have you been up at all hours helping a new mom who is having breast feeding issues and is so exhausted from the effort and every public health nurse she sees tells her that she is damaging her baby if she doesn't continue nursing. Sometimes the best mom is the mom that hands the baby off to a friend/partner, allows them to feed them (and I don't care if it's pumped milk or proper formula!) while she goes and takes a nap. However, they are not told that this exhaustion is normal, just that if they don't breast feed they are failures. Then, at 4am, I deal with them, when they are having thoughts of harm. Thoughts of harm to them and their baby because SO much pressure has been put on them to be perfect nursers. They are told "You have to do this and that and turn yourself around 14 times in 12.2 seconds and NEVER cover up", even though you are 18 and embarrassed to be nursing in the park in the middle of your city although would be okay nursing in a booth at a local restaurant with friends where not everyone who walks by will know what you are doing. Do you REALLY think you are helping by making everyone feel guilty if they didn't nurse perfectly for 2 + years. Get over it. Great that you did it. Moms judging other moms is one of the most harmful things we do in our western society. Breastfeeding should not be the wedge that tears people apart. It should be supported, but not preached, nor force fed to the masses. Our "job" as women is to do our best to raise happy, healthy children. We are required to feed our children but no where does it say how. Formula exists for those who need it. For those who don't there is breast milk.

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    3. CJN, Thanks for that reply. I can't think of anything young moms like me need less than more freakin' stress and guilt and worry about failure.

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    4. I agree CJN...I hope to breastfeed my little one when she is born just like I did with my eldest son many years ago. However, being raised by an Asian mother whose culture traditionally teaches women on being discreet; I feel that a cover is something I prefer and am not ashamed of using. It doesn't make me any less of a mother than those that flaunt their boobs so proudly. Puh-leeeease. Kudos to those that feel comfortable without a shield, but I love mine and will gladly wear it again when my little one is born. To each their own...but certainly don't judge those that would prefer a cover or can't go pass the one year mark with breastfeeding. It was a struggle for myself and my son and he turned out just fine.

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    5. Amen, CJN. I wanted to nurse and tried desperately to the point that it was not healthy mentally or physically for each of my three children. They all ended up being formula fed. They are healthy and happy, but i could not believe the pressure i was put under for not nursing. A moms job is to feed her babies the way that is best for her and her family. Period.

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    6. I hear you Juli... I was in the same boat! Due to medical issues and meds I had to take I was advised NOT to breastfeed. I have 5 children who grew up perfectly healthy and well-adjusted... the oldest is now nearly 45 and the youngest just turned 25. I totally agree with you that a mom's job is ultimately to feed her babies the way that is best for them and for her.

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    7. Is it possible any of your struggles were bc you were trying to ride a bike without adequate observation and training? That is what this author is saying--that we don't see enough nursing, and that contributes to why many women find breastfeeding a challenge. And there ARE health benefits to nursing--just like there is to exercise. Why scold the messenger?

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    8. Coming in a bit late on this one. I bf my little one in public.. not for kicks, I just don't see anything wrong with it. I've been attacked, sneered at, laughed at, etc. I am still bfing my 2 year old, but I do so in public with a defensive eye. These critics have tainted my experience and THAT is the reason I choose to continue... So that my daughter will not have to feel any indignation if she chooses to bf her children. Fun fact.. only within the past 15 years did bf get pulled off of Sesame Street. Before it was explained as a natural way to feed a baby (talk about right-brain). Rule of thumb: never let anyone make you feel what you are doing is wrong. Whether you bf, bottle feed, use formula, whatever... No one loves your child like you do and no one is better equipped to make the right choices for them.

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  10. I cannot LIKE this ENOUGH! Hooray for boobies, babies and mommies! LOVE LOVE LOVE!!!

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  11. This is THE best post I have ever seen on nursing covers! Awesome! You pretty much took what I had been wanting to say and said it better than I ever could.
    Thank you!

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  12. I nurse out loud for this very reason :)

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  13. I loved the story about the gorilla! How thought provoking, and at the same time comforting...I always thought that wild animals nursing was second nature :)

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  14. Arlington: its a huge issue. She said she supports women who need to cover up to feel comfortable, she just doesn't want anyone to feel they need to for anyone else's sake. Did you even read the post?

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  15. Thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to write this. I don't ever comment on these, but this post just "spoke to me" as I sat here reading it while nursing my baby and wondering if one day she will have an easier time breastfeeding her babies. We had a hard time in the beginning. I had never witnessed another women breastfeeding without a cover; no one to show me "hey, this is how it's done". I had to see an IBCLC. Maybe we wouldn't have needed to if I knew what it was supposed to look like in real life. It's truly hard to learn to breastfeed your child without any help.

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  16. I loved this! I am a happy in-public nurser. I like to keep myself covered and baby uncovered (I let the tail of my shirt cover my breast, so my baby's head stays free - honestly, I think that is more discreet that using a cover, because many people just think you're holding a sleeping baby - but that is beside the point, anyway). I probably still couldn't bring myself to nurse in public fully uncovered, but that is okay. Still, your article makes me want to! It also makes me feel good about the fact that I don't worry about nursing "discreetly" in front of my older children.

    Your story about the gorilla...so sad about the first baby, but amazing, just amazing about the second! That was fascinating. Loved it!

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  17. Arlington Girl- have you wondered if it was just the formula companies that have caused such a downturn in the rate of successful breastfeeding relationships? I doubt it.

    I absolutely agree that breastfeeding is a "learned" behavior! I think society has corrupted the image and purpose of the breast so much so that we dont even know what to do with them anymore. They are sustainers of life- first and foremost. Great article! I shared!

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  18. Bike metaphor... BRILLIANT! Great job!

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  19. i think feeding your baby in public is a very natural and brave thing to do if people dont like it then who cares they are just pathetic and small minded i have the upmost respect for mothers who can do this as i breast fed my babies but never had the courage to do it in public but now my babies are older i kind of think why didn't i what was i so scared of and if i did have another child i would certainly feed my child in public if needed and i dont care what others think or say if they dont like it dont bloody look .........

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  20. I shared this article too. Beautifully written piece. It put the reason I nurse in public in words more eloquently than I ever could!

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  21. Great post. I would add this - how about any time we see a mother nursing - period - with a cover or without - we give her a big smile, a thumbs up, or even a "great job mama!"

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    1. That makes me sad as well. There are women I went to high school with and am friends with on facebook who do not yet have kids, and who post rude remarks about "I wish people would stop posting breast feeding pictures- that's the most disgusting thing to see". And I just think wow seriously? You are 30 something years old and think breastfeeding is disgusting? =( I feel bad for them.

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  22. This gorilla story makes a great point.
    before i got pregnant i thought it was strange when women pulled out their breast to feed their baby in public. i didn't know babies had to feed so often. now as a mom i understand how impossible it is to try to schedule feeding around trips to the store and other errands. i usually use a cover when out of the home only because my breasts are between size f and g and I feel uncomfortable with people staring at me. I realize more each day that if I start breast feeding more publicly it will help other moms to feel more empowered.
    And at the same time living in Texas our summers every day has been over 100 degrees. A cover makes my baby too hot and sweaty when she wants to eat. I try to cover most of my breast while I feed.
    I dread the arguments people will have with me as well.

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    1. Breast size is one of the main reasons that I've always covered up as well (I'm an H). It took me four kids to learn how to do it comfortably without a cover with number five but I still PREFER to be discreet, covering my skin even though my son's head is not covered at all. Maybe part of that is my conservative upbringing but I'm comfortable doing things this way. However, I don't ever - EVER - cover up in front of my older kids. I don't think I ever will, even when I have teenage boys (I plan to go on having babies until I stop :D).
      What better way to prepare them for real life down the road, not to mention that there will be a firm understanding that yes, breasts can be sexual and practical.

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  23. I should also say this - I love that when looking through my scrapbooks there are nursing dyads everywhere! For years, I couldn't take a picture at any function without have someone in the background nursing! :) It makes me smile now, but more importantly I love that my children with grow up with that as normal!

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  24. Love it. SOOOO true. When I BF my first I didn't have a clue what I was doing... much like the gorilla I wanted to give up. Lucky for me I got in touch w/ LLL and got help. DS was BF til *we* were ready to be done. What if I had seen it more publicly? Would it had been easier for me, or cause me less anxiety? I was weirded out by nursing, but totally intended to do it. Had I seen it commonly in public perhaps that attitude would have been different. Of course having had the experience I did I am totally not the same person I was in the beginning. Thank goodness for that.
    I enjoyed your post!

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  25. I LOVED this article! Unfortunately, I was only able to nurse my daughter for 3 months. She is now 10.5 months and I still grieve the loss of that experience. My goal was to nurse for a year, but I was unable to get a good milk supply established. Although I attended a 12 week breast feeding and natural child birth class and we watched plenty of videos, I think it would have definitely been beneficial to be able to watch first hand someone nursing without cover. I had a good support system, but I have never really been around someone who nursed before and it all seemed very foreign to me.

    I blame the formula companies for marketing their product to new moms who either have no knowledge of the nursing process and how beneficial it is for them and their babies or new moms who want to take the easy way out. There is no doubt that breast feeding can be difficult.

    Most of all I blame society. Women's breasts have become so sexualized that using them for anything other than ogling at is seen as inappropriate. God created women's breast to be able to feed their children. It is a perfect natural design. Even though it was short, I am grateful for the time that I was able to breast feed my daughter. Next time around, I will try to find more help to be able to nurse longer and I will be willing to share my knowledge with new moms too!

