Many opponents of nursing in public wonder why the mother can’t simply pump a bottle beforehand or throw a blanket over herself and her baby. The truth is, it isn’t that easy.

Straight from the tap
is best

Breastfeeding — covered or not is often the only way a mom can feed her baby, and here’s why.

Nursing in public has become a hotly-contested right among Americans, and although it is protected by law in 45 out of the 50 states, issues still pop up mothers are still asked to cover up, move to the restroom or leave the premises while nursing their children. One of the rallying cries of those opposed is, “Why can’t she just cover up?” Others wonder why the mom can’t simply pump milk into a bottle beforehand instead of nursing. The fact is, it isn’t that simple.

Covering up

Covering up sounds so easy just toss a blanket over your shoulder and your baby’s head and everyone is happy your baby is fed and no one can see your boobs. The truth is that moms are not required to cover up, and you can breastfeed discreetly even without a large blanket draped over your baby. In fact, a nursing cover broadcasts to everyone that you are breastfeeding (many nursing in public controversies take place even though a mom was covered), while simply lifting up your top and latching her on often doesn’t even get a second glance.

"Would you enjoy eating with a blanket or towel covering your head... "

Also, some babies dislike being covered. Think about it would you enjoy eating with a blanket or towel covering your head especially while you were cuddled up next to someone? Even in cooler weather, it can get hot and sweaty quickly under a cover, and the babe in question is not able to settle down to comfortably nurse, which results in even more attention being drawn to Mom.

It’s also a hassle moms don’t always have the time or the extra hands to deal with. Kelley, mom of two, told us, “I have to hold my baby, hold my breast to help him latch, hold the cover and also hold on to my 1-year-old, not to mention the diaper bag, shopping cart, plus countless other child-related things that mommies have to keep track of.”


Pumping is an entirely different matter. Pumping requires a breast pump of course, which can be expensive, but also bottles, a place to store the milk, and the ability to warm it up to give to the baby. Some moms struggle to get milk from a pump because as wonderful as breast pumps are, they are not babies. Even if you get a good response from your pump, you likely won’t be getting the same amount of milk babies are just more efficient at emptying your breasts. And skipping a feeding from the breast while you are out can cause engorgement or mastitis. Last but certainly not least, some babies won't take a bottle.

“The best thing about breastfeeding is that it's always ready to go,” shared Rachelle, mother of two and the mom behind Unlatched. “It's the right temperature and you don't really need any supplies to do it. Pumping a bottle may sound like it's easy to do, but it's not. Pumps are expensive, many moms are not able to get milk while pumping, and skipping feedings while out in public can actually affect their milk supply."

Decades ago, before bottle feeding and formula became the new norm for new moms, it was not a big deal for babies to be fed from the breast wherever Mom happened to be — like this mother waiting at a train station. Even when there is more breast exposure in film, advertisements and your local pool, breastfeeding continues to be seen as something that should take place behind closed doors. With more moms nursing in public, and more citizens being educated on the laws, hopefully breastfeeding a baby will someday be as unremarkable as bottle feeding a little one.

More on nursing in public

What are breastfeeding nurse-ins all about?
Breastfeeding in public a breeze for Beyonce
Target facing nurse-in after alleged harassment of breastfeeding customer


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Comments on "Breastfeeding: Why pumping or covering may not be an option"

jj February 24, 2014 | 6:06 AM

Diane I have also nursed 3 kids, the oldest two nursed for 27 months before self-weaning the youngest is still going strong at 9 months. I can easily nurse without showing my breast and without a cover. It's called good planning. A light tank top and the bra go under the breast the top shirt tucks over baby as they latch and wonder of wonder so one saw my breast, tummy, back or anything else I didn't want them to see. If I don't want a full tank I reuse the belly bands from pregnancy to cover up to the breast. It's not at all hard. Usually I just nurse him in the carrier since he's right there and I have my hands free, again without a cover. It's not really needed once you get the hang of things.

Kate August 20, 2013 | 3:57 PM

ok... I've breast fed my older two, and am currently breastfeeding my twins. I am a modest person so I personally try to cover when I can, or find a fairly private place to sit and make my husband sit where people cant see me as easily. lol. but I have NO problem with moms who don't cover. its not like their running around topless or making lude gestures while trying to feed their babies. usually I don't even notice theyre nursing.

Billie July 12, 2013 | 3:55 PM

Jessica and Diane, what is the big deal? Grow up and stop worrying so much about a glimpse of boob. In the words of the great Stephen Fry: "It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more... than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well, so effing what.”

Joy April 11, 2013 | 12:42 AM

Jessica You cannot be serious? Tell all the women on the beach,tv, fad magazine covers to avoid showing their breasts to the public! A nursing mom is not trying to show breast she is trying to feed her child with the best nourishment possible...My daughter is 8 months and refuses to be covered or contained while she nurses even with the most lightest of fabric.... she sweats profusely when I try to I have had to swallow my modesty for the good of her health and well being and nurse uncovered....and breastfeed before you leave the house? That makes nursing your baby sound like something that is vulgar and disgusting....and you cannot always plan around your life around a feeding schedule...I think people need to relax and come to terms with the fact if they were not gawking and being nosy in anothers business in the first place they would never even notice it in the first place...... I am astonished that you and Diane both admit to having nursed your babies yet display such an attitude towards it....

Jessica October 21, 2012 | 12:16 PM

Agree with Diana. There are plenty of ways to avoid showing your breasts to the public, and I agree that most people would rather know you're breastfeeding by seeing a blanket on you than by seeing your actual breast. You can be discreet, and if not, breastfeed before you leave the house and make sure you're not gone long. That's what I did.

Diane October 18, 2012 | 5:16 PM

Nursed 3 kids, you must be joking. When you lift up your shirt you usually expose everything - why? I bought a 54 inch material that was printed on both sides. Made it 54 inch by 54 inch, sewed a small hem with trim on the edge. Thin enough not hot for baby, large enough to easily cover, folds very small, easy to wash often. Yes, if people take a double look may know your are nursing. Most don't realize. I don't mind knowing you are nursing. I just don't want to see your exposed breast.

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