Monday, September 24, 2007

NIP tips

I decided to pull all my nursing-in-public (NIP) advice into one post that I can add to as I think of or experience more ways to breastfeed confidently and discreetly while out and about.

Please feel free to post any of your own suggestions and tips in the comments section!

I do at some point want to explore the whole subject of the value or lack thereof of breastfeeding discreetly and the whole general issue of breastfeeding in public, but that will have to wait for another day. If you do want to comment on those topics, I'll transfer them when I get a post up about that specifically.

Anyway, here's the repeat tip from the last post:
Here's my awesome tip for nursing mothers (and, yes, it's very basic, but it will save you a bundle on nursing clothes if you obey me): Wear your maternity tank tops (extra long to cover that postpartum tummy -- oofa -- I'm still not over the saaaad changes there, and extra room in the chest for those va-va-voom postpartum boobies -- Old Navy ones are da bomb) and then wear something else on top. There, that's it. When you want to nurse, get your baby mostly in position on your lap. Unclasp your nursing bra cup (I use Target nursing bras, FYI -- they're not big enough for me, but they're cheap unlike every nursing bra my size, so what are you gonna do), pull up your top shirt to just above your nipple, and pull down your tank top to just below. Use your baby's head to shield this action. Get your baby latched on, and then adjust your shirts to cover as much breast tissue as possible without getting in the way of the baby's mouth (or annoying the baby). Use the arm near the feeding boob to help keep the side boobage covered. Voila! Instant breastfeeding modesty. I swear it looks just like you're holding a sleeping baby with this method. Except for the noisy slurps emanating from your boobal region.

I will add that you can reverse the under-/overshirts as well. That is, if you're wearing a low-cut shirt on top and a higher-cut shirt underneath (this often happens for me in the colder months, when I layer a short-sleeve shirt over a higher-cut long-sleeve one), you can pull up the higher-cut undershirt and pull down the lower-cut overshirt. (Be aware that this can stretch out whatever shirt you're pulling down, but if you're like me and shop at Target [see above], you can afford to buy new shirts after this is all over....) I find this method functions just as well, although (1) you do have to search a little down your overshirt to find the bottom hem of your undershirt to pull it up and (2) it's maybe less discreet than the first method, because it shows off more that you're doing some weird thing with your shirts, particularly if they're in contrasting colors. People can see your undershirt up above your breasts and your overshirt below on one side, so it's a little more obvious. But, still, it hides boob, so that part works just as well.

A fall/winter bonus: As we head into the cooler seasons, I'm finding myself wearing overlayers such as a button-down shirt (unbuttoned) or a fitted jacket (unbuttoned), and I love how the looseness of those on the sides helps conceal the side boob. You can also pull any extra fabric closer in to hide top boobage or cut down on cleavage showing.

I know some women swear by wearing button-down shirts (either over an undershirt or alone) and then unbuttoning where they need to. Maybe it's my sluttiness or my milk-increased bosom, but I can't get any of my button-down shirts to stay buttoned over my chest. So when I try this method, I feel very bare up top -- the whole huuuuuge top of my size-H-cup boob is exposed to the world, because I can't get my button-down overshirt to stay closed over the top to hide it. (It's when I do this that I realize each boob is bigger than my baby's -- quite large -- head.) This might work better for smaller-chested girls or people who buy shirts that fit them.

I know one cheap nursing-clothing idea is to cut holes in undershirts yourself instead of buying the specially pre-cut kind. If you're wearing a low-cut undershirt, this is an unnecessary step, but if you have high-cut ones that you don't mind sacrificing to the cause, then clip away. I would think one middle vertical cut would work well (unless you're tandem nursing), because then your boobs wouldn't spill out except when you specifically pulled the opening to one side or the other. You might have to sew the seam to prevent fraying depending on the fabric. I think t-shirt jersey materials will resist fraying, but I could be wrong....

Obviously, if you're a blanket or cover-up type of girl, then there are various options there. I don't much like those options for me personally, but if that helps women continue to breastfeed and feed their babies on cue, then more power to Bébé au Lait.

I know if you have a sling or other soft carrier that there are various ways to breastfeed discreetly inside it or by using part of the carrier (such as a ring sling's tail) to cover up. I have yet to master the art of breastfeeding while babywearing, which is a post for another day, but I would looove any advice on doing so.