    My fellow breast feeding mommies, feel free to nurse however and whenever you want and be aware that it is only by helping others learn about breast feeding that we will be able to continue this beautiful experience and practice for future generations! :o)

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    1. In Australia we have the Australian Breast feeding Association, who have breast feeding classes every couple of months. These classes encourage mums-to-be to bring partners along and we also have a mum with a newborn, who breast feeds her baby uncovered in front of the class. She asks the participants to come closer for a look, so that they can see how the attachment happens and listen to the "suck, suck, swallow" as the baby feeds. There should be more of these classes all over the world.

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  26. This was so wonderful to read and I loved the bit about the gorilla. I was fortunate enough to be in close proximity to women that nursed openly through my childhood and teen years and I have to say that it was a huge influence on me when I had my 1st and 2nd child. I wish more people could grow in an environment and experience that as well. Maybe someday. :)

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  27. Thank you for this article. I worked very hard to breastfeed my daughter and many people had to help us. I first felt more comfortable nursing with a cover but after a few months of going to breastfeeding support group I was really comfortable nursing her wherever without a cover.

    I think it is good for kids and others to see babies and toddlers nurse. I have had little kids watch us and if they ask anything I am always happy to tell them she is getting her mommy milk. Now she is 2 years old and still loves to nurse.

    I have encouraged other moms to nurse without a cover especially when it's hot out! Now I keep my nursing cover in my pump bag although I am now done pumping for my little girl.

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  28. I certainly agree with the sentiment behind this article. But as a newly nursing mom I would not have welcomed much more than a smile in passing as I was nursing my little one. I was never terribly comfortable doing it (but did, without cover) and am somewhat shy. I wouldn't have really enjoyed someone bringing their child closer to ask for an explanation - as much as I want to be that person, it might have set me back in my nursing journey. So, be careful assuming how open another nursing mom might be to the things you would be open to.

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  29. Oh, I so LOVED this article. I've been a nursing mama for the past 19 years, with a year's break here and there. With my first baby...I covered myself all the time (unless I was alone in my own home) I did this not because it felt natural to do, not because I was embarrassed, but because the adults that surrounded me told me to. My mother didn't breastfeed me, my mother-in-law didn't breastfeed her children...and so when I chose to breastfeed mine, I was told to cover up if there was ever anyone else in the room, and especially in a public place. I was a young 23 year old, hiding away in a restaurant's bathroom once to nurse my newborn because I forgot to bring a receiving blanket...and the adults that I was with at the time (my mom and her best friend) told me to feed the baby privately in the bathroom. Ugh. I still can't believe I did that! I only nursed that baby for 5 months. It wasn't convenient, you know...always feeling I was offending people. What can I say except that I was young and I had NO ONE to tell me differently, to teach me, to support me. I'm happy to say that after that baby, I made many friends in play groups and moms groups and I saw them nursing their babies and I realized that it's the people who have a problem with a nursing breast that is the problem, not the mom's who nurse uncovered. That is what the breast was designed for, afterall, to feed our babies. Why hide away to do that? All of my older children have seen me with a baby to my breast their entire lives. I do not cover up. My oldest son is now 20 years old. He doesn't cringe or turn away out of embarrassment when he sees a nursing mother. He'll avert his eyes to be polite, but it doesn't embarrass him or disgust him. To him, and to all of my children, breastfeeding is a completely natural act. It's what nature intended.

    Katrina
    www.theyallcallmemom.com

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    1. YES!! Sounds so familiar to me, just about all of it. I've got five who are all under eight and I've only had a two week period where I wasn't pregnant or breastfeeding. I love it!! :)

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  30. Really well put. I absolutely agree!

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  31. I was not breastfed, and did not see any of my friends breastfeed their kids, and I am doing just fine. Yes, breastfeeding is a learned behavior, but thanks to the wonders of YouTube, we can watch videos of that learned behavior and benefit from that. That's what I did, and we're going strong! Personally, I cover up when I'm out in public and if my husband's friends are around - the only man who gets to see my girls is my hubby. However, to each their own.

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  32. Loved it!! It's very important that we get over ourselves and not discourage feeding a baby in public! Would anyone have a problem with bottle feeding in public? I think not! It's feeding a child for crying out loud!

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  33. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to write this brilliant post!

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  34. I enjoyed reading your article. I am a breastfeeding mother and will openly breastfeed in public. I will keep it discret buy wearing a tank top that can easily be pilled down leaving my waist and belly covered and putting on a shirt over top that will can be lifted to cover the top part of my breast. I want to be able to see my baby while she eats. I always wanted to nurse my first daughter but struggled. That was 12 1/2 years ago. I took a breastfeeding class when I was pregnant with my now 10 week old. I loved the class and learned so much more and found out what my issues were all those years ago as to why I was unsuccessful at nursing. I look at it this way....when you are nursing a baby your breast are not play things for men to fondle and touch...they are a feeding tool just as a bottle full of formula is. I have nothing against bottle feeding a baby however I wanted that ultimate connection and natural experience of nursing my children. Cover up if you want. I see that as normal too. I just see my breast as a feeding tool not something a woman would shake in a booby bar for dollar bills! :) PS loved the gorilla story too! It was very touching.

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  35. @Angie, I suggest (if you haven't tried it already) that you check out Dr. Jack Newman's website, particularly his information about Domperidone for milk supply. It's the only thing that worked for me after losing my milk at 4 months (or sooner) with each of my babies.

    I do agree that it's important for children (boys and girls) to see breastfeeding, uncovered. I do cover up sometimes, depending on the situation, but for the most part I just use my shirt to maintain a level of modesty and don't use something extra. I always find it odd to see a group of women in a nursing lounge at church, all covered up--something's really wrong if you can't nurse openly in a NURSING LOUNGE. Not me, I refuse to cover up in there (I do go in there though, mostly because it's a nice excuse to socialize with other mothers!).

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    1. Haha, at my church, they had a room when I had my first that was basically a closet with sound piped in and an old armchair. I remember hiding in there nursing just because I didn't know any better. Babies 2-4 were fed in the nursery, but still covered up because men do hang out in there and I just wasn't comfortable with it. Now with number five, I hardly ever bother with a blanket even though I choose to be discreet as I'm more comfortable that way. I even fed right in church when he was brand new - a bold new move for me! ;)

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  36. I LOVE this article. It is so true. I only even knew of one person who breastfed before I had my first and she never did it in front of me. I was pretty clueless!

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  37. Thank you thank you thank you for this piece. In my 7+ years of lactivism, I've never thought about the importance of NIP in this exact way so I appreciate your point very much. As a LLL leader, I often use the gorilla in the zoo story to explain how important meetings are and to help moms who say, "This is supposed to be natural so why is it so hard?" I truly appreciate this well-written piece and plan to share it.

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  38. Thank you! Great article and wonderful insight!

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  39. Love the article! I do the tank top/covering shirt trick as well, works like a charm! I only used my cover when I pumped in the car...lol!

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  40. What edition of the womanly Art of breastfeeding is the story found in? i have the last 3 editions and could not find it on pg29.
    thanx!
    Kathryn

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  41. um wait. so you're saying that if our children don't SEE others breastfeeding, that means they won't breastfeed their children either??? (the gorilla story is what i am referring to)

    um. is that scientifically proven? you do know that NOT all women are able to breastfeed... and it has nothing to do with the media advertising bottle/formula feeding.

    how about mothers whose babies were born too early and spent their first days with a feeding tube, had problems swallowing, were lethargic and the women's milk dried up because she was so stressed out and exhausted from pumping every 2 hours.
    or mothers who don't have the luxury of staying home, and can't pump while they are at school or work.
    i know that this article is intended to show how many women have lost the breastfeeding "touch" because supposedly they didn't have an "example" in their lives, and how it's important for our children to see women breastfeeding, but i will have to disagree with the idea that just because a child sees another person breastfeeding, that she will be able to do it herself.

    i had all kinds of magnificent plans to breastfeed my child, and i had a desire to, i had that natural instinct too, i wasn't scared, and i was definitely not swayed by the media advertisements. however, imagine this - breastfeeding did not work out, not because i didn't get the experience of an uncovered woman breastfeeding, but because my child was born with respiratory issues, had to have a feeding tube for the first 2 weeks, was tongue tied, lethargic, and i was stressed out, exhausted and worried about my child not making it out. and pumping for 45 minutes in between going to visit our child in the NICU got to be very emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting, and my milk dried up because i didn't have a baby who was able to suck on my breast.

    i do like this article and it does have a wonderful idea and message, but some little parts of this article are a little twisted, untrue and generalized. i just don't think this article is for everyone....

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    1. Anonymous, I am so sorry you and your baby had such a difficult start together and that you were unable to breastfeed. You did your best and you love your baby and that is the most important thing.

      I was under enormous stress with my firstborn and I also had never seen another woman breastfeed. Her doctor tried to scare me into giving her formula, saying I was starving her, and it was only by a lactation consultant literally grabbing her and shoving her onto my breast and holding her there that she and I were able to learn what to do. Without being lucky enough to have that LC's unorthodox help at that very moment, I am sure I would have been "unable" to nurse her, but she wound up nursing until age 2 and so did her younger brother. When I meet a woman who SUCCEEDS in breastfeeding a NICU-bound newborn, I am always so impressed.

