Monday, July 12, 2010

Nursing in Public with Large Breasts

Renoir - Mother Nursing Her Child, 1886
I was particularly moved by Summer's post for the Carnival of Nursing in Public The Problem with "Discreet".  In it she talks about the arbitrariness of defining discreet and those people that seek to enforce their personal definition of discreet on to breastfeeding mothers.  It made me think of an experience I had when my daughter was only a few weeks old.

My friend came to visit with her daughter and we both nursed during the visit.  She lifted her shirt, popped open her nursing bra, and viola!  Her baby latched.  I felt so clumsy and inexperienced next to her and at the time thought it was merely the fact that she had been nursing so much longer than I.

My daughter is 17 months now and, even though I'm much better at nursing, I still find I have a different experience with nursing than some other mothers.  You see, when I lift my top and pop my  (F cup) nursing bra open I have a plethora of boob-flesh to wrangle!  Even at a year and a half I still have to support my breast with my hand for Aellyn to nurse (remember the "C" or "U" hold when your baby was an infant?).  Consequently, I have to "expose" more breast to get a proper latch. 

I wish I could say this post is going to give amazing advice for nursing in public for us busty gals.  It isn't.  The fact is all any of us can do is our best to live within our own personal comfort level.  Whenever I'm struggling with a wiggly toddler and a jiggly boob I remind myself it isn't about me (and it certainly isn't about onlookers) it is about my child.  And I will provide for her regardless of my (or anyone else's) discomfort.

For onlookers - don't assume a woman "doesn't care" about exposing herself and don't tell her she should cover up or worse yet leave the public sphere.  It isn't about you.  It isn't about her.  It is about the child.  If she is struggling - perhaps a modicum of compassion would be better than jumping right to self-righteous disgust.

What are your thoughts?  Busty gals - how has your experience been nursing in public?  What are some other factors, besides breast size, that can make conforming to someone else's definition of discreet impossible?

24 comments:

I have E cups and the only way I have found to be able to be discreet is to use something to cover myself while my baby latches then move the blanket, etc.

I have nursed all four of my children and i refuse to cover while BFing. I wouldn't hide a bottle... i will NOT hide my breast. (i've got G-cup). When people look at me or make remarks, i simply say, my child is hungry.

I do the same thing anonymous.

I've been nursing for close to 12 years with I breasts. It was hard at first, but it's become second nature. Yes, I need to support my breast until the baby's old enough to do it themselves.

I don't know how big mine are, I think D or E. I totally understand this post. I do experience mild discomfort when it comes to latching my 13 month old daughter to the breast in public. I am big all over, and have always been very modest about my body. So I usually wear two tops, one tank or nursing cami to cover the tummy rolls, and then another top over top. I lift the top and lower the cami. I don't use a cover, but I still have that sense of modesty. The only thing that is covered while nursing is my breast. I have never had comments about nursing in public, that's just where my comfort level is.

H cup here. My struggle isn't with getting it out or latching him on. It's with putting lunch away. I can't seem to do that gracefully yet and I'm nursing a toddler and a baby. :/ It's good to know I'm not alone.

-M

Anon - I have that same problem. The wierdest and most awkward part of NIP is far and away my hand down my shirt trying (generally unsuccessfully) to gracefully negotiate the girls out of or back into place whilst holding squirmy baby and trying to protect my lunch from flailing hands.

I'm a K cup... do I win something? ;) Thank goodness for an awesome specialty bra shop in my town, and my chance encounter with a "DIY Nursing bra" blog post some time ago.

I am not sure if I can comment, I only have a C-D cup depending on the bra manufacturer. BUT I started out barely an A. I loved my small breasts then wham, I had these average-for-others-but-OMG-to-me-melons. I also have a small frame, so it make it that much worse. I hated them.

After that, I had so much respect for those with naturally large breasts. I don't know why anyone would pay for them, I am hoping mine goes back to normal after K2 is done.

I got up to a J-cup right after my son was born but have been a G for most of our nursing days (which are still going with no sign of stopping as he approaches his first birthday!) and I totally empathize. Because I believe I have a religious obligation to strive for modesty, I do try to show as little breast as necessary, but I don't worry about it if a little bit does show-taking care of my son is most important! And anyway, I laugh sometimes when I get new nursing tops that you pull aside and there's a panel across the inside of the neckline that's supposed to cover your breast, and it's like 3 inches of fabric and I need more like 6 or 7 inches of fabric...

