Breastfeeding Modestly

08.05.10: They're still boobs, even if you're breastfeeding


Since this is World Breastfeeding Week, our website is dedicated to providing all the information and statistics to support breastfeeding as the best way to go. As I pondered what insight I could offer, I paid more attention than usual to women who were breastfeeding in public and realized they were everywhere – women with their boobs out.

Breasts have played a very big part in my career. I’ve seen more naked breasts than the bouncer at a strip club. I’ve grabbed thousands of nipples and guided them into babies’ mouths when their brand new mothers didn’t know how to aim them yet. I’ve helped moms take their nipple rings out and put burn dressings on their cracked, chaffed and oh-so-painful breasts. I can carry on a full conversation with a woman wearing nothing at all and might not even notice. That’s how immune nurses get to nudity. Doctors aren’t anywhere near as comfortable with it. Their visits are brief and their patients usually pull a top on. With their labor and postpartum nurses though, patients don’t give it a second thought.

There’s an art to breastfeeding in public and some women are better artists than others. Some women are performance artists. What’s interesting is that while women are able to compartmentalize their breasts sexual and nutritional functions, other people, particularly guys, can’t. That’s why breastfeeding in public is such a hot topic. Breastfeeding is a natural biologic function and no one should have to hide in the bathroom to feed her baby. Still, they’re boobs and responding to them sexually is a natural biologic function too.

Your breasts sex life might be a hazy, distant memory to you if you’re breastfeeding but consider this: They’re fuller and plumper than ever and your nipples are much more noticeable. Give the guys a break – your breasts have never looked more enticing.

It wasn’t until I saw the world through the eyes of teenaged boys that I ever registered how many naked boobs are out in plain site. I was at our local pool one afternoon this week and saw three versions of breastfeeding modesty. One gal was wearing a very skimpy bikini top. Well, she wasn’t so much “wearing” it as she was using it as a necklace. Unhooked, with both cups completely off her breasts, she simultaneously nursed a newborn on one breast and a toddler on the other. The toddler kept popping off to look around, leaving her fully exposed. She clearly could not care less – part nature girl, part bedraggled mother, keeping her boobs covered wasn’t on her agenda.

While no one around her cared she was essentially naked from the waist up, the poor lifeguard was having a hard time with it. She was in the direct line of vision of the high-school boy whose job was to make sure all the little kids around her didn’t run into the deep end. I could tell he was terrified he’d see too much and while he wasn’t wearing a Speedo, his swim trunks wouldn’t hide anything (if you know what I mean). Poor kid.

A few feet away, another woman sat discreetly nursing her baby. The baby lay across her lap and the woman’s t-shirt covered everything. You couldn’t see a thing and when her baby unlatched, she just dropped her top over her nipple. She wasn’t hiding anything but she just wasn’t exposing anything either.

On the other side of the pool, the most obvious breastfeeder was a woman hiding her baby and her boobs under what looked like a tent. It was hotter than heck out there by the pool yet she was draped from head to toe. Her baby was screaming bloody murder under that thing (no doubt sweltering) and she was thrashing about trying to get him out without showing any skin. You couldn’t help but look. Poor lady was so concerned about not attracting any attention while breastfeeding, she made a spectacle of herself. She looked miserable and I wished she’d take a page from either bikini mama or t-shirt mama.

Later on, my niece was nursing her baby in my living room in front of my own young, teenage son. He was trying hard to be cool about it but she was right there for heavens sake with her boobs exposed. Where was he supposed to look? The first time that baby did the pop-off, he wisely got up and said, “whoa – I’m outta here.” Smart. Very smart.

I know, I know, it’s natural and we’re all pro-breastfeeding here but boobs aren’t just for lunch. Try to look at them from a guys perspective will you? While there’s certainly no need to pull out the pup tent; it’s not really necessary to go commando either, right? Try to find a middle ground, if guys are around. They’re boobs. And most guys aren’t built to look at boobs without having a reaction. Go easy on them, will ya?

Our Ask The Labor Nurse blogger wrote a follow-up post to Breastfeeding Modestly, click here.

Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to and it may be answered in a future blog post.

This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.