Monday, May 24, 2010

Hooter Hiders

I started to write a post last night, but to be honest, my heart just wasn't in it. This morning, the topic of Hooter Hiders has been brought up a couple of times, and I've gotten fired up.

If you are not familiar with the term "Hooter Hider," (still sexualizing the breast by referring to it as "hooters" and implying that they should be hid for the purpose of breastfeeding) you are probably familiar with what they are. I've seen them called different things - Udder something-or-other (we are not cows and we do not have udders), etc. -- but they are all pretty much the same thing. It's a piece of fabric that ties around a mom's neck and acts as a cover-up while she breastfeeds her baby. They have become quite trendy, like an "accessory" I heard one mom describe, and this is my concern.

One of the reasons I am such as advocate for breastfeeding is because of the closeness this provides for both mom and baby. Baby gazes up into mom's eyes and often smiles while nursing -- getting emotional just remembering this tenderness -- and mom can look into her baby's eyes, stroke her baby's hair or cheek. It's a very comfortable exchange.

By putting this cloth between the two of you, you miss out on that exchange. It becomes only about nourishment, not "nursing." Breastfeeding is hidden, but everyone knows what she's doing. I feel more uncomfortable around a mom using one of these cover-ups than I ever felt with her casually nursing her baby.

Have you ever heard that when a woman nurses her baby around other women, it gets oxytocin flowing in the other women? I love to see a woman nursing her baby, stroking her baby's head, so in love with this baby. In contrast, when I know a baby is under there, all I can think is how hot he must be (I had a baby that sweat like crazy every time he nursed) and how sad it is that he can't look at his mama and she's not looking at him.

So, are women that embarrassed of nursing in public? Are you afraid of offending people? Are you afraid of people seeing part of your breast for a split second? Or are you afraid of the roll of fat hanging over your jeans? (I was always much more conscious and concerned about that!) What has driven women to start using these cover-ups?

I should quickly point out that I would much rather see a mom using a cover-up than a bottle, whether it's breastmilk or formula. If you really can't get over the embarrassment factor, by all means...

I would just like to see women taught by other women how to breastfeed comfortably without all the cover-ups. Breastfeeding should be casual and comfortable for mom and baby. I can't imagine that either one is very comfortable with this cover-up situation, especially baby. Mom might feel more emotionally comfortable, but I highly doubt that she is physically comfortable. Let's get to both places.

There are lots of companies that sell nursing clothing. A few of my favorites include: Motherwear, Expressiva, and Glamourmom. Ladies, this is much more empowering to be able to have a simple opening in your clothing to have access to your breast to nurse your baby. You don't have to lift any clothing. No blankets or cover-ups. No sweating. Your baby will thank you.

Ultimately, let's not hide breastfeeding. Let's make it casual and comfortable, as it's meant to be. Happy nursing!

22 comments:

Kensie said...

Well I have used one of these, but prefer to just call it a nursing cover. I didn't use one much with Noah or Alyna, but with Lucas they were actually really helpful. Lucas was a distracted nurser. He would nurse, but any little movement, sound whatever, he would get distracted. With the cover, he actually did much better. And I want to point out that the nursing covers are actually designed so that you can see the baby. There is a little bit of webbing in the top that makes it pooch out and you can see straight down to baby and baby can see you. That is actually why I prefer the nursing covers to a regular blanket. It also lets in air so it is not hot hot in there. I made my own too and made sure to make it out of really light breathable fabric. There aren't a lot of places I am not comfortable nursing in, but with a baby that pops on and off often, it was nice to not have to worry about pulling up the shirt, pulling down the shirt, pulling up the shirt, pulling down the shirt, etc. etc.

Hilary said...

I've loved breastfeeding both of my girls, both to almost two years old. With the first, I hid in a lot of backrooms when I was out and about and nursing, and I found it isolating and almost depressing at times.
With my second, I discovered nursing covers, and it opened up a whole new world for me. I also nursed uncovered far more often.
I have large breasts, and no matter how discretely I try to nurse, I've never managed not flashing a lot more than I'd like to (fat rolls included) -- so for me, this lets me be comfortable as I'm out and about and nursing my baby. Do I use them all the time? Of course not, 95% of the time I nurse uncovered and gazing into my little girls eyes (at home, as well as around many friends and family). But the other 5%, at my in-laws dinner table or while at a friend's wedding reception, I'm less self-conscious and have an easier time nursing if I'm covered up. (Sometimes I also use the cover to get 'undressed' and ready and get the baby latched on, then nurse uncovered, like in my Church's nursing lounge.) I also have found my baby and I can maintain eye contact most of the time with the nursing cover on (with the top part that has the plastic piece that holds it out). I also like that when nursing with one on, my baby would focus much more on nursing than on the many distractions of being out in public -- and sometimes it was the only way to get her down for a nap while out! :-)
For me, the nursing cover created additional opportunities for nursing in public, and has even had some unforeseen benefits in terms of a very light cover from wind while nursing outside, with more airflow than most of our blankets, as well as a creating a small secluded area where my baby and I can still see each other, but it blocks out everything else when we're somewhere busy or distracting. I don't use mine all the time, but it's a very appreciated 'accessory' in our diaper bag!

