Nursing Clothes and Milkmaids Outfits

Milkmaids and the Goddess of ancient Crete have it about right
Milkmaids, and the Goddess of ancient Crete have it about right

Another struggle when the first baby has launched itself into this crazy world and you are learning to feed her on the boob, is the management of clothing. Whilst you are learning the skill, any clothing just gets in the way, and in the early days I would just strip and stay half naked all day. But even then there were times when I felt it necessary to cover up, when visitors came round, and I came to regard the practice as an inconvenient convention equivalent to the wearing of a burka or hijab (which I have also done, whilst working in the Hindu Kush as a botanist in 1999).

I know this is highly emotive ground but to me the underlying message is the same: that a woman must hide herself in case others feel uncomfortable in witnessing some part of her body. The further implication is that this body belongs to others and others can dictate what she does with it and how it is presented to the world.(I previously encountered surprising prudishness in relation to a painting of a pregnant woman). I think we are not at all as liberated a society as we like to tell ourselves -and lecture others- that we are.

Of course there are all kinds of conventions we follow that restrict us, and this happens to be one of them. My wish is that we didn’t have to and we could be freer to follow the ones that suited us, where no harm is caused to others.

So I have had to develop an elaborate cloth management skill in order to conform to the convention that bare boobs must not be seen in public. And this got me thinking about a better form of dress for a nursing mother, and I thought of the old fashioned Milkmaids-type outfit where there is a soft cloth loosely tied over the boobs, for easy access, and a lovely corset bodice (great for holding together the postpartum collapsed abdomen and giving extra back support) and a loose, comfortable skirt to enfold oneself and the baby. And it seems the perfect outfit, and happens also to be the garb of the ancient Minoan snake goddess.

I would love to dress like this but am still too much afraid of being thought eccentric, so I persist with the small subsection of my clothes that allow me to extract the boob whilst simultaneously keeping the boob invisible to the general populace.

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