Ditch the Cover: A Dad’s Feelings on Open Air Breastfeeding

Joel Gratcyk (Daddy's Grounded)

Joel Gratcyk is a social media strategist, father, husband, perpetual student and caffeine junkie. He misses sleeping, but loves being a parent more.

48 Responses

  1. John Luiz says:

    Great post. When my kids were nursing, breastfeeding mothers covered up, but I think times have changed. Pregnant women wouldn’t wear bikinis to a beach 10 or more years ago, but now more do. I think what’s acceptable is changing, but it takes time for the transition to fully take hold

  2. Fantastic article, Joel. I agree 100%.

  3. Rick D says:

    I’m 110% for public breastfeeding, but with discretion and modesty. The notion “I can show my full breast whenever and wherever I want” is just as arrogant as the statement of the man the author castigated for noting his discomfort at it. In fact, it’s more arrogant.

    Women should never be humiliated for discretely breastfeeding. But neither should any of us have complete freedom in public. That’s what private is for! In public we all have to bear discomfort for the sake of discretion around children and each other. Should the ball player on the field drop his drawers to ‘adjust’?

    We’re not asking women to toss their babies over the railing to Molech, just to let them get sweaty a few times. Discomfort is a mild part of life, and we all willingly suffer it for others, if we are mature.

    Women and breasts are not like cows and udders. It is wrong to treat them as though there is not an inestimable gulf between their desirability, beauty and honor, and some animal. Yes we treat them differently: not because they are less than animals but because they are infinitely more.

    • Doug says:

      I believe you missed the point of the article as a whole. Breasts are not genitals. American modesty is a joke, if you can see every bit as much of a woman’s breast on daytime television, why is it so wrong for her to unabashedly feed her child, with out a cover, in public? Modesty is a personal choice about your comfort with your body, it’s not an opinion you can force or shame on others. It’s true, discomfort is a mild part of life, and if open air breast feeding causes you discomfort, than the mature decision is for you to avert your eyes. American media has sensationalized and sexualized the breast for marketing, ratings, scandal. When the fact is, it should be held to no different standard than the male chest, and we as men, need to grow up and stop seeing breast as toys….

    • Bee says:

      Breast feeding doesn’t happen successfully if mom and baby are not comfortable enough, physically, to latch. A baby with a cover over its head, sweating, hot, and uncomfortable is not a baby that nurses well, if at all. Please know, too, that babies have much less ability to regulate their body temperatures than adults do. Attempting to nurse when the environment is already hot, then adding fabric to cover a baby and make baby exponentially hotter, is not a reasonable request. Babies heat up a lot faster and have a harder time cooling down. This isn’t merely a “just let them get sweaty a few times”. Why should we, for the sake of your “comfort”, put YOUR perceived “need” for discretion/modesty above our babies’ needs? You, as a physically and mentally capable adult, can easily remove yourself from the area or just avert your eyes. Of the hundreds of women I have been around while they have a baby latched on, I’ve witnessed an infinitesimally small number of nipples, areolas, or full breasts. The overwhelming majority of women who are nursing around other people are not exposing a full breast or any nipple or areola. If you CAN see that, you’re too close.

    • Lora says:

      ^^This. Exactly. Perfectly & eloquently stated, Rick D.

    • Read what Doug & Bee had to say, Rick. You were not paying close enough attention to what I was saying in the article. They re-explained and expanded on it well.

    • Virginiamom says:

      I breastfeed, and I used to cover 100% of the times in public (not at home). But now, my baby girl is 5 months old, with curiosity, and strength. She can now exits to me clearly when she likes or dislikes something, and let me tell you, covering her up is enough to send her in crisis mode. She starts flailing around and pulling on the cover before even latching, effectively showing my nipple to a lot of strangers. If I latch her first then put the cover back on, same problem, she let’s go and fights it, therefore not eating. I am slowly trying to learn how to discreetly nurse without a cover now, for the same of my child’s comfort and health. I used to be uncomfortable with YOUR discomfort, but seeing my child eating and happy is way more important. So there!

    • Kristen C says:

      You say you are 110% for public breastfeeding but only if covered which isn’t always the ideal. As a man surely you cannot understand all of the challenges that often face the mother while trying to feed her baby. My child never appreciated being covered and would often flail all over the place trying to get the cover off. It’s extremely difficult to see how they are latching or if they are latched properly when they are covered. And quite honestly your discomfort with me feeding my child is the last thing I’m concerned with when my child is screaming for food. It’s either follow your ‘standard’ for how nursing should look and drag out the process or do what’s natural and nurse my child quickly. So the next time you see a mother nursing her baby without a cover and are so easily disgusted by it look away.

