The Breastfeeding Debate Everyone is Buzzing About

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In the past year, there has been a surge in hashtags on Instagram such as #breastfeedingwithoutfear #breastfeedinginpublic and similar hashtags. They reflect a growing public opinion among mothers that women should be able to breastfeed without covering up their breast in public places. In fact, a business could get into a lot of trouble by stepping in and requesting a mother to cover up. It seems this controversial topic is almost as polarizing as the topic of Anti-vaxxing, so take note readers: breastfeeding and vaccinations are not safe dinner or play-date topics! Many nonparents are chiming in on the topic as well. What is it that makes people so strong in their opinion for or against public breastfeeding?

The Breastfeeding Debate Everyone is Buzzing About

Breastfeeding in public is no new thing. I think it actually would help to clarify that breastfeeding using a cover is covered breastfeeding and without one would be open breastfeeding. 5-10 years ago, it was the social norm to have a cover and to use it in public places. As much as the vast majority of moms still would like to cover up when breastfeeding, there are more and more moms who just can’t be bothered to get the cover out and to put it on and try to finagle their breast out of three layers of clothing and get their child to latch blindly. Also, as any mom has experienced, sometimes when the child is older, they want to nurse AND explore the area around them so they will often pull the cover off so they can see what’s going on. On the other hand, a cover is often an essential tool to quiet and calm the baby and get them comfortable so that they can nurse without fear as well. In fact, the writing of this article took place with a nursing baby at my breast 🙂

The Breastfeeding Debate Everyone is Buzzing About

There are breastfeeding support groups and businesses that allow moms to come together and chat and breastfeed in a supportive environment where they don’t have to cover up and that can also make the struggle to breastfeed easier. When you are a new mom, you get inundated with the importance of breastfeeding as the benefits are measurable vs formula-feeding, yet many moms have trouble getting used to breastfeeding and all the pressures on them often make them not want to do it. It’s also odd because your body becomes a service to your child and you have to be willing to render its service when the child is hungry. It can definitely be inconvenient as moms are more mobile and out and about. In previous generations, breastfeeding was not very common among mothers and often there was not a good place to breastfeed – there were no covers on the market so mom would use swaddling blankets if needed. Now that businesses have to offer a private room for breastfeeding or pumping, society has made it easier to take care of these needs when you are not at home.

I definitely can relate to the inconvenience factor as well as the fear factor. I was once at work but at a remote location and I had to talk ot the staff about my need to pump breastmilk every few hours. They had to section off a bathroom for me and tell me where the refrigerator was. And the entire staff knew about it. It was slightly embarrassing but everyone was understanding and helpful. But the worst was that while I was pumping, the staff changed shifts and the new people on shift did not know that I was pumping in the bathroom with the door locked. While I was pumping, someone banged on the door and asked me who was in there, why was the door locked? They were yelling at me thinking I was harming myself and would not stop until I opened the door. My milk supply stopped automatically because I was so stressed about being barged in on. Having a pump attached to your breast is to me one of the most embarrassing things I really would not want people to see me doing – I feel like a cow in the barn being milked by some industrial pump. The woman on the other side of the door kept yelling at me that I had to get out and how did I get in there, what was I doing….I had to yell across the door what I was doing and who told me it was OK etc. etc. I tried to undo the pump and put it all away and opened the door and she continued to yell at me that it was unacceptable to lock myself in the bathroom like that. Apparently, although the ENTIRE staff knew I was pumping, they failed to give notice to the second shift. Go through that and it would make you want to throw the towel in. It was all I could do to not escalate that experience and file a formal complaint but it does make for a good story amongst understanding working moms.

Another time, I was invited to go to a musical and had not done anything by myself for months as I had just had a baby. I was excited to go but also scared to be away from her and unfortunately the musical coincided with my need to pump for my baby at home. The pump had to be plugged into a wall. It was the second most embarrassing moment when I had to ask the staff where there were outlets in a private area and the only one they had was above the sink in the bathroom. I had to sit under the sink in the bathroom during the intermission with my cover over me but no baby – instead a hospital grade breast pump, and sitting there trying to pump while women were frantically searching for hand towels. And also receiving text messages that the baby was inconsolable without me and wouldn’t even cry herself to sleep.

These kinds of experiences are often enough to make a new mom want to stay home as much as possible and not to venture out. We should look at this surge in public support for breastfeeding as a welcome change. However, let’s be honest – breasts are associated with nudity – nipples are titillating (is that how the word titillating came about?). It is difficult for people who are not used to breastfeeding, maybe from an older generation, not knowing if they should avert their eyes or just ignore it like you might ignore a celebrity sighting and play it cool. In any event, new moms are often self conscious about their stretch marks, their post baby belly and weight gain, and a full coverage nursing cover can make it easier to be confident while you breastfeed. Our Cardimom, which is covers backside and front while covering makes it easy to breastfeed publicly without needing to wear a ‘napkin’ as some moms have complained. As it’s an article of clothing you are already wearing, it makes it very easy to deploy your cover even just to get baby latched – you don’t have to cover baby’s head while nursing, but getting into position, expressing milk, and latching does require some privacy especially for new moms, and the Cardimom certainly helps with the effort.

The writer of this article is the owner of MULTIWEAR LLC.