      I don't think the article says that the ONLY reason women can't breastfeed is that they don't see other moms do it. I think it says that this is an extremely common reason. Thank goodness for formula in cases like yours!

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  42. love this- this is exactly why i hate covers so much!

    incidentally, a while back i tried to find out if the gorilla story was true or an urban myth. i came across an archived story (sorry, can't find it now) about a zoo cancelling their LLL mums program because the female gorillas weren't watching anymore. the zoo keeper was quoted as saying that only the male gorillas wanted to see! this tickled me!!

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  43. I disagree with the article, but even more, if that gorilla story is true, I would STRONGLY question the judgement of a mother that would actually take her baby near a female gorilla who would then have been extremely protective of her baby. I would say if all of those mothers are nursing, perhaps I should have reconsidered my decision to nurse. Ridiculous.

    On another note, if we do really need to learn from watching, we can learn from our mothers and aunts and close friends in our homes without having to expose our breasts in public. I don't think if you're sitting in the middle of the mall, you're really teaching any of the females walking by how to nurse. All you are doing is showing your boobs to creepy guys that are rude enough to look. I guess if that is what you're into...go for it.

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  44. To Anonymous who disagrees with the article, perhaps you don't realise that I was the youngest child, my only aunt did not live nearby, and I did not even live near my sister when she breastfed her two children.

    How wonderful if you were lucky enough to grow up with many breastfeeders nursing in private homes you could observe! You are an exception.

    You're not an exception in accepting society's judgement on women's breasts as valuable only to men. Sad.

    And for LLL mothers, sharing mother to mother support for breastfeeding is a priority. If this did happen, I'm certain that the zoo staff made the final judgement on safety.

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  45. Thank you for this thoughtful post - it touches on so many of the important keys to normalizing breastfeeding (and BABIES!) in public. Truthfully, I have yet to ever meet a mother who relishes the ideal of "whipping it out" and "flashing creepy men". How covered a woman choses to be should be to her own comfort level - and no one else's. I agree with some of the commenters that you probably aren't going to get a whole lot of instruction on good latch from a casual pass-by at a mall - but over and over again, woman get to see that other mothers holding their babies in their own way and at different stages. My kids have been attending LLL meetings since, well, they were babies of course - and I already heartened (and sometimes astounded!) to hear the accurate and sensitive comments my 7 year old makes.

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  46. A wonderful point.

    I often have young children very interested in watching me feed my daughter. One young girl asked me why I was letting my baby bite me - she had no concept of breastfeeding (until we had our little talk!). Doing it in public normalises the act, children who grow up seeing breastfeeding will not think anything of it as adults - it will seem perfectly normal to them.

    My mother had a big gap between my sister and I (with a brother in between) of 7 years - so I clearly remember her feeding and it being a normal part of our day. I also saw a couple of her friends feeding on a regular basis throughout my childhood.

    When I was pregnant my mum took me to visit a long time friend and her daugher, who had just had a baby. The daughter breastfed her bub a number of times whilst we were there. My mum commented how good it was for me to see her feed and be encouraged/inspired by it. My mum's friend then told her that it was seeing my mum breastfeed me that helped her feel confident about feeding her own four children (something she had never told her - apparently she had never seen anyone breastfeeding before she met my mum). So here we were with the second generation, helping to support and teach each other without even realising it!

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  47. Very good article. Thanks for taking the time to put it together. . .

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  48. Like! Like! Like!

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  49. Just wanted to say thanks Kellymom for posting (I am starstruck for the second time in a week!) and everyone for reading. I did use a nursing cover for the first two months or so of my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter. After that she kicked up a mad fuss and any chance of a Booby Trapper or Hooter Hider working was tossed out the window. In the last week or so, I keep coming across stories, articles, postings from radio stations, etc, that keep comparing breastfeeding in public to urinating, having sex, etc, which doesn't make sense to me. I had a very rough start with breastfeeding (like, 4 months rough!) and being around friends who were breastfeeding was massively helpful. I did stare, as politely as I could, and as I nursed Aria I adjusted her to imitate what they were doing with their babies. I remember the first time I nursed her around experienced nursers, haha, I put on my diaper bag, sat down, balanced her on it, and crossed my knee while gripping her tightly with both hands and pushing her onto the breast. The ladies all exchanged a "WTF?" look, and offered to help. I am forever grateful for their example and their assistance. I'm sure I looked like a child trying to ride a bike without training wheels the first time. As I continued to attend meetings and playgroups where women breastfed right in front of me, I was able to gain in confidence myself, so that when my daughter got hungry, I wasn't scrabbling for a blanket, or a hidden corner, and feeling stressed, panicky and anxious, but rather sitting calmly on a bench, pulling up my t-shirt while pulling down my tanktop, and latching her on (for the record, I am SO much more self-conscious about showing my stomach rather than showing my breast! Anyone else have that?). I even smile at people when they pass now! It seems amazing progress compared to a year and a half ago, and I owe that confidence to other women who set the example for me. On Tuesday I was nursing on a bench in the mall, and an old man approached me very quickly, looking stern. I felt a twinge of panic, and was running through all my responses in my head, when his face broke into a huge smile, he pointed right at my nursing 20 month old and said "I bet she thinks that's the best thing in the world!" then continued on his way. I was so shocked, and so pleased. Baby steps!

    As a mom who needed a cover to feel confident in the beginning, I really encourage women who want or need a cover to use them! They really are a very valuable tool to assist moms in feeling comfortable to nurse where and when they need to.

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  50. On the rant side of things, in this day and age this should not even be an issue under discussion. No, discretion is not called for, because "discretion" is a subjective term. Maybe for one person, it means moving to another room, for another it means a nursing canopy, for someone else, a blanket, and for another person, just layering clothes will suffice. Discretion has a double-term, and the mother should be able to use HER OWN discretion to decide how covered is covered enough, and no more than that. How much she is comfortable with. Breastfeeding in public is not a morality or comfort issue, it is a public health issue. For every instance where a mother is directly confronted and made to feel uncomfortable nursing her child, there is a great potential for damage to the nursing relationship, and the increased risk that other mothers will not breastfeed due to fear of humiliation or shame in a public place, no matter how "discreet" they feel they are being. For every child not breastfed, and every mother not breastfeeding, the quality and duration of long-term health in both mother and child drops. As we fund these extra illnesses through publicly funded healthcare (In Canada at least, I'm not entirely sure how the US system works), we are pulling money from our own pockets every time we put limits on the when, where, and how a mother and baby can breastfeed. 100 years ago ankles were sexualized too, and women were made to feel ashamed for showing them in public. Time to get with the times people. This is not 1800. Breasts are a tool for nurturing children. That is their sole biological purpose. Anything else is an imposition by society, and we are imposing that sexuality at the expense of mom's health, and the health of our future generations.

    Thank you for the comments everyone. To Anonymous, the gorilla story has been verified as true, but I very much suppose that there was glass or a fence between the gorilla and the nursing moms. It never even occurred to me that it could be otherwise. Luckily glass is see-through! ;) Research shows that even these small glimpses of nursing are in fact absorbed by the brain. Not to mention the help it is for moms who do not have relatives or friends that nurse or have nursed in the comfort of home, like myself. I had no idea what breastfeeding was supposed to look like until a scant few months before my due date. Would I have had a better idea if I had seen it more beforehand? Likely, as I taught myself to breastfeed from watching YouTube videos, and later, honed my technique by watching other moms at playgroups and meetings.

    To other Anonymous (oh my that gets confusing), I share your pain in your breastfeeding troubles. Maybe watching other moms would not have helped in your case. There are cases where breastfeeding is not possible, and I feel for the agony and hurt that accompanies those experiences. Seeing breastfeeding won't solve all breastfeeding woes, but it will help in normalizing breastfeeding, so that more information, help, and support is more freely available for those women who need it. I hope you will read this other post, here: http://thebabeandbreast.blogspot.com/2011/07/why-guilt-doesnt-fly-with-me-aka-guilt.html

    Regardless of the outcome of your breastfeeding journey, you are a courageous and beautiful woman for all you put yourself through for your baby. Much love all, and thanks again for your feedback.

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  51. fantastic article and I agree that BFing in public is so important for the next generation of mothers, it takes away the taboo, it shows that it is an absolutely normal function. I find it fascinating when I say i'm going to feed the baby and if another child (usually one of the cousins) are around they are so curious and ask so many questions. to openly, honestly, and w/o shame answer that this is how baby's are fed and this is how your mommy gave you milk when you were a baby will take us a long way in normalizing BFing in our culture.

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  52. Best discussion of the famed "cover up debate" I've read. Ever. Thanks.

    I realized this very evening that I owe my entire happy and bustling social circle to La Leche League. I heartily second the recommendation to attend an LLL meeting or two. Could change your life .....

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  53. Thank you for this article! I will confess I am "one of those" people who is very uncomfortable with seeing open and uncovered breastfeeding in public. I don't believe I'll ever be at that place where I could do it myself, but I always appreciate and respect perspectives that aren't my own. You've given me something to think about. I also don't have any children, yet, so who knows, my opinions could change someday!