    • Janie says:

      I breast fed my child in public (did hold my hand behind her head to block view until nipple was in her mouth) & no one ever had the cojones to approach me except for one woman who told me to feed her in the restroom. I told her she could eat in bathrooms but my child wouldn’t & to fook off. Research now shows that feeding a child under a blanket causes slight brain damage or development damage from breathing in their own exhaled carbon dioxide & the younger the baby the worse it is on their brain. You eat under a blanket & get sweaty & uncomfortable; no child should be treated that way.

    • Janie says:

      Rick D, you just proved your point wrong when you said “Discomfort is a mild part of life, and we all willingly suffer it for others, if we are mature.” Well, that baby you are so quick to suggest mothers let get sweaty a few times ARE NOT MATURE; they are babies & should not be made to feel discomfort in their first few months of life because you think your psychological comfort is more important than their actual comfort and they should not have to suffer tiny amounts of brain damage from rebreathing their own carbon dioxide to make YOU comfortable. Turn your head or leave the area if you’re bothered. Sorry for your bad luck but it is now 100% legal in America/U.S. to breastfeed openly anywhere a person legal right to be.

    • Janie says:

      Correction: should have read: those babies, not that baby singular.

  4. Peter says:

    This shouldn’t be a big deal and it’s unfortunate that it is. We are a country with an overabundance of people who are easily offended and want to tell others what to do (Hello, government!) I agree with you, but at the same time, I see the other side’s point. The First Amendment says people can legally say what they wish, but I’m still irritated when I hear some teenagers swearing up a storm in front of my kid.

    • I think the same rule applies to both situations, Peter. If the freedom of those kids swearing bothers you, it is easy enough for you to ignore them or more on and leave them be.

      • Peter says:

        The swearing thing was just an example and not a parallel for breast-feeding since people can avert their eyes easier than their ears and the feeding of babies is an essential function to their well-being, while swearing is not, but I disagree that it’s easy to move on and leave them be. If I’m at a baseball game with assigned seating, am I to leave the game? What about the pool, in the only area that’s of appropriate depth for my child? I move elsewhere when I can, but I’m often captive to legal behavior that I don’t want to experience. (The more I write, the further away I get from the breast-feeding topic, which I wholeheartedly support.)

  5. Zahara says:

    As a woman many are surprised to find that women breast feeding opening makes me uncomfortable. It always has. But with that being said the act of breast feeding is NOT about me. I can easily remove myself from the area so the woman can nourish her baby. I don’t think the problem is admitting you are uncomfortable I think it how you react to it like anything else.

  6. Rachel says:

    Brilliant piece – thanks Joel! I breastfed my two sons while on tour all over the US for work – I wouldn’t have been able to keep doing my job if I hadn’t been able to breastfeed everywhere. I cannot understand why anyone would object, but am saddened to know first hand that many do. Thank you for your perspective.

  7. Bee says:

    Please don’t apologize for other people being uncomfortable with the way your child eats. That is nothing to be sorry for, and you wouldn’t apologize to anyone for what or when you eat, so we shouldn’t be apologizing on behalf of our moms and babies, right? There’s nothing to apologize for here.
    As easily as anti-open air breastfeeding people expect nursing mothers to “just cover up”, we can expect them to “just not look”. Yes, problem solved.

  8. As a breastfeeding mother, once upon a time, I’d like to note that covering up, leaving a room, and other activities that separate you from the other people you are with is terribly isolating. I breastfed for a year. That’s a year of meals, some of them very frequent, in which I had to isolate myself from others at a time when isolation was one of the worst parts of new parenting. I’m with you. All the way. Uncover, be public, let’s all get over it.

    And, still, I had times when I preferred to go to the nursery and be alone with my baby. Those times were never when I was in the midst of connecting with other adults and having important human contact.

  9. Karen says:

    Great post. I’d like to add that sometimes as a breastfeeding mom you may be out running errands and could forget your cover. For those who are against breastfeeding in public or give disapproving looks to moms that do, would you prefer the mom to starve her child if she was in this situation? This actually happened to me and I did what I had to do to feed my child and did not appreciate one bit the disapproving looks.

  10. Becky says:

    I wonder how many adults would be willing to sit with a blanket over their head and eat their meal. If it’s uncomfortable for us, then why do you think it would be fine for a baby? Or maybe the next time you’re at a restaurant, take your meal into the bathroom (where many women go to breastfeed) and eat it there. Sounds appetizing, right?

  11. Jonathan says:

    Totally agree with what you’ve said about breastfeeding here, Joel. When people talking about being OK about public breastfeeding as long as there’s a degree of modesty, it sounds kind of begrudging and suggests that they’re slightly uneasy with seeing it taking place. It’s good to have a public dialogue, and especially one involving dads as well as mums, on this issue.

