Nursing In Public and Why the Brelfie Matters


Last week on the Today Show, Kathie and Hoda discussed their disapproval of the brelfie (breastfeeding selfie) on their segment  “OK! Or Not OK”. Hoda explained that she preferred to keep those moments private and Kathie called sharing them “TMI.” Nursing moms everywhere were rightly outraged. When I had my son a few years ago, I knew I would breastfeed. What I didn’t know is how difficult it would be. We faced a myriad of issues, such as poor latch, reflux, oversupply, mastitis, and more. Not only that, he wanted to eat at least every two hours, ’round the clock. I was a sleep-deprived and self-conscience new mom and I was struggling. At the time, I hadn’t really been exposed to women nursing in public. The online communities encouraging breastfeeding moms were just gaining momentum and not many had taken to Instagram and other social media outlets to post their photos and stories. The only breasts shown in the media were clad in lingerie and overly sexualized and the phrase I heard over and over from people was “I support breastfeeding, but I just think women need to cover up/be discreet/I don’t want it in my face.” The message to me as a new mother was loud and clear: don’t you dare show your breasts for their intended use. So I bought one of those breastfeeding covers that all the nursing women I knew in real life used and took off to Target with my newborn in tow.

It was a disaster. Latching a newborn seems to require about 3 more hands than you are given and doing it under a sweaty cover that hampers your vision… Well, suffice it to say, we both gave up and left crying. We resigned ourselves to staying home until we could get the hang of it. Only, we never really got the hang of it. That winter was long and lonely, and the postpartum anxiety I experienced following my son’s birth was only exacerbated by the fact that we felt trapped in our home. Even worse was that when we did actually have no other choice than to venture out into the world for groceries or household necessities, it was timed around a schedule full of constant feedings and (rare) naps. I was stressed out and trapped.

And then one day, many months later, I met an angel – a breastfeeding angel. I was shopping for shoes at T.J. Max and I turned to see a woman with a baby girl around a year old, snug against her mama in a carrier, happily nursing away. The woman caught me staring, so I smiled and asked how old her daughter was. She smiled back and told me. I then commented how impressed I was with her ability to use the carrier and breastfeed at the same time- something I had never been able to master. She laughed a little and explained that it was the only way she could keep her daughter content when they were out and about. We chatted for a while, but I was in complete awe. Here was a woman, openly nursing while shopping in the middle of a crowded store, and no one seemed to care. Or if they did, she certainly didn’t care. She was my hero.

Brelfies aren’t about attention or showing off, they’re about awareness and encouragement. Encouragement for new moms like me, who had enough anxieties and insecurities without the judgement of a stranger. They provide inspiration to those of us who desperately needed to see women nursing openly and be told that it was ok- that if my baby became hungry, I could stop and feed him, without worry of those around us. And most importantly, it’s about desensitizing a world that’s hellbent on covering women unless they are being sexy, even if it interferes with meeting the basic needs of their child. If these photos truly offend you, then maybe you aren’t the intended audience. Look away and keep your thoughts to yourself. Because if you’re one of the people who have said “I support breastfeeding, BUT I just think women need to cover up/be discreet/I don’t want it in my face,” or any other moronic statement following that “but”, then you do not actually support breastfeeding (I’m looking at you, Kathie and Hoda). Women have breasts to feed children, and supporting them means supporting their legal and moral right to nurse wherever and whenever their babies are hungry.

If you do have an issue with women using their breasts for what they were made for, then I urge you to ask yourself why. More than likely, it has to do with the hyper sexualization of breasts (and women in general) in our society. We’ve been exposed to images of boobs in bikinis, bras, or bare, along with the message “these are sexy” for decades now. And while there’s nothing wrong with breasts having a sexual side (plenty of other body parts, such as mouths, can be both sexual and non-sexual), it doesn’t negate their biological function. But while Americans have had breasts thrown in their faces for years through media and advertising, I think it’s time we show another angle – the baby feeding angle – and the brelfie is doing just that.

