I finally really get it, why covering up is a sore subject for breastfeeding moms. I thought I got it before, but it wasn’t personal yet. I nursed my first son for a few months, and always used a cover when I was out and about, and often at home if anyone else was home. For this one, he’s being breastfed longer and I didn’t buy any product with the explicit purpose to cover up, such a Hooter Hider (lovely name) or any of the other massive monstrosities that cover up mom from neck to waist and also completely cover up baby. Instead I have just thrown a receiving blanket over my shoulder, careful not to actually cover baby’s face which I feel is uncalled for and even dangerous. I don’t usually worry about it at home, but sometimes when people are over I know they’re uncomfortable so I have. But you know what? I shouldn’t be made to feel I should have to hide feeding my child in my home, or anywhere really.
Luckily I haven’t had a really horrible experience at a business. The worst negative attitude I got was from my husband’s ex-girlfriend, and her opinion is not something I’m all that worried about. Although getting accused of showing her kid pornography because I nursed in front of him was….different.
But yesterday came this aha moment. I had a family member with me in the car, we stopped so he could get cigarettes. No smoking in my car or anywhere around me or my kids, so he stayed outside. I told him if he was going to smoke for a bit then I was feeding the baby who feels that hunger is cause for a meltdown that everyone must hear. So I’m nursing and notice that said family member is no longer smoking, but still outside in jeans in 90 degree humid heat. Odd, but OK. I even commented to my older son that I wondered what he was doing, and he was just standing but sitting at the parking curb right in front of the running van. It had to be HOT right there. He gets in just as I’ve decided the baby must be done because he’s not eating but just hanging out at the food supply making sure it doesn’t go anywhere.
I said, “I wondered why you were out there so long, it’s hot!” And he said angrily, “Because I was waiting for you to finish and cover up!” obviously irritated that because of me and my baby he had to stand out in the heat. It’s been a long time since I felt so shamed. For a moment I felt dirty and ashamed of what I’d just done, and that I’d so disappointed my family. Tears stung my eyes. The best I could sputter was, “I was just feeding him. I feed him in public all the time. I wasn’t doing anything bad.” But in that moment I really felt like I was. It hurt coming from him. And for just a moment it made me think maybe I really should only feed my child in private. Except…I was in my car. It was rather private.
Even though I know better, even though I know I have absolutely nothing to be ashamed about, even though I know it’s his problem and not mine, my epiphany was that THAT is why I cover up. It has nothing to do with me thinking it’s necessary and everything to do with being ashamed of what I’m doing. Only I shouldn’t be. I’m feeding a child the way God intended. As a Christian, this really does matter to me. I believe God expects modesty. But this modest God, he also designed breasts to feed a child. In all his infinite wisdom, this is how He chose it should be done. He had to know babies were going to get fed places other than private home bedrooms. He had to know these little babies he would bless parents with were going to be wiggly grabby creatures who take offense at being covered. Knowing all that I cannot agree with thinking I should cover up all the time. I’ll be honest and say I’ll probably still make an attempt because I still feel as though it’s shameful sometimes, emotions are hard to get rid of even though I know better.
I really never thought it was a big deal to cover up. But my almost 5 month old thinks so. He doesn’t like anything covering up around his nursing area, lol. So I’m going to try and get over it. I find ics of women breastfeeding throughout history helpful. It’s a strange paradox that we live in a time where modesty is rare, breasts are hanging out all over the place, and yet nursing garners negative attention. And that throughout history nursing was just taken in stride. In a meeting to buy a house and baby’s hungry? feed him, right there, in front of your husband and the banker man, no one will think twice. And Hooter Hider Udder Cover hadn’t yet come into existence. Sitting for a family portrait and baby’s hungry? Feed him, it could take almost an hour to get the pic anyway. Everyone will know exactly what you’re doing, they will see some breast skin, maybe even a nipple, but they won’t care because hey, it’s how babies eat. I so wish this attitude was more prevalent. Because I’d really like to never again feel ashamed of feeding my child. Or dirty. Like I’d just done something wrong and sexual in nature in front of the world. By early 1900s it became the difference between being poor and rich: the poor breastfed their babies, the rich found it too primal in nature and not ladylike. But prior to that, it was what you did. We can blame at least in part the availability of infant formula. These pics are from Harvard library:
And here’s an entire FB page devoted to pics of women nursing in history: https://www.facebook.com/HistoricBreastfeedingPhotos