Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Nipplephobia" and Nursing Covers - Part 1

So, I have found my self in quite a little dilemma lately. I have been sewing nursing covers (ala Hooter Hiders) for my baby shower gifts since my interest in sewing started about a year ago. It is such a simple and easy project that takes only about 15 minutes. It was one of the first projects I taught myself to make. The problem is..... I sort of wish we didn't need them!
    Now, let me first say that I think these creations (basically an apron of fabric that drapes over mother and baby while nursing in lieu of a blanket that may slip off or be too heavy) are fabulously useful.... at the right place and at the right time. Many mothers are simply not comfortable nursing in public, or maybe choose to wear a nursing cover when male guests are around. Mine sure comes in handy when my father-in-law or husband's friends are visiting! I am a fan of anything the will encourage a mother to confidently nurse and care for her baby regardless of her whereabouts. When I see a mother sitting in public using her nursing cover, I am reminded that she is one less woman sitting in a dirty bathroom stall trying to feed her baby.

    What BOTHERS me is when I see women wearing a nursing cover in the sole company of other women. I have witnessed moms donning their nursing covers at playgroups, baby showers and even in the private nursing room at my church. Has nursing really become that taboo? Are we so unaccustomed to the sight of a child at her mother's breast that even in circles of women, mothers feel a need to cover up? I understand and respect modesty, but I think this takes it too far. if we are going to see breastfeeding become the norm and standard for how we care for our children, breastfeeding needs to be SEEN. We see more breast exposure in a Victoria Secret advertisement than we ever do from a nursing mother. Breasts have been so sexualized that we've forgotten the precious purpose God created them for.
    Famed Midwife Ina May Gaskin recently published THE BEST book on breastfeeding I have read (and I've read them all), Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding. Not only is it a great resource for new moms learning the art of nursing, it also includes an entire chapter on "Nipplephobia" - her term for our culture's distaste for public nursing - and her thoughts on how we can turn the tide. She believes that bring breastfeeding back into the norm starts with women seeing other women nursing!
     I feel fortunate to have been the oldest child in my family and to have witnessed my own mother's nurturing way or nursing my younger siblings. All of the women in my extended family breastfed their children. My mother's friends nursed their babies on playdates at my house. I nursed my baby dolls. Breastfeeding was the norm. Perhaps that's part of the reason why I have nursed my children with such confidence and conviction (in spite of a lot of difficult roadblocks which I will be sure to share with you some day). When Ruby was a baby, we even participated in a "Nurse-in" to demonstrate a woman's right to nurse her baby anytime, anywhere. Now Ruby nurses her baby dolls while she watches me nurse her brother. She is growing up with breastfeeding being the norm. And even though I am making nursing covers for my friends and even though I may occasionally find a situation that requires me to use my own, I will continue to nurse uncovered (still discreetly) when I am amongst women. Who knows? - I may be the first exposure a young woman may have to nursing, and maybe one day, when she is ready to have her own babies... she'll remember.   :)

Apparently, this kind of exposure is "OK"... but a nursing breast isn't?

A Beautiful mama and baby pair... nursing naturally and discreetly without a cover.

Not much to see here - except for a sweet gaze shared between mama and baby!
An intimate moment.

Nursing on the go! Anytime, Anywhere.

In good company.

Maria Lactans  - JESUS WAS BREASTFED. And I don't think Mary wore a Hooter Hider.



Kara said...

You are so right. WHY? I will make it a point to NOT cover up in the presence of other women AND I will encourage others to not feel the need to cover.

Donna said...

Sarah my dear...I am so proud of you in many ways: as your former teacher, as a mom who nursed, and as a woman who wishes a person like you had been around for many women I knew ansd know. You are a definite inspiration (and an excellent writer!)

Morgan Mawr said...

LOL -Mary in a "hooter hider."
Well said, Sarah.

Anonymous said...

except so often the stories of women who are harassed for nursing in public are done so by a woman. I think sometimes it is easier to bf in front of men because they are either a)clueless about what is happening or b) too embarrassed to say anything. When often women feel like it is their place to step in and make sure you realize that you are being rude, indiscreet etc. So often, as is the case in many choices we make in motherhood, it's other women who tear you down instead of being support. This issue goes a lot deeper into the mommmy wars that we hear so often about said...

I absolutely love your blog and THIS POST!! There are half-nude women EVERYWHERE.. walking the streets, on the beach, on television, etc. KUDOS to you for posting this blog.

You stopped by my OWOH giveaway and I just wanted to say thanks. Sorry it took so long for me to get back with you - I had over 200 entries! Whew! Glad it's over with. :) I am now following your blog, and if mine interests you I'd love it if you'd follow me as well! I just wrote an introduction post today, for new friends and old. Hope to see you there!


natalie said...

I think you have a good balance in this post. I also don't understand using a cover around other women. But I feel like most of those pushing against the nursing covers want us all to just pull down our v-necks and nurse at the mall. Well, many women aren't comfortable with that, and I personally find that very immodest.

I don't use a cover because to me it seems like the equivalent of waving a flag above my head that says "I'm breastfeeding!" -lol- but I totally agree with this:

I am a fan of anything the will encourage a mother to confidently nurse and care for her baby regardless of her whereabouts.

MishaLee said...

Very good post. I do feel a little sad at my La Leche League meetings when the moms feel they need to use a cover. Seems silly to me, but at least they are nursing. I own 2 baby bond covers, they cover me, but not baby. Sometimes I use them, most of the time I don't.
I think women don't understand that you don't have to get half naked to nurse. I nursed in the dug out at my sons little league game last night surrounded by ten 7yo's. I'm fairly certain no one noticed I was doing anything more then snuggling my baby. But if they did, so what. Thanks for this post.

Marily said...

Hopped onto your blog from a friends and I just had to comment. I have nursed three children, the youngest is still nursing. I am quite discreet about nursing and always cover up unless it's just my husband or kids. Though I use a blanket because I feel like covers make it more obvious that I am nursing in public. I am quite modest though I don't think that every woman necessarily has to do the same. Nursing moms need to feel comfortable to nurse their babies, and if it takes a hooter hider, so be it! I am committed to breastfeeding my children, but really, I don't want to be an activist!

MaryBeth said...

I nursed twins in 2001 and the hardest thing was trying to Pump on my breaks in the bathroom and having to get spoken to because the other women were complaining. In the ladies in a little chair by the sink and wearing a "Hooter Hider". The women I worked with made it really hard.

Amanda Lyn said...

Thanks for your post! I still remember my first views of breast feeding, and thinking wow, my aunt's nipples are HUGE! Exposure to breastfeeding as a simple part of life in my family has definitely influenced my advocacy of breastfeeding as a doula, and introduced me to the normalcy of breast over bottle.