I consider myself to be a mom who is quite experienced when it comes to breastfeeding. Oriana is my third exclusively breastfed baby since 2006, and Logan and Hunter were each nursed for 14 months, so I feel like I especially know public breastfeeding etiquette.
I generally wear layered clothing, high-waisted maternity pants (to cover my stomach), or nursing shirts like this. Last Thursday I was wearing a black Gap v-neck t-shirt and a pair of yoga pants with a roll down waist that I wear unrolled as to cover my battle scars, aka stretch marked belly flab.
I see a pain management doctor for chronic neck and back issues related to torn and bulging discs, sciatica, IT Band syndrome, as well as additional nerve and muscle damage. I see my doctor for injections, but when I go in for prescription refills, I see his nurse practitioner, "Mark." Mark is an absolute joy to work with. His children are 9 and 11 years old, and his wife exclusively breastfed both of his children and they shared in some of the same dietary issues my babies have.
On Thursday I was due for a prescription refill and was going to schedule some injections now that I recovered from my c-section (recovered enough, anyway). The office is 65 miles one way and while I was able to leave the boys at home, Ms. Oriana goes everywhere with mom. I arrived about 5 mins late for my appointment (it's farm equipment moving time) and, for once, I was taken back right away by a RN. When all the formalities were done; temperature, blood pressure, etc, I was left to wait for Mark.
After over an hour on the road, the baby started fussing and wanted to eat, so she and I assumed the position. My appointments involve no physical exam, so I was not concerned about holding her or that she would be in the way. I was sitting in a chair with short arms, so I took the baby blanket and placed it under my arm to avoid neck strain (one the reasons I see Ken and this doctor). The nurse came back in to ask me something else and I leaned forward to get a better look at what she was trying to show me. I guess at that time she noticed I was nursing. We finished our conversation, she again informed me that Mark would be in shortly, and left the exam room. She appeared just 30 seconds later and asked if I would like a blanket to cover up since Mark would be coming in.
I said, "No, I'm fine. I am comfortable with Mark and don't think it'll be necessary."
She then frantically reached into a drawer, pulled out a ratty gown, draped it over me, and ran out the door.
I modestly nursed in front of Mark my during my two previous appointments. I left feeling pleased about his level of knowledge regarding breastfeeding, considering he worked as a CNP at an OBGYN's office for 8 YEARS before moving over to pain management 7 years ago. I am pretty sure he has professionally seen boobs before.
Needless to say, I happily removed the ratty gown off my body and put it under the arm, as it was still lacking adequate support. Mark came it, discussed my options, gave me my prescription scripts, and SPECIFICALLY asked me how nursing was going all the while the baby happily nursed. When she came up for air, he held her and demonstrated positioning he suggested may put less strain on the discs I am currently having problems with.
I was given no indication that he suggested the nurse ASK me to cover up.
I know that I was not brazenly flashing my boobs while feeding the baby, and had I not leaned forward while the RN was in the room, she would have never known.
I am not comfortable using a cover up, because I feel like I am putting on a bill board that screams, "THERE IS A BABY SUCKING ON MY BOOB RIGHT NOW!"
I do use a blanket sometimes, but my biggest concern is covering up my stomach since I usually have my shirt covering to the baby's mouth. I do not go out of my way to cover up (capes, blankets, etc) because I have been more than successful at discretely nursing with out all the paraphernalia, so much so, that I have had dads hand me a plate of cake at a Birthday party and never suspect that I am nursing.
So why would a medical PROFESSIONAL basically force me to over up? Was she protecting me? Was she protecting Mark, CNP? Was she so uncomfortable or offended by the feeding of a 9 week old infant that her reaction was place me under a tent?
I feel lucky for my four years of breastfeeding experience when I run into these types of situations.
If I was less experienced or unsure of my decision, I am not sure how I would react.
I was aware that last week, August 1-7, 2010, was World Breastfeeding Week, because of an informative FaceBook group that I "like." I am certain of one thing, this nurse did not get the memo.