Regina said...

I was going to say the same thing as the comment above. You most certainly can see your baby and your baby can see you while using the covers. And the material is as light as a sheet and doesn't blanket the baby at all. Obviously, we have talked and you already know my thoughts and how I very respectfully disagree with you. :)

But I don't think there is anything wrong with wanting a cute cover!!! (I have to throw this in here since I am the one who referred to it as an "accessory"). I am going to cover up one way or another, so why not use a cute, fun print?

I choose cute, fun diaper bags, clothes, slings, etc. so what's the difference?

Personally I would be extremely uncomfortable with people seeing even a small part of my breast, even for a split second!! Absolutely!! And I don't want to see anyone else's either. I think breastfeeding is awesome and rewarding and natural. But there are a lot of awesome and rewarding and natural things we don't do in front of other people...mainly strangers.

I totally understand what you are saying, and to an extent agree with you. I just don't think there is anything wrong with nusring covers, especially if it makes people more comfortable with breastfeeding. That is the ultimate goal...isn't it?

All of the websites you mentioned offer clothing to make breastfeeding as discrete as possible, so ultimately they all do the same thing, just in a different way.

Sarah C said...

Oh Donna- I agree with you that it would be a beautiful thing for women not to need to "learn" how to nurse because they just were always around it- but we just are not there yet. I don't usually cover, but I think whatever gets people doing it is great. I think sometimes people are turned off to nursing because some women are very in your face about it. I can see why they are like that, but in the big picture it kind of makes all nursing moms look kind of militant. Does that make sense?

Bill B said...

Both of my girls were the 'distracted' types, then as they got a bit older they played the "Drink drink Ta Daaa" game where they would detatch and look up at mommy with a big grin.

I see both sides of the issue and completely agree that mothers should not feel this beautiful and natural process need be hidden, but a great number in the population are not ready for natural... but they need to be educated to help make it better accepted.

Tall order for a new mom trying to enjoy that time with baby, to be charged with teaching strangers to accept a natural process. But let's hope that the Hooter Hider is a bridge to take a repressed, over-medicalized society to a more healthy natural place rather than make it the "required public-nursing" uniform. That would be a giant step backward.
Thanks for your posts!

Sarah said...

I agree with you but our society isn' quite there yet. With my first, I was nervous and hid myself for the first few months. Then someone made me a nursing cover that I could see my daughter and was very thin. It opened up a whole new world to me. I found myself beginning to nurse wherever I was because I had this cover. By the time my daughter was 10-12 months old, I had practiced nursing so much that I no longer needed it. I also felt that a toddler under one of those covers looked silly. So for the second year of her life, I just nursed her without any cover and I got really good at nursing her so that none of my breast was exposed..people just assumed she was resting on me. With my second, I was an old pro at nursing and was not concerned about nursing in public at all. I did however find times where I used the cover again..especially in the beginning when they don't quickly latch on and you have to position them just right. Other times, it was becasue I was wearing a dress to church and didn't want ot go to the mother's lounge. He is now 15 months and it has been about a year since I have used it.
What I have learned it that it is a stepping stone to normalizing breastfeeding in general. If it gets women to feel confident nursing in public rather than on a toilet in a public bathroom, I say, "yay!"

Diana J. said...

I bought a nursing cover but then decided not to use it on principle! So it hasn't been out of the bottom of the stroller in months and months. Not to mention that they're a bloody nuisance. I agree with your article; thanks for writing!

Nicole Havrilla said...

Love your post. I need another Mom to teach me... bc I am shy with how big I am and not very graceful. :)

KBH said...