Long live the #brelfie. #normalizebreastfeeding


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Dana grew up in Indiana and attended Indiana University, where she met her husband, Max. Following graduation, they moved to Chicago and then Madison, WI, where they welcomed their son, Theodore a.k.a. Teddy, in October of 2011, before settling back in Indianapolis and having their daughter, Marlowe in January 2016. Dana is a former science teacher and children’s and family yoga instructor. She has a passion for health, education, home renovation, donuts, and all things mom. In her free time she enjoys exploring all that Indy has to offer with her family. For more of her ramblings, you can visit her personal blog


  1. I do not agree. I think that breastfeeding is a private event. I have happily breasfeed 3 happy and healthy daughters over a 14 year span and I did all feedings without anyone in public getting a look at my bare breast. I have chosen to use soft covers better known in the middel eastern countries. Soft, roomy and a perfect blanket on hot days. There are many covers available today that do encourage private and child focused feedings while in the private eye. I do not need nor will ever need to put a picture on any social media of my child feeding on my bare breast. Maybe I’m old school but I do notice our society being accepting of public breastfeeding when done in a medest choice. After all, breast are not only for our children to feed on and why would you want anyone other than the father of your child getting a sinful look? I know millions on moms do not agree with my beliefs but I’ve personally have proudly served my countries military and will exercise my right to freedom of speach/opinon. Thank you for the time to consider my view.

    • I agree with you Mama C! Just because I proudly nurse my child doesn’t mean I need to show the world on social media. I feel like I’m being publicly shamed for being respectful of those around because I do cover while I nurse. I prefer to cover for many reasons, and I love using a muslin swaddle blanket because it’s light and airy.

      • Tell me about the muslin I have never seen one and my baby won’t nurse under a cover because she gets too hot

    • I completely agree with you Mama C! We all have several body parts that serve “natural” bodily functions, but we don’t feel compelled to bare those parts for the world to see. I completely support any mother in feeding her child the easiest & best way she can, but I do not support calling mothers who prefer privacy or modesty “morons”. How is shaming or name calling any mother supportive or constructive? Shame on this author. #inspirationfail

      • The author isn’t saying that moms who prefer to cover up are morons. She’s saying that we all need to support mothers however they choose to feed their babies, and that putting any kind of limitation on that is unfair and not actually supporting them. So if you prefer to cover up, go for it! If you prefer to just breastfeed (or you baby won’t tolerate being covered), go for it! And if you use formula, go for it. Stop the judgment.

      • @ PPJJJ

        The morons are not the moms who use covers when feeding their babies or only choose to do so in privacy. The morons are the people who think breastfeeding is something other than for feeding a baby or that women shouldn’t be allowed to feed their baby however they are comfortable. Is there a better word we have for people who clearly don’t understand what breastfeeding is for?

      • Good point about not showing other body parts. Society needs to change their ideas but it won’t be done by mothers trying to push it down their throats. If you’re easy & natural about it then others won’t even notice what you are doing.

    • Mama C –
      “Sinful Looks” are not the nursing mom’s problem. Breasts have been so overly sexualized and by saying that I contribute to others’ sinful thoughts by not covering up is ridiculous. If it truly is our responsibility to hide anything that could be considered a temptation we all should wear hideous shoes (foot fetish). We should not eat bananas, carrots, lollipops, Popsicles or any other phallus-shaped foods. We should hide our children in case we are tempting pedophiles. Our thoughts are our own responsibility.

      Also, covers and blankets, no matter how light, are terrible in Texas summers. Try adding another layer when you are already dripping in sweat and holding on to a slippery, sweaty baby. It’s just not happening. And that is a choice a mom can make – just like the author in the post is saying.

    • Great article Dana!
      I’m also a mother who has breastfed 3 children. The oldest who is now nearly 15. I love seeing that the momentum is building for these issues. I remember how hard it was trying to breastfeed my first child. I did the bathroom feedings, wrestled a sweaty baby under a cover, even my inlaws would ask that I went in a different room. Not to mention work place pumping nightmares! My son’s first Christmas I sat lonely in a room nursing while others enjoyed the holiday. Bah!! With my 3 year old things were much different and I had a lot more confidence. We are getting on the right track! I hope by the time my daughters become mothers, they don’t feel judged by how they feed their babies, or have a second though about feeding their babies where and whenever they are hungry I want them not to have to try to juggle finances so they can take a maternity leave. I want them to know their bodies have value beyond sex. Ladies please just jump on “the mom revolution” it’s all about letting you make the right choices for you and your family. The hardest most fulfilling job on earth gets so little support, why can’t we support each other!

    • Awesome for you that feeding your baby is a private event. That’s great that you do it the way you feel most comfortable! Kindly allow other women that same privilege. Not all mom’s choose to feed their children under a blanket. Not all children are willing to be fed under a blanket. Their choice is their’s and they do not deserve to be shamed for it. Breastfeeding is not an immodest act, nor a sexual one.
      Other people’s “sinful thoughts” are those person’s issue, not that of the breastfeeding mother.

