Whip it Out or Conceal and Cover? A Practical Guide to Public Breastfeeding


Maybe it was moments after birth, maybe it was weeks, but you have finally established breastfeeding. You have now decided that for either necessity or leisure, it is time to leave the house and face the world with your precious little one. You’ve got diapers and extra clothes for baby, water and a snack for yourself. And then it hits you, how am I supposed to feed this little one when I am not in the comfort of my own home in my favorite breastfeeding chair with my pillows and my boppy and my breastfriend and my…

Take a deep breath, breastfeeding in various locations need not be stressful. In fact, once you find your comfort zone, you will realize that you can feed anywhere, in any position with and without anyone knowing. So, here are a few tips and approaches to prepare you for your first adventure out with baby. To begin, lets discuss the primary approaches - whip it out, or conceal and cover.

leah and lucca

Whip it Out (WIO)

The WIO momma believes that a primary function of the breast is to feed baby and that it should be done whenever and wherever baby expresses hunger. WIO momma will usually lift her shirt up above the breast and get baby started or pull her shirt under the breast. The benefits to this approach is that there are few clothing considerations. For example, a two-piece option, shirt and pants or skirt, will work just as well for feeding as a long dress with a flexible neckline. Another benefit is that no additional equipment or clothing are necessary and when you are having coffee with a friend, there is little to do besides lift and feed. One challenge is that momma will be remonstrating against the status quo system which says breasts should be seen in a bikini or low-cut dress, but never for feeding in public. This popular comic depicts the situation well. But, as a mother, this will not be the first time you must assert yourself and make the best decision for you and baby. The WIO approach provides great training for this.

Conceal and Cover (CC)

Like WIO momma, the CC momma also believes that breasts are perfectly designed to feed her baby and that she can do this anytime baby needs to eat. CC momma, however, wants to protect her breasts from the eyes of others. There are many ways to cover up. The most basic being that when a shirt is lifted to put baby on the breast, momma will either pull the shirt down to where baby’s mouth and nipple meet to cover the breast or use a hand or other piece of clothing to cover the breast. The next level up is draping a receiving or other small blanket over momma’s shoulder and baby’s head. The top level is the official cover, which can be found everywhere from Target to Etsy to the hands of a crafty friend. Covers act like a curtain in which you close up baby from the outside world and with a little ring slipped around mommas neck, they allow momma to look down and watch baby eat. Within the different levels of CC, there are different benefits and challenges. For example, basic CC often draws little attention from others as it usually looks like baby is merely cradled in momma’s arms. While it requires no additional clothing or equipment, type of clothing must be considered as two-piece outfits are a must. A little flash of nipple or breast from time to time is inevitable at this level. Next, blankets are simple enough to carry and to cover up with. As baby gets older, however, baby is likely to want to take the blanket off and blow your cover. In warmer climates or times of the year, a blanket may also be the last thing either party wants draped around themselves. Finally, the official covers are efficient in hiding all that is happening and in ensuring that neither baby nor breast nor nipple will see the light of day. They can, however, be a bit cumbersome with several steps needed to secure them and again in warm weather may not be desirable.Often, covers attract more attention in trying to hide in public than in simply having baby at the breast.

7/7/2014 5:30:13 PM

First: Why is an article about public breastfeeding in Mother Earth News? While I understand that breastfeeding is a part of a natural lifestyle, why is MEN advocating doing it in public? Will MEN also start advocating that I defecate, urinate, and have sex with husband (all natural & healthy functions) in public? Please, have a little common courtesy and keep some things private. There are just some things I don't want to see. Second: Ladies, If you ever want to be treated as an equal, please do not display your breasts in public (under any circumstance). It only contributes to male sexualization of females. By showing your breasts in any non-private situation, you are degrading yourself and other women. Males and females simply process information differently: a female might view breastfeeding as feeding & nurturing a child; a male is likely to view breastfeeding as free live porn. Modern science continually confirms that men's brains are wired very differently from women's brains. Men are hardwired to view breasts in a sexual context (no matter what the actual context is). Of course, men vary in the degree to which they sexualize females and some are more mature about it than others, but why tempt them in the first place? Millions of women are able to raise very healthy and happy babies without resorting to publically degrading themselves and further contributing to the sexualization of females.

6/30/2014 9:32:48 AM

I breast fed six children in public without too much hassle. Babies don't wait until convenient to get hungry, so I fed them wherever we were. I didn't "whip it out", but no special equipment or covers were needed in most situations. I just wore standard nursing bras and shirts that were just loose enough to allow easy access underneath by the baby while maintaining my modesty without covering up the baby.

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