I have been a nursing mom for 2 years and 10 months. I was unaware of the nursing-in-public debate prior to that time, assuming there was one, but I do feel that I can say with confidence that these last few years news outlets and mom blogs, spurred on by social media, have been covering the debate with steady momentum.
Among these articles I have not come across one begging mothers to stay hidden while nursing, but I have seen comments in pro-NIP articles that make me say a prayer for the world in which our children are growing. When you read enough of these comments you end up reading the same dribble against nursing in public over and over again.
Those to which I exercise no energy are the ones that think nursing is just plain gross to see, to talk about, or even imagine. While others think nursing is an okay thing to do, if that’s your jibe, but just really wish mothers would respect their fellow man and keep the act of nursing out of public view. A closer step to judiciousness is another group who answer this debate with attempted political correctness. They acknowledge the benefits of and sometimes admire mothers for providing their children with breast milk, and it’s even okay for a mother to leave her hole and nurse in public, but if, and only if, you would please cover up.
I once described to a friend an outing where my nursing was responsible for making a table of five adults leave their seats at an ice cream shop and her response was, “Well, I mean, if you didn’t have a cover, I understand.” What I’ve come to understand is that the real misunderstanding is the reality of nursing with a cover.
This is my hungry baby. We are preparing to nurse with a cover in the comfortable, quiet environment that is our living room. We nurse in this exact spot at least once a day. He falls asleep in my arms here. He loves it here.
I love his cute little face!
Here we go.
As soon as the cover goes over his head he looks at me confused. He started swatting at it with his arm and pulling it off of his face. I couldn’t even get my shirt over my breast to hurriedly distract him with nursing. So I thought I would get my clothes ready first and then try again.
As you can see, we had the same outcome. So I tried coaxing him to my nipple. I knew he was hungry and even ready for a little nap. He latched on for half a second and then unlatched and looked at me with a furrowed brow.
I tried humming, rocking, and gently guiding his head toward my chest. It never worked for more than a few seconds. Nursing mothers know that a constant latch and unlatch can be pretty painful.
This was not a silent protest. He was fussing and crying and letting out high pitched screeches.
These cries and flailing of limbs would surely not go unnoticed in a public setting. Not to mention the bustle of life would distract him that much more and a hard chair for mom would mean we are not as comfortable. So we are looking at best case scenario here.
Needless to say this was all very frustrating for both me and my babe.
I took the cover off and he latched immediately without letting up again and nursed himself into a much needed nap. I nursed with a cover out in public with both my son and daughter until they rejected it as depicted above. It happened around four months for us.
Even if you personally and magically were somehow able to nurse a baby past four months old under a cover with no issues, please, I beg you, stop telling moms to cover up. It’s unfeasible. Even if you ignore the legitimate arguments about babies continually breathing their CO2 or getting too hot for comfort under covers, look at my experience and realize that I would draw much more attention to myself by attempting to cover up than to just quietly nurse my child in the open air.
While you’re at it also spare us the argument that I should find another location in which to nurse: such as my car, the bathroom, the rare nursing room, purgatory, etc. Even at 11 months my baby will nurse anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. Sometimes I can hold him off until we get home, sometimes he is just not in the mood. These little people are very unpredictable and sometimes the older child cannot feasibly tag along to nursing exile. The point is, if you really feel mothers should relocate to nurse, then you are basically telling me I should remain here on my couch all day.
So, to the uniformed question of “Can’t you just use a cover?” The answer is indubitably, “No.”