We’re talking about breastfeeding in
public today at Mumbling Mommy. In addition to Rachael’s piece below, check out Heather
C.’s advice
for moms who want to try nursing in public. Be sure to head over to the comments section and let us know what you think. Should nursing moms throw a blanket over it in public? 

Some of the
places I take my young daughters might be considered a bit PG. I’m talking
about venerable establishments like the library, zoo, and church. You know … places
where breastfeeding mothers hang out.
Nursing at home, with a cloud of witnesses
I nursed in
public occasionally after my oldest daughter was born, always throwing a light
blanket over my shoulder for modesty’s sake. The hospital gave me a little
manual pump that’s useful for expressing a couple of ounces of milk to mix with
rice cereal, but it’s not terribly efficient at pumping an entire feeding’s worth
of milk. As a stay-at-home mom, investing $200-plus in a sophisticated electric
pump didn’t seem practical or frugal. Because babies don’t really care about
the playground and zoo circuit, and because morning and afternoon naps take up
a good chunk of the day, we spent many quiet, content days at home where bared
breasts are simply a fact of life.
My oldest
daughter was nearly 4 when my second daughter was born, and no way was I staying
cooped up in the house every day with an active preschooler. We go out. On play
dates, to parks, to the mall. And I nurse everywhere, because I’m still too
cheap and lazy to buy a pump and bottle-feed. I’ve nursed in fast food and
sit-down restaurants, in the middle of the children’s area at the library, at
picnic tables and park benches all over town, at the St. Louis Zoo, in the Star
Trek exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center, the butterfly house, a water
park, my oldest daughter’s preschool classroom, my back yard, other people’s
homes, and even at a table in the middle of a church luncheon (perhaps my most
daring public nursing session yet).

While I nurse
often and unabashedly in public, I’m a prude. I own a pretty little nursing
cover and use it faithfully. I like layering a sweater that opens in front over
my shirt so that when I pull my shirt up to nurse, the sweater covers my back
and sides. Occasionally at friends’ houses, the host will tell me I don’t need
to cover up because they don’t mind, but I still use my cover. Even in the
quiet, spare children’s Sunday school room at church where I nurse, I use the
cover because volunteers sometimes walk in unaware and then spend the rest of the
morning apologizing, although it really is no skin off my back, er, breast.
At home it’s
different. My husband and 4-year-old daughter see a lot of skin every day. My
older daughter loves snuggling up next to me while I nurse the baby, and she
observantly points out every mole and freckle that otherwise never see the
light of day. It’s been a valuable biology lesson for her. I’m not too
squeamish about nursing coverless at home around my mom or sister either,
although I try not to let it all hang out.
Because we go
where lots of other moms go, I am privy to a lot of public nursing sessions.
I’ve been impressed by the number of moms who don’t bother with covers. There’s
a sizable population of moms at library story time, at parks, even at church, who
simply lift their shirts, open the flaps in their nursing tanks, and pop their
breasts in their babies’ mouths. These moms are suave and quick, with poker
faces to match the best Texas Hold ‘Em players around. If I’m not paying
attention, I hardly realize what they are doing. They are masters of moves like
the swift shirt-tug and the simple but effective hand-over-the-boob. I never
look too closely, but even during those brief seconds when the baby is latching
on and a mom is most exposed, I never see more than the top few inches of
breast. At most, it’s slightly more revealing than a typical low-cut top.
I stand
somewhat in awe of these liberated lactators who bare (not quite) all. I’ve
considered whether I am brave enough to go coverless among my bolder mom
friends. In fact, some avid proponents of public nursing claim that wearing a
cover is less discreet because everyone knows what’s going on under there
anyway. The La Leche
says donning a cover is like waving a flag announcing, “Hey, I’m
breastfeeding my baby right now!”
In the end, I
give in to Victorian sensibilities and pull my little white flag (actually, it’s
the Maria pattern here, a lovely
purple swathe of fabric) out of the diaper bag. I do feel a little better knowing
it’s not such a big deal if my cover slips or if a little hand unceremoniously
yanks it down, but for now, and probably always, I’ll do my best to keep my public
nursing sessions G rated.
You can
contact Rachael by emailing her at rachael@mumblingmommy.com. 
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