To Cover Up Or Not To Cover Up



Annie, who is working on her “proverbial” PhD in parenting, has been blogging about the dichotomy most of us know quite well. We live in a culture heavily tilted toward female sex appeal while at the same time public breastfeeding is deemed inappropriate. She writes, “Telling women to cover up and telling women to strip down are frequently used tactics for oppressing women.” Annie has turned her posts into a video that gives her response to the cover up question. What do you think?

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12 thoughts on “To Cover Up Or Not To Cover Up

  1. I completely agree with her ! I’m usually a discreet person. I never showed my breast in public, even if I’m born on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. But for breastfeeding ? Please ! I just did what was the most practical for my son and for me, and I discovered (to my own surprise) that if a breast showed, I simply didn’t care.

    1. I thought I was more discreet than I actually was. Photos taken at a dinner held in my great uncle’s honor, with scores of relatives in attendance, show me right there at the table nursing with my top pulled down while I chat happily. The great thing about photos—-only now do I see the stiffly averted faces and shoulders turned away. It’s funny now.

  2. Absolutely agree 100%! And this is coming from a still-nursing mama who’s nursed her baby on public transit, in the middle of a meeting, in the dining room of a busy restaurant, during an engagement party, at a funeral and during church services, both with and without covers.

    And nobody has had an issue with it. Except my husband, who is otherwise a great guy, but we totally butt heads on this issue!

  3. I’m a nursing mother of a 2 month old son. We’ve had a rough start to nursing, and latch on is still taking awhile and needing a fair bit of direction from me. I’m working on nursing in public.

    I don’t care what others see, but I know others are disturbed and so I try to be reasonably discreet, particularly depending on the setting. At my mom’s group or La Leche Leauge meetings, I just nurse the way I would at home. With the Roleplaying group or in a crowded restaurant I’ll latch privately (in another room or behind a blanket), then nurse under a cover or blanket thrown over the baby’s head. At church I go to a room set aside for nursing.

    But once he’s latching quicker and I don’t need the nipple shield (can’t put that on subtly) I’ll probably just nurse in the sling or trust his head to cover me. The teacher of my breastfeeding class made the point that wearing a nursing cover or a blanket is like wearing a giant sign that says I”M BREASTFEEDING!, whereas if you have a shirt with a nursing tank underneath, at a glance it just looks like you are holding the baby, they have to look a bit closer to see you are nursing.

    1. So true about the nursing covers and blankets. Often the excessive efforts to cover up are accompanied by the mother’s anxiety that she’ll be noticed, and somehow that in itself is noticeable.

    2. Kylynara, My oldest was 6 weeks premature and latching on was a struggle for us until he was about 3 months old. Until that time I could not nurse in public, I would get so nervous that he would have even more trouble. Then suddenly he was old enough that he did not need my help to latch on and nursing in public was easy. it was never a problem with my youngest; once you have had a nine month old nurse in public and stay latched on when they turn to look at something, the rest is easy.

      I love this video and the point it makes. Thanks for sharing it!


  4. I’ve never been a self concious person, so I didn’t worry too much about the cover up thing. It’s a good thing too – the first time I breastfeed in public I had brought a light blanket to try it as a cover. DD looked up at it, got this weird look like, “What’s this thing suppose to be?” Yanked it off, and instead of latching on waved the blanket back and forth in the air like a flag delightedly yelling at the top of her little voice, “EEEE!!! EEEEE!!!!” while leaving me completely exposed. After that I decided any attempt to be discreet with a cover up was bound to bring much more attention than just going straight ahead with it.

  5. I do remember that neither of my children would allow themselves to be covered by breastfeeding. And no matter how nonchalant my wife was, someone always noticed, and complained. (She also let them wean naturally, meaning either she got tired of being bit, or they lost interest.)

    Speaking for myself– I know I had to consciously make a paradigm shift if I happened to notice. Even when consent was asked for and I gave it, I still had to “switch gears”. No question– many (modern) people view human mammaries in their sexual context, and have great difficulty thinking of them as a simple and natural means for a mother to feed her infant children.

    But I do not think it unreasonable to ask society to do it. Yes, there were times I told myself, “don’t look”, or “c’mon, it’s not like that, she’s feeding her kid”. No, it’s not always easy, but I agree that women are too put upon, and others need to make some concessions instead of pressuring them to basically go hide.

  6. You wouldn’t eat your dinner with a towel covering your head and face, right? Why should your baby?

    The funny thing about this is that for CENTURIES women just nursed. There were no questions of where or when or how much to show, it was just what was done. Only with the advent of “civilization,” really, was the question of a woman’s breasts showing in public an issue. In some corners of the world, it’s still not an issue and I’ve never understood the problem with it in America and other places.

    I agree, in general, that how much clothing a woman wears is her choice, provided she has the common sense to be appropriate; wearing a micromini with a thong while in a public park where children are looking up and seeing… everything… may not be appropriate and if you don’t have the sense to shield your “assets” from young eyes, then maybe you need a little help, however, it’s still your choice.

    Breastfeeding, though, is not an issue of how much clothing to wear or what’s appropriate. It’s an issue of men being uncomfortable with women being comfortable with their bodies and of holding us responsible and liable for their responses to us. As long as they can keep us off-kilter about ourselves, ashamed of our bodies and viewing them merely as instruments of sex or as a means of “getting” and “keeping” a man, the better for them to continue to try to control, and even own, our sexuality and our selves. If my breasts are merely for you to gaze upon and otherwise use for sexual gratification, they are no longer mine, but yours. If my nursing my child causes you to become aroused, then the issue isn’t your mind and your views on sex, but my lack of modesty (as perceived by you) and so, your response is my fault and my responsibility.

    My grandson nursed until he was almost three (should have heard what people had to say about that!) and would not be covered while doing so. If my daughter hadn’t been willing to nurse in public, she would never have left the house during that time.

    It just doesn’t make sense to me why people have a problem with this. Even my very conservative Baptist minister grandfather never objected to public breastfeeding, and considering his take on things like Cher and Woodstock, that’s saying something.

    People need to get over it. Baby’s gotta eat. Mom can’t live in a cave. You figure it out.

    1. Agree with many of your points Enjay. I don’t, however think that negative reactions to public breastfeeding are connected to “civilization” itself. I think it has a lot more to do with embedded patriarchal values.

      I didn’t get a lot of flack for nursing. But because I nursed each of my kids until they were nearly three years old I did get a lot of negativity for that choice, entirely from women, and ended up “hiding” as much as possible to feed my older nurslings.

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