Covering Up Breasts While Nursing Isn’t About Shame, It’s About Dignity

Covering Up Breasts While Nursing Isn’t About Shame, It’s About Dignity

Sure, breastfeeding is natural, but breasts are also sexual: That’s why we don’t need to see them bare. Be courteous of others, ladies.
Nicole Russell
By

After a woman whipped out her breast and nursed in public, a stranger was brazen enough to actually stare at her disapprovingly, hoping she would cover up.

So in response, the courageous nursing mother took to Facebook and wrote a viral rant—with an accompanying photo—about how audacious she is and how awful the stranger was to encourage her to cover up, in not so many words.

But unfortunately for our young mom, covering up plump, milk-laden breasts while nursing isn’t shameful, it’s dignified. And her response to the stranger—the viral Facebook rant—is less so.

A Bare-Breasted Showdown

This piece in Parents magazine breaks down the events. Ashley Kaidel, a 24-year-old Florida mom and Intactalactivist Mama blogger “was grabbing a bite to eat in a restaurant when her infant son got hungry, too. So she did what lots of us do: pulled down her shirt and latched her baby onto her breast. But this very normal act struck at least one fellow patron as totally off-putting, and the woman shot Kaidel a nasty look. The implied message? ‘Cover up.’”

Oh no she di-int.

 So of course, Kaidel did what every nursing mother has done: instead of either covering up a little or turning toward her accompanying friends, she faced the woman, with her bared breast, and engaged in a totally mature staring contest. That’ll show ‘em!

A friend snapped a picture of the brave moment. (You’re disappointed? You thought she drew a lightsaber and began to fight bare-breasted? Just wait.)

That wasn’t enough for Kaidel either. When she got home, she posted a Facebook rant about the experience. It’s gotten over 400,000 likes and 122,000 shares. “I don’t mean to say ‘Everyone should breast feed without a cover. Show the world your boobs! If a mother is more comfortable covering herself because SHE feels better doing so, then I totally support that. With that being said, the reason I post these types [of] pictures is for the mother that tried breastfeeding uncovered once and she got shamed, she got stared and pointed at, she got nasty comments, she got asked to leave the room, she got asked to cover up.”

These Boobs, They’re Made For Milkin’

Kaidel makes the case in her Facebook rant that she didn’t cover up because she’s trying to encourage other mothers who have been “shamed” while breastfeeding in public. She said nursing moms “should not ever feel shamed, belittled, embarrassed or wrong for feeding your baby the way nature intended. …[B]reasts were made to sustain your baby’s life before they were made to bring pleasure to any other man, woman, partner, or spouse. Their sole purpose is to make food and dispense it straight into a baby’s mouth. There is nothing weird about this and there’s no difference in me feeding my baby with my breast than you feeding yourself with a spoon.”

As a mother who nursed all four of my children for at least one year solely on breast milk, I could not agree more: breastfeeding is a natural, wonderful way to feed a baby. It was nutritious, easy, cheap, portable, and bonding. Because breastmilk was my children’s sole source of food, I was their sole provider. They had to go with me pretty much everywhere, which meant I too had to feed them in public. I fed them in restaurants, airplanes, parks, and at people’s houses. But I had no desire for the world to see my full, bare breasts with a baby latched onto my nipple. Because breasts aren’t just for milking anymore.

Like it or not, in today’s society, feeding babies isn’t the sole purpose of breasts. Breasts have long been—and are today—a sexualized aspect of a woman’s body. I’ll never understand a man’s fascination, but amazed and delighted they are. And aren’t women secretly glad? Breasts have a dual purpose! They’re not just nutritious, milk-laden, and natural: they’re pleasurable, sexual and erotic. Get over it.

But this is why other women (and, ahem, men) stare when a woman whips out her plump, lactose-laden breast in public with all but nary the nipple showing. To act shocked when people do stare and hope a nursing mom will put an adorable nursing cover on is to ignore the sexualization of our society.

Being An Exhibitionist Is Immature

Kaidel’s rant—not just justifying her exhibitionist-nursing, but then complaining and practically shaming the stranger who dared look at her—is peak millennial virtue-signaling. (As a colleague said, “For such a feminine moment, it’s incredibly aggressive.”)

In today’s society, people believe they have the right to do pretty much anything in public—but other people don’t have the right to react, unless of course they’re agreeing or applauding. A nursing mother saying that she has the right to bare her breast proudly and without shame in public—but that a stranger doesn’t have the right stare—is typical of a post-modern, post-truth mindset.

Proudly feed your baby, in public even. But be mature enough to realize not everybody wants to see your bare breast while they eat a burrito for lunch. This isn’t shaming; it’s dignified. (Using the restroom is natural too—nobody else wants to see that in public either.)

A mature woman knows her breasts are natural and life-sustaining, yet also sexual and pleasurable. She’s able to accept this without self-righteousness, pride, or exhibitionist behavior.  She can be proud of her milk-producing breasts without shaming the rest of society.

Nicole Russell is a senior contributor to The Federalist. She lives in northern Virginia with her four kids. Follow her on Twitter @russell_nm.

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