[UPDATED January 18, 2010:] I said I'd post back with any new tips, and didn't really have anything to add until now. I just wanted to say that, ever since Mikko became a toddler, we've mostly done the technique of pulling down my shirt from the top. I am definitely more casual about nursing, but I don't want to expose him to any negativity, considering he's a breastfed toddler, so I still try to be discreet. But, Mikko seriously doesn't want me to nurse him any other way than having my breast come out the top of my shirt now, and he will argue and cause a scene if I try to nurse from below or cover up too much, and I figure a screeching, writhing toddler blows the whole idea of being discreet! So...what we do now is, I pull the neckline of my (stretchy) top down below my areola. I then use a hand to cover some of the wide expanse of very white skin that shows above and to the side. I can't do this too near his mouth, or he pushes it away. In the winter, as now, I usually am wearing a scarf when we're out so I can drape my scarf casually over the exposed skin as well. That's all!

Like I said, post away in the comments section with any strategies that have worked for you to feel secure breastfeeding in public.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Nursing in public

I thought before becoming a mother that nursing in public would be much more of an ordeal than it is. And maybe it's just living in let-live Seattle, but I haven't found it to be much of a big deal. Every once in awhile, I'll catch someone's expression when they realize I'm breastfeeding and it will hit me -- should I be doing this here? But the answer is always yes -- because my baby's hungry, and breastfeeding is not something shameful to be hidden.

But, see, even that last line makes me sound like some sort of lactivist (which, granted, I am), and really I've had no need to defend my right to NIP as the message boards call it. I just do it, matter-of-factly, as breastfeeding should be done.

I never feel the need for Hooter Hiders or even a receiving blanket to drape over my shoulder, and I have yet to use the tail of my sling to shield what's going on, even though I had originally thought that was a great feature of ring slings. My baby and I just do our thing -- quickly, confidently, and, I think, discreetly.

Here's my awesome tip for nursing mothers (and, yes, it's very basic, but it will save you a bundle on nursing clothes if you obey me): Wear your maternity tank tops (extra long to cover that postpartum tummy -- oofa -- I'm still not over the saaaad changes there, and extra room in the chest for those va-va-voom postpartum boobies -- Old Navy ones are da bomb) and then wear something else on top. There, that's it. When you want to nurse, get your baby mostly in position on your lap. Unclasp your nursing bra cup (I use Target nursing bras, FYI -- they're not big enough for me, but they're cheap unlike every nursing bra my size, so what are you gonna do), pull up your top shirt to just above your nipple, and pull down your tank top to just below. Use your baby's head to shield this action. Get your baby latched on, and then adjust your shirts to cover as much breast tissue as possible without getting in the way of the baby's mouth (or annoying the baby). Use the arm near the feeding boob to help keep the side boobage covered. Voila! Instant breastfeeding modesty. I swear it looks just like you're holding a sleeping baby with this method. Except for the noisy slurps emanating from your boobal region.

The only times I've felt shame and embarrassment when breastfeeding are when I've tried to cover it up. When I just do it like it's the most natural thing in the world, I'm not embarrassed, and I think I keep most other people from feeling embarrassed as well. I mean, I can't control their own emotions and issues, but I hope I at least project the idea that they don't need to be embarrassed for my sake.

My two times of breastfeeding shame:

1. I was on a boat tour with my parents with Mikko as a very young newborn, and I noticed there were many eyes on us since he was the only baby on board. I needed to feed him but couldn't angle my way into anywhere discreet up on the top deck with the bench seats, so I got his little fleece blanket out and tried to sling it over my shoulder. The wind blew it off just as I was getting my bra unlatched. Well, that didn't work. So I tucked it into my bra strap. That emphasized my bra for everyone, and it still blew off my breast region, like waving a flag -- hey, booby under here! Hm. I was seriously red at this point and was still having trouble getting everything arranged while attaching a screaming baby AND hanging on to that stupid flying blanket, so I eventually ducked under it completely -- yes, I put a blanket over my head. On a boat. In front of a zillion strangers. It was actually OK while I was under it, but you can't stay hidden forever. I felt like the completest idiot when I popped back out finally, my hair all staticky and my face still red and, as everyone very well knew, my baby sucking away on my breast under that blanket. Oh, never mind. My first and last time trying a blanket to be discreet.