  12. cruze says:

    You’re not going to change people – that’s what’s so stupid about this whole article – people will continue to stare, make disapproving looks, feed covered or uncovered – your article doesn’t make a difference

  13. Amanda says:

    cruze may be right about some not changing, particularly those who are the problem, will continue to stare and judge but they are wrong that your article doesn’t make a difference. If anything, know that you have made a difference to me, a mom of one who bf in hot cars and dirty bathrooms and with hot covers, fighting my daughter the whole time, because she didnt like breathing her own co2 while trying to eat. Now I am 5 months pregnant with my second child, and I’ve lengthily discusses how traumatizing that experience was with my husband. I will still strive to be modest with this new baby, but to know I don’t have to run and hide everytime she needs fed is such a blessing I’m looking forward to. Thank you for your article, it makes a difference to us struggling to be comfortable doing such a natural act in today’s society. And it’s that much more when it’s a supportive husband behind it!

    • I’m glad my article was encouraging to you. Do what you feel most comfortable with and don’t let others force you out of an engaging conversation, relaxing outing or group of friends/family because of breastfeeding fear from others.

  14. Thank you so much for posting this! Regarding what cruze said, he’s absolutely, positively wrong! With my son (who is now 4), I breastfed him for about 5 weeks and then I started only pumping breast milk for him and giving him a bottle. I did this until he was a year old. While it seems like a logical and practical alternative to both breastfeeding and formula feeding, I did not feel the same with my daughter (currently 3 months old).

    I breastfed her for about 3 days before switching to exclusively pumping milk and giving her a bottle. About 12 weeks (just before she was 3 months old) into this, I had this strong, indescribable desire to breastfeed her. I felt like I’d lost something special and had no real reason for it.

    I came to realize the real reasons behind my choice to exclusively pump, especially for my second child, which I wrote about in my own blog post recently.

    Basically, it boils down to the shame and isolation we, as breastfeeding mothers, experience. The discomfort we experience because breastfeeding, especially in the company of anyone other than your spouse or children, is still so taboo. This all affected me more than I had ever wanted to admit and a lot of pro breastfeeding and pro nursing in public material finally helped me work up the courage to return to breastfeeding and say eff you to anyone it bothered.

    Things like this blog post. So, maybe it won’t help the nay sayers, but material like this post right here definitely inspired me to return to breastfeeding and tackle my own self-doubts and insecurities about it. Thanks for sharing!

  15. Susan Urbanski says:

    You and I are definitely on the same page. I responded to Kevin’s post here http://www.chicagoparent.com/magazines/web-only/2014-august/bf-counter
    Like your wife, I am lucky enough to have a supportive husband. Chicago is full of good men!

  16. Cristina Montes says:

    Ok, you claim that breastfeeding exposes less breast than a bikini does. It can be true, as some moms wear nursing tops or rig their shirt/undershirt so that they are lifting their shirt on top while lowering the bottom layer. In those instances, it does not draw more attention than just holding the baby. However, the chosen photo for this article is showing a LOT of skin, and draws more attention to the breast than if I were passing a mom and baby in the park. I’m not saying that bikinis are more acceptable, but rather, don’t claim that you will see more skin that way.

  17. Tamta says:

    then why don’t we just walk naked when it’s hot out there, what’s a difference? the boob is still the boob, no?

  18. love a dads perspective on breastfeeding ! It gives me hope as a soon to be mom that some guys and dads are really supportive and speak out against the sexism and judgment associated with breast feeding .Thank you so much for posting !

  19. Shielaugh says:

    I’m the only baby-less friend in a group of 6 girls. We have brunch together weekly and so do their breast feeding babies. I personally do not care about seeing a boob. I don’t care if you want to rip off your entire shirt and breastfeed naked. If you are comfortable, and baby is comfortable than that’s all that matters. Personally I’d rather see a little (or a lot) boob, than see a grown adult chew with their mouth open or talk with their mouth full. Any one complaining should try to eat for 1/2 an hour under a blanket or eat their whole meal balanced on a public toilet, it’s not comfortable for anyone.

  20. Sarah says:

    Such a great article. As a breastfeeding mother, I have endured the shame of breastfeeding in public. When my daughter was a newborn I was out with my mother for breakfast. Because this was my first time breastfeeding in public I covered for my own comfort. Even while covered our waitress refused to serve us. That was my turning point. Why deal with a cover if I was going to be treated like I just flashed her! I have fed my daughter uncovered ever since. If a woman was flashing men im sure they wouldn’t stop it but if those same breast were feeding a child then all of a sudden its wrong? Its hard enough being a new mom, people dont need to make her feel bad about the best decision she can make for her child.

  21. Brilliant – Thanks for writing it!

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