Nursing Discreetly: Breastfeeding in Public (Part 1)
The term ‘nursing discreetly’ typically refers to covering up the breast and especially nipple while breastfeeding in public. Some women use a blanket to cover the whole situation, including the baby. The need for discreet nursing stems from the idea that seeing an exposed breast supposedly arouses sexual feelings. Indeed it does so in the United States, but only because this society is so obsessed by women’s breasts and has MADE them into sexual objects. However; this perspective is peculiar to United States and some other countries that have been influenced by US culture. In times past a breast was not considered a sexual organ and therefore there was no need to conceal nursing. This is still true today in many parts of the world.
It is good to be discreet in presence of others if you know they might be offended by your breastfeeding— which is true if you are nursing in public. However, it is worth considering what is really considered more discreet and getting less attention: a blanket set-up might only point out in big letters that you are breastfeeding; whereas lifting your shirt quickly and just enough to let baby latch on is probably much more unnoticeable. And, when people don’t notice or pay mind to your nursing, you are being very discreet. (In fact, the older baby might plain refuse to nurse underneath a blanket or it might sometimes be dangerously hot to nurse with all covers on.)
Also, for the laws’ sake you do NOT need to cover yourself up totally with a blanket. There is nothing in the legislation stating that a nursing mother would need to only show x amount of bare skin/nipple. It naturally takes a little time to get baby to the breast, and is very common for older babies to sometimes let go of the nipple to see what’s going on.
So, don’t be overly afraid if your nipple shows for a LITTLE while getting your baby to latch on—it is just part of the normal breastfeeding experience and people should understand that. Many nursing moms find that people in general don’t stare, and after a while they become more comfortable with nursing in public and don’t think about it anymore.
As far as being concerned about men staring at the partially bare breast, some men indeed might get aroused by the sight, but many probably just try to not pay attention. Men are simply curious about female breasts and breastfeeding since society has made it a taboo. They are not necessarily looking at you with lust, but are simply interested, as it is something they may have not seen before. It is well known that if you make the taboo available and expose it (whatever the taboo might be), then it gradually loses its attractiveness. For example, at a certain time in the past, a woman’s ankle was a fetish—today men are not turned on by seeing women’s ankles.
Covering something up makes it seem forbidden, which produces feelings of curiosity. It is noted among naturists and nudists that they have lower rate of teenage sexual relationships. Why? Because to those teens the human body is not a taboo; they know what it looks like and are not obsessed by bare skin.
Similarly, the more women breastfeed openly, the more everybody, especially men, gets to see the normal breast fulfilling its natural function of feeding babies, the less taboo the breast will becomes, and the less obsessed by bare skin society will be. So, by nursing in public you can actually help individuals whose thinking has been turned backwards by media and society.
One of the main impacts that nursing mothers can have is by affecting how the general public feels about breastfeeding in public. Just imagine, if practically all mothers nursed their babies, then it would be commonplace to see nursing infants and older babies in public, too. Women wouldn’t have to be embarrassed, and others would not pay attention to such an everyday occurrence. And, though it might be difficult, nursing mothers can change other people’s views about breastfeeding. So, be encouraged to nurse in public places—you are making it a little easier for all the other moms, while at the same time you can let men and boys seen the real purpose of breasts.
Our society is desperately in need of mothers nursing their babies in public openly. We also need books and TV programs featuring breastfeeding mothers. Our children need breastfeeding dolls, not bottle-feeding ones. If a girl grows up thinking that breastfeeding is the normal way to feed a baby, she will be much more likely to try it, and knowing that a lot of women can do it with no difficulty, she’ll have more confidence in herself as a nursing mother.
This article was reprinted with permission from: www.007b.com/breastfeeding_public.php
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #09.
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