  2. I completely agree with Mama C!!! I have nursed several times in public bc I had no choice but im extremely discreet. You wouldn’t even know I’m doing it. I prefer to do it privately & not share that bond with the world. It’s a private moment for me to share with my daughter. IMO it’s for her & I only, not for the world to see. Everyone is entitled their opinions. Some nursing moms go over bored with this subject. Get over it, enjoy your time with your little one & stop caring what other people think. With the world we live in, we all need to agree to disagree.

    • Women should be able to feed their children when and how they’re most comfortable.

      The problem here is not mothers feeding their babies (even with their breasts) in public. It is people saying that “we need to stop caring what people think” or “get over” or “agree to disagree” when nursing mothers are in reality being harassed for feeding children, covered or not. How others feed their children, is categorically not an opinion anyone else is entitled to.

      Please note, that no one is saying you can’t use a cover to breastfeed or be discreet, if that is how you are most comfortable feeding a child, so stop saying how other women should feel comfortable theirs.

      • Amen! Use a cover or not – that is entirely up to you and your child. But because you personally feel that you are more comfortable with a cover and that it should be private between you and your child does mean you have the right to say that anyone else doing it differently (uncovered etc) is wrong.

        Nursing uncovered is not sinful, immoral, immodest, gross, sexy, or a temptation. Itis just feeding your baby.

  3. Thatd great that you all don’t publish such pictures of yourself breastfeeding and use a cover in public. That is your choice and I totally 100% respect and support that. Please have the same consideration for those who choose otherwise.

    • It has always baffled me when people try to argue that breastfeeding moms are somehow shoving it in people’s faces by breastfeeding in public or taking “brelfies” (you learn a new term everyday). Are you incapable of not looking? Is someone strapping you to a chair ala’ Clockwork Orange forcing you to look at these images? Is it that hard to move on? It’s no different than someone who claims “I don’t have a problem with gay people, just don’t shove it in my face by kissing in public.” Guess what? The person who says that DOES have a problem with gay people. Much like the person who says “I don’t have a problem with breastfeeding, just don’t let me see/cover up/do it in public.”

      I also love the proclaimations about how someone breastfed 13 children and never needed to do it in public/they all loved the cover. Big clap to you. Does that mean that every other mother and child should do it your way? Do you not realize those statements indicate that if people do it differently they are doing it wrong?

      One last note, I used both a cover and without anything. It was always way more noticable that I was breastfeeding when I used to cover.

  4. I love this article. I didn’t think the author was trying to shame those who choose to cover up. I believe she was trying to bring awareness to the subject. If you want to nurse your baby in public, go for it! I was one of those moms who would use a cover, but it was for ME, not others. I truly love seeing bf’ing moms in public and think there’s no shame in covering up or not covering up! I think the author just wants to bring awareness that BF is natural and we shouldn’t shame anyone who chooses to do so and especially how they do it.

  5. Wonderful article Dana! If a woman chooses to cover up while breastfeeding that is her choice. However the bigger picture is what you are writing about – that women are made to feel like they HAVE to cover up. Just look at the woman who was pubically shamed for breastfeeding at TGIFridays recently. Imagine that, using a breast for it’s intended purpose! America has oversexualized breasts way too much. In the end it’s just a boob – get over it people.

  6. Great article. Although I would like to stay as covered as I can when nursing in public, it’s not always that easy! My daughter swats at the cover and tries to get out. She just doesn’t like eating that way! Personally, I think it’s great when someone like Alyssa Milano or Giselle posts a brelfie. It proves that there’s nothing to be ashamed of and you cannot see much of the breast even when you’re not wearing a cover!

  7. Nothing that was once taboo has ever become normalized without a period of action taken by a brave few willing to challenge boundaries. It might make some uncomfortable, but that discomfort is a necessary step in the process.

    Qualifying your support of breastfeeding by telling women they need to alter their behavior so that a stranger doesn’t have to simply turn their head is not support. It only puts additional barriers in front of women who want to breastfeed, and when those barriers come from within our own population, it’s even more destructive.

    Like it or not, women who choose to be advocates are making nursing in public easier for ALL women, covered or uncovered. Just because you don’t want to make it political doesn’t mean it isn’t already. Let’s not discourage the women who are willing and brave enough to be stared at so that the rest of us can have the privilege of being ignored.