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  54. What a great article! We have been having a lot of discussions about this lately here in Germany, where my husband is stationed with the US Army. It is amazing to me how totally okay it is to breastfeed in public when we are among Europeans, but it becomes such a big, weird deal when we are among Americans. I guess it's kind of a reverse culture shock: my culture is the one that's shocking. I was in the States last year, breastfeeding my son in public with no cover fairly frequently (and illegally, I believe, since I'm pretty sure Nebraska doesn't allow this) and was encouraged to have a few conversations with other breastfeeding moms mixed in with the weird stares and disapproving looks. But, if they had asked, I would have told all those people that when my son was very small we had to sit on the floor of a bathroom stall to feed in private. It was horrific. I would never ask anyone else to eat next a toilet and from that day forward I never asked my son to, either.

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  55. All of this article is great, but doesn't change the fact that most laws forbid nudity. I don't have a personal preference either way (I'm a guy) but basically, if your argument is that breastfeeding uncovered is important to teach future generations the behavior, you'd be better off advocating support groups that meet in accordance with laws. The question here is not whether mothers should be allowed to feed while sharing that process with others, it's whether exposing your breasts to feed your child in the middle of a shopping mall or on a park bench should be treated any differently than a woman exposing her breast for any other reason.

    The unfortunate truth is that your argument could be applied to sex ed. Diagrams, even pictures (which preteens and teens GLADLY research!) won't ever convey the actions of sex. However, would we say that to teach our kids how that works, sex in public should be allowed? Of course not, although sex is a natural thing and teaching kids about it is very important. To me, you've failed to convince me why breastfeeding is different.

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  56. Great blog and thank you for teaching me something new and very interesting about breastfeeding.
    I never covered while feeding either of my children, so hoping I have done my part for future generations.

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  57. Breastfeeding is different because it has nothing to do with sexuality or sexual intercourse, you clown.

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  58. I nurse my 9 month old son and he has a very strong nurse to sleep association. Normally, if we're in a public place I cover him so that people don't have to see something they don't want to see. I read this article yesterday afternoon and afterwards we went to my sister in law's college graduation. It was getting late, so my son was getting sleepy and wanted to nurse. At first I didn't let him because I didn't have a blanket to cover up, but then I remember this article and said "who cares" and pulled out my boob for him. I think you make an extremely good point here and I will never again cover up while breast feeding. Thank you for this!

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  59. Wow, thank-you for such a thought-provoking article! I have to admit that seeing mothers nursing in public made me uncomfortable for the longest time. My mother nursed me, but as an older child and teenager I wasn't exposed to nursing at all. I was weirded out at the thought of nursing my son when he was born, but my husband and mom convinced me to try, and I did for 9 months. When my daughter was born it wasn't even a question and she's still nursing now at 13 months. I have to return to work next month so we are slowly weaning but I have completely changed how I feel about nursing. Or, rather, my children have changed how I feel! I never could feel comfortable enough to nurse in public, covered or not, but now I'm wishing I'd tried to push myself a little harder. And I'm going to make sure my children see nursing mothers when opportunities arise!

    Thanks again for this!

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  60. Yay for breastfeeding! I'm so grateful I've had a positive breastfeeding experience. Good post, good information, I'm going to breastfeed uncovered in public even MORE than I already do!

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  61. Thank you for this post. It reminded me of my biggest issue with nursing: I felt like I was doing it all by myself. It felt like, aside from the hospital nurses, no one else, male or female, was willing to admit that it was an acceptable way of feeding a baby. I know that wasnt the case, but for a new mom everything is strange and different and sorting out what's normal, what isn't, what's appropriate to discuss with others and what isn't, is hard work!
    I think if I had seen more moms feeding in public growing up, I wouldn't have felt like a weirdo trying to do it with my own kids.

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  62. Thanks for the link love! I'm glad that my article was seen as what it was meant to be...acknowledgement that some people have discomfort with nursing in public BUT that not everyone who does wants you to have to cover up or remove yourself.

    I did have examples of breastfeeding growing up with my sisters (I'm the youngest of 6) and I think that is the reason I was never on the extremes of discomfort like the commenter in my post was. (Backstory: There is trauma involved there. It is not my place to disclose but a reaction that severe generally speaks to something a bit deeper, you know? I can't excuse the comment but I also wish people had a deeper understanding of HER, you know? xo)

    It is my FIRM belief that the way that we progress is to have discussion (and example). It may not help eliminate our discomfort but it can go a long way to lessening it.

    P.S. To the commenter that said nudity is illegal, that is true. BUT, most states in the US have qualified that it does not apply to nursing as the nutritional needs of an infant to be fed are paramount.

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  63. (I think I should say "You know?" just ONE MORE TIME. ;)

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  64. Article was great, Analogies excellent,what I find appalling is the cover-ups you mentioned are called "Hooter Hiders"!By some of the companies that make them.Such a shame we have produced/accepted a society where men think breasts are for their Sexual pleasure. As a lactation specialist I have heard some young women say my breast are for my partner/husband.
    This is still very much alive with our vast media availability.So many young singers on T.V. are still willing to allow themselves to be marketed sexualy. Jo Anne RN,ANLC,IBCLC,RLC

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  65. I feel like one of the greatest things I ever did for the advancement of mankind was nurse at my local climbing gym in front of a bunch of twenty-something year olds, most of them male. Most of them were my friends as we climb there quite regularly, and I like to think that they think of me as a great (or at least good?) climber which gives me some “cred”. I managed to climb all through my pregnancy (safely – this is a sport I have done for more then half my life and I know my limits and pulled way back). So when the baby was born, I brought her in to show my friends and hang with my hubby while he climbed. We she got hungry, I didn’t want to go isolate myself, so in the middle of a conversation, I sat on the floor (thats what one does at the gym) and bean to nurse. I admit *I* was uncomfortable. It’s much easier to nurse in front of strangers. But I acted like I wasn’t. I didn’t uses a cover, but my shirt/ babies head covered the important parts. I honestly don’t know how others felt. They certainly didn’t act uncomfortable. I was very likely the first time they had seen a woman nurse though. No one acted like anything was happening at all. It was very cool and I’m very proud of it. I’m sure they could see how much portable a baby is when you don’t have to bring bottles! Once I was climbing again they got to see that since mom nurses, dad gets to change diapers. otherwise mom wouldn’t get to climb enough!

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  66. I just had a conversation with a woman whom I yoga and work for. We had this discussion as I was the one whom said breastfeeding is a beautiful thing so why hide it. She basically said that women should cover up b/c no one wants to see boobies hanging out. It is the "moral" thing to do. SHe said we live in a conservative Christian society so we should abide by this society. I am a believer of change and if we continue to shove these issues to the back of our throat to swallow then change will not occur. She also said society should be based off of lost tradition. I said why not create our own new traditions if that is what you need. I am not a believer of religion. I do not believe in keeping things the same in society. I believe in energy and it is constantly shifting and changing. Thank you for posting this as more of our society needs to be educated on accepting the all naturale, change and the choices that differ.

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  67. gonna start carrying my covers again (had them because preemie baby took a lot of exposure to latch) so that I can offer them to offended people to place on their heads if they lack the self control to look away. lmao @ that comment.

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  68. I love the bike metaphor. Just like when we teach something to our kids - they need to see it. They learn by example. And the gorilla story moved me. Great post!

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  69. If someone says cover-up, I wonder where they can find clothes today that doesn't show both sides with no baby, and no one says a thing.

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  70. This is such a wonderful article! Thanks for posting... I loved (and can related to!) the gorilla story. I saw a woman breastfeed exactly once when I was growing up. It wasn't until I was in college & was a nanny for two breastfed baby boys that I really started to learn/understand breastfeeding. I'm certain my breastfeeding experience would be sorely different if not for those learning experiences! Thanks for the article... I love it!

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  71. I have no children, but have experienced many mothers breastfeeding in my presence. I feel so blessed that most of them felt empowered enough to do it in front of me. However, recently at a restaurant with some female friends, my new-mommy friend was breastfeeding her son at the table. Afterward, another friend at the table said she should have asked before "whipping it out" because one of the people at the table had just met her an may not "want to see her boobs." I said I thought it was great she was so comfortable. The new friend agreed, that not only has she seen "boobs" before, but she'd seen nursing mothers and felt it was great. Thanks for reminding us how important it is we make public breastfeeding a natural part of our social society.

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  72. Sarah Blue BerraJuly 24, 2011 at 5:38 PM

    I appreciate the article, and I agree that to some extent, the lack of seeing others nurse their babies has hindered the ability of many new mothers to successfully nurse their own. I was lucky enough to nurse until the age of 4 :) I really do like the bike analogy, and the gorilla story is just amazing!! I do, however, come from a very socially conservative viewpoint, in which it would be very inappropriate to expose a woman's breast in front of men outside my own family, but I do enjoy nursing openly in front of my family and other women and children. For those who are more comfortable nursing in public, I advocate women cover up their cleavage all the time they're NOT nursing, and feel free to be as open as they please while feeding :D LOL

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  73. I love this article and it's something I'm personally quite passionate about too. My third child is currently 3 months old and I frequently feed him in public. I've never used a nursing cover, the only thing I did infrequently use with my first child when I was less confident was a sling.

    I try to feed my babies in public because I think it should be the norm. However, you bring up something I hadn't previously thought about... that females need to see women breastfeed so they know how to do it themselves later on. I was lucky enough to be breastfed, as was my sister and I vaguely remember her nursing as she was 3 years old when she weaned. I also saw friend's mothers breastfeeding their babies as I grew up, so without realising it, I probably did use what I saw when I breastfed my own children. I never had any issues feeding any of them, right from the start, and maybe that's partly why!

