Some folks still insist that covering up is important and encourage the use of nursing covers and other tools for “modesty”.
They feel that breastfeeding should be done away from public view (especially if boys or men are around, for some reason)--even if that means retreating from social functions.
Personally, I think that’s ridiculous.
I think men and boys ought to understand and witness the full function of women’s breasts, and to understand that breasts are more than just objects of sexual pleasure.
But that’s not my point in writing this.
I’m not going to tell you the “right” way to breastfeed in public, because the only “right” way is whatever works for your baby and honors your own feelings.
Not the feelings of your husband or grandma, or of the strangers who might witness you feeding your baby.
Plenty of mothers agree that being expected to “cover up” is oppressive and unnecessary--myself included.
My baby's need to eat has nothing to do with the discomforts of whomever is around us.
Some women like to use a receiving blanket as a cover, while others prefer to buy special-made nursing covers.
While I agree these might be helpful for new mamas who are still learning how to breastfeed (because you’re still learning techniques like how to get the proper positioning for a good latch), I also know--they might just get in your way!
In my experience, it’s been the latter.
When I was a new mama, feeling enormous pressure to “be discreet” only made me more stressed about breastfeeding.
Of course, your baby picks up on your stress and so then, it'll be harder to get them to latch on!
Especially as baby gets older, they don’t tend to enjoy being covered while they eat.
It’s hot under there, harder to breathe, and anyway--babies intuitively understand that eating is a social event, and don’t appreciate being separated from everyone.
Nursing is about so much more than just milk.
Sometimes, covers may draw even more attention to the pair of you than if you went without! Especially if you’re using a receiving blanket to cover up, baby (and mama!) can get overheated.
Besides, it’s not entirely safe to have baby breathing the same stale air for long periods of time underneath the blanket, either.
If using a nursing cover boosts your comfort and confidence level about nursing in public, and your baby tolerates it well, it may be a useful item in the early days.
Nursing tops and “breastfeeding-friendly” clothing...
When I was expecting my first baby, and looked at about breastfeeding-friendly clothing, I looked at the (high) prices and (extremely conservative) styles of “nursing shirts” and thought, “Yuck. I’ll just wear button-down tops or something.”
I was unprepared for how uncomfortable I would be!
If you do want to wear button-down tops, one trick is to unbutton from the bottom instead of the top.
Thankfully, nursing clothes have improved significantly in terms of style and comfort in the past 10 years or so. While they might not be cheap, I think that a few quality nursing tops can be a very worthwhile investment for moms still learning to nurse who may be self-conscious about it.
Some moms are more confident nursing when they’re wearing nursing clothing - so if that’s what makes the difference for you, it’s well worth getting a whole wardrobe of nursing shirts, and even nursing dresses (if you like dresses, that is!).
You can make your own nursing shirts by wearing double layers, and/or cutting slits or holes in certain tops, and then wear another shirt over the top of them.
If you bought a “bella band” for extending the use of your non-maternity jeans during pregnancy, these can be great for nursing as well.
Just wear them under your shirts, so that when you pull your shirt up, your belly will still be covered.
This is especially great for breastfeeding in cold weather, when you’d rather stay covered up regardless of your views on “modesty”!
The key is to do whatever makes you feel most comfortable and confident nursing your baby.
Breastfeeding is more than just a method of feeding - it’s a lifestyle choice, it’s comfort and convenience, and it changes the way you relate to your baby and to the world.
Investing in items and learning techniques that nurture and support the breastfeeding relationship is a very high priority for me, personally.
Whatever you do, you should feel confident to breastfeed without fear!