I belong to a homesteading board. I love that place! Warm, friendly, hardworking and independent people. So imagine my surprise when I read a huge anti-NIP thread! The upshot seemed to be, its OK to do it as long as no one can tell, and if you CAN tell, the mom is a blatant exhibitionist!
So here's what I said (I feel better now):
"Well, I try to be discreet but its not my top priority. Feeding the baby is my top priority.
I do try to be 'modest' but I find nothing shameful about feeding a baby.
I am a little offended by this notion that "I guess its alright to feed a baby, if she puts a blanket over his head." Do adults or older children eat with blankets over their heads? Neither does my baby.
Just for the record, breasts are not genitals. Nursing a baby is not shameful or dirty or disgusting. Humans are mammals, and breasts are for feeding infants.
For a breastfeeding relationship to be successful, a baby needs to be nursed on demand (according to the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, LaLeche League, and the experience of millions of mothers including me).
So no, we don't always know when baby will be needing to nurse. Babies don't just breastfeed for food. They also nurse when they are in pain from teething, or afraid, or sleepy, or just wanting to be close to mama. Its not the same as bottle feeding; baby is not necessarily getting much nutrition during comfort nursing. The way the baby sucks determines the amount of milk he gets, and the fat and calorie content of the milk he gets.
This idea that babies can all nurse discreetly, with nobody knowing, is just not true. Many newborns can, which is where people probably got the idea that babies nurse this way. You see, in America, only about 10% of babies are still breastfeeding beyond 3 months. So many of you who have seen a baby nursing without wiggling, were probably looking at a newborn.
Babies really start to develop personality at about 4 months of age. They begin to look around. They pop on and off while feeding (whether breast or bottle), they make humming or slurping sounds as they eat, they stroke their mama and grab her clothes...this is all normal.
But some newborns can't nurse 'discreetly' either. My youngest son had alot of trouble nursing at the beginning. He was unable to stay latched on by himself, or stay awake to eat because he was a preemie. He needed alot of help to get enough milk. Couldn't have done it under a blanket. (I mostly stayed home, but I do have other children to take care of, and things to do in town. Besides, like I said, there's nothing shameful about feeding a baby so I took him with me, and tended to his needs.) I'm glad I'm impervious to abuse, or my son would have failed to thrive. I'm glad I didn't cave to societal ignorance and formula feed him, because he is allergic to gluten and dairy. He would have been extremely ill on anything but breastmilk!
Newborns need eye contact with their mother while nursing. Did you know that the scope of vision for a newborn is about 18 inches? He can't see things that are closer OR farther away. Do you know how far a baby's eyes are from mama's eyes when he's nursing? About 18 inches.
Shaming of mothers is one of the main reasons that mothers quit breastfeeding, or never start. They are assaulted (verbally or physically), insulted, humiliated, taken to court, kicked out of restaurants, doctor's offices, and places of business. That's in America, although every state has a law protecting the rights of nursing mothers! The law is that a mother has a right to nurse her baby, anywhere the mother has a right to be.
Its sad to discourage mothers from breastfeeding. In third world countries, millions of babies die each year because they are not breastfed. This is because formula is unaffordable, babies are allergic to it, or there is not enough good water available to mix the formula.
In this country, babies are in danger from formula feeding, too. (This may be a little known fact). An artificially fed infant is 12 TIMES more likely to DIE in the first year of life. Breastfeeding passes on immunities from mother to child. Breastfed babies are measurably healthier (fewer doctor's visits, fewer ear infections, less hospitalization) and measurably smarter (measuring an average of 8-10 points higher on IQ tests in later childhood).
Just a few things to think about the next time you are grossed out by a baby. Just a few things to consider if you really believe a mother must hide the fact that she's providing the best nutrition, in the best way, for her child."