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Recently, in the UK, a woman was humiliated in a public display of discrimination at London’s swanky Claridges Hotel for her choice to breastfeed at her table without attempting to hide what she was doing.  Louise Burns was enjoying a Christmas tea with her mother and sister, while discreetly nursing her 12-week-old baby, when a waiter rushed to her table, apologetically handing her a large white dinner napkin and explaining it to be the hotel’s policy that nursing women cover up.

Louise Burns breastfeeding her baby while having tea with her family – and with the napkin she was t

In fact most nursing covers on the market look even less discreet than the now famous Claridges white napkin. They are often very brightly coloured and patterned and seemed to me to do exactly as Louise Burns, said about the white napkin or shroud as she called it – they draw much more attention to the fact that a woman is breastfeeding her baby. Incidents like this one are becoming more common worldwide, understandably sparking outrage and heated debates, and leading many to ask the serious question: Should mothers be forced to cloak their nursing babies?

Claridges

Every major health organisation in the world agrees that breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for infants up to and beyond age two, so there is no denying that nursing mothers are making a great choice when it comes to the health of their children, but the question at hand is one of personal female modesty. Those who support a woman’s right to bare her bosom anywhere at any time for the sake of nursing, argue that our society has over-sexualised breasts in such a way that we have lost sight of what nature intended them to be used for: feeding babies. Many mothers argue that babies should have the same rights as adults, including eating their meals without their faces hidden behind a blanket, which restricts air flow, light, and most importantly, mother-to-baby eye contact. Any mother, who has ever breastfed, has quickly become aware that two hands sometimes aren’t enough when trying to balance a blanket while wrangling a hungry infant into a comfortable position and assisting him in latching on correctly. A mother who is making the best decisions she can for the health of her infant should not be made to feel ashamed or backed into a corner making her job harder than it already is.

At the cafe

On the other hand, not every mother is comfortable whipping out a nipple for all the world to see, even for the sake of her hungry baby, and not every mother is comfortable with strangers staring at her and her baby while she nurses, yet some mothers also feel guilty for creating a claustrophobic environment for their precious little one under a blanket. Some women need to feel a balance between maintaining the essential bond with their baby and maintaining a ladylike sense of decency. Breastfeeding is not a sexual act, neither is it an indecent one, but it is a private link between mother and baby, the effects of which will last a lifetime. It is not necessarily an act which the mother may always wish to share intimately with everyone around her. Is there a way to maintain that connection without baring all in public? In amongst all of the flowery momsy aprons, old-fashioned feeding ponchos and wired breastfeeding covers made from stiff material which scarcely cover the bare essentials, there are now  some great stylish alternatives. One solution is a nursing cover that doesn’t have to cover the baby’s head, such as the Boho Mama Breastfeeding Wrap from www.easymomandbaby.com. Made from silky bamboo modal, this wrap can be worn as a stylish scarf between nursing sessions, and easily envelops the baby for comfort and discretion during nursing while still allowing air flow, light, and eye contact. The lightweight breathable fabric allows both mother and child to stay cool while still providing coverage for larger babies and also ample cleavage!! Also, because the Boho Mama Breastfeeding Wrap is in close contact with the mother’s body before feeding, the transfer of smell from mother to the material helps the baby to relax and latch on more quickly. It makes breastfeeding in public convenient, simple, discreet and stylish without blocking your baby out from the world she’s eager to discover.

BF with pillow

Whether or not you choose to cover up while breastfeeding in public, know that you  have the right to choose without being judged. And whilst in many cases, many women will feel completely comfortable feeding a baby openly in public, there will be cases where certain women in certain circumstances will feel desperately uncomfortable. This may be due to their culture, their natural shyness, embarrassment about their own body or simply that they are surrounded by people who either stare or just don’t allow them to feel comfortable feeding their babies.

As mothers, we must learn to stop judging one another, instead of protecting our rights to offer our little ones the breast when and where we choose. It is time we stood up for each other and our babies and did what works best for our families. If it makes you uncomfortable when strangers stare at your bare bosom on the train, then cover up. If your baby is uncomfortable with his head in the dark while nursing, then don’t cover his head. Search for a balance between comfort, convenience and modesty by giving products such as the Boho Mama  Breastfeeding Wrap a try, and then find what works best for you and your baby, not allowing your actions to be intimidated by the harsh opinions of others. Your time with your gorgeous cuddlesome infant is short; soon he will be a toddler running away from your snuggles. Make the best of your breastfeeding days, and don’t allow anyone to pressure you into pumping, covering, or confining yourself to a dirty bathroom if what you want is to enjoy your meal together with your bundle of joy in a corner cafe or a luxury hotel. We are often our own biggest critics, and motherhood is overwhelming enough without the weight of public opinion on our shoulders.

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