Uncovered = Exhibitionist?

There is a discussion on another blog where a priest is, commendably, trying to craft guidelines for families so they are welcomed and helped. Overall, I found his list very balanced, but suggested he could perhaps state that breastfeeding is welcome. There had been a comment (not from the priest) that breastfeeding should be done in the family room or with a cover, so I replied that I see that as unnecessary, stating that I sit in the front and breastfeed uncovered, but without revealing anything. A different commenter (again, not the priest), has called such behaviour exhibitionist.

So, is breastfeeding with a cover exhibitionist? Obviously I think not. First, there was an assumption on the part of the commenter that breastfeeding uncovered meant I was flashing everyone, when it certainly doesn’t. In fact, nothing is revealed when I breastfeed without a cover. Most would think the child was simply sleeping, unless they know that my babies generally don’t sleep in a cradle hold.

I also have a problem calling it exhibitionist given all the sacred artwork and statuary of the Blessed Virgin Mary breastfeeding quite openly. I can honestly say I’ve never revealed more than this painting,to my knowledge (and probably not even that much, since my nipple isn’t revealed when breastfeeding, and the child is facing me).


Most of all, it isn’t exhibitionist because the vast majority are not seeking attention. We’re just trying to quickly, calmly, discreetly, naturally feed our babies the way God designed us to do. I am not nursing “at” another, but am caring for my baby.

Unfortunately, because our society is bombarded with overtly sexual images, and because breastfeeding rates are rather abysmal, there is this view that breastfeeding is sexual and inappropriate for the public sphere. This is why breastfeeding mums are repeatedly told to cover or go elsewhere, even when nothing is shown. I cannot be angry at the commenter, for her comment simply reveals the state of the culture. I do hope, though, that, as more mums breastfeed in public, covered or not, such attitudes become a thing of the past.

Now, back to feeding my baby when he needs it.


5 thoughts on “Uncovered = Exhibitionist?

  1. Yes, I saw that link. I think overall it is helpful; I could see a few things that could be misconstrued as being a bit too pedantic, but I DEFINITELY think they should include a blurb in there that breastfeeding is welcome! Thank you for your post!

  2. Mhari says:

    When I started breastfeeding my father confessed that it made him uncomfortable, although he knew it shouldn’t, he said he’d get used to it, and he did. I don’t think it’s wrong as such to be concerned about upsetting people at mass, I’m more thinking crusty old gentlemen who are stuck in their ways. I don’t want people to be thinking “bloody woman, shouldn’t be doing that here.”, even if they’re wrong, I want them to be thinking about the mass.

    After mass I always nurse in the hall while I drink tea and chat with others, if that offends someone I’m not concerned, but I don’t want to be a distraction during mass. Having said that, I THINK now, if I absolutely had to nurse during mass I would, and I don’t carry a cover (I really don’t think a cover helps anyway, even if it didn’t make him angry)

    Not really arguing with you, just pondering.

    Also, how would you write the paragraph on breastfeeding, knowing parishioners without children who probably won’t understand breastfeeding (like our sweet friend Anon99) will read it. Perhaps:

    “You’re very welcome to nurse your baby* in the church, if you prefer privacy the family room is also available.”

    * I’d say baby rather than child as I really do think an older child can probably wait without any harm being done.

    It would be EXCELLENT to also have an image of Our Lady breastfeeding to encourage mothers and to make those who disapprove think more carefully.

    • Thank you for your thoughts! I think the way you worded the blurb on breastfeeding was good, or even just “please feel free to feed your baby milk or water, but solid food is discouraged in Mass”.

      I personally feed my baby if he wants it, wherever. He doesn’t always want to feed at Mass, though. But of course I do so discreetly, though without a cover. If I wear my long headscarf, I can pull that down, but I’m often wearing a mantilla or snood instead, so that’s no help.

      My Bishop is trying to promote a greater devotion to Our Lady of La Leche. There’s a shrine to her near me, actually.

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