2. In the post office, I had Mikko strapped to me in the mei tai carrier, and he was fussy and a bit sleepy. I thought maybe he needed to eat, so instead of doing what I normally do, which is find a seat, untie, and just...you know...feed him (see method in tip above), I walked toward the back of the post office where all the post office boxes are. There wasn't anyone back there at the moment, and I thought, I'll try to feed him in the mei tai, because I hadn't attempted that before. I knew in general that it required feeding him in more of an upright position rather than a cradling position. I tried to hike up my overshirt, but it was held tight by the straps of the mei tai and weight of the baby. I had to give up and settled for pulling down both and popping my boob out of the top. Then my mei tai was covering my breast, but I knew it was out, completely out in the open, behind that thin shield -- and it felt...dirty. That sounds ludicrous, like feeling embarrassed that you're naked underneath your clothes, but it was more like feeling embarrassed that you're masturbating and suddenly hear your mother outside your bedroom door. I felt like the post office skank, especially when someone came back to check her post office box and smiled at me. Tee hee, I thought, she doesn't know my boob's totally out of my bra.

I guess that's what it was, in both situations -- that it felt like hiding. When I breastfeed in the open, everyone knows what I'm doing, so it's not embarrassing. I don't want to revisit my earlier metaphor and say it's like masturbating in the open (because that, to me, would still be supremely embarrassing), but it does remind me of being naked out in the open. Like breasts themselves, being naked itself is not solely sexual. It can be sexual, but in everyday life it very often is matter-of-fact: showering, getting dressed, peeing, maybe even going to the doctor's office for a physical. When I was giving birth, I realized how profoundly being naked was not sexual in that I felt completely free to show parts that I would normally keep covered -- because it was not that kind of showing them.

Breasts, too, can be sexual, but when they're used to feed an infant, they're just your everyday, matter-of-fact sort of things. Watching someone breastfeed is like watching someone eat in public -- no blanket required.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Arrr...

That's right, me hearties -- it's Talk Like a Pirate Day! And, as we all know, pirates are the hoboes of the seas. Or would be, if they didn't rob and kill everyone. Not that hoboes aren't tough, too, but they don't have as much of an agenda. I guess hoboes are the landlubber version of the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything.

At any rate, I encourage you to pepper your speech today with "Avast" and "Aye aye" and "Ahoy" and "Get me a grog, ye scurvy bilge rat!"

Shiver me timbers -- hoist the mainsail and talk like a pirate, or I'll keelhaul ye, make ye walk the plank, and send ye to Davy Jones' locker!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Is breast or bottle better?

I found the best chart for deciding whether to breastfeed or bottle feed your baby. Witness the wisdom:
Breast or bottle…which is better? That all depends on you and your baby. Here's a list of some of the pros and cons of each:
Breast- versus Bottle-Feeding, a Comparison
Breast-feeding Pros Bottle-feeding Pros
Very convenient—no preparation or cleanup required Also convenient, especially if you use formula and disposable bottles

No need to use medication to dry up the milk you naturally produce

No need to deal with breast-milk leakage if you're away from baby during feeding times
Nursing provides a time of close personal and physical bonding between Mom and baby

Both Mom and Dad can bottle-feed the baby with equal ease
Nursing induces mild uterine contractions, helping the new mom regain her prepregnancy shape No need to deal with the breast pump
The rest of the article continues the theme. First, it extols the benefits of bottle feeding, since that of course deserves the most attention. Breastfeeding, after all, is so much the default in our culture that bottle feeding really could use some cheerleaders.

Bottle feeding, it tells you, has gotten so easy these days. Everything is easily sterilized, unlike those dirty, dirty breasts, you nursing hussy -- a valid point, I'll grant, since I think it's been four days since my last shower. Parenting a newborn is hard on hygiene.