  8. When I am nursing my baby – which I finally am able to do with my third – I am thinking about a lot of things….keeping an eye on my two toddlers, keeping baby ok the breast , holding him safely, dealing with forceful letdown and pain and a fussy baby.
    And how long it’s gonna take and how much time I have and what I have to do and if I will ever sleep again.

    Adding a cover to the mix is not in the cards. Its hot, it’s impractical, it’s not my thing and it’s not baby’s thing either.
    But that’s ok, because I don’t have to use a cover of I so wish. Mothers choosing to cover – great. Mothers choosing to not cover – great. Mothers bottle feeding – great.
    Nobody’s business except that mother’s.
    I just can’t believe how that is a hard to understand concept. There is a choice. A lawful choice. Breastfeeding uncovered in public is completely legal. So…why don’t we just all do what we think is right for ourselves and our kids and let others do the same.
    And if you are bothered by seeing a mother nurse – well, don’t look. Just turn your head and move on. Not that hard.

    Oh, and the ‘sinful looks’ – come on now.
    It’s not my problem what others think when they see me.
    There is nothing I can do about other people’s thoughts. Or anything i want to do.
    And let’s be really honest: if anybody gets turned on by a mother nursing their baby, there is a whole other set of issues to deal with, and it is not the mother nursing her kid who has that issue.

  9. I have 2 little boys and have done it both ways. #1 was happy to feed under a cover, which I got mostly for my own peace of mind as a first-time mummy. #2, however, is much more wiggly and active, and has literally NEVER tolerated a cover. As a newborn he would whine and cry until I took it off, and as he got older he’d thrash and tug at the cover, and make more of a production out of the whole affair than if I just left it off.

    Telling breastfeeding mothers that they are responsible for how others think of them is victim-blaming. When I feed my son, sans cover, you can’t see anything unless you’re pervily creeping on my breasts in the first place! Even with a wriggly baby and no cover, my son and I aren’t exactly ostentatious. Being modest is a whole lot more than simply covering sexually suggestive body parts. Personally, those getting sanctimonious and self-righteous about just how covered they keep to avoid inviting the “sinful” (smh) gaze of others aren’t being terribly modest themselves.

  10. I think this is a great article. I was the youngest child in my family and also the first of my friends and the first in my age group in my family to have a baby. I can remember how isolated I felt nursing because I felt like I needed to be covered or remove myself from situations to not nurse in front of others. No one specifically made me feel that way but I just assumed that was what I should do since I wasn’t used to being around babies to see others nursing. When I had my daughter and was nursing at first I was much more comfortable and nursing was easier and more enjoyable. I ended having to stop nursing because of health issues on my daughters end and switched to exclusively pumping. I was so upset to have to once again isolate myself but decided that I wasn’t going to and was able to pump comfortably (fully covered) around others in certain social situations. I didn’t get that this article was shaming moms who choose to cover but more was saying that women should be able to nurse when and how they’re most comfortable. I know personally if I had seen more women openly nursing my experience with my first child would have been completely different. I also don’t feel responsible for anyone else’s thoughts or actions and feel that if you are looking at my breasts sexually while I’m feeding my child then maybe you should rethink your own life.

  11. Babies eat.

    From breasts.

    Get over it.

    If you can’t handle that biological fact in life maybe you should stay inside and be more private about how you eat your meals and live daily life.

    And lest you compare it to public sex/urination remember we are talking about feeding babies. No one is feeding babies with their genitals.

    Breastfeeding is for feeding babies, end of story. Why are you so against feeding babies?

    • This a thousand times! I also love the point someone made about mouths can be sexual or not depending on the situation. I have dine far more varied and sexual things with my mouth than my breasts & no one gives me crap about my mouth being uncovered in public.

      And honestly, even the muslin is too hot for me. My babies get heat rash on their necks even when I’m not covering so I don’t want to add even seemingly negligible amounts of heat while feeding them. That’s just cruel.

  12. I support breastfeeding.

    BUT here’s the thing

    You should do it wherever and whenever your baby needs it and anyone who says otherwise should shut up. Or maybe you should squirt them with breastmilk that will also shut them up.

    And anyone who is offended by boobs can look away. Which would be wierd in a society that is so completely obsessed with boobs.

  13. Excellent article, Dana.

    When I was breastfeeding, my teenage nieces initial reactions were that its weird and gross. They thought this way because they rarely saw women nursing in public because so many have insisted that it’s a “private event” or bought into the mentality that they need to hide it. Those girls are the reason brelfies are important. Those girls desperately need to see that the female body isn’t shameful or that breasts aren’t just for sex. They need to see this so that when they have their babies, they are hopefully more comfortable and confident breastfeeding than I was. You might not need to post pictures of yourself breastfeeding on social media, but others do need to see these pictures in order to break the stigma that breast are only to be seen as sexual.

