A Disturbing Parenting Trend

There is no denying that the world has changed since Aidan was a baby.  Carseats, vaccines, and infant feeding all have different recommendations and in some cases, new laws.   There is another area of change, however, and this is the one that disturbs me the most:  covering up while breastfeeding in public.

When Aidan was born there was a big nurse-in at our local Target after an employee asked a mom to nurse somewhere else.  Moms came together in a smallish city to make a statement about breastfeeding rights.  When I, as a new first time mom, felt uncomfortable nursing in public it was other moms encouraging me not to worry about covering up and taught me about which types of shirts, bras, and slings might help me feel more comfortable.  I'm so grateful no one told me I had to stay home, rather than nurse in public, when I was a vulnerable young mom.

I look like I needed some more sleep, but probably not advice on covering up.

I started to notice this change with Lucie, but I somewhat attributed it to living in extra-conservative religious Utah.  More weird looks, fewer moms nursing in public at all, almost no one else nursing without a cover, and more comments than I'd ever had before.  It hasn't taken me long being back in Minnesota, however to realize this may be more of a nationwide trend and it seems to oddly be driven by the moms.

My cat occasionally provides barriers to discreet nursing.

I've heard from moms who suggested I probably wasn't ready for much visiting yet specifically because we wouldn't be used to nursing with a cover.  Not used to nursing, but nursing with a cover.   When I do nurse without a cover I've had several comments from other moms about it.  When I say I prefer not to use a cover, I've had half a dozen offers of brands or styles that they loved.   A polite thanks, but no thanks, seems to go unheard.  While I admit to not always being as careful at home as I am in public and there have been times in public that more was exposed than I would have preferred, I can't look at the picture above and think there is a great cause for scandal here.

I've heard many comments about how the moms just weren't comfortable with their husbands being around another breastfeeding woman and some who cover even in their own home because it isn't ok to nurse in front of their husbands and sons.

Ladies please!

It is totally ok if you prefer to nurse with a cover, but please only do it for your own comfort and with the health of your own infant in mind.   If you husband prefers you nurse with a cover, please have an honest conversation with him about that and take his thoughts into very careful consideration as you should.  You owe him the conversation if it genuinely makes him uncomfortable.

Please, please, PLEASE, however, don't question or deter any mom from nursing by suggesting that she is not being publicly appropriate if she nurses without a cover.  Don't teach your husbands and sons that it is on the woman to disappear and make them more comfortable.

Yes there are women who take advantage of the shock value of nursing with very little regard for general modesty and decency, but they are the minority.

Don't punish the rest of us.

Can't recommend nursing under a waterfall highly enough...maybe I should have just stayed in the tent that day?

Here is some recent bonus reading that you might find interesting:

Breastfeeding and the Oversexualization of our Culture

10 Things That Scare Me About the Christian Purity Movement
(#1, #7, & #10 I think are particularly relevant here)

If you don't believe me that all of this is related, just check on the comments on this highly offensive Facebook post not just suggesting, but demanding, that the Bible actually tells us we need to be covered and ignorantly offering bottles as an alternative for a mom who needs to be out and about and doesn't want to cover.


Meghan said...

I love this post and find it crazy that this is even a issue at the same time. I have a cover that I like to use when I have a teeny, tiny, new nursling who requires me to be more exposed (read: fully exposed) than I'm comfortable with. I, like you, had a great experience as a brand new mom and never felt pressured to cover or leave a room while feeding my baby. I would much prefer to have my teenage son see me and other women breastfeeding a baby, even non-descreetly, than be bombarded by all the sexual images on magazines at the checkout of a grocery store...where are the covers for those?

Marsha said...

If you had not posted this, I would never have known. My youngest is now 13, and when I found out I was pregnant with him I made the decision then to never be bullied into covering up, leaving a room, or hiding while breastfeeding. I had that experience when my older children were babies, and I was living in the South. I was encouraged to leave the room and hide if we were at my in-laws' house, or anywhere else for that matter. In public, I was told to cover up, nothing should be showing at all.
With my youngest, I was older, and living in the Pacific Northwest. I attributed the acceptance (for the most part) of public breastfeeding to progress in our culture, and more specifically to the region of the U.S. I was living. And when I visited family in the South, I did not cover up, nor did I leave the room.
It pains me to hear that the forward trend is now going backward.
I agree with the previous comment by Meghan, and wish that we could bombard news stands, grocery store checkout counters, and television ads with breastfeeding mothers instead of the sexualized images.
But I think our patriarchal society prefers to keep women in their place, and men, in general, won't stand for the idea that breasts are something other than a sexual turn on for them.
But when women pander to it, and carry the torch for that backward, adolescent-minded view of women's bodies by bullying other moms into covering up, or trying to make them feel shamed into hiding to feed their babies, well, that is just sad.
Rise up, women. The more we make this mainstream, and demonstrate that God gave us breasts to feed our babies, the healthier our boys' and husbands' attitudes toward women and sex will be.

Angie said...

Yes. Yes Heidi! I have noticed it, too. I nurse with you in solidarity! Thanks for the thoughtful post. I especially liked the picture montage. I have many pictures similar.

E Caughron said...

Thank you, I completely agree. After nursing twelve kids and conversing with people, many don't even notice that the baby IS nursing, which of course they would if I had a cover draped over me.