TO COVER OR NOT?

In light of a recent post by my co-blogging partner Britt, who wrote on breastfeeding in public without a cover a few weeks back and the huge attention that it has gotten (both good and bad), I just couldn’t sit back any longer and stay silent. I feel that it is necessary to share my perspective on this topic as well. To be completely honest, I was never going to write about this issue because it is so controversial.  It wasn’t until recently that I started to question my thoughts on it at all.  But with lots of careful thought, I decided to share my opinion on the matter and that’s all it is: my opinion, food for thought (if you will), my perspective and my own personal experience with this very controversial topic of whether or not to cover when breastfeeding in public.

Before I get to the point, I hope by now we can all agree that breastfeeding a baby is the best and healthiest choice for both mom and baby. No formula that man can make will ever come close to the super nutrients our body creates specifically and uniquely for our babes. The benefits completely outweigh the alternative (if you would like more information on the nutritional value of breastmilk and it’s benefits go to La Leche League International.)

Now that thats out of the way, let me tell you a little about myself.

I’m a nursing mom, I have 4 boys ages 6 and under and I have breastfed every one of them. I’m currently nursing my 4th son, who is 4 months old and I have loved every minute of this time with my babies; despite the challenges because let’s be honest, it can be really hard sometimes.  But it has also been the most joyous experience for me to be able to nurse them and give them the best possible start at life.  It never ceases to amaze me that my body can nourish my baby – it is truly one of God’s greatest designs. It is as natural and beautiful as birth itself.

Although, amazing and beautiful, and for me without a doubt one of the best parts of motherhood, there are some challenges – one of which can be nursing in public.  However, as a society, we have made great advances towards helping to make it more accommodating for  nursing moms.  Laws have been put in place to allow us to nurse in public (here is a list of Federal and State Breastfeeding Laws).  Stores and other public places are making special rooms that are comfortable and accommodating for the nursing mom.  In fact my husband’s company is currently building an airport and he just told me that by law they must have a mother’s room, how awesome is that? Can I get a HALLELUJAH from my fellow breastfeeding moms?  I for one love any extra help I can get and since I have a lot of kids to tote around…I need all the help I can get.

So now let me get to the point. When it comes to wether or not to nurse in public AND with or without a cover, I believe that it all comes down to your motives.  Are you simply just trying to feed your baby, or are you purposely putting yourself right in the center of a public place to stir up stares and spark controversy? I personally DO cover up in public or try to be as discreet as possible because the reality of it is, I’m nursing my baby and it’s just as simple as that…I’m feeding my child!  I’m not trying to make a bold statement to the world, I’m not out to use my baby to progress some kind of political agenda, or express to the world my stance on breastfeeding.  I’m just trying to feed my baby for goodness sake.  I will always be as discreet as possible and show respect to myself, my husband and to those around me. In my almost 4 years of nursing babies, I’m pretty sure not one person has seen my breasts.

Just as I wouldn’t change my babies poopy diaper in the middle of a restaurant for all to see or better yet smell–although it does have a sweet scent due to the fact he is 100% breastfed; even still I just wouldn’t do it.  Believe me, I’ve wanted to because it would be way more convenient than finding a restroom but out of common courtesy, I wouldn’t. Just as well I won’t whip out my boob in the middle of a restaurant for all to see.  I do believe in being modest even when feeding a baby. It’s really not that hard when you feed your baby every 2-3 hrs – you get pretty good at being discreet.  On the rare occasion I have forgotten a cover, I have nursed without one (gasp) but guess what? No one ever knew because I covered with my shirt or turned my body in a way where no one could see. Not, because my baby isn’t important or because what I’m doing isn’t beautiful, but because I care and value not only my child but others as well. My baby gets fed and those around me are shown respect as well…it’s a win, win.  Similarly, if my child were crying and disturbing those around me lets say at a restaurant, I would get up and remove myself and the baby out of respect to those eating their dinner around us. Or for instance, if I am sick, I wouldn’t go out in pubic and start coughing on people, even though I have every “right” to be in public when I am sick. It’s still not the “right” thing to do. So out of respect for others I will keep my germs to myself.  The same thing applies for me when feeding my baby; I will respect others by showing discretion while I nurse.  And lets face it, it would be pretty awkward to nurse without a cover in front of my dad, father-in-law, or any of my husbands friends for that matter. I think they all appreciate the fact that I cover up. I’m sure you get the point now and I hope you understand my mindset and where I am coming from.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying I lock myself in the house. NO, not at all. In fact, I am out and about all the time since my older kids have activities all day long. My baby goes wherever we go and is never deprived of a feeding; in fact he is fed on demand anywhere anytime. My baby gets nursed at the park, with friends around, at church, at baseball practice, in the car, at restaurants and on a tram at Disneyland.  Yup, wherever we go. And no one sees my breasts.

You won’t find me hiding in a bathroom stall to feed my baby or removing myself from a party to do it in private. But you also don’t have to worry about me making you feel uncomfortable by boldly breastfeeding without a cover. I wont skip a beat when I’m having an in-depth conversation with my friends, I wont turn the attention on myself or my baby. I will simply slap a cover on, latch my baby and get back to our conversation.  I will show you and everyone around me respect when I am out in public.  Call me old fashioned, call me a prude, but I don’t care.  Our world can use more people who think about others, we can all show one another a little more respect and decency, something that sadly is rarely seen now a days.

Now, to the women who DOESN’T choose to wear a cover in public. It is awesome that you are breastfeeding and I commend you for the amazing gift and sacrifice of your body that you are giving to your child. I will never shame you nor put you down for your choices because you are doing an amazing thing. My children won’t be phased by it either because they have seen it a thousand times. From one breastfeeding mom to another I truly admire what you are doing. And I have read the thousands of articles on why you don’t need a cover and I have thoroughly understood where you are coming from and I’m sure there is no changing your mind on this matter and that’s fine. How you choose to feed your baby is ultimately your choice.  But please don’t throw stones at me for giving my opinion and letting my voice be heard.  The way we create tolerance in this world is respecting each other’s view points even if we don’t agree.

So with all that being said, I do agree with Britt on covering up in public, and I stand with her in stating we should be mindful of others and show respect to those around us.  I do believe we can still “normalize breastfeeding” without the public show.  As a christian woman in a society where it is becoming more culturally acceptable to breastfeed uncovered, I choose to be a rebel and stand apart from what others may be doing.  I choose to be modest, I choose to be respectful and loving to my brothers and those around me. Maybe there are some of you who are on the fence about where you stand on this issue, like I was. I’d ask that you consider the idea that: “Hey I can still feed my baby anywhere and everywhere and no one is going to stop me but I can do it in a way where I show mutual respect toward others.” Ultimately, my goal here is to simultaneously affirm the beauty of breastfeeding and support all mothers in this journey but also encourage women to pursue modesty and respect toward others.

nursing a newborn

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