    Great article, thank you.

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  74. Wouldn't it be great if one day new mothers could to turn to just about any other veteran mother and ask for nursing help in any society? I wish those days were not so long ago.

    While I agree that we all should be SEEING active, uncovered nursing to re-normalize the process of feeding our children, it's important not to minimalize how vital it is to TALK with each other about these experiences. And not just within the breastfeeding community, but everyone and anyone.

    I actually credit my mother for saying when I was young that she loved being pregnant and loved breastfeeding. It imprinted on me how normal and good those experiences should be for me.

    Unfortunately, I found out much later, after my first son was born that she only nursed for a scant few months with myself and my brother. Worse, she spent MONTHS when I nursed my first trying to rearrange my shirt and/or a burp cloth to cover my nursing activity until she finally seemed to give up.

    I nursed #1 for 16 months and I'm going strong at 7 months with #2 and still, I feel her eyes upon me as we chat while I feed my child and I KNOW she is wishing I'd cover up more. Too bad, Mom. That's just not my style. My husband it completely supportive and my oldest cuddles against me when I feed his brother. Normalcy.

    I also find that young children are curious and more than accepting whenever they have come upon me nursing.

    Great post. Love the gorilla story!

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  75. This is an excellent article! It also makes me wonder if the reason I had a stress-free nursing experience with my first child has to do with growing up in a nursing household, where I was old enough to see, remember and learn about nursing. When I had my daughter, my mom and mother in law were still nursing their little ones. :)

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  76. thank you so much for this article. as a nursing mother myself, i wish more ppl thought the way you do! when nursing (discreetly), no more skin is exposed than would be if wearing a skimpy bikini. yet at the beach, no one says "cover that up". lol

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  77. This post was awesome! As an AA mother of 4 and a Lactation Educator, I work tirelessly to normalize breastfeeding in my community (the 1 with the lowest breastfeeding rates of any ethnic group). I used a cover with #1 but with each subsequent child, I became more comfortable nursing in public. When I had #3, a first-time mom hipped me to the tank top/shirt combo and that is my nursing uniform of choice :) I am currently nursing my 15 month old and even with all my passion and education I still find myself being careful not to expose "too much". Thanks for such a wonderful source of encouragement. And to anyone who comes away with anything other than something positive from this post...they have their own issues. Comments like "to each his own" are indicative of small minded individuals. I shared this on my FB page and in my natural parenting FB group. Wonderful writing!

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  78. Fantablulous post! I applaude you! :0)

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  79. Just LOVE this post! I was not breastfed and had never seen it done before I had my own children. I believed, though, that it was a normal and natural thing and there was never a question as to whether I would nurse my kids. Thank God, I was blessed to have a really easy breastfeeding experience. But, it's not always so easy for every mama and I agree that it would be so helpful to new mamas to be able to be around other mamas nursing their babies openly. Unlike one of the many anons above, I don't believe that this article makes a blanket statement that ALL a new mama needs to be successful is to see other mamas nursing. Obviously, we all understand that there are real reasons why some women are unable to breastfeed or have real difficulty doing so. But, that doesn't negate the importance of seeing it done. Off to share this awesome post ;)

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  80. Great post! Honestly, it doesn't offend me that some people are uncomfortable with watching the breastfeeding process any more than that some are uncomfortable with watching me change a diaper. It's usually people who don't have kids and aren't that comfortable around them that feel this way. The people who are planning to have children and need the knowledge seem to be a lot more curious and comfortable. I tried to use a nursing cover in restaurants, shopping malls, church, wherever I thought others would feel embarrassed. It made me comfortable. But in mommy groups, around family and friends, etc., I did not use one. It's kind of the same with anything I do with my son. If I'm with other mom friends or family members, I have no problem to lay him on the floor and change his diaper or pull up my shirt to nurse. But if it's someone who I suspect is uncomfortable around babies, I go to another room to change him, pull out a cover to nurse him.
    I used the tank top method the most and I feel it is very discreet, but if someone needs instruction it's easy enough to pull back and show her what you are doing. I agree with the one who said she is more uncomfortable showing her stomach than her breast. So true!!! After 16 months of nursing, I hardly noticed the other day when a baby accidentally pulled my swimsuit over and exposed my breast in a public pool, but if my suit rode up and exposed my elephant-knee tummy I would be mortified!

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  81. Awesome Article!! LOVE it! Shared it! I had never given much thought to nursing in front of others and would never watch another mother nurse before I gave birth to my own child. I had a horrible time nursing my first and gave up. I was so discouraged that I wasn't even planning on nursing the second time around. But, fortunately, #2 was eager to nurse from the beginning and I was able to nurse her for over a year. I covered up, but usually with my shirt. One of my female cousins who had a 13 year old girl at the time allowed me to take her daughter on several occasions. Her daughter loved helping out with the babies and of course was around for many feedings. I asked both her and her mother if it was an issue before I nursed uncovered around her. The daughter said it didn't bother her and her mother encouraged it. She had a very similar take on it as you, if her daughter didn't see moms nursing she would have no idea when she had her own babies. =) <3

    The gorilla story was very touching and the bike metaphor was GREAT!

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  82. Thank you! I do not cover up. My daughter has never appreciated that, so I just don't. I wait for rude comments but they never come. Either people are accepting this, or they are too chicken to say anything. I too wouldn't mind if mothers brought their children over to find out what we're up to. I would be happy to talk with them. :-)

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  83. Unfortunately, in America, ours is a society that believes that breasts are more a sexual object than an object that can be used to nourish a child (or anyone, for that matter!). The sight of a naked breast leaves grown men weak in the knees and grown women fearing for the safety of woman-kind. How sad! But it is what it is. Until our society can learn to be more accepting of a naked breast and not see it as a sexual object, this problem will continue.

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  84. There is help for mothers struggling with breastfeeding. This website is part of that:
    www.mobimotherhood.org

    They help mothers that are having many issues. And they help with the grieving process.
    As for me, if I had not *SEEN* my aunt breastfeeding, I know it never would have even occured to me that this is what breasts are for. I owe my childrens health to this wonderful woman. Thank you for SHOWING me breastfeeding! I whole-heartedly love your article. Sorry some moms are very ... nitpicky about the content.

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  85. Excellent post! I just tried explaining it to my husband and I compared it to sitting in a studio with a painter as he worked and watching a video of the painter, that helped him understand. Very cool!!

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  86. Well done! I totally agree! I am struggling with a similar situation. Im am teaching my little boy how to pee on his own. Just like when infants need to feed, sometimes it IS in public, and as he is young he cant always wait, so, i am training him to pee outside on his own. some of the looks and remarks i get are very disturbing and offensive. The analogy of the bike and talking about our future generations loosing out on this priceless education touched my heart. If we can not feel comfortable publicly (and proudly) educating our future parents and mentors then what tools will there be to guide our future?

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  87. This past weekend I was in a two day doula training class with a breastfeeding mom-- though her child wasn’t with her so she was pumping. The fifteen of us were seated at 6 tables arranged into a rectangle-- so we could more or less see everyone in the class. It was a DONA class and sponsored by a group who provides community doulas so there was an unusually wide range of women in attendance-- we were not all 'crunchy' types by any means. Jane chose to pump at the table during class. It made me uncomfortable-- though after four hours of her loud, attention needy, inconsiderate contributions to class, I cant say that I was surprised at her choice to pump at the table or by my discomfort with anything she did.

    The second day of class we were watching a movie some while she was pumping and I was working to feel and understand my discomfort with her/ and her pumping. I finally decided the situation was this: she had a right to pump, and I had a right to be uncomfortable with it.

    I wanted to communicate something to her, but what? I didn’t want to make her feel shamed or unwelcome, I was just uncomfortable to the point of needing to express myself.

    As someone with a history of sexual abuse, (a history it was easy to be conscious of due to the room being decorated with art from a sexual trauma workshop-- hearts painted and collaged with expressions of peoples experiences of abuse) I begin to see a lot of myself in Jane-- particularly the way I behaved before I was able to confront the reality of my abuse. The desperate acts to draw attention to myself (here I’m speaking of her verbal contributions to class), the veneer of confidence not quite covering a sea of insecurity, the willingness to unnecessarily expose myself (emotionally and physically). I begin to wonder if she was aware that she was exposing herself. I mean, I knew that she knew her boob was visible, but had she dealt with how that felt or did she not even consider the feelings that might come up when showing her boob to a room of strangers because was scared to feel?

    When Jane looked around the room and her eyes landed on me, I mouthed to her, "do you feel exposed? do you want this?" and tugged at the sweater I was wearing. She shook her head and offered "its all girls here" A fact I, as a person with good vision, was aware of. I was aware that there were 14 other women in the room, with various comfort levels and histories of their own and that sometimes boobs are sacred and special and need a little privacy.

    Here I might fall on the prudish side of things, but mostly because right now I am back in my home state in the southeast and people are conservative as hell and putting your boob in their face is not the way to allow them to be comfortable with breast feeding. And I don’t want to push my history of abuse on others-- though my feeling was clear: she is hurting and she is doing this for attention. I was in a three day class last weekend with a pumping mother and I didn’t realize she was pumping until the third day. I don’t want people to feel they need to hide anything and I understand that after a year of pumping it would be easy not to give a d*mn any more, but sometimes life is hard and boobs do deserve respect.
    I share this because it was hard for me to deal with, because it kind of shocked me that I was so strongly uncomfortable with it, so its been sort of rolling around my head and this blog post is so timely to that event.
    I love empowered women. I support healthy women and healthy babies, and I don’t think that breast feeding is anything to hide but lets make sure we don’t give too much of ourselves away because we are running from who we are.

