I believe that everyone has a right to eat without having to hide the fact that they are doing so.
Therefore, I breastfeed my baby and I don't put a blanket over his head. Blankets are hot and stuffy, and frankly Eagle is still young enough that I frequently need to see him so that I can adjust his latch on my breast (he likes to slide off halfway which leaves him improperly latched and can cause problems for both of us if I leave him that way).
I do make an effort to be discreet when I nurse in public--I typically dress in layers so that I can get out what I need without exposing anything extra. The baby's head and body usually cover most of my exposed parts from any perspective except mine. It's true that I may show a little more skin than I mean to while adjusting the baby or something, but it's not intentional. I really don't want to flash anybody, and as I said, I am trying to be as discreet as I can.
In addition, for those who do see a bit of something, well, I think it is healthy for people (especially young people) to see that a breast's primary purpose is to nourish children. The media is full of breasts, but rarely in as appropriate a context as breastfeeding. A relative once expressed to us that she was uncomfortable about my breastfeeding when her teenage son was in the room, and Hubby looked her in the eye and said "you let him go to PG-13 movies with his friends, trust me he's seen a lot more breast than this, and in less appropriate contexts."
It reminds me of this (double-click to see it larger):
(From Sunstone Magazine, Oct 2007 issue)
Well, a couple of weeks ago I got a phone call from a woman in my ward. She is a friend of mine, and someone whom I respect very much. Apparently some men and/or young men had expressed discomfort about my nursing in Sacrament Meeting. I don't know quite what channels the discussion had gone through (although I suspect that half the ward knows), but the Bishop had made a request (which was assigned to my friend to deliver) that I be given this message from him: "Breastfeeding is a great thing, my wife did it with all our kids, and we certainly don't mind your nursing in church. But some people are uncomfortable with it so could you please use a blanket." My friend went on to state that she was just the messenger, and that she wasn't going to tell me what I should or shouldn't do (she's quite pro-breastfeeding herself), but that she'd been asked to deliver the message and so was doing so.
My first thought was when is anyone seeing enough to be uncomfortable about?! But then it occurred to me that I typically sit on the outside edge of the pew (so that I can step out easily to change diapers etc). If I'm nursing during the administration of the sacrament (which I often have been, because it keeps the baby quiet) then the man/young man who brings the tray to our pew would be standing next to/over me and be privvy to my perspective of the nursing babe...ok, yes, I can see that that could make someone uncomfortable.
So now I have this dilemma.
On the one hand, I firmly believe in nursing in public, and I prefer to do it without a blanket or cover, for all the reasons explained above. I know that Alaskan law excludes nursing mothers from public indecency statutes. On the other hand, my leader has asked me to do something, and I have covenanted to sustain my leaders. He is not being obnoxioius either, he is trying to find a gentle way to resolve everyones concerns in the matter.
So Hubby and I discussed my options.
There is a room where mothers can go to change diapers and nurse their babies, however there is no speaker hooked up to that room, and I want to be able to hear the meeting. Bear nursed frequently but briefly, but Eagle likes to tank up for 30-40 minutes, so if I were to go out with him I would miss half the meeting. There is a classroom that has a speaker hooked up, but it is on the far side of the building (ie--one has to walk through the chapel to get from one room to the other), and there is nowhere to change a baby over there. If they would provide both a speaker and a changing space on the same side of the building I would be much more inclined to utilize them. (I shared this with the woman who initially called me, and she said that was a very good point and she passed the information back up to the leadership, so hopefully they will install a fold-away changing table on the other side or something, but thus far all they've done is make an announcement in church that the room over there has a speaker and that young mothers are welcome to utilize the room in caring for their little ones.)
A second reason why I do not want to leave the chapel is actually far bigger--it means leaving Hubby alone with the other boys. It's not that he can't handle two kids in church, but we are both able to get more out of the meeting when we tag-team on the parenting. And as I said, when nursing Eagle, it's not like I would just be gone for a few minutes.
I could pump milk and bring a bottle to use for feeding Eagle during the meeting. In a way that seems the simplest solution...but what if I don't bring enough? Then we are back where we started anyway! I don't have any problem with teaching my child to take a bottle, but if I use a bottle in church solely because someone felt uncomfortable about breastfeeding, then it seems counter-productive in the whole goal of normalizing breastfeeding and the primary purpose of breasts.
A final option--and the one we've decided to go with for now--is that I will continue to breastfeed in church (without a blanket) but that I will sit next to the wall. If I'm against the wall then I'll automatically be more discreet because there won't be anyone standing over me at the edge of the pew. If (as yesterday) there are no side pews available when we arrive at church, then I will probably step out.