I find covering with a blanket or cover up to be much more distracting than just wearing my glamourmom (or other strappy shirt) under a regular shirt and nursing by pulling the overshirt up and the undershirt down. It's pretty discreet, but as I've gotten more comfortable with NIP I don't even worry too much about being discreet. I mean, it IS discreet to FEED your baby the way it was meant to be fed. The worst thing about the cover ups besides the hassle is the implication that breastfeeding a baby "should" be hidden. I liken it to "nursing rooms" in public places, like a Target. They imply that nursing should be done only behind closed doors where no one can see.

Donna Ryan said...

KBH, I couldn't have said it better. You summed it up just beautifully and eloquently: "The worst thing about the cover ups besides the hassle is the implication that breastfeeding a baby "should" be hidden. I liken it to "nursing rooms" in public places, like a Target. They imply that nursing should be done only behind closed doors where no one can see." Perfectly stated.

THIS is why I hate the cover-ups - and nursing rooms -- now that you mention it! Thank you.

Lauren said...

I completely agree with this post! I dislike the message I send about nursing if I use a Hooter Hider/Udder Cover (My GOD, could those names be any more offensive???). I choose to nurse where ever I am when my baby is hungry; while I do not show much breast at all, no one would die if they saw a quick inadvertent glimpse! :D It's just a breast. We really need to normalize breastfeeding again!

Ritsumei said...

While I'm not a fan of nursing rooms at all - I feel a little "banished" to the "mother's lounge" sometimes, I may get a nursing cover this time around. My breasts are HUGE: I wore a J cup while I was nursing Monkey, and never got smaller than an E between pregnancies. It's hard to manage that much breast, and regardless of how natural nursing is, my breasts are my business and nobody else's. And this is my decision, and nobody else's.

I tell Monkey, now 3, "Bodies are private," as he learns to dress himself & deal with public restrooms and so forth. This is not only for modesty's sake, but to protect him from perverts out there. Unfortunately, our world if filled with Creeps and Kooks, and he needs to know that his body is his own for his own protection. The same thing, for the same reasons, applies to my body, including my nursing breasts.

While I understand your point, frankly, I don't appreciate hearing that it's "wrong" to use a cover, any more than I appreciate being "invited" to take my nursing baby to the Mother's Lounge at church. It's still someone else trying to impose their view of what's the "proper" way to feed my baby on me, regardless of my own considered opinion.

Ivy said...

I loved nursing my babies, but found covering up to be very important for meal times -- even at home. Most of them were easily distracted, and I found showering everything, with every noise, to be very annoying.

Since I live in a cold climate, there were always plenty of blankets around. I would just tuck one into each bra strap, so it hung like a tent and I could see baby. This made nursing a treat for baby and me. As they got older, they would come running, with a blanket over their head, to let me know they wanted to nurse. Without the cover up, I don't think any of them would have nursed beyond a year of age.

Sarah said...

I think "covering up" all depends on the situation. If I'm with a group of moms, I don't cover. If I'm at house church where men are around, I don't care how natural nursing is, I'm covered. If I'm in public, I almost always cover, but typically just hold a blanket so I can still have eye contact without others seeing everything.

I will say this - while I am pro nursing and think there is nothing wrong with it in public, I do think there needs to be a little modesty at play. Even as a nursing mom, I'm not one for boob-hanging-out-because-I-can nursing moms. And yes, it happens. So, cover or no cover? It all depends. If there are men, I will always be covered. If it's women, I figure they got what I got it doesn't really matter!

Donna Ryan said...

In case I have not been clear, I think it is more discreet to nurse with appropriate clothing (people won't even know your are nursing) than using a cover. I'm not saying to let it all hang out.

Hilary said...

Yeah, but no matter how hard I've tried to use appropriate 'nursing attire', my extremely large nursing breasts combined with my squirmy, noisy, distracted babies, I feel much more comfortable having something covering myself and my baby. :-)
I think women being comfortable nursing, whether it be 'all out there', discretely clothed, or covered in a nursing cover all play different roles in encouraging the general public towards understanding that nursing is natural and beautiful -- if I was uncomfortable and worried about nursing (by not being covered, in my case) I would be a less effective example to my friends and neighbors of a happy, proud, nursing Mama. I think everyone just has to do what comes comfortably to them and what works for their baby, (even if that's hiding out in a Mother's room and never nursing in mixed company) and people will be introduced to numerous kinds of nursing norms . . .

Jessica said...

