Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Taking it from the Top

Around 10 weeks, I began considering wearing maternity clothes. I didn't need to wear them, but there was one amazing benefit that won out:

Easy breastfeeding access.
I'm guessing when maternity clothes are designed, the thought process is, "Hmm. These women just got an extra oompf to their breasts and probably want to show it off. Let's make these shirts low-necked and loose!" And boy do I love it.

I think I mentioned before that while I've done layers in the past, Margaret is at the point where she refuses to nurse with layers. I either have to pull everything up: shirt, bra, undershirts, etc., or I have to pull everything down. Well, I suppose I could insist on layers, but if the goals are to feed her while trying not to make a big scene, then arguing with a one year old about layers isn't fulfilling that. Also, she's not wrong in wanting no layers. In fact she's right: it's probably not comfortable to have extra fabric near your face when you want to eat, drink or be comforted. And breastfeeding shouldn't be a time for struggles.

So when she became insistent, I started to wonder: Why make it harder on myself? I spent over a year worrying about the layers and whether or not they fell on me in a "modest" way. I would often be more worried about that than nursing her. Then this past summer/fall when she decided that she was done with the layers I agreed with her. I'm done with that. I'm done with making it harder on myself. Breastfeeding is hard enough with my random bouts of mastitis and a wiggly toddler and sensitive pregnancy nipples that I'm not putting more stumbling blocks in my way. And our next child- who knows what challenges there will be: tongue tie? food sensitivities? more engorgement and mastitis? Do I really want to make it harder on us? One friend of mine said, "It took me too many months with too many struggles to even be able to breastfeed. No one is going to tell me how to do it." I agree.

So for the past 5 months or so, I've been just pulling down. It's far easier. There's no fuss with Margaret and it makes nursing quicker, more peaceful, and stress-free. Why didn't I think of this before?!

Margaret noticed the camera and is signing "cheese."

I recently read an old post about nursing from the top down and how nursing from the bottom up is a relatively new concept. It's hard to nurse from the top up in a dress, you know? I think the switch to nursing from the bottom happened once women were more comfortable in skirts, pants, and shorts, and the "formula is more scientific, so it's better than using your icky primal breasts" idea entered the 20th century. You're covering/hiding more that way.

Right now, my focus is getting Margaret through the flu and cold season months and maybe through to the end of my pregnancy if my supply doesn't drop too much due to hormones. And if I'm 8 months pregnant and still nursing, there is no way I'm going to be pulling up! My tummy was too itchy and sensitive at that point in my pregnancy for me to want to pull up to breastfeed. Plus, at that point, the difference between pulling up from the bottom versus the top is square feet of skin versus square inches.

Margaret, 16 hours old. And I totally needed a shower.

And with my next babe, I'm not bothering with layer struggles. I'm done with all that. It's not worth it. Breastfeeding, mothering, and life in general is hard enough- why make it harder on myself?


  1. I love your confidence, Heather. I just don't understand how anyone could look at these pictures and not think they are beautiful and sweet. When I see a mom nursing in public, I beam. It makes me so happy. I hope some day everyone gets to that point.

  2. Obviously, my problem is that I don't have shirts that I can pull down to nurse without ruining them! I never thought about what it would be like to pull my shirt up to nurse when I am hugely pregnant...Hmmm...

  3. Great post. When I was pregnant, I remember telling someone that I just wanted to be able to "whip 'em out" and she said, "Yeah, but you can't do that," and I think she was insinuating that it was immodest. Then, after my son was born, I was angry for MONTHS about the clothing I had to wear. I just wanted to pull down my top and whip it out! If they expect us to cover up more, then how come I could never find any decent nursing clothes that were A) attractive B) affordable C) easy to use. Grr. I could say the same thing about nursing bras, too.

  4. Same here, Mallory! Most of my shirts don't stretch/aren't cut low enough to pull down. But, some of my maternity shirts will probably work for that if I'm still nursing the next time I am pregnant.

    I also feel like pulling my shirt down is so much more exposure than I like since I have DDDs. I can't just pull my shirt down a bit. I have to pull it down and lift my boob out.

    However, at home I've taken to wearing a zippered hoodie with no shirt or bra underneat for easy access.

  5. Hey! I just started reading your blog. I have a 15 month old that I nurse and am currently 14 weeks pregnant. I have pretty much always done the pull down thing. I always wear stretchy shirts or lower cut ones with a stretchy tank underneath. One thing I found was easy if I still wanted to be "modest" in public was to use a small burp rag. I would lay it flat on my breast just above her mouth. That way, it would not cover her or even touch her, but would cover the upper part of my breast. When she would unlatch, I would slide the rag over my breast until I could pull my top up. It has always worked for me and looked pretty inconspicuous.

  6. Do you get a lot of looks when nursing from the top in public? Being a fellow Utahn, I am afraid about the predominent religion (that I believe you're a part of?) and their modesty standards. Really the only think that keeps me from nursing over the top is fear of being confronted.

  7. I've been thinking about this a lot, especially since I have a wardrobe problem, and I have lots of lovely shirts I could wear that are pretty and comfortable, but my old, plain and stretchy Tshirts really aren't doing anything for me... I need to bite the bullet and just do it. It would make life so much easier.

    I've never been confronted about BFing before, but maybe the thing stopping me is the fear of it happening. Gah!

    @Emily -- that's exactly what my mum used to do, with the burp rag (except she would call it a feeding cloth!) but what if you've got out without one?

    You look great Heather (even if you don't always feel it) and your little lady is so cute (I love the way she signs cheese, so funny!)

  8. Strangely enough, most of my "confrontations" were back when I used layers. I wonder if my worrying about layers made me appear less confident and more vulnerable so people would say things. I don't know. Maybe it's that now no one wants to come near me. :)

    What I remember is that the attitude of "Breastfeeding should be hidden" is ultimately discrimination: to expect a mother or child to be taken to another room or physically separated with a cover while they eat while other mother/child pairs are not- that's segregation. And that's wrong. For me, the way I've chosen to tackle that discrimination is to choose not to participate in it. I know that is easier said than done, but I have a lot of support from my husband and my close friends. I continue to do this despite confrontations because I hope that by taking all the crap now, my daughter won't have to take it 20 years from now.

  9. And Olivia, I saw a woman (who was very much multiple Ds) tandem nurse out in public with the pull down method. :) It's possible. Yes, you saw a lot, but that happens sometimes.

    Large breasted women have quite the catch-22. If you have a smaller waist, then your breasts are extra-sexualized, and if you have a thicker waist, then your entire body is considered "disgusting." Our culture needs to get over both the sexualization of the breast and the fat-hate.


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