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  88. Yes, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding was awesome, I remember it well. I did cover up when I breastfeeding in front of some others simply because it was too personal for me to share with everyone. While it may not have been sexual, it was still quite intimate. My children, husband & closest friends were the only ones who ever saw me or needed to.
    I did feel the freedom to nurse anywhere though because of 2 awesome BF moms that I observed in my young adulthood, Cate & Jane. If it weren't for their strong examples, I don't know if I would have considered it or not. As it turns out, breastfeeding is one of my all-time favorite things to do, even though I did not end of nursing as long as I would have liked. When my 4th child was unexpectantly stillborn, one of the hardest things to have to "get over" was not being able to nurse him. I still long for that missed experience.
    Women should breastfeed when & where they need to & only cover up if they choose to. I have felt the importance to share my experience & knowledge with other mothers new to breastfeeding. I have offered my phone # to acquaintences & friends alike to call me day or night with any questions. It is so amazing & important that all women should be supported in every way in order to breastfeed.

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  89. Fantastic article!!!
    For the anonymous poster linking breastfeeding and nudity this would be a good place for you to start looking at the facts. http://www.drmomma.org/2010/05/united-states-breastfeeding-laws.html

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  90. This is such a great article. When I was pregnant I read all about breastfeeding, watched videos, & even attended nursing classes. But I never felt like it was enough. I was hoping for more live nursing that I could learn from. I thought when I went to nursing groups with other mothers who were nursing or had that I would see it in action, but even then it was all talk & descriptions with dolls, or covering up. I thought, "Am I ever gonna learn firsthand?!" & Realizing that most people know so little about it or think of it as disgraceful, is just overwhelming. Although they preferred discreet nursing, Luckily, my husband was very supportive, as was my Mom. Very thankful for that.

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  91. B"H
    I find it appalling that in this day and age it is acceptable for a woman to show off her breasts minus the nipples but the minute they are being used for their intended purpose they are 'disgusting'. That was a wonderfully inspiring article and being pregnant with my first I feel empowered to breastfeed. Thank you.

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  92. Thank you!!

    I talk about the need to normalize nursing for the next generation frequently, so it's nice to hear such an articulate explanation of the process.

    It's just heartbreaking when I overhear adolescent girls talk about it as something "gross"...

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  93. I was four years old when my baby brother was born in Germany. At that time (mid 80's) in that country, the "modesty movement" was still only a generation old, and it was extremely common to see grandmothers at the public pool swimming topless. In that same venue, while it was far less likely that younger women would be topless, it was not out of keeping for mothers with small babies to nurse them poolside. Nobody paid attention. Nobody but the American kids even noticed. It isn't really the same anymore, but I am glad that I spent some formative years in an environment where being topless in public was not considered inappropriate BY ANYONE. Makes it easier to remember that people's knee-jerk reaction is to be appalled by something they've never seen before, but, hey, they'll get over it. Even if they can't, the next generation, having grown up with it, will see it as normal.

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  94. This is absolutely perfect. In the next few days I am giving a group presentation in my Sociology class on NIP. We surveyed 46 people on BF and NIP. Luckily not a single person said it is sexual!! However, almost half felt covers should be required =( This is an angle I did not even think about until now, and I am so grateful we will still be able to include it in time!!! This is invaluable, utterly priceless. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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  95. I breastfeed my baby in public all the time and don't mind answering questions if anyone has them (you know, kids -- not rude adults, although I've rarely encountered the latter). My 3.5 YO is still breastfeeding so to her, it's completely normal and she totally gets it. I'm sure she'll be 6 or 7 AT LEAST before her youngest sibling weans (I have a newborn, but plan to have more). She won't have any trouble, and if she does -- some babies do need to be "taught," like my most recent baby, but luckily I knew what to do this time -- she can call me and I'll help her figure it out.

    It's too bad this is NOT normalized. Really. But I'll just keep nursing in public, uncovered. And I take my kids to a playgroup where ALL the moms do this, usually until around age 2, and no one covers or is even particularly discreet. My kids are far more mystified by bottles than breastfeeding! That's how it should be.

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  96. Well if all other ways of teaching are outlawed or it is required to be covered, you could always take the kiddos to the zoo and let them watch how the monkeys do it!!

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  97. In my 7 years of nursing experience, I have never covered up while nursing I actually think covering makes it MORE obvious you are nursing. The baby's head covers up a lot on its own.
    Thanks for this post.!


    Janice
    Celebrating Family

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    1. I had 2 babies and covered up all the time. It was the early '70's and no one was nursing. Well maybe the hippie moms in communes. I covered up all the time and most people would just look and say, "Oh is the baby sleeping?" To which I would reply, "Yes" tersely. Only once and older gentleman must have been in his late '70's smiled a great smile and winked at me saying, "Is the baby nursing?" This is the only time I smiled back and answered the truth. It was like a super secret between the two of us that no one else cottoned onto. :) Once my six year old sister-in-law wanted to see it so I showed her and had all the wrath of my mother-in-law poured down upon my head. So no covering up didn't make it more obviously to the completely clueless. I love it now that women don't cover up and are making a bold statement about this as opposed to just bottle feeding.

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  98. Haven't read all the comments - but thank you! Fantastic article that I'm excited to share with others!!

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  99. Thank you for so clearly expressing the sound reasoning behind breastfeeding uncovered. I love when children see me nursing my 3yr. old DD! I do think that covering actually draws much more attention, but I would never make a mother nurse uncovered. I never covered my child.

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  100. I have some friends who are ashamed of their breasts, and have stated plainly they're not comfortable with the idea of a baby suckling from them-- what a shame, to let the baby not receive the nourishment and antibodies that are SO important to such a young life just because society has deemed your body as "dirty" or for men only and have made you feel it is wrong and uncomfortable.

    I had previously never seen anyone breastfeed, and probably would have sheepishly and embarrassingly turned away from such a sight before I had my kids. My first was difficult, I had no idea what normal meant, and I was often sore from bad latching. If I had someone I could have asked questions of early on, it would have helped some, but most of us really DO learn from visual experience and I might have been able to nurse my first longer than 2 months with a direct education like that. My second child I nursed for a full year successfully, only occasionally covering up as I really didn't want to show off my belly-- it had NOTHING to do with being ashamed of feeding my baby at a dinner table while we were ALL eating (kids and babies don't wait, you know) I didn't plop by boobs on the table, I didn't show everyone my nipples, and as I did it more frequently in public, I noticed more and more mothers in the same predicament. I don't feel the need to ostracize myself while others are enjoying dinner together. Our particular American culture is so hypocritical when a mother can't breastfeed her baby (super-important if you can manage it, by the way) but we can stick a piece of tape over our nipples to go in public and be legal. Not to mention the low-cut shirts and skimpy clothing that we are allowing 12 year olds to wear-- I have a much bigger problem with the way people DRESS their young than I do with the natural and convenient method of FEEDING our nation's young.

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  101. I can appreciate the sweet story about the gorilla, but we are women, and we don't live in a vacuum. If something you are doing is offensive to others and there is something very minor that you can do so as to prevent that thing from being offensive at all (say throw a blanket over your shoulder), why wouldn't you do so? Is it really that you care more about educating a stranger's child than the level of discomfort you are potentially causing those around you? There is nothing socially unacceptable about breastfeeding. It's breastfeeding with it all hanging out in public and subjecting the world to "just deal" with your personal viewpoint and values. Why do you think it's your place to be parenting/educating other people's children on this subject? There are plenty of resources that we can tap into to "learn how to breastfeed" (family members, friends, books, internet...) if that's really the primary reason for you not covering up. However, I suspect that it isn't. The notion that the world would be a better place if there was a culture shift and no one was uncomfortable seeing your boobs while you breastfeed your baby is an opinion that many of you seem to have, but not all of us share. Please consider your surroundings and consider others before breastfeeding in public without covering up.

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    1. So what your saying is I should cover up for someone elses point of view... I'll pass! Some people are idiots.

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  102. Love, love, love! It makes me feel ashamed that I NIP for so long as an act of rebellion (still do, actually) and never thought of the deeper side of it. This is beautifully written.

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  103. i am a breastfeeding mom. and from what i have seen, the women who complain most about us are some of the least feminine, least maternal women i've ever met. often flat chested, might i add. i think they are threatened. and i do believe that if we lived in a culture where women could feed their babies openly, that women would have an easier time "learning to ride the bike". to those who don't want to see me feed my son, feel free to hide under a blanket and i'll let you know when we are done so you can come out.

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  104. Yes! What an excellent article!

    Anonymous (August 22, 2011 7:56 PM) said...
    If something you are doing is offensive to others and there is something very minor that you can do so as to prevent that thing from being offensive at all (say throw a blanket over your shoulder), why wouldn't you do so?


    First of all, if you have a problem with it, that doesn't make it MY problem. It is YOUR problem. Own it. Secondly, I like to look at my baby when she's eating. Lastly, and most importantly, my baby doesn't like have a freaking blanket on her head when she's trying to eat. Imagine that. If you have a problem with watching a baby nurse, you are welcome to put a blanket over YOUR head so you don't have to see it.


