A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

What To Do When Your Family Asks You To Cover Up When You’re Breastfeeding

Guest post by Lindsay White, Owner of The Little Milk Bar

Breastfeeding isn’t easy. In fact, it might be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. From the cluster feeds, to the all nighters, to the “no break” days… your baby literally depends on you for life. 

And whether you’re able to make it 3 weeks, 3 months or 3 years… support plays a major role in the success of your breastfeeding journey.

And we expect our closest family and friends to be right there by our side right? To stand up for us if we get a snarky comment from a stranger while breastfeeding in the park. But what if they’re not supportive?

We’ve all got an uncle Tom, old fashioned mom or aunt Kim who thinks breastfeeding in public is a big no no. 

My name is Lindsay, owner of The Little Milk Bar. A brand that empowers breastfeeding moms everywhere. And today I’m sharing what to do when your family asks you to cover up or to go to another room “and do that”.

P.S. I’m all about supporting all breastfeeding mamas, because let’s face it… we could all use a little encouragement. So I have 3 FREE “Thank you for breastfeeding in public” downloadable cards that I hope you print off, keep in your diaper bag and hand out to every breastfeeding mama you see. You can download them HERE.

Here’s a few things that might help you next time your mother in law tells you to cover up.

Know your rights

First off, it’s important that you know your rights. In 2018, the last two remaining states, Utah and Idaho, changed their laws to protect breastfeeding mothers.  

It’s your legal right to breastfeed your baby in public, with or without a cover, in all 50 states. You absolutely do not have to reach for a cover, or go to your car, to feed your baby just because your cousin Amber asked you to. 

Talk to your partner beforehand

Let them have your back. Hey, they’re not the one breastfeeding your baby, they can’t read your mind. It probably hasn’t even crossed their mind that your palms start to sweat every time your baby gets hungry at family get togethers. So tell them, be up front.

“Hey I’m still a little nervous to feed in front of your family, will you make sure to sit with me when the baby gets hungry?” It could be as simple as that.

Give your partner the opportunity to be there for you before you even need it. I don’t know why, but when my husband was sitting with me, I never had uncle Tom say a word to me. Maybe because it gives off the “lion defending his cubs” vibe that no one wanted to interrupt. 

Focus on you and your baby.

It’s important to ignore everyone around you. Focus only on you and your baby. It’s simple… your baby is hungry and you need to feed him. That’s it, there’s nothing else to it. Don’t worry if you’re “offending anyone”, their opinion doesn’t (and shouldn’t) matter. 

Your baby comes before anyone else and filling that little belly of theirs should be the only thing you’re worried about.

Use your voice

So your mother in law had the audacity to walk over to you, hand you a blanket and tell you to cover up while “doing that”. Ugh, I know… so rude. Try not to judge her. She grew up in a different time and is obviously not educated enough in the subject. 

Instead of responding with the come back you’ve gone over and over again in your head for weeks, keep the peace while standing your ground. 

“No thanks, we’re comfortable where we are”….

Or “Thanks, but we don’t use a cover. We’re pretty comfortable without it and Allie hates when I cover her when she’s trying to eat.” 

Or “My baby’s comfort comes before anyone else’s. Breastfeeding is 100% natural and I just need to make sure she gets fed right now. But thanks for the blanket, her feet were getting cold.”

Or you can do what I did the first time my mother-in-law handed me a blanket while I was feeding my son Koda (in my own home). I smiled, grabbed it and laid it on the couch next to me, while continuing on with my conversation. This was my usual reaction… until I found my own voice. 

To all the women who feel empowered to feed their baby already and have no problem standing up for themselves… all the freaking power to you. I couldn’t love you more.

But for those of you who haven’t found your voice yet, who don’t yet have that confidence, that’s okay too. Sometimes a simple smile and setting the blanket down, instead of using it to cover yourself, is your own empowering moment. It’s you burning your bra in the middle of the street for everyone to see. High five!

Try the 2-shirt method

If you haven’t already heard of the 2-shirt method… be prepared for it to change your life! No joke. It’ll save you a TON on “breastfeeding friendly” clothes… spoiler, you don’t need any. And it makes it SUPER easy to feed in public (or around uncle Tom), keeping your tummy and breasts covered while your babe eats with ease. So YOU feel more comfortable. Because no one else’s comfort level matters, except you and your baby’s.  

If you don’t know what the 2-shirt method is, I made a video for you 😉

They say the more you see of something, the more normal it becomes. You might find the more you feed in front of your family, the more supportive they’ll become. Eventually they’ll stop handing you the cover. Sometimes, they just need a little nudge in the right direction.

When I first started feeding in public around my mom, she would constantly hand me the cover, or tell me I should probably go to the bathroom and do that. But every time I’d turn her down… and now, it doesn’t even faze her. In fact, the more she saw me feeding in public, the more she started to support other moms feeding in public.

With the Holidays right around the corner, my hope is that you don’t isolate yourself. Breastfeeding is already hard, feeling alone can make it so much worse. Instead of excusing yourself from the dinner table to go feed in a “private” room because you feel you need to… feed right there at the dinner table (unless you want a little break).