One very important benefit of bottle feeding (and I'm surprised this didn't make it into the chart) is that you can get bottles decorated with your favorite cartoon characters. "Your newborn probably hasn't had time to pick her favorites yet," the article joshes in an aside.
There are bottles with special grips so baby has an easier time holding them when he is old enough to grab. There are bottles that almost seem capable of feeding baby without benefit of a grown up.
Awesome! Self-feeding baby! That's so perfect, because of course babies don't want or need to be close to their caregivers. Feeding an infant is an exchange of calories, nothing more, so much better to prop them up somewhere with some high-density formula so they can really go at it.
"Bottle-feeding can mean both convenience and mobility and is a perfectly viable choice," the article insists. No, really, it's a great choice. Don't let anyone guilt you into thinking breastfeeding is the biological norm and perhaps worth a few "sacrifices."

You'd think that bottle feeding meant just the method of feeding, not what's put inside, but you'd be wrong. Witness this: "[Women who bottle feed] also like the freedom it gives them to share feeding responsibilities with their partners without having to fill bottles of expressed breast milk" (emphasis mine). And see above, in the chart where it says breastfeeding carries the onerous duty of learning to operate a breast pump, a difficult mechanical device that requires a special license and years of training to operate. Oh, wait, no it doesn't. But the article is nice enough to warn you, with a sidebar titled "Mom-ism," which implies the acquired wisdom of all mothers, "The pump does work, but many women find it painful and bothersome to use."

But it doesn't answer a more basic question: Since when does breastfeeding require pumping? That's basically implying breastfeeding requires bottle feeding, which means you get the worst of both worlds with breastfeeding. As the next section of the article will attest:

"Momma's Own Milk?" it asks with a question mark. And then it hits you with the negatives right off the bat: "For some, breast-feeding is like a religion. They can be as dogmatic as any sidewalk evangelist handing out pamphlets about salvation can be." Those damn breastfeeders! They're always shoving your boobs into your child's mouth!

"One reason commonly cited in favor of nursing" ("commonly cited"? This sounds like this stupid reason is going to be refuted -- bring it on!) "is that breast-feeding a baby, at least for the first year, provides increased immunity." Oh, that stupid reason. Well, what are Clorox wipes for if not compensating for my formula-fed baby's decreased immunity? And there are always antibiotics if that fails!

"There is no food so perfectly designed for the human infant." Yeah, blah, blah, blah -- you're just phoning it in here. Formula I'm sure is just as good, since it was actually designed for the human infant -- by scientists! They're experts!

"Another reason to consider nursing your newborn is that it allows for a special type of bonding. Mother and baby are closely connected in a way that will soon be replaced by baby's need for independence." And I do mean "soon," because it's a weird type of bonding. You're attaching your baby to your boob, come on!

That's all right, though -- "Of course there are many ways to bond with your baby." So that reason wasn't a real reason after all. OK, breastfeeding has increased immunity and so far no other benefits.

"A final reason for nursing is one that is purely mom-centered, but that doesn't make it any less valid a reason than any of the baby-centered ones." Yes, pretty much the only one who's rooting for breastfeeding is that stupid baby -- what about ME?

Well, the article reassures us, breastfeeding makes us feel superior. We're the only ones with the breasts, after all! Plus, it's a handy reason to diss your relatives: "When your mother or mother-in-law is being too pushy about the right way to fold a diaper or to dress the baby you can just say, 'Excuse me, I have to nurse my baby now.'” Because of course you wouldn't just nurse in front of them (icky!), and you couldn't just say, "Thanks for your advice. Want some bean dip?"

So, two reasons to breastfeed -- wow, that's a lot. We'd better find some reasons it sucks.

Not to worry! Here we go: "But nursing is not for everybody." (Just for women and their babies.) "It hurts at first." (Well, not for me it didn't, but maybe I wasn't doing it wrong.) It goes on to assure you that it will probably never get better feeling, either, when actually it feels pretty darn good. But I guess that's too icky to contemplate as well. Because:

"In addition, some women are uncomfortable with their bodies and feel self-conscious or inhibited about nursing. This is no crime." This is no crime! Yes, feeling prudish and refusing to breastfeed because of that discomfort is not against the law. Phew! Because parenting requests no sacrifices, growth, or selflessness of parents. "Some women literally feel like cows when they try nursing." Moo. This is because real milk is cow's milk, and human milk is just...grody. "If you have a negative image of yourself you will not be able to relax with it and nursing will be uncomfortable." Don't bother doing anything that makes you uncomfortable, even if the alternative for your child is crappy food. It's just not worth the agony of enduring a possible nip slip.