    Anonymous (July 23, 2011 4:31 AM) said...
    All of this article is great, but doesn't change the fact that most laws forbid nudity.
    [...]
    The unfortunate truth is that your argument could be applied to sex ed. Diagrams, even pictures (which preteens and teens GLADLY research!) won't ever convey the actions of sex. However, would we say that to teach our kids how that works, sex in public should be allowed?


    Your first argument is nonsensical, since breastfeeding in public is excluded from public nudity laws. A breastfeeding dyad has the legal right to nurse anywhere the mother is otherwise authorized to be.

    Your second argument also doesn't make any sense, since the equivalent of breastfeeding is not having sex in a park, but rather eating a sandwich in a restaurant.

    FYI, when you spout off like that, it just makes you look ignorant, since you don't seem to understand the laws (it's legal anywhere, anytime) or the act of breastfeeding itself (it's not sexual).

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  105. This is brilliant. Thank you so much for writing it. I was in a discussion recently with a man I know who said that women should be willing to cover up if someone is uncomfortable with them breastfeeding. I didn't really agree, but I conceded slightly. Now, I will stand up firmly for women not covering up! Maybe I will carry a few blindfolds for people when I have children... I loved Hilary's comment. ^_^

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  106. I don't understand how riding a bike logically equates to breastfeeding. Seriously. No one will see my breasts besides my doctor, baby, and husband. Has the facebook/oversharing sydrome reached us so far as to not hold back ANYTHING? Even our bare boobies for the world to see?
    I hope no woman would be so inconsiderate as to whip out her feeders in public.
    Thanks for defending the amazing act of breastfeeding, but cultural norms are in place for a reason.

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  107. Wonderful post. As a breastfeeding mother who spent the first few months postpartum hiding away so I wouldn't offend anyone by feeding my son in front of them - THANK YOU.

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  108. As a breastfeeding mom and a mammal, I appreciate this blog post and it is refreshing to read all of the supportive comments! It is sad that human-kind has deviated so far from nature. Creating and nurturing life is the most natural thing we can do. Breasts are for babies, not men. Thank you for the post!

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  109. I'm sorry that I can't agree with your argument. I think that when in private (your home, the home of friends who won't mind), it IS important to breastfeed without a cover. However, unless you basically live at the mall I don't see how it will hurt you to bring a lightweight piece of cloth to prevent ususpecting strangers from getting an eyeful.
    I know that in other cultures it is excepted at all times and in all situations. I lived in a country for a year where women would whip it out (all the way out) and left it out for a while even after the baby was no longer attached. However, the cultural conditioning was differing. Breasts are only barely considered sexual and mostly associated with breatfeeding. In the U.S. the breasts are highly sexual. In your family breats might just be the milk makers, but you have no right to assume that that's all they are to other people. Just as it would have been wrong for to go out in the other culture and tell them that they needed to put their breasts away because they are sexual, it is also wrong for you to whip out the nips in public and tell people to get comfortable.
    Now that I have probably offended you...let me just say that if you really make the effort to be discreet I am not talking about you. I appreciate you. I am talking about women who show a lot of boob and breastfeed in an obvious way. I was breastfed as a baby. I grew up with the basic assumption that I would probably breastfeed if I ever had a baby. I'm not any breastfeeding.
    All I am saying is that for the few times you actually have to feed in public-cover up or be really discreet. If you aren't ok with being discreet...you need to ask yourself why you really want people to see the boobies.

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  110. to Anonymous With the baby in NICU

    I did not have a difficult preg. untill the last two weeks. I knew my baby would be born early and was told my baby would go to the NICU after. After my son was born it was hard. I felt like a faillure bacause i could not take my son home. I two had to pump to provide milk for my son, who also was being fed by a tube.

    I also had concerns about BF. Would i have a enough milk. Would my son be able to nurse from me. Would i know how to do it. I had never held a baby before. This was all new to me. We lived over an hour away from the city. We were lucky to stay at friends and family for the three weeks our son was in the hospital. I am the oldest of 30 grandkids. But never once saw a nursing mom. I knew that i would BF for my son before he was born. Its a natural thing to do.
    It was over two weeks before i could hold him. The frist time i could BF him was the night before i could take him home. It was 2 am in the morning for the first time to BF. There was no one to show me what to do. How to hold him. To postion him just so. How long to nurse him. The nurse just gave him to me and that was it. The nurse was so surprised, he latched on right away and didnt make a fuss.

    I contined to pump for two months. Everytime i brought milk to the NICU the nurses were impressed by how much i brought in after 3 days away.

    By the time we had brougth our son home i was so happy. i could hold any time i wanted. But we did screw up his feeding schedual. It took a while to get him back on his schedual.

    I also did hide in the bathroom at malls. But at the one mall i did like to go to has a special room for nursing moms who feel they need the privacy. I liked it because it has comfortable chairs to sit in. Moms still have the option to cover up or not cover up in this room.

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  111. i love this post. thank you so much!
    i'm a waitress at a breakfast place in NE and apparentally, to other servers, it's "disgusting" to wait on a momma who breastfeeds without a cover. servers have actually openly refused to wait on mommas who didn't cover up or they have given away tables to me because some mommas refuse to. and to those mommas who refuse, i say, "Good for you! you shouldn't have to!!" i think its ridiculous for mommas to HAVE to cover up. to all breastfeeding women traveling through NE, you can sit in my section ANY time.

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  112. To all the people out there who think a mother should cover up while breastfeeding, think about this; I would put MONEY on the fact that you see far less of my skin when I feed my baby than you would see on most teenage girls in the mall now a days. Most high school girls show off more of their bodies on a regular basis than I have ever shown while breastfeeding. Isn't this a much bigger concern than an eating baby?

    And PS, my babies health and well being is so much more important than making sure you are not offended. Just remember that once upon a time you were that breastfeeding child.

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  113. This is a beautiful post - thank you.

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  114. i nursed all 3 of my girls, be proud you are doing the right thing for the baby, plus if peps don't like it dont look cause i have had a lady tell its no appropriate to be feeding my baby in a restaurant were people are eating she told me to go feed her in the bathroom :( knowing there is no chairs just a toilet and a sink lol i said ya right you eat your food where people shit!!!! people like that disgusted me . like bug off yes cause doing the most natural thing in life is the most rewording and the best bonding healthy choice you could make keep it up :)

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  115. I know I'm going to get flamed for this, but I don't really care - I think nursing moms need to relax a little bit. I saw this out of my own fairly limited experience, but as someone who plans to to nurse our future children, and whose husband is on board with it, we have had overwhelmingly negative experiences with mothers nursing in public. While this may just be a response to criticism that appears about nursing in public, it certainly doesn't help the image. Here's what happened: on two separate occasions, when my husband and I were dining at a very breastfeeding-friendly establishment, a woman was feeding her 18-month old, and on the second occasion, a much younger baby (3 or 4 months), and my husband happened to glance over at her. He is very pro-breastfeeding, but as a man, and not a parent, is understandably curious about the intricacies of breastfeeding - I think that anyone who has never experienced it can agree that it inspires curiosity in the non-nurser. Well, apparently the mother felt that my husband was staring at her for too long (I don't believe he was, but it did turn our conversation to breastfeeding, but not in a degrading, insulting way, more of a wistful, let's daydream about our future babies way) and felt the need to come over to our table and loudly reprimand him for being a sicko and staring at her breasts, and that they were not sexual objects but for feeding a baby, etc. etc. There was no dialogue, no opportunity for him to say "I think what you're doing is great, and keep it up" or anything, but this woman made a tremendous, embarrassing scene. I was willing to chalk it up to one woman's issues/insecurity, but then it happened again. If we had been clearly reproachful, ignorant, or rude to these women I can understand their ire, but I felt like these women required a bubble of personal space that is just not possible in a public setting/restaurant. If you're comfortable nursing in public, please do. My husband and I support you 100%. But if you're going to become aggressive with us, or other people who have never nursed and are therefore ignorant of the intricacies of breastfeeding, it hinders your appearance of comfort, our comfort around you (I say "you" in reference to the two women who verbally attacked us), and the message of the pro-breastfeeding movement when you insert yourself as a victim into a situation in which that was profoundly not the case.

    -Emily

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  116. I nursed two babies to the age of 2. By the time I had the second one, I was not the slightest bit shy about nursing wherever I happened to be. I nursed in front of all kinds of people, male and female. I *never* got a sexual comment, a come-on, or a leer from any man, even some men whom you'd expect crudeness from. I think men may see boobs and think "sex", but when you put the baby next to the boob, the "sex" thoughts die instantly. The men I've discussed it with agree.

    I'm sure there are some men with a nursing fetish, but there are men with shoe fetishes as well, and they don't keep me from wearing high-heeled sandals!

