While pregnant with my son and doing some volunteer work at the Military Family Resource Center here in Edmonton, I noticed during a parenting discussion group a woman using a nursing cover to (assumingly) breastfeed her infant daughter. Being about 7-8 months pregnant at the time with my first baby, I innocently wondered if I should purchase one for myself for when the time came. However something about the entire thing seemed off but I couldn’t quite place it right away.
At the time I thought that the baby was just impatient about getting fed since she was fighting against it and wailing while the mother fruitlessly tried to peer through the top hole to sort it all out, but now I think there may have been more to it than just hunger. If I was suddenly shoved under a hot blanket and expected to feed alone without seeing my mother’s face or know what was going on around me I would freak out too I think. Watching this situation play out, I thought to myself that it seemed like a lot of fuss for nothing since the group was made entirely up of mothers anyways, all with boobs of their own so who cares if a little skin showed? I then decided that I would avoid buying one of those blankets and just use a receiving blanket if I felt so inclined (never mind that I looked up the prices of nursing covers online and actually laughed out loud).
Once my son was born the little modesty I had went out the window because tending to him took priority over anything else. I actually went topless around the house for the first few weeks because it was easier to breastfeed that way, but I digress. Eventually I learned to nurse while still fully clothed in public but that didn’t happen till my son learned how to nurse like a normal person. We had some issues that made things difficult but we soldiered on and practiced until we were pros. I flashed some boob here and there until then but I don’t think anyone was traumatised by it. No one had the audacity to come up to me and say anything about it either, probably because they could sense I wouldn’t take any disrespect.
All in all, I found that I really didn’t need a nursing cover in order to feed my baby or even feed him discreetly either. If anything, it makes it more obvious when women hide under a tent to breastfeed, almost like advertising that: “HEY I’VE GOT SOME LACTATING BOOBIES UNDER HERE BUT YOU CANT SEE THEM!!SO JUST IMAGINE THEM INSTEAD!” It is so painfully obvious when a woman is nursing with one of them that circumventing the possible embarrassment factor is almost moot. I’ve had people exclaim that they didn’t even notice that I was nursing my son because it just looked like I was just holding him against me. No awkward moments trying to get him to latch without me seeing him while fumbling with a large piece of cotton. Now at ten months he likes to do yoga while nursing or other acrobatics but that’s another issue.
I find myself somewhat offended now when I see adverts for them because they make me feel like I should feel ashamed about showing some skin while nursing, as if breastfeeding is supposed to be obscene. If anything, I believe people, especially our youth, NEED to SEE breastfeeding so that it can be normalized. Women have no qualms about bottle feeding their babies wherever they go but for some reason feeding infants from the tap, the way our bodies were designed to do, is somehow strange and unseemly. It’s ridiculous really. It’s even FRUSTRATING that women are made to feel like they have to hide themselves away in order to be comfortable enough to feed their young. Our anti-breastfeeding culture should be ashamed.
Ideally I would like all women to be congratulated for breastfeeding everywhere they go and be proud to whip out their boobs mid-shopping to quench their baby’s thirst but until then, I suppose using nursing covers is better than defecting to formula altogether. I would much rather women feel confident to nurse in public under a blanket than not nurse at all. So perhaps nursing covers are one small step to regaining our power as lactating women, but it isn’t a necessary one, not if there is a global shift in the perception of breastfeeding in general.
Have you ever felt the need to use a nursing cover? What motivated your decision?