Instead of missing out of family games and fun conversations… feed right there on the couch while joining your friends and family. (You can checkout this post for more tips on breastfeeding through the Holidays)

I’d love to hear any experiences you’ve had with family and breastfeeding in public… whether it was good or bad. Comment below.

“Use your voice even if it shakes… we have your back.”

P.S. Don’t forget to get your free downloadable “thank you for breastfeeding in public cards” here.

-Lindsay

Owner | Boobs Director

The Little Milk Bar (home of the Milk Maker tee)

@thelittlemilkbar_


Comments

  1. Hi! What are your tips for when your MIL states it’s either cover up or go to the other room – in her house out of “respect.” Do you respect that as it is her home? It drives me nuts! Thank you!

  2. I just cannot respect that. I feel like I would need to say that I cannot go to her house if I cannot care for my child the way that is right for me. It’s her home but she even in her home she does control you. In no other situation would we accept that another person had control over our body just because we are in their home. But it’s so hard to confront family. I wish everyone would support us! I am so sorry you are going through that.

    • Thank you for to your thoughtful reply! Appreciate it. Family dynamics are so hard :/

      • I would totally ask my MIL about her breastfeeding journey. Was she breastfed? Did she breastfeed her children? What was the perception of breastfeeding when she had her children? Did she try and was scolded? Did she try and was unable to nurse?

        I would have a conversation with her, or maybe a listening session, where you ask the questions and allow her to talk. She may have a lot on her mind about her perceptions of breastfeeding that she has never expressed in words. And by you giving her the opportunity to express herself, maybe it will bring the two of you closer and give you a better understanding about why she is so adamant about you covering up.

        Just a thought.

    • Thank you for this, Abby! I’ve been going through a similar situation for years in my own mother’s home. I was confronted by my mother when I was nursing my second baby. Apparently I was making my adult brother uncomfortable (and he didn’t have the balls to talk to me himself so he needed his mommy to do it for him.) At the time I just ignored it. Now I’m on my third nursling, and she’s raised the issue multiple times. According to her, SHE doesn’t have an issue with it, but I’m making all the men in my family (father, two brothers and two brother-in-laws) uncomfortable (although, again, none of the offended individuals have ever said anything to my face). And making the men uncomfortable is just unacceptable to her. Their comfort is more important than mine or my baby’s. After an infuriating conversation with her where she remained adamant that breasts are just too sexual and that it is what it is, I told her that I and my family could not attend functions at her home anymore as a result. (We lI’ve only 20 minutes away from them, so our absence is conspicuous.) It was incredibly painful to have this conversation with my own mother, the grandmother to my three children. I’ve wondered whether I am taking too strong a position, am I being unreasonable here, but it’s just untenable to me to cover up as if there is something wrong and what more, in that act, to send a message to my young daughters that there is something shameful or wrong with nursing your children. I needed to hear that you would not respect that either. Thank you, again.

      • I would also not attend any functions anywhere that I was told I could not feed my child in the way that is best for us.

      • Reading this broke my heart Molly. Good for you for having this tough conversation with your mom and for continuing to breastfeed your children dispite your family’s backlash.

  3. Casidy Peterson says

    A few years ago. January of 2017 actually, I was at the mall with my aunt and my kids. I was breastfeeding my daughter Joelle (almost 12 months old) without a cover and I sat down on one of the available couches in the middle of the aisle… There was an okder gentleman across from me, he never said anything. But my aunt didnt just hand me a blanket she put one over joelle and told me he didnt need to see my breast (keep in mind her head was covering 90% of my breast) I tried moving the blanket even just a smidge cause Joelle would quit eating if she couldnf see me and my aunt physically wouldnt let me do so….. I wish that there were others supporting me back then. Reading this has given me the boost to stand up to them with my next child. Thank you 🙂

  4. When my oldest was about 4 months old we were spending New Year’s Eve at a hotel with my husband’s family. We had just reached the phase where feeding with a cover is LESS discreet (hello sail!) so I fed without a cover for the first time in public. My husband started mildly freaking out and told me that his nephews were going to see and what were they going to think? Before I could say anything my SIL, who I had NEVER seen feed without a cover and never speaks up, spoke up saying “Well, maybe they’ll learn what breasts are ACTUALLY for.” I have never used a cover since, my husband has never said anything since and I’m currently breastfeeding my 4th baby.

  5. I love this post!

    Breastfeeding is public IS a huge step for most breastfeeding mothers. Even as a fairly confident breastfeeders myself, I struggled to be comfortable nursing without a cover with my first.

    An even bigger step is nursing in front of family. It’s much easier, I think, to stand up to leering strangers than it is to stand up (or even being comfortable) around family members. To this day, I can’t breastfeed in front of my father in law…. I grew up in a very conservative home, and despite him never giving me any reason to feel uncomfortable, it still feels weird. Also maybe because my baby likes to pull off in the middle of every let down and lap up the spraying milk like a dog at a hose ‍♀️

    Thank you again for such an amazing article!

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