Ladies, can we all just agree on something? It’s time to ditch the nursing cover!
You know the ones I’m talking about; they look like a strange miniature apron. And they even come in different colors and patterns so you can coordinate them with your outfit. To use one, you sling the string around your neck and then you all that excess cloth is supposed to cover up both your breast and most of your baby. You sit under this contraption, looking sort of awkward and embarrassed, while your baby has a meal with his or her head covered. It’s a win-win, right? Wrong.
Nursing covers are deceptive.
They seem to exist in order to encourage breastfeeding by empowering women to feed their babies in public, but they do just the opposite. Because feeling as though you must cover yourself when feeding your baby actually discourages women from nursing on demand. This can inhibit the establishment of a strong milk supply. Young babies also frequently nurse for comfort especially in response to stressful situations (like a loud restaurant). Being denied access to breastfeeding can actually impact the forming of newborn attachment. The ability to feed your baby comfortably and easily anywhere is an important foundation of the breastfeeding relationship.
Nursing covers don’t really don’t do anything besides get in the way of this process.
Here’s the scenario: baby starts to fuss because she wants to nurse. I could just lift up my shirt and ease my breast out of my bra and lift her to the nipple. Or I could use a nursing cover… This involves juggling my baby while I dig through my diaper bag for the nursing cover. Then I have to put on the nursing cover with one hand while still juggling the ever-more fussy baby. Now, while still using one hand, I have to negotiate pulling my shirt up or down from beneath the fabric of the nursing cover. The fourth step is, to slip my baby beneath the nursing cover and somehow get her latched on while she’s under there without anyone getting a glimpse of the dreaded nip-slip. (If I need to see my baby to get the latch right, I guess I can take a peek through the neck hole of this thing?) And lastly, the entire time I’m nursing, I get to battle with my baby to stay under the nursing cover and not wave her arms all around. Maybe some babies will quietly nurse under there but I’ve never met one who likes that kind of confinement.
Breastfeeding is a skill. For many women, including myself, nursing a baby doesn’t come super-easily. But usually as you keep working on it, you get more comfortable and you get better at it. Don’t add something like a nursing cover into the mix. It’s really not going to help you. In fact it’s only going to make things more complicated. It’s okay to feel shy about breastfeeding in public. Our whole lives we have been taught that it’s inappropriate to show our breasts unless we are on Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras. And now when these things are suddenly gigantic and spraying milk everywhere, we are supposed to flash them around? It’s counter-intuitive.
Even though I don’t use a nursing cover, I’m actually a really modest person. When I was a new mom, I was mortified that some random person out in public might see my boob. Even just thinking about it made me so nervous. Here’s one thing that I do in order to minimize anyone seeing my skin: I always wear a tank top under my shirt. This way when I lift up my shirt to nurse, no one sees my chubby belly. Also, before I left home for the first time with my new baby, I practiced nursing in front of a mirror to see the view other got when they looked at me. I felt a lot better when I realized that no one could see anything except for the back of my baby’s head. Most of the time people don’t even notice that I’m feeding my baby because unlike when you wear a nursing cover, breastfeeding just looks like you are holding your baby close.
The nursing cover needs to go the way of girdles and corsets and become part of history. The only time you will see me wearing an apron around my neck is when I’m in the kitchen baking a pie, not out in a restaurant ordering off the dessert menu.
So come on moms- let’s just start feeding our babies wherever they happen to get hungry! Let’s do it for our babies and let’s do it for each other.