Breastfeeding - Should You Cover Up Or Not?

Feeding a baby is not shocking, but necessary. Unfortunately in some cultures, particularly in the Western world, feeding a baby at the breast IS seen as something shocking, even vulgar by some. To be fair, many people are simply unaccustomed to seeing a woman breastfeeding and so feel some discomfort around a nursing mother. For others, breastfeeding is an activity that belongs behind closed doors.

One the one hand, some proponents of breastfeeding feel that the only way to normalize the activity and affect a change in the collective consciousness is to proceed normally, and not behave as if nursing is something that needs to be hidden away.

Others feel that they can't do much to change the opinions of uninformed individuals. They may decide to avoid offending others by using some sort of nursing cover up when feeding their baby. No approach is right, it depends on the situation and the feelings of the mother.

Some things to keep in mind when using a nursing cover up:

A large blanket tossed over mom's shoulder screams "we're nursing under here!" A better choice would be a lightweight receiving blanket that, instead of being worn over the shoulder, is placed behind the baby's back and pulled up over his head so that mom is covered. There are also specially designed, lightweight nursing covers that attach to mom's neck. These are available in a lot of cute fabrics and designs and fold up easily in a diaper bag or purse. Some of these are stiff at the top so that mom can see baby's face while nursing, preserving some of the closeness and communication between mom and baby.

Many moms find that using a baby sling, which is a soft cloth baby carrier that the mother wears on her body, is even more effective as a nursing cover up. A ring sling like the Maya Wrap can easily accommodate a nursing infant. The piece of fabric that holds the baby - the pouch - can be pulled up to cover baby's head easily. The tail of the sling can also be used to cover the baby's head or any exposed breast.

Young babies are often easy to nurse discreetly, but older babies sometimes develop habits that make discreet nursing harder. For instance, some babies refuse to be covered up. Others begin playing with mom's other nipple. If your baby begins doing this, you might want to discourage it strongly if discreet nursing is important to you. It's very difficult to get him to stop once this habit is deeply entrenched.

Nursing cover ups can also be helpful in the case of babies who are easily distracted at the breast, which is common when babies reach around 8 or 9 months of age. Sometimes mom has such a hard time getting baby settled down to nurse that she gets uncomfortably full, which can lead to problems with plugged ducts or mastitis.

Breastfeeding is gaining more acceptance as more people become aware of its benefits, but we may still be a couple of generations before it is common to see women nursing in public. Until then, nursing cover ups can prove to be helpful in keeping moms and babies breastfeeding longer.

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