Over and Under and Through the Woods

Nursing in public.

We lump so many things into this one category. Nursing with or without a cover. Nursing in the middle of the store or finding a secluded place. Nursing from over the shirt or under the shirt.

It has taken me a long time to get where I am with nursing in public. I started by hiding in my car, then I used a cover, and I’ve gotten to the point where I nurse without a cover where ever and whenever my daughter wants or needs it. I walk through Target while nursing, I nurse Peanut when she’s fussy while I’m trying on clothes, I nurse everywhere I go and I’ve never had anyone say a word to me.

I’ve also gotten to the point that I’m not constantly paranoid of someone confronting me. Those of you who know me in real life know I am not the same person I am on the Internet. Online I constantly put out my activism messages, I confront those who spew breastfeeding hate on Twitter, overall I speak my mind without hesitation. In person, I stumble over my words while arguing, I get embarrassed when speaking my point of view, I forget all of my facts to back up what I’m saying.

That said, I am horrified at the idea of someone confronting me while I’m breastfeeding in public. So the fact that I am able to nurse Peanut while out and about and not have that fear on my mind is a big deal to me.

Even with this new found confidence, I can not get over this one thing–nursing over the top of my shirt.

It’s the way I nurse at home (and I’m guessing the most of you do too). In most of my shirts it’s much more convenient to nurse from over the top. Yet I can think of 3 times I’ve done it in public. It gives me that fear of confrontation and I know for a fact (because we’ve discussed it) that it makes my husband a little uncomfortable.

I know that if I did it around our male friends, they would feel uncomfortable. I know that if I did it with my dad in the room, he’d probably leave (to try to make me feel comfortable, not because he’s disgusted or anything). When people talk about “that woman breastfeeding in public” I’m guessing they’re referring to women breastfeeding from over the top in most situations. I make this assumption because half the time I’m nursing from under my shirt, no one even knows I’m doing it.

What’s so wrong with over the top? One time Peanut and I were on the bus and I was wearing my Sleepy Wrap (btw watch out for a review and coupon next month). She suddenly decided she Must. Eat. Now. and I’m frantically trying to get my shirt up from under the wrap and balance a baby and I’m on the bus where people are going to get angry that my baby is screaming and I suddenly think “f*** it” and easily pull my breast up over my shirt and she’s quiet. I have a sudden rush of relief and amazement that it wasn’t my first instinct—followed immediately by a panic that I might offend the man that just got on the bus.

Why am I worried about offending someone?

Seriously, have you met me? I am the queen of sticking my foot in my mouth (which I—and everyone close to me—have learned to accept and deal with). I live in a state with a very predominant religion and yet I still seem to flaunt the fact that I lack religion (often accidentally… refer to the last sentence). I should not be made to feel guilty for breastfeeding! It’s what my boobs were made for!

So now we start a brand new process. I will take it slow because that’s what works best for me. I will start nursing from over the top in La Leche League, then I’ll nurse from over the top in a crowded area where no one will notice, after that maybe I’ll nurse from over the top in front of people I know. Eventually even those guy friends that would feel uncomfortable. Eventually my dad, father, and father-in-law. Eventually it will feel natural to just nurse from over the top. Eventually—if we all work to make breastfeeding the norm again—no one will notice.


10 thoughts on “Over and Under and Through the Woods

  1. I hear ya. I LOVE to nurse “over the top” (never heard it called anything :)). I feel the most exposed this way though. There’s just so much breast tissue showing, that’s got to be the issue I think. There’s still not much to see but just more of your chest area. Anyway, I was like you too, slowly easing into public nursing.

    • I don’t think I’ve ever heard it called “over the top” either, but I needed something to call it. 😛

  2. From a fellow member of that state, I know what you mean about the social anxiety around NIP. I feel it all the time. However, after looking at lots of NIP pictures with moms pulling from the top, I’ve decided that I can do that.

    In fact, I’m kind of sad that I only have 3 more months of NIPing here before we move. I feel like I have to make the most of the time I have left and NIP left and right these next few months so that maybe I can change the culture just a little…

    Good luck!

    • I’m happy to say that I’ve changed the minds of some of my religious friends when it comes to breastfeeding in public. You can still be modest and breastfeed in public because breastfeeding has nothing to do with modesty.

  3. And this is why you are a superhero! Breastfeeding while trying on clothes? You’ve got me beat! Good luck with breastfeeding over your shirt. Keep us posted!

    Kristi, Live and Love…Out Loud

  4. I love that you even have this as a choice! I have like H cup breasts after birth and the only real way to manage all that breast tissue and my baby is to yank my shirt up and out of the way and expose everything. So I’ve never had a modest option – even throwing a blanket over me was never an idea since I had to always see my nipples to guide the latch too. I’m getting great at doing it now and starting to feel better about it too.

  5. Go! I love the spirit of this post. If you are comfortable breastfeeding in public, you can help it become a much less unusual thing to see in our culture.

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