    Oh, and I have never worried about “sinful looks”. If you have sinful thoughts when you see me breastfeeding my child, that should be a private discussion between you and your therapist.

    • This a thousand times! We need these pictures for girls to see it isn’t something to hide. Breastfeeding is beautiful not shameful! I was unsure and confused but knew I wanted to do it. My mom didn’t breastfeed and was embarrassed and tried to get me to cover up. My first I just pumped instead. With my second a year later I was introduced to a wonderful group of women who made me feel comfortable with their “brelfies” on FB and nursing in public without covering up! I would nurse with them around and they never said a thing. Just encouraged me to do it and keep the baby happy. When my family started in on me, I just asked them to leave because I was not going to cover up a baby who wanted to eat and look at the world!

  14. Having felt like I HAD to cover up or hide withmy first while nursing it was such a stressor for me. My daughter was constantly flapping the cover all over the place and it was so much more noticeable than when I just pulled up my top shirt to nurse my younger daughter, thankfully I did not have one single person say anything but positive things when nursing this way in the 15.5 months I’ve nursed her. I’m happy to be blissfully unashamed of nursing her wherever and whenever I (or she) want, and if you don’t like it, don’t look.

  15. I think until women STOP hyper-sexualizing their boobs you can’t expect anyone to look at them as a natural feeding device. Let’s face it…you can’t go out showing all you have one day as a means of attracting looks because you’re sexy then a few months later expect people to see you differently. Feeding time for your baby is your time & their time…why would you want to make it public & why would you want to draw in negativity around it? To do so is just trying to make a point & no one really cares except a breast feeding mother. There are times it can’t be helped so when those times arise at least give your baby the love, time & effort to find a quiet place that you don’t have to cover their heads or dodge intrusions to feed them. In other words keep it sacred.

  16. Great article Dana! When I breastfed my first child I felt I had to be discreet. That was only a year ago and the positive momentum from other women around the world about openly breastfeeding since then has definitely encouraged me to openly and unashamedly breastfeed my second child. I never have cared what other people think about me regarding other matters, why would I care what people thought of me openly feeding my child. When I breastfed it was engrained in me by society that I had to be discrete and cover up or isolate myself from others. I am a strong woman who comes from a long line of strong women so I don’t know why I let perfect strangers make me feel this way. This is why the “brelfie” is so important! It makes people wake up and realize this needs to be the new normal.

  17. Live and let live..If you don’t like it..don’t look. .As for everyone’s sinful thoughts..they’re disgusting and they’re the ones with the issues. My kids 13 months now and when he nurses and bites..I’m not worried about a stupid cover..haven’t used one in about 11 months. .more liberating. ..I like it 🙂 you dont? Feel sorry for you but I’m really not taking the time to kid is more important

  18. I thought the article was interesting. I find it fascinating that breastfeeding in public seems to polarize women so much. I wish we could just be moms, and not be so judgemental.

    I have not experienced the rude attitude about breastfeeding in public. I do have a 2.5 year old who still nurses 2-3 times per day. People definitely like to get “judgey” about that!!!

  19. What’s boggling to me is the fact that breasts are exceptable to be shown in clothing every where you turn. Forget about entertainment because entertainers are walking around naked. Forget the breasts, I m now concerned about their chuchas almost showing.
    There is something wrong somewhere, if watching a child nursing/breastfeeding is appalling to you, or brings out sexual connotations. Women have been over sexualized to the point where we don’t have rights to our own bodies anymore. Women are not a commodity. I hate that I didn’t have enough milk in my breast feed my 4 yr old like I had hoped to. I applaud you Brelfie Mom’s because breast milk is very very essential to your child. Not celebrating this God-given gift and treating it like some myth is what’s wrong with the world.
    Of course other women have the right to cover up if that’s what they like, but please reserve your judgement when those who choose to breast feed/”feed their child” in public view.
    I support you a 100% Dana!

  20. Breastfeeding is “sexy”! breastfeeding is truly a sexual act. Breastfeeding is really the only reason breasts are thought to be sexy. Some people are just too stupid to make the connection. There should not be any shame as it is essential to ensuring that babies get the best nutrition and mothers and babies get the best bond. Anyone that thinks that this act should be hidden or covered up should try eating their dinner covered by a blanket or always in isolation!

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