(This was a originally a guest post from this past summer, but I am referencing it in a WIWS post so I needed to publish it here…. hope that makes sense.)
One of the most challenging things about breastfeeding, other than the actual act, could be this idea of breastfeeding modestly, or with discretion. It’s challenging because, like most things in life, modesty and discretion are very subjective things. What is discreet to one is not so discreet to another. Ask people about breastfeeding and you might get the response of: it’s OK, but I don’t want to see it. However, if we are really wanting to nnormalize breastfeeding, shouldn’t it be seen?
In general however, a common thought about modesty is not showing “too” much skin at inappropriate times or just dressing appropriate for approopriate situations.
So, what’s a modest nursing mama to do?
Nursing Cover/ Blanket
Usually, when people think of modest breastfeeding they think of the nursing cover, or blanket. Some women (and babies) love them. Others… not so much. Plus, depending on the temperment of the child, the cover can become a flag for them to wave around (and it gets hot under there!) On the other hand, older babies and toddlers tend to get distracted, so the benefit to the cover/ blanket is that you can shield your toddler’s eyes from the world… rather than so much the other way around. There are newer nursing covers that havve a handy neck strap that the mother puts around her neck, adding a bit of structure to the cover and allows her to nurse hands free. With the blanket, the mother will typically drape the blanket over her shoulder(s) and baby, readjusting as needed.
A layered camisole was my go-to for nursing with discretion. Not only are they inexpensive, but they are not “unitaskers,” meaning: I can still wear them even when I am not nursing. The benefit of the cami is that it keeeps the middriff covered, allowing the wearer to lift the upper shirt to access the breast but does not have to worry about excess skin being shown to the world. Another benefit to the camisole is that you are already wearing it, so you don’t have to worry about bringing along another item of baby equipment.
Yes, I am “nursing” a stuffed owlet here. None of the children wanted to pose.
It’s very rare to see me wearing an outfit without a wrap or pashmina as a scarf. To me, scarves are the ultimate accessory, especially for moms. It draws the eye up to your face, can be an impromptu baby sling and can aid in modest breastfeeding, if you are wearing a dress or it’s more challening to lift a shirt from the bottom. I would drape the wrap diagonally across the chest, to camoflage the top of the breast. Again, you are not trying to hide the fact that you are breastfeeding but you are also offering a more modest solution to what could be a sticky issue.
Specialized Nursing Tops
If you are planning on updating your wardrobe or have no qualms about spending money on specialty clothes, nursing tops may be a viable option for you. These tops usually have specially designed slits (either vertical or horizontal,) which allows the wearer to access her breast without exposing more skin than is required. The downside to the special tops is that they tend to cost more than a “regular” shirt and one typically does not wear them once the child has weaned, but I am sure some do.
There is a band of fabric across the bust line that you can lift to expose the cutouts.
No matter what you choose, modest breastfeeding should be something done to make you feel comfortable. I know others take the viewpoint of striving to make others feel comfortable instead (or as well,) but because opinions of breastfeeding are so varied, a mom could really drive herself batty trying to please everyone. Nurse on, friends!
What do you think? What does “modest breastfeeding” look like to you? Should modest breastfeeding be at the forefront of a mother’s mind?
Coming up this week:
Tomorrow: Avoiding Bottle-feeding guilt