I agree with Ritsumei.I am also quite largely endowed and never cover up when I am in the privacy of my home. I want my kids to see what breasts are for and how a mom breastfeeds. However, in public it is hard to manage such a large chest and fussy baby or toddler. I would much rather feel more comfortable with a cover than being banished to a room because of my easily distracted baby, etc. Recently one of my friends was at a park nursing her baby with a cover on. Light weight so the baby wasn't hot and I could see her little chubby hand stroking her moms arm. I reached over and shook the little hand. The bonding still goes on and I know it goes on when there is no cover. I have no problem with a mom nursing without one, but feel that the breastfeeding advocates- which I feel I am- can be harsh in their judgment of a mom's comfort and using a cover. If the mom is able to breastfeed in public easier and more comfortably then the covers have done a good job.

Ritsumei said...

Donna, the nice "nursing clothing" is (1)more expensive, and (2)doesn't work for everyone. I simply don't have the money required to get a whole set of clothing at $30 a top! Quite a few of the "discrete" methods of nursing left me feeling like everything was all hanging out... even before he started popping off & pulling away to grin at me, leaving me both smitten with my baby AND exposed! Nursing in my MobyWrap made me feel like he was going to be smothered. I've got too much breast there to be able to use some of the usual tricks. I wish they worked; it's be worlds more convenient! And it's not because I'm grossly fat either. While I would be happy with a bit less of me to love, I'm not a beachball.

My sister has a cover-up, and it's way easier than the blanket that I used, with the added bonus that she can see her little one while she uses it. She had her baby all to herself in there, their own private party, even when the room was full of people, which it often was while I was visiting. And it kept her from feeling like she needed to leave to feed the baby, which she would otherwise have done. Her cover has a little strip of boning in it, like what's used in a bra, to shape it so that only Mom can see in. They were definitely enjoying the process! I will probably either buy or make one for the baby I'm expecting this August. And, yes, I will be making it out of something I think is cute.

I don't think that there's going to be a one-size-fits-all sort of solution to the issues around nursing & covering & not covering. I don't believe there should be a one-size-fits-all solution. It's all so very personal. Saying, "Cover-ups ought to be done away with," is just as wrong as saying, "All women should go away to somewhere 'private' to nurse." Neither stance takes into account the myraid of circumstances, beliefs about modesty etc, or Mom & baby's personalities and preferences. Both statements represent loss of freedom, rather than respect for a woman's choices about her body.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bigger lady and found that using a tank top pulled down (so the neck was below my chest) and a shirt over it was the best nursing outfit for me. This allowed me to keep my belly covered while I pulled up my top shirt to nurse.

My chest is large. It is even larger when I was nursing my children. I never used a cover or felt like I was exposing myself to anyone when I was nursing in public.

Use what works for you, but don't beat yourself up about what someone might see. Most likely, no one is paying attention and if they are, they might be thinking back to their nursing days.

Tereza Crump aka MyTreasuredCreations said...

so glad to see this discussion. :) I think covers or no covers it's really up to what the mother feels it's more comfortable.

I, too, have large breasts and breastfeed my children until after they are 2y.o. and in public. I have never hid in restrooms or under cover ups. I use one of those receiving blankets made of cotton as a burp rag and simply lay it on the part of my breast that gets exposed without covering my baby up.

I have nursed my babies like this walking around WalMart, in church, in restaurants, waiting rooms. Never had anyone complain or asked me to leave.

Stacy said...

I also think it is a personal thing. My DD is 3 months old & I NIP all the time. When we are at home I don't use a cover, when we are in public I do. I have large breasts & it's almost impossible to not flash people. I feel it is better for me to feel comforatable & not feel like I have to hide or never leave the house.
I have made some nursing covers with the boning but only used them a couple of times. I have found the nursing hats work amazing. You can find them here http://www.moboleez.com/ . I use this every where - I can fold it back to see DD & get her latched on. Many people just think it is part of her outfit (they have boy colors too). A few people realize that she's eating & comment about how they wished they had something like that when they were nursing years ago.

HaleeBurch said...

I am personally embarrassed by it. I feel like that part of my body is mine, and my husband's and not for anyone else to see. I know that breastfeeding is not sexual, and I don't want people to think of it that way, but I do try to be very modest and if it is inappropriate to be seen without a baby, then I feel like it is inappropriate to be seen with a baby.
In the privacy of my home, which close females I might could relax those standards somewhat, as I have changed many times in front of my sisters or girlfriends. But in public I am going to want a cover. And being as I am already so large busted that I have trouble finding suitable clothes/bras I just don't hold much confidence in the nursing clothes available. Perhaps if I had a pattern I could make my own... but it is unlikely that I will be able to buy a small waist with a 32I bust (or greater when nursing) since I can't find any of that now.
Also I have seen covers that came with boning in the neck so that eye contact does not have to be restricted.