Breastfeeding in Public: Defending Your Desire to Cover Up

***Today’s post is a guest post by the amazing Jenny from***

Breastfeeding has been around since the beginning of time, but only recently has it begun to get the credit it deserves. Women have fought hard for their right to nurse in public, and public policy – and, in most places, public opinion – have finally caught up. Sadly, however, some people see that victory as an obligation for everyone to breastfeed openly to uphold the validity of the movement to end the stigma of shame around breastfeeding. So how do you handle it when you need to feed your baby but prefer the privacy of a cover-up? Here’s how to respond.

Don’t take it personally

If someone comments about your decision to cover up while nursing, don’t take it personally. Rarely is their statement actually about you, but is rather fueled by a passion for the cause and a genuine desire to see women free to feed their babies without shame. While their comment might sting, don’t respond in a way that’s defensive or harsh. That will only fuel the fire and cause both of you unnecessary angst.

Choose not to reply

If possible, don’t engage with your critic – especially if it’s a stranger or someone just making an off-hand comment. While you may be tempted to defend your choice or make your case, the chances that a brief encounter with a stranger will result in an exceptionally productive conversation are quite small. Save your energy, shrug your shoulders, and give your attention to your baby.

Make it clear it’s about choice

If the situation is such that you do find it appropriate to respond, few people can argue with an individual’s right to choose the feeding method that they most prefer. If someone gives you a hard time about covering up while nursing, gently make it clear that it is your choice, your preference, and not a wider statement about anyone else’s rights or responsibilities. Let them know that you completely support anyone else’s right to breastfeed openly, but that being discreet is your personal preference and the option that makes you the most comfortable. Make it about you, not the cause.

Specify it’s not about shame

Body-shaming and the sexualization of breastfeeding are the two main themes that tend to fuel frustration over calls for women to cover their bodies while nursing. Gently reinforce how thankful you are to be able to nurse, and specify that your decision to conceal has nothing to do with shame or sexualization. Specifically calling out these two issues will let the person you’re speaking with know that you have a full understanding of the sensitivity of the issue, and are making your choice fully informed.

Remember, you choose what’s best for your child

Some babies absolutely won’t tolerate a cover-up, tearing off the blanket to look at the world around them. But then, there are also those children who need a break from the stimuli to focus on the task at hand and eat well. Don’t ever feel bad about choosing the best for your child – after all, it’s why you chose to breastfeed in the first place, isn’t it? If your baby needs to be covered, then, by all means, cover your baby without apology.

In a culture where even the natural act of nursing a baby has been sexualized, it’s refreshing to see a shift toward more acceptance of public breastfeeding. This means that as a mother, you have more choices about how you want to feed your baby – and if that means you want to do so covered up, then do so. And don’t let anyone shame you because of it. Mother always knows best.

Jenny is just another mom trying to do her best. She loves making lists and trying to help others find what they are looking for. When she’s not sharing the latest parenting hacks & tips on her blog, you’ll find her trying to help other moms save time and money by writing epic buyer’s guides on breast pumps, diapers, and other mommy essentials.


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