Wow...here I was all proud of my C-cup due to breastfeeding! :) Obviously I do not have the large breast problem...however my son (9 months) is constantly described as "so observant and alert". He has been since he was very little. The problem we have with 'being discreet' is he is also "so observant and alert" WHILE he is nursing...which, as you all know, means lots of unlatching and head turning. In certain places I will throw a little cover over us mostly so he will actually eat...more comfortable places...I just don't care anymore! If you don't want to see it...don't look!

I totally relate to this post and comments. I was already an F or G before baby, now I am a J and show no sign of shrinkage after 11 months of nursing. I am also in the "cover whatever of me isn't in the baby's mouth" school of thought (since he hasn't enjoyed anything over his head since he was about 3- or 4 months old), but find it more difficult for precisely the reasons mentioned by others--the lack of nursing clothing for the very well endowed. PLUS my little guy is a highly distractible, playful nurser nowadays, who pulls off frequently and draws attention by standing or performing acrobatics while eating. Basically, I don't feed him anywhere in close-quarters like a restaurant these days, but I do nurse him in places like public parks, my car, the library.

I'm a plus-size mama with large, tubular shaped (rocks-in-socks!) breasts, so I definitely have had to learn a few tricks over the last 8.5 years of nursing. With my first child, some lovely woman I "met" online suggested I roll up a washcloth and place it under my breast for support.

I used this trick (and sometimes a folded pair of socks) for the first 2 babies....it wasn't until my third was born that it occurred to me there was an easier way, and I sewed a little pillow out of some scrap fabric to use for the purpose. I stuffed it quite full of cotton batting, so it is soft, but firm. It works great for day-time nursing, but is not quite right for side-lying.

Since my youngest was born early this spring, I've been trying to "perfect" a side-lying breast pillow--I think it needs to be comma-shaped and I really want to make it adjustable, maybe with a bendable wire in the center, but I haven't quite figured out how to do that yet.

In the meantime, with the help of google, I found the following 2 products--both look great, but are a bit pricey for me...Although I really like the idea of the memory foam one by Utterly Yours. I would imagine it has great support! Maybe these links will be useful to someone else!

http://www.utterlyyours.com/product.html

http://www.cushiepushie.com/index.htm

Love this article and it describes just how I feel. I often look jealously at my small busted nursing moms. As a G cup I feel ashamed of my breast size (I know its wrong but thats just how I feel) and I do love what my breast are able to do.

I LOVE nursing wear so much I opened my own store. What I found works best for the large busted are tops that lift from a underbust seam or a double layer. The under bust though is my favorite because with a good sling bra and the extra layers add the support I need to not have to hold my breast.

I'm a DDD, had a rocky start breastfeeding my daughter, but I think it was mostly because she was a preemie & in the NICU for the first week, where she mostly got bottles of breastmilk (they wouldn't let me hold her long enough to actually nurse!), but haven't had any trouble sinceand my daughter turned 3 (& weaned) in May, and my son is 21 months & still nursing.

For you ladies who are looking for breastfeeding tops for well-endowed ladies, can you or do you know anyone who sews? There are decent patterns available for bfing tops with room for ample jugs--the name of the pattern company is Elizabeth Lee Designs. I have several of these patterns, that I bought on ebay. Also, a regular pattern you like that fits you well is likely to not be difficult to modify for a bfing top--I do them for me all the time. It's mostly a matter of making two fronts, and even easier than that for designs where the upper front is a separate piece from the lower front. Google around for directions & also for the link to join the Nursing Mother's Sewing List.

I'm an I cup and 1. I don't use a nursing bra (the custom ones I tried on are horribly uncomfortable), 2. Have to use a C hold and 3. I NIP anytime, anywhere and never flash anything. I just pop out under my bra, catch my boob in the right hold under my shirt, bring baby up to the bottom of my shirt, covering my nipple with my loose fingers right before she latches. I show less than my friends with "normal" sized breasts using nursing bras.

It took me months to figure that out, but once I did, it made me way more comfortable nursing in public (I kept trying to do it like normal-sized-breasted women before).

LCs need to learn that larger breasts require different nursing tactics and how to educate larger breasted women appropriately and to adjust for individuals better.

