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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.

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 League 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.

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Category: Babies

Tags: breastfeeding


  • I am always jealous of the mommies that can nurse without a cover! I am a big fan of Their covers provide a way for you to be able to see your baby while you nurse. I do wonder what I'm going to do this summer, though. How do you stay modest in public and not make your baby sweat her booty off under a cover?

  • I am always jealous of the mommies that can nurse without a cover! I am a big fan of Their covers provide a way for you to be able to see your baby while you nurse. I do wonder what I'm going to do this summer, though. How do you stay modest in public and not make your baby sweat her booty off under a cover?

  • Rachael says:

    I agree about the jealousy thing, Katie! I admire how those moms can just do it.

    My nursing cover is from Udder Covers, too, and it's pretty light weight (You can see through it if you hold it up to the light.), so the heat hasn't been much of an issue so far.

    One problem I have encountered is that if I nurse at a picnic table or on a blanket on the ground – anyplace without good back support – the Udder Covers cover leaves my back and sides exposed. During the winter, it was easy because I layered with sweaters that kept me covered. A tank layered under all my summer shirts would solve the modesty issue, but I don't really want to wear an extra layer in humid and sticky St. Louis. So for now some people just get a glimpse of my bare lower back, and I suppose they'll just have to deal with it!

  • Elizabeth says:

    I once had to nurse Lucas in the middle of the art museum because he was a tiny thing and fussy, but I'd forgotten my cover and the whole diaper bag; so I was just sitting there on a bench, covering him with my body as best I could. It was fine; only a few people were around, and they didn't really notice what I was doing anyway. Which is a good lesson; just because you're nursing, doesn't mean the whole world is watching.

  • Rachael says:

    Beth, you're right. We feel like everyone is watching us, but they really aren't.

  • Dena says:

    I just read this. It's great that you don't allow public places stop you with nursing, I used to cover but stopped on child # 3 or # 4, I can't remember. I nurse in public whenever my baby is hungry and have become efficient at keeping everything hidden without a cover. I remember once with either baby #4 or # 5 (can't remmeber exactly which one) I was grocery shopping and nursing at the same time with baby in my mOby wrap and some woman came up and was commenting on my sleeping baby I was carrying and tried to look until she got real close and was oh, he's eating. At that moment I felt good that I mastered nursing descretly without a cover 😉 it has taken years of practice!

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