By Melody Lauer, reprinted with permission
In the overwhelming list of controversial subjects, two of them are guns and breastfeeding.
Of course guns are controversial for their perceived danger. Breastfeeding is controversial because there is still a huge debate on whether or not women should do it in public and how much exposure is too much exposure. Should a woman wear a cover? Should she dismiss herself to the bathroom or vehicle? The opinions are vast.
Breastfeeding and being armed can both individually cause unwanted attention and a mother who chooses to breastfeed and carry a gun puts herself in a place of being doubly scrutinized.
Some mothers choose to carry off body in a bag or purse.
The pros and cons of off body carry are something to be discussed in another post, however, and for the purposes of this post we are going to assume that our young mother has chosen to carry both on body and nurse.
Breastfeeding can be a very wonderful but intimidating thing for a young mother. There's quite a bit of fear of it not working out, being painful, not having enough milk, latch problems, etc.
My recommendation for any mother (armed or not) would be to take a breastfeeding class and get in touch with her local La Leche League. Many hospitals have certified lactation consultants on staff and follow up check ups for brand new mothers to make sure breastfeeding is off to a good start. If given a prescription from your doctor or pediatrician, many health insurance companies will cover the purchase of a quality breast pump. These are resources that should be taken advantage of so that you can maximize the success of your breastfeeding relationship.
But after those first few days or weeks at home snuggling and loving on your baby it may be time to venture out with your baby and your gun. Below are some practices I have adopted to make it as easy as possible.
Wear the right kind of clothing
When you first have a baby it's pretty understandable that you aren't going to be jumping back into your pre-pregnancy clothes within the first week or month or even year postpartum. In truth, some women never go back to their pre-pregnancy weight and size and it does nothing for you or your comfort if you lament too long over the loss and refuse to go out and get some good fitting clothing.
Invest in at least one or two pair of pants that fit you comfortably as you transition back into your pre-pregnancy clothing. You might also need a new belt.
Invest in at least two quality nursing bras and tanks. These items will allow you to nurse with the least amount of adjusting of clothing and the less you have to move the clothing around the less likely you are to expose either your gun or skin you don't want exposed.
Other nursing shirts and tops are also good investments to make for variety and style depending on how long it is you intend to nurse.
Carry your gun in the most optimal position
I have found that carry around the waist in the 3 - 6 o'clock position to be the most optimal (or 6 - 9 for lefties).
Carry on the front of the body (9 - 12 and 12 - 3) can also work depending on the method of carry and the way you hold and feed your baby.
Ankle carry is an option though usually reserved for smaller firearms and usually only backup firearms as getting to an ankle gun can be difficult. Especially when you are carrying a child.
Shoulder holster carry is also an option but usually best suited for children of very young ages. Babies that have started to discover and explore will try to discover and explore the firearm within their grasp. A proper fitting and well designed shoulder holster will still conceal and protect the trigger and trigger guard so that there is no risk of accidental discharges but it can be hard to keep everything concealed and comfortable with your child tugging and pulling. And for some the mere fact that the child can even touch the firearm is a little too nerve racking.
There are also a number of other holster designs that can be quite viable. Each person must find what works best for them.
Cover garments are invaluable for both carrying a firearm and breastfeeding a baby. A cover garment not only conceals your firearm but can also be used to conceal a breastfeeding baby. The cover garment should be able to open up completely in the chest area without riding up or compromising concealment of the firearm.
Shirts that button up the front, vests, sweaters and the like are ideal for this. For some, a nursing tank with a button up shirt or sweater make for the ideal armed-yet-nursing-mother outfit.
Just don't forget to put an extra cover garment in your car for those moments when your little darling decides to spit up or poop all over you.
Some women are very open nursers and in some states they are protected by laws that make it illegal to interfere with a breastfeeding woman.
Others are more like me; not ashamed of nursing, but not all fired up about shoving it in peoples' faces either. While I will nurse in restaurant booths and refuse to nurse in a bathroom stall, I will also try to nurse my baby in the car before I go in to a store or will use a provided nursing room (especially the one in the mall because they have really comfortable rocking chairs!). Other places where you can retreat (if you so desire) to nurse are dressing rooms and some family restrooms will have a separate location with a comfortable place to nurse.
Unfortunately, because publicly breastfeeding a baby can still be seen as inappropriate, it's important to know your rights considering breastfeeding your child in public in your particular state.
If confronted about breastfeeding in public it is up to you on whether or not you will protest being asked to cover up, leave or retreat to a more private area. Just remember that you are armed and cooler heads prevail. Often times letters to management or corporate headquarters accompanied by copies of favorable state breastfeeding laws can get policy changed a lot easier than hashing it out on the spot with some minimum-wage employee.
If, however, you know for sure you're going out somewhere where you'll be gone a long time and just don't want to bother with it all, you may want to try to pump a bottle a head of time and leave it at that (though my daughter doesn't seem too thrilled about bottle feeding yet).
A little bit of discretion, a non-confrontational attitude and good-fitting, suitable clothing, are pretty much all you need to have a successful breastfeeding relationship with your child while also being armed.