"LCs need to learn that larger breasts require different nursing tactics and how to educate larger breasted women appropriately and to adjust for individuals better."
This statement seems to imply that if I can not keep my K cups from showing that it is somehow due to lack of education. I'm sorry, but this whole post was about we larger breasted women not feeling weird to NIP. We don't need picked on by our own. I'm really glad that you found something that worked for YOU. It does not mean that it will work across the board for all larger breasts. NIP is very hard for me because I usually have to show a lot of flesh, especially if I am sore from longer sessions or uncomfortable bra. I can not worry about someone else's comfort when my nipple is sore and I HAVE to get a *perfect* latch in order to be able to do it. I'm glad that you can do it like the small breasted moms, but not all of us can, hence the whole reason for Summer's post.

I am agreeing with the last poster... I nursed my 3rd child ringing in at a DD to DDD size and was able to keep myself as modest as possible. This time around (my 4th) I couldn't figure out what was wrong and why I couldn't seem to show as little as I did with my 3rd...and this article really helped me feel more 'normal'. I've never been bigger than a DDD and now am a G (but growing out of it) cup! It certainly is NOT all across the board for what works--I was somewhat busty before and was able to do it as the smaller breasted women. NOW, It's SO SO good to know I'm NOT ALONE in this as I strive to be more modest but also want to lose some of the fears of "oh no!!! one little inch of my breast is showing while I'm trying to get that perfect latch!" and meanwhile my being stressed about that part is NOT helping me latch my baby--in fact if I just showed a couple inches of skin and latched my child I'd probably be exposing LESS of my breasts and a shorter time period! It's frustrating when you are TRYING to be discreet and still get the dirty looks. Thanks so much for this article!

I was a J cup - was back down to a G cup by 7 months, thankfully. Still difficult, especially trying to breastfeed in the Ergo baby carrier - his neck has to be at weird angles to get the nipple in his mouth, and that "sleeping hood" does not cover us very well. Anyone have recommendations for large breast breastfeeding while standing up in a carrier? Has anyone experimented with carriers for what is easiest/best?

By the way, gave up on nursing bras. I love Goddess bra style 5056, and will never use another.

G/H cup here, nursing 3rd baby (nursed elder to until they were 30mo each, into the next pregnancy, and #1 tandemed a few times with #2). Eldest is 6 years old now.

Carrier recommendation: other than ring slings (but not too wide of fabric because then it's just one more thing to get in the way when you're trying to get to your boob with a fussy little one), I like what I call "faux wraps" - MyBabyNest and Baby K'Tan are the two brands I have experience with, but have different issues with each - BabyNest fabric is a bit too stretchy and baby bounces as I walk (which hurts my back), K'Tan loops are too wide and problematic when trying to get fabric out of the way to get to boob (and REALLY not fun to wear when the temp is over about 80 degrees - five layers of fabric across the middle of my back just from the carrier, then double-layered nursing shirts and nursing bra? Yeah, no).

I started making my own "faux wraps" out of desperation and my husband is wearing our 10wk old in one as I type this. I posted instructions on FB http://www.facebook.com/ahmie.yeung?v=app_2347471856#!/note.php?note_id=416136386314 - just requires 2 yards of fabric (I like cotton rib knit, personally) and about 7th grade home ec sewing skills. You can also do it no-sew by making the loops out of repurposed heavy-weight t-shirts (take two t-shirts, cut the bottom 15" off the bottom - heavy-weight ones should be about the size you normally wear, if using the undershirt weight ones go a size smaller than you'd wear a comfortably-loose-fit t-shirt), then pick up a 15" strip of 60" wide knit fabric from your local fabric store (knit generally doesn't fray so you can get away without sewing it) for the belt part. To put it on, one loop goes across your body one way and the other the other, put baby in so one leg is through each side of the X then tie belt around them (baby can front or rear face, you can also do a back carry). To nurse, turn baby toward you if they were forward facing, drop the belt below their legs & pop them up so that they are straddling the loop that's on the side you're going to nurse and both legs are on the same side of the other loop, get baby situated on breast and then you can pull the belt back up to add support. Picture of me no-hands nursing my 10wk old in this kind of carrier at church http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=31513096&l=a49c875bea&id=1411445392 (I'm purposefully holding his arm away so that it's obvious he's nursing, his arm was covering my breast flesh before I asked my husband to take the picture - irritation on my face is over the noise my 6yr old was making next to me!).

