An article we previously posted sparked significant discussion about covering up while breastfeeding. The post inspired Melanie Hearse, a freelance parenting and lifestyle writer based in Perth, Western Australia, to write a response supporting women who choose to not cover up.
Dear Fellow Breastfeeding Mother Who Just Doesn't Get It,
For starters, I appreciate your honesty — and you're right, you clearly don't get it. I am not someone to "flash my parts" around — when I saw the birthing video prelabour, I wasn't horrified I was going to pass a watermelon through my vagina; I was horrified she was naked. I nudged my husband and looked for reassurance that nudity was optional (of course, when the time came, I didn't care if I was starkers and there was a cast of twelve hundred in there — as you no doubt know, priorities can change in a heartbeat when it comes to all things parenting.)
But fast forward to me as a new and breastfeeding mum, I frequently flashed my nipples. Sorry, but I was really sh*t at using a cover — and I probably showed more boob when I tried to simultaneously wrestle a blanket and a kid, or shove his head under my jumper while pulling down my bra. I wasn't stoked about it, but I assure you I wasn't licking my lips and winking at your preschooler, your husband, or your sister while I did it. It was pretty obvious I was feeding my child, not putting on a peep show.
So yes, to answer your question, for some of us, despite our best efforts, it really IS that hard.
Secondly, I tried breastfeeding in private places. But smelly toilets and hot cars didn't work for me. And while I realize you didn't suggest I use them, to follow the gist of your letter, if I can't feed my kids without flashing nipple, I'm teasing the universe with my sex parts and may as well just saucily drop trou and shake my vagina in my fellow diners' faces. I feel there is a middle road — I call it the "Don't Look" Revolutionary.
Even kids work this out — as a kid, I remember shyly peeking at a glimpse of a breastfeeding woman's breast. I've seen kids glance and look away when I've been feeding and my kids doing the same to others. It's curiosity, and it's totally normal and nothing sinister is going on. It's not a fast track to changing their name to Crystal Chandelier or preteen pregnancy.
Thirdly, and while I am not one of the confident folk who just feed without a cover because they don't want to use one (as you said yourself, kids over 6 months generally prefer not to have a blanket or t-shirt over their head while they feed), I still don't get the problem. It's not like they are sitting there topless the whole time just in case junior wants to snuggle in for a feed — they feed their baby and put the ladies away. Hardly a case for "well you may as well take your vagina for a waltz around the room," surely?
As for the 1950s and stigma — this letter serves to illustrate we are still in the dark ages if a fellow breastfeeder still thinks we should be scandalized by a breastfeeding nipple. Seriously, I am one of the least comfortable people with other people's nudity, and not once — including as a young kid — has a breastfeeding nipple ever registered as "sexy" or offended me. Yeah, it's made me feel shy from time to time, but honestly, that's my hangup and I own it, not expect mums to cover up, feel they are doing something wrong, or stop a kid from getting a comfy lunch in order to save me three seconds of embarrassment (after which I could have turned away or stuck a blanket over my own head to finish my lunch if I am so offended or unable to look away).
Former Breastfeeding Mum Who Doesn't Get Why You Don't Get It