So, to sum up, here are the real advantages and disadvantages of bottle feeding:

Pros -- convenience (this is mentioned several times over), no embarrassing leaking, no pumping (again, this article apparently assumes bottle feeding = formula feeding), sterile bottles, pretty bottles (can't decorate boobs with cartoon characters unless you've got some tats), mobility (because breasts are chained to the home), lets Dad do the work so you don't need the mother to feed the baby -- heck, you don't need anyone at all to feed the baby

Cons -- right, what were those again? There are none! Woohoo! I think we've found our winner already.

But, let's review the breastfeeding list just to be fair:

Pros -- convenience (but not much of an edge, what with dishwashers and disposable bottles and all! Breasts are just as complicated as that to take care of -- oh, wait, they're as difficult as an elbow to take care of), no need to use medication to dry up that pesky milk (what a pro! Note that this is a slyly masked con of bottle feeding, but it didn't make it into that discussion), "special" bonding (but regular bonding over a bottle is good enough), helps Mom regain prepregnancy shape faster, immunity, perfect food yada yada yada, and most important of all -- excuse to ignore pesky relatives

Cons -- inconvenient (yes, I know this seems to be contradicting its own pro, but come on, it is! You have to wash your breasts and...um...wear a bra and put on a shirt...and...um...wait, why is bottle feeding convenient?), impractical, embarrassing leaking, must pump (apparently) and pumps are soooo hard (ouch, my thinker hurts), breasts not as cute as bottles, BUT breasts are super sexualized so are TOO cute to be intended for a baby, your nipples will bleed and fall off, immobility (can't bring those breasts just anywhere -- there are laws, you know!), lets Dad slack off and go to strip clubs to view non-lactating breasts (as God intended), and, sadly, the mother must feed baby in close proximity to said baby (oh, the disgust of being cuddled with a warm, cute infant)

Well, I'm convinced. I hope we know now what's best, but don't worry that the article is evangelizing bottle feeding like one of those dogmatic breastfeeders. As it says, what choice you make "depends on you and your baby."

Wait -- on my baby? My baby gets a say in this? I thought this was all about me. What's convenient for me? What will help me get my body back in shape? What will mar my perfect silk blouse? What will allow me more sleep and to make sexy time with my husband? What makes me comfortable and works for me? And, very importantly, what cartoon characters do I want to look at every time my baby eats?

Nope, I don't see room in there for baby's unreasonable demands for that "perfect food." Sorry, chump.

I've been inspired to apply this logic to all sorts of health issues. I made my own smoking pros & cons chart to make the tough choice about whether or not it would be a good idea to start the habit. Take a look:

Smoking or not…which is better? That all depends on you and your lungs. Here's a list of some of the pros and cons of each:
Smoking versus Non-smoking, a Comparison
Smoking Pros Non-smoking Pros
Makes you look cool
Have to work harder to look cool, such as by killing people, which is frowned on by authorities whereas smoking is still legal

Blowing smoke rings gives you a hobby AND a skill

Could blow bubbles instead (but again with the coolness factor)
Get that sweet bulge of a box in your rolled-up t-shirt sleeve

Probably you're not wearing t-shirts anyway, as there's no place there to put your pocket protector, loser

Get to enjoy the outdoors while taking numerous work breaks and can make lots of like-minded friends while standing around the butt receptacle

Won't have to feel that sweet nicotine high so can concentrate on other drugs, such as alcohol or smack

Have something readily available to trade while in prison

Have your mouth free to overeat and pack on the pounds

Get lots of attention from those cute nurses and sexy doctors when in iron lung

Won't have to pay full deductible on health insurance -- but also won't get to take advantage of all the benefits offered


Well, my choice is made. Smoking and bottle feeding are the way to go. They're what's good for me, so they're by extension what's good for my baby.

If you scroll down the page, you'll see that the quoted article is excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood -- ahhhh...now I get it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hobo Mama welcomes you!

You're welcome aboard this box car.