an elementary primer on discreet nursing

January 6, 2010

as you've probably picked up on, i am unabashedly loving this whole nursing thing.  and though i have inadvertently become a total breastfeeding cheerleader, i still don't want to show everyone my boobs.  that's right, woman at the store, just as much as you don't want to see my boobs i really don't want to show them to you.  i love nursing and i think ladies should be able to do it in public without fear but i still get riddled with nerves about it.  i don't want people to glare at me- frankly, it just doesn't feel very good.

i already have a lot of anxiety about going out in public so imagine that multiplied by the fear that some crazy old person is going to run over and harass me.  i probably worry about this a little too much as jon often tells me.  but, i've compiled here the most helpful things i've learned about modest breastfeeding thus far in hopes of sharing these handy tips with others.  also, i'm nursing around the clock at this point so there isn't a lot of room in my brain for other subjects.
welcome to:

the grumbles elementary primer on discreet nursing

know your comfort level.
obviously in the first months things are much harder.  baby and mom are still getting the hang of things.  the point of discreet nursing is to be comfortable and make those around you comfortable so if you don't feel up to doing it in public? don't.  when jude was only a few weeks old we were out at old navy and he started too fuss.  it was eating time.  so i stepped into the dressing rooms and nursed in there for a few minutes.  it got the job done with the least amount of worry.  now as we are both more practiced i don't feel like i have to do that.

location is key.
for the record i would consider this of very least priority.  if you're trying to not attract attention you shouldn't sit in the center of a room full of people.  that's just common sense.  this mostly comes into play in restaurants.  if i think i might need to nurse when we're trapped at a table i usually try to choose a seat where i can have my back to the majority of the room or a booth that provides a little more coverage.  i feel more comfortable and that's what's important.

on the other hand i also don't think i should have to run away and hide.  so i take this one with a grain of salt.  if there is an easy location that i can sit off to the side? great!  but i've also nursed while strolling through the mall.  you can't stop me, yo!  (jude was in the maya wrap during that adventure and no one was the wiser.)

the buddy system.
i never feel nearly as afraid when i'm with jon or another nursing mom.  a little backup and support never hurts and helps banish those silly worries. 

ditch the cover.
i know many moms are probably going to disagree with this one, but this is my list! so eat it!  i don't like covers.  i think they attract more attention than they prevent.  what are you going to notice more, a woman wearing a big tent of fabric around her or a woman cradling a baby?  jude isn't a big fan and will try to rip it off of his head so i spend more energy fighting with him and worrying about if i'm completely covered than if i just sat there and didn't have to squirm around.  plus, as you'll see below, i have learned the secret formula for complete coverage without adding more fabric.

the exception to this is the sling.  i love nursing in our ring sling.  jude can do whatever (sleep, eat, flop around) and you can't see a thing.  very handy for when you don't want to stop to nurse and want to keep walking around.  an added benefit?  the sling helps support his weight so i don't have to carry around 16 pounds all on my own.

one of my most uncomfortable experiences so far was using a cover.  we were at the mall the saturday before christmas and it was PACKED.  all three of us were hungry so we stopped at the food court.  i attempted to find a location location location, but the only table not being used was at the bottom of the very busy stairs in the middle of the entire room surrounded by people.  so we sat down there.  i was feeling intimidated so i threw my long black scarf over jude while he ate.  jon went off to grab our food and while he was gone i noticed a whole family of people a few tables over STARING at me, blasting a hole in my chest with their lazer beam eyes.  i couldn't have BEEN more covered up and i'm convinced that if i hadn't been draped with a big black scarf it would have never come to their attention at all. 

keep calm and carry on.
a fair amount of this is in the attitude.  if i'm starting to feel uncomfortable i try to remember to sit up straight and look at ease.  if you're confident about what you're doing other people won't question you.  feed your baby with pride and modesty and you are never in the wrong!  several times when we've been out and about i've gotten a nasty look and i try each time to just look back like i am 100% sure that what i'm doing is ok.  what?  yes i am awfully cute, aren't i?  that must be why you're looking at me.  and more often than not i don't get nasty looks.  i get other women cooing and crowing about the cute little baby or friendly smiles.  or even better, the majority of people don't even notice what i'm doing because i'm modest about it and it's not a big deal.

the multi-layer clothing trick.
so here's my favorite thing i've learned and i actually picked up on some breastfeeding forum someplace- this has opened up a new world for me where i don't have to use a cover but people can still see virtually nothing.  i am comfortable, jude is comfortable, and generally the public has nothing to complain about.  first, you need to wear two shirts.  an undershirt that pulls down and whatever regular shirt you like that goes up.  here's the plan: you just reach up under your shirt and unfasten/pull down nursing bra and pull down the undershirt while the overshirt keeps you covered. get baby in position, and then quickly pull up the overshirt so baby can latch on.  magic!

modeled for you here by jude and i, of course!

only a sliver of the key section of breast is exposed and is completely blocked by baby's head.  and the more i have practiced it the easier this has gotten.  if jude lets go and isn't done i just lean forward over him a little and hold him closer so his head continues to block 'zone x'.  it has the added benefit of keeping your tummy warm and covered in the winter and no one has to see your giant stretch marks.  this has boosted my confidence through the roof and i feel much more casual about it.  nursing score!

and really, could anything be more peaceful and lovely than this?  and look at that little rubberband wrist, oh my!

so sweet, originally uploaded by Grumbles&Grunts.


Ky (Two Pretzels)

So sweet. I constantly take photos of Lila eating and send them to C.

(I implement the two-shirt trick, too. It works the best, by FAR.)

Ky (Two Pretzels)

(I solely use my "nursing cover" when I'm pumping at work. I'm terrified that someone is going to walk in and see me milking myself. I'd rather they see the crazy print then my nipples being squeezed by two big upside-down funnels.)


Oooh - i'm not even a mommy and I was intrigued by this post. Thanks for the tips!


He looks so effing cute holding onto your shirt I can't stand it.

I HATE PUMPING ANYWHERE THAN AT HOME!!!!!!!!!! Work was NEVER convenient. I always either had people glaring at me or trying to balance in a dirty-ass bathroom. Working was NOT for me.

the grumbles

Ky- that is a huge fear of mine! Even though I pump in a bathroom with a solid locked door I am still totally paranoid that the door will somehow fly open and someone will see me standing there doing my lady-time thing. Pumping may be one of the most embarrassing compromising situations ever.

Kelly Lynn

I stumbled across your blog and just LOVE this post! Will definitely be following :) Your little boy is adorable...I had twins the day before he was born...neat!!

hopefuls #1

This is a great post and I'm going to star it for future usage.

I think these pictures are darling.

I had a weird dream about breastfeeding last night so this post is timely.

Thank you!!

Hobo Mama

This is a great list! I also had my most people-are-staring-at-me moment when trying, ineffectually in a great wind, to use a blanket as a nursing cover. It was like flying a flag to proclaim, Boobies Under Here! And, besides, Mikko never would keep his head covered anyhow.

I loved the 2-shirt nursing trick and used it for donkey's years, until Mikko refused to let me pull up a shirt and insisted on pulling down only. Oh, well. I use my hand to shield the extra boobage and carry on calmly, as you say.


I LOVE that last picture--so sweet! I use the 2-shirt trick too, and it's great! As you said, it allows you to keep your tummy and upper chest covered, and eliminates the need for a hot stuffy attention-grabbing blanket or cover. Perfect!

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