Oh, and crop-layer nursing tops are best for this. I raid the imperfect t-shirts bin at my local craft store regularly to find shirts to crop, or you can try a thrift store (my craft store is closer for me). T-shirts don't fray when cut, stretch them and they'll give a little curl. If you get a long enough shirt you can wind up with a crop-top-layer and one of the loops for the carrier out of the same shirt.

As for the pull-aside-too-small-piece-of-fabric issue, I totally hear ya on that same problem here. thinking of disassembling my shirts like that, taking a cropped t-shirt as mentioned above, and sewing the silly trip of fabric (or one that is larger that I've color-matched from the fabric store) onto the bra coverlet to convert it to a lift-to-nurse instead of expose-big-triangle-of-breast-to-nurse shirts.

Hope this is helpful to others. I never liked my breasts until I started breastfeeding - I was so sick of people seeing me first as a large breasted woman instead of a person, from the time I was 12 years old (finished 6th grade in a D cup, started high school in an F cup). Now I love them because they've nourished three children to beautiful health.

I can totally relate to the comments here regarding being "discreet" while putting the girls back in the bra! I marvel at how women with smaller breasts can just quickly and efficiently not only put their breast back in, but snap their bra in place...all with only one hand!! It's like a magic trick to me...how do they do that?! ;)

I am probably about an E cup while nursing (usually a D or DD when not). I had lots of issues with feeling like I couldn't nurse discreetly b/c I had to use 2 hands, at least for about the first 4-5 months of my baby's life.

This is such a big issue (no pun intended!), for there more bustier moms out there than people realize! And you are so right that the definition of disceet is so ludicrous.

I am so encouraged reading this. I am a J/K cup (or maybe bigger) since the specialty Woman's Boutique near me only goes to a K and thankfully in a nursing bra. However I successfully nursed my first 3 and am expecting #4 mid winter 2012, and I had my share of struggles. I agree with the trying to get the girls out and then put away before and after meal times. It took me to our 3rd to be able to nurse laying down in bed.
I am expected to cover up by family and I try, but I struggle. One disadvantage I feel us large, no humungous breasted women face is trying to be discreet. I have friends who use the Moby wraps and one would never know they were nursing their baby. Not sure how that works. I found this site via a Facebook share from a high school classmate and am so thankful. Good fur us who struggle yet still focus on the good for our babies & children the benefits of breastfeeding!

I am an F cup breastfeeding mummy and have read all the posts and find it sad that we have to worry about how others feel when we are trying to feed our children; I am self conscious about my body but when it comes to BF my sons I was always of the school of thought if people don't like it they shouldn't look, if my son is hungry he's hungry what's more uncomfortable a bit of flesh or a screaming baby?!
I am self conscious about my body and I like many others wear nursing bras then a vest or cami under my top so I don't show my flabby belly when I lift my top to nurse; I love my nursing bras and can't imagine going back to normal under wired bras :(
I live in Liverpool (England) and have only ever had positive comments whilst out breastfeeding; I hardly ever cover up when feeding as my son doesn't like it and I
don't see why I should, I can ganrantee a woman with a low cut top on shows more of her breasts than I do
feeding my son, my nipple is in his mouth and my
hoisted up top covers the top of my breast!
It makes me sad that feeding our children seems to offend so many people; when a bottle feeding mother offends me especially when they get to a point where they don't even hold the bottle for their child anymore they prop it up on a blanket or cushion or the child holds it themselves!
Good luck ladies
D xx
The only issue we have is my son is nosy like so many of your little ones

I am a firts time mother and nursing when you are cup size K and only 30-32 around I find it difficult as I am unable to even find nursing bras that fit. But when it comes to her being hungry it's about her not anyone else. People don't cover their faces while they sit down to enjoy their meal why should she.

I'm a 42 DDD (or E) and one thing I don't do as a large breasted mama is pull my top down to nurse. Just too much exposed that way. I've figured out how to pull my bra down easily, but sometimes getting my nipple in the right position means I have to lift my breast which I'm sure is not subtle. And like the rest of the commenters, getting my breast back into the cup and the bra hooked takes both hands usually.

I gave up trying to find a supportive nursing bra that is also affordable (read less than $50), so I buy regular bras when they are on sale and convert them to nursing bras with clips, a bit of elastic (the straps from old bras work great) and just a little sewing.

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