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  117. Interesting posts and very interesting comments. I breastfed my 2 boys for 3 years combined. I nursed wherever we happened to be, on buses, trains, supermarkets, cafes, parks, you name it. I never used a cover but I always found my baby covered any evidence of flesh. I also enjoyed several years peer support in community groups where I have had many conversations about breastfeeding, have invited people to observe my breastfeeding and have been invited to watch others breastfeeding. However, my key point is my belief that we should be respectful to the mother-baby need for dignity and privacy in their nursing relationship. Many people would not appreciate being approached by a stranger who wanted to show their child someone nursing, not because they are embarrassed, but because this may interrupt their nursing moment. There are also those mothers who do feel anxious about public nursing and being approached by someone without invitation will be potentially stressful for both Mum and baby and disrupt their nursing experience.
    At the end of the day, it would be lovely if breastfeeding was once again so naturalised that all mothers could breastfeed freely without judgement, fear or disruption. However, we're not there yet. Until we're in that world, I think we should show respect to Mums that prefer to feed discreetly. They have made the best choice for their baby and will share their experience with people that they trust.
    Those that feed openly - fantastic. There is absolutely nothing negative I wish to say about this, everyone should feed however they want. I just wanted to say something to support those that might read this and feel guilty for choosing to veil their feeding experience for whatever reason.
    As a final comment, the first person I saw breastfeeding up close was myself feeding my baby boy at age 21. I had 2 very good friends that never showed me nipples or flesh but took me into their confidence and described the beauty and benefits of their nursing experiences. Those veiled nursing mothers ended up promoting breastfeeding just as effectively as our open nursing friends.

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  118. I am getting so god damn sick of people saying how its discusting and one of the quoted comments stating "it traumertising children" what the hell why is it men can walk around topless etc and yet its fine no children get traumertised then do they, what just because out breasts are bigger and a different shape and actually used to feed means its discusting and shouldnt be done etc im sorry but what a load of utter bollox. i only breastfed my daughterfor a week because in the end it was to painful and it broke my heart, they are breast every person on the planet has them women should not be bullied, judged and subjected to narrow minded views all because their chest is used to feed children. the only problem most men have is that women have to do it to feed and not to just walk around with their chest out. and well to be honest i dont know why women are so subjective but then as i said double standards all because men dont use their body for anything but giving those children to women so of course they can walk around wearing just shorts if they wish but women nope have to be covered, its appauling it really is.

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  119. Here's a link to an article on this topic from 2001:

    http://www.mothering.com/community/a/from-bashful-to-brazen-the-indiscreet-breastfeeders-manifesto

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  120. Your article is spot on. Before my daughter was born I literally didn't know what I didn't know. I assumed that I would learn everything I needed to know from the hospital midwives, but they were so busy that we had limited time with them. I often yearn to live in a time or place where communal living and child-rearing exists. We learn so many things as we grow up simply by watching the people around us. Yet, something as vital to sustaining life is often expected to be done hidden away or covered up.

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  121. This article is, I'm sorry to say it, inappropriate at best. You are teaching women that something private, like the breast, should be out there for all to see. I consider it disrespectful and inconsiderate to others. Your baby is not loosing nutrition or the bonding experience when you take 3 seconds to cover your breast. Every opposing comment I have agreed with. You cannot expect everyone to be so open with the idea of exposing a breast. Breast feeding is a woman's right. And she is protected by the law to do it when and where she needs. However, openly showing a breast is not okay. You are not considering others and that is selfish. Perhaps there is a history of sexual abuse? Perhaps you grew up extremely conservative? Perhaps you have a sex addiction that is triggered by the sight of breast? And yes, many teenagers are scantily clad. Is that any reason to defend wearing less yourself? Additionally (like the commenter noted), you want the right to whip it out in public, but then get offended when people stare. You are also not giving parents the right to prevent their children from seeing this. Is it also your "right" to expose your breast so that other parents do not have a choice about what their children see? I hear a lot of talk about rights and freedoms of breast feeding. Yet I have heard very little about the rights of others. Please consider that you are turning the beautiful act of breast feeding into a very selfish one.

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    1. Let's suppose for a second... I have an unhealthy foot fetish:

      I would sincerely appreciate that you not wear any flip-flops, peep toes, or worse... Bare feet!
      It is mighty selfish of you not to anticipate MY needs as I see something deviant in your little piggies.
      Yes, it is something that I should probably seek professional help for, but I prefer not to be responsible for my actions, assuming that your wearing sandals is a direct insult to me and I am unable to turn away.


      I ask you... Who sounds selfish now?

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  122. I love this! I have 2 children (8yrs and 4 yrs) from a previous relationship and a 2 month old with my husband. I was unable to nurse my daughter (not through lack of trying) I was young and uneducated about the whole thing my son who is now 4 I nursed till he was 2 and I was determined to nurse my new baby at least that long however my husband disagreed he feels that he is missing out on bonding time with our son and in respect to that we agreed on nursing only till our little one is 6months I also use a receiving blanket to cover only for my husband. I don't want my son to miss out because of my husbands wishes but don't want to hurt my husbands feelings either other than pumping (which I was never good at) any suggestions on what to do?

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    Replies
    1. Hello,
      Why not have him do as much skin-to-skin as he can with the baby? (Ie, undress the baby down to the diaper and put it on his bare chest.) It increases his own oxytocin, and will help him bond with the baby much better than just feeding the baby a bottle will. Then continue to breastfeed: there are powerful research studies done on baby's better health status when they continue to be breastfed for a couple of years, and it is absolutely in the best interest of your child's health, and yours as well. (Your husband won't be the one to pay the price in terms of higher chance of breast and ovarian cancer, heart disease and stroke, and Type II diabetes that you will.) He can also be the one to take over the baby's bath-time: baby's skin warm and fragrant from a both is one of the great blessings in this world!

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  123. My baby girl REFUSES to let me use a cover when nursing, and has done so since she was about 4 months. It actually distracts her and exposes me more as I fight with her to get her latched while she's grabbing at the cover. So I gave the cover up. I do tend to look for more secluded spaces to nurse my child, more for my own comfort so I don't have to worry about exposure as much, but am always prepared to be able to nurse whereever I need to, with minimal exposure. This took me a bit to figure out, since no one really talks about other methods of discreet nursing besides covers, but now I do ok. I use the two top method - nursing tank under another shirt, unlatch the nursing tank, pull up the outer shirt enough so baby can reach the nipple, and let her latch (easier to do now that she's almost a year and knows what she's doing). I can't say that if someone was watching they wouldn't see anything, but if someone was actually watching rather than just giving a passing glance, I'd probably be a little uncomfortable. I would prefer to use a cover, but I can't, and I'm sure I'm not the only mother in that situation.

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  124. I love this blog post more every time I read it!

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  125. In college, I spent a semester abroad in Ecuador. I saw a lot of breastfeeding while I was there, in part because my host family had a new baby. But also, women simply nursed where they were, no cover up and no hiding away in another room. I saw women nurse in restaurants, on buses, on the side of the street... everywhere. At first I'll confess, I was surprised. Not offended, but definitely out of my element. After a couple of weeks in the country, I came to the realization that I was the ONLY one staring. Men, adolescent boys, other children - might look in the mother's direction briefly, but moved on soon enough, as there was nothing noteworthy going on. It was NORMAL. That realization shaped my thinking, and I felt very strongly that I had a duty to nurse my daughter openly when we breastfed in public. We could do our small part, make our contribution, to normalizing it here, too. I'll be nursing openly again when our next baby comes in a few months. :)

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  126. I'm currently breastfeeding my third child, and I can understand the differing points of view people have expressed. My husband requests that I make an effort to cover myself in public and around his male family members because he is very fond of my tatas, and doesn't want everyone to know exactly how wonderful they are. I try to humor him because he also encourages me to breastfeed as it being the best and most natural thing for our children. When babies are tiny and like to be wrapped up, it is much easier than when they get old enough to yank off the covers/blankets and screech because they can't enjoy the view while they are having a meal. I compromise by just pulling my breast out as far as my nipple, using my free hand to cover up the part of my breast directly above my baby's mouth, and quickly tucking it away when she is finished. I have never been confronted by anyone while doing so, although I do have children ask me what my baby is doing. I always give them a big smile and tell them that she is having some milk. I really feel that, as breastfeeding mothers, we can become ambassadors for mothers (and babies) everywhere by being kind, considerate, and understanding of differing views, while still providing encouragement for future generations, and staying true to the spirit of our actions- feeding our babies in a natural and healthy way.

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  127. A facebook friend posted this blog yesterday, so this is the first time I'm seeing it. The part that made me laugh was the commenter you quoted who said children should not be subjected to seeing something so disgusting. I thought of my own daughter who sees me with my boobs out nursing her baby brother or using a pump more often than she sees me with them covered up. She'd be like, big whoop. :) And when my closest friends, who have babies, are with us their boobs are frequently out nursing as well. I'm glad she's going to grow up with plenty of knowledge of this completely natural part of life!

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  128. I had a patient with post-partum depression tell me that she felt like she couldn't go anywhere with her baby because the baby is nursing. She said that she never sees other mothers nursing their babies and so she feels uncomfortable doing so in public. I told her that they are out there, probably just being so discreet she isn't noticing. It was so sad to me that it makes me want to be a lot less discreet next time around! I am usually very discreet for my own comfort, but I may need to rethink that. I would rather inspire other moms than have new moms feel they can't go anywhere!

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  129. I think breast feeding is wonderful and have no problem with most of this article or women sitting feeding their baby without a blanket shielding the parts that need to be out to accomplish this. But I still can't get that image out of my brain from 6 years ago of a woman in a very cropped shirt stomping down the main aisle of Target, both boobs hanging out, holding a baby nursing like a football down one arm bellering "Daddy" at the top of her lungs. I think Daddy was in hiding, and I shielded my two children because I didn't want them to learn the